Monday, April 30, 2012

An American in Paris - Featuring Bread Baking Expert Ian Chin

Good morning everyone and welcome to another installment of "Monday Meet my Experts!"

I am thrilled and excited to introduce you today to Ian Chin - my very good friend in the YouTube world and my teacher/mentor in the world of breads and fine baking. 

I asked him today if he would share a little "slice of life" if you will about some of his memories and experiences of living and learning in France. If you would like to learn more about baking from Ian, subscribe to his wonderfully witty and informative You Tube channel The Baking Chin,


J’aime beaucoup le pain -- I like bread. I like eating it and baking it and smelling it. Having studied in Paris, I can easily say that going to bakeries, or boulangeries, was one of the highlights of the journey. The French really love their bread and they will tell you if the bread is of good quality or not. Bluntly. It is of course their right as French citizens or something of the sort.

I was located on the 15th arrondisement, so that means it was residential area. There were many locals, so there were many bakeries. I was going to pastry school at Le Cordon Bleu and in between classes I would go to bakeries and coffee shops. I still did not know if pastry school was “for me,” so much of the time I would wander around the different bakeries, aimlessly. It was pleasant going to see all the, boulangeries and pâtisseries, with golden, long baguettes and round, rustic country loaves.

 Sometimes (if the bakery said “boulangerie” and “pattiserie”) located in front usually, there were pastries; Colorful macarons, fruit tarts, chaussons aux pommes (apple turnovers), gateaus, cakes, croissants, and more! It was a marvel to see and also a marvel that it all was not too expensive. A normal baguette parisenne, was only 90cents in euros, or about $1.30. Normally, I preferred the baguette de tradition, which was made with natural levain, or wild yeast, like a sourdough, but all the breads were fantastic. And I certainly went to many fantastic bakeries.

 The bakery I most went to was the one that was near to my apartment. It was a pretty average place, but it had a certain charm. I cannot remember the name, but it was near Rue de Dantzig. They had the obligatory items -- baguettes, bâtards, round loaves, oval loaves, country loaves. They had various tarts. No cakes, not that I remember at least. I remember having a very good tarte a l’orange there. It had whole, candied orange slices! Rind and all! Certainly the first orange tart I ever had that in that fashion. It was slightly bitter, but in a good sense, and it certainly had that lovely zesty orange taste  in abundance.

I used to talk to the boulangère (or “the baker’s wife”) other there that used to mind the storefront. Usually we would talk about bread and pastry and America and our cats. One day I told her that my gâteau basque in school did not turn out well. She told me that, “boulangerie et pâttiserie est dûre” that “pastry and baking is hard” and one really must want to do it. However, she said that it is very good “si vous aimez faire ça”, if you like to do it. She was right. Baking is hard sometimes, especially in a professional setting, but I do like it. I thought pastry school would stop me from liking to bake. It didn’t. I still like baking and I still like bread -- perhaps even more so than before. Pastry school was “for me.”

Often we hear stories about how Paris changes people’s lives and before I didn’t believe that. I still don’t believe it most of the time, as it is a sort of romanticized cliché of the film business. However, it did teach me that I am not horrible at baking and moreover that, even though it is true that baking is dûre, I still do like baking, and I suppose I have a “passion” for it. I still aime beaucoup le pain.

 Thank you Ian! It was wonderful to experience a piece of Paris with you. 

In the meantime, Ian shared an easy and forgiving recipe with me for a French flat bread called  Fougasse. 

I made it for my bookclub last Friday evening, and then, on Ian's recommendation, I used the recipe to make pizza for Sunday lunch. 

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  1. this looks fantastic! I would LOVE to browse some bakeries in France! ;)

  2. I am wondering what the difference would be between focaccia and this fougasse? Sometimes I think different countries make the same thing, so they are just called different things. I was lucky enough to visit some European countries, and it was fascinating to see all the wonderful breads and pastries in the windows.

    1. I think they're very similar :-) I would so love to visit Europe...

  3. Thank photo of the bakery stole my heart: I can smell fresh bread through the screen!