In this day and age, when everything is automated and corporations have taken over traditional artisanal craftsmanship, France’s PAUL Bakery is proving that despite their size they have managed to retain their finest baking tradition and savoir faire. PAUL is still owned by the founding family, now managed by the fifth generation, and is today represented in 36 countries.
Amongst all the journalists present at PAUL’s bread masterclass in Melrose Arch in Johannesburg this week, I was probably the most sceptical.
Having grown up in Paris, I am very fussy about how a traditional baguette and viennoiserie (croissant, pain au chocolat) should taste. Now having lived in South Africa for close to 17 years, I still long for crispy, artisanal baguettes, aromatic raspberry tartelettes, and fresh, melting Chaussons au pommes (a viennoiserie filled with warm apple compote). To my delight, in true French fashion, they are all now available at PAUL Bakery.
I know from experience, however, that while the product may look good and smell good (some bakeries in France lure their customers into their stores by pumping scents of freshly cooked bread into the street), the product must also deliver from a taste point of view!
Not only did we get to taste a range of products, but we also had the unique opportunity to actually bake our own bread! Meaning kneading the dough, shaping the bread and cooking it. All the breads at PAUL are still made in the traditional way. Every loaf is kneaded and shaped by hand, following the family recipe. Maxime Holder, Chairman of PAUL international and the fifth generation to uphold the family legacy, was present at our Bread masterclass to make sure we were taught the right way,
whilst Master Baker Richard Blades was expertly leading the show.
The result is quite exceptional, the breads are light and airy on the inside and crispy on the outside. I can testify that even after a few days all their produce remained fresh and tasty, which is also a mark of a good bread. My cravings can now be satisfied, but the new challenge is going to be what I should choose when I next visit PAUL bakery?
Melrose Arch Shop, 01013, Corner The High Street & Crescent Drive, Melrose Arch, JHB