Ready as for a marathon. Master baker Jérémy Keil loves challenges and is at work in the kitchen of his Aux mille et une Saveurs bakery, one of three he has in Strasbourg. He is selected for the final round of the competition for the best traditional French baguette, which will take place from Monday in Paris. For three weeks now he has been training with the stopwatch in hand, to get the right amount of dough, because in six hours he will have to produce exactly 40 baguettes. He examines “the modeling to see if it is in time”. He kneads in stages, uses liquid sourdough as per competition (usually homemade sourdough that cools every day), checks the temperature and makes smart calculations based on humidity. He measures his traditional competition baguettes to the nearest centimeter, which he spreads out with the utmost care before putting them in the oven. All to make it still perfect on D-Day.
Together with 11 other bakers selected from all over France, he will represent the Grand-Est region during the final phase of the 8th national competition for the traditional French baguette which will take place from 16 to 18 May in the square of Notre – Dama. , in Paris. Even if the title is only honorary, Jérémy Keil hopes to win. This is his third qualification for the final round of this prestigious competition. He likes him and has already won many gold medals in the region. “It is also a way to see your level, to evaluate your bread because I don’t have much time to go for walks to see what others are doing, to position myself and to find out more”, explains this enthusiast who has been baking from more than thirty years.
The baguette must be beautiful “because you buy it first with your eyes”
The traditional baguette, of course, he makes it every day, but these are a bit special. “There are very specific criteria for the competition such as its length. It must be 50 centimeters after cooking, with a small tolerance of + 5% and weigh 250 g, always after cooking. Its salt content must not exceed 18 g per kilo of flour. “
The criteria for a good traditional baguette? “The crumb must be airy with nice cells, have flavor, the crust must be crunchy with a nice color, fairly well done. And above all that it is a nice baguette, with a nice grigne, a kind of hem at the top, because you buy it first with your eyes », smiles the baker. From the side of the “secret” recipe, apart from the rigor in the preparation of the dough, “it is above all the way and the time of kneading that make the difference”, assures the baker. “I have a traditional recipe, but it depends a lot on the shape, whether or not the baguette is tightened. The more you tighten it, the more you will have a grigne that will rise and the less cells you will have, and vice versa. You have to find a middle ground. “Big unknowns, however, are the machines of the competition that he does not know just like flour because the 40 baguettes must be made with supplied ingredients, without any indication of the brand. “And each flour reacts differently”, emphasizes Jérémy Keil.
The final phase will take place over two days and the jury will select only six candidates who, the following day, Wednesday, will meet for the final test. The finalists will have to present the forty sticks in front of the audience. Without a doubt, the day at the foot of Notre-Dame de Paris will be beautiful.