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Snapshots from Dijon: Torsade Flammande from Boulangerie Paul

"When it comes to bread, and many other things gustatory, the French simply get it."

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After touring around Franche-Comté with the Comté Cheese Associaton, my wife met up with me for a weekend of driving around eastern France in our tiny rented Yaris (I love how all the cars in Europe are cute and gas-efficient), including a day trip out to Dijon, the capital of the Burgundy region famous for its mustard and wine. I was surprised by the number of times I was asked, you drove all the way from Arbois to here? Just for the day?!?

I would riposte with the most reasonable answer I could think of: But of course. I am a true-blooded United Stateser* who comes from a country large in land area, straight and wide in the highway, and inexpensive in the gas. I drink wine by the gallon, not the liter, and all of my cheesy comestibles are dead before I eat them. Now enough with this idle chit-chat. I have come here with one intention only: to consume a loaf of your finest bread, mon fine sieur.

*my South American wife gets annoyed when I call myself "American," because why do people from the United States get a monopoly on that term?

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Having lived in a town where people flip over the rolls served at a middle-of-the-road pizza chain (oh my goodness, they're warm!), I marvel at the quality of the bread in eastern France, where every single meal I had, from Michelin-starred restaurants to moderately priced cafes came with shockingly good, crusty, flavorful, open-textured loaves of the highest order.

When it comes to bread, and many other things gustatory, the French simply get it. It's the beginning and backbone of every meal, so it had better be good, right?

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It therefore came as no surprise at all that the bread and pastry from a real deal boulangerie was mind-blowing. A miniature quiche flavored with gruyere and lardons had an impeccably flaky and tender crust baked to a deep, burnished mahogany. But even better was the Torsade Flamande.

Imagine a torpedo-shaped roll of the best quality—open-textured, chewy, crusty French bread—then stud that bread with oozing pockets of melted emmenthal and salty nuggets or mimolette, the cantaloupe-shaped cheese from Lille. Sharp and salty, with a Parmesan-like texture, mimolette is colored bright-orange with annatto and has a mottled surface that's been treated with cheese mites introduced to add their distinct hazelnut-scented aroma to the flavor.

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When baked, the mimolette nuggets burst out from the surface of the loaf in a manner that can only be described as climactic, shooting out then being frozen in time as they harden under the heat of the oven, eventually developing a deep brown crustiness as they undergo the Maillard reaction.

This is a breadstick that will surely haunt my dreams, and perhaps one worth even attempting to replicate at home. Donna, are you listening? Cheesy bread recipe, please!

Boulangerie Paul

25 Rue Basse, 59800 Lille, France (map)
paul.fr

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