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The Perfect French Baguette (bbc.com)
100 points by MiriamWeiner 54 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 70 comments

> In addition to winning this illustrious competition, Bouattour and M’Seddi have a few other things in common. Both forewent the traditional trade school that many aspiring French bakers enter at age 16. Both have been professional bakers for less than a decade (as has this year’s winner, former engineer Fabrice Leroy). And both are first-generation Frenchmen with what Bouattour euphemistically dubs ‘origins’: family backgrounds from elsewhere – or in their cases, Tunisia.

> “I stopped thinking of myself as a foreigner a long time ago, but my origins make me the person I am today,” he said. “We all start with the same tools, the same teachers, but some people are going to understand things differently. That has nothing to do with origins; that’s just talent.”

For all the rhetoric on the right about how people from other cultures are not "suitable" for "western" countries - some of the proudest citizens and torch-carriers for tradition, are foreigners.

It also absolutely works both ways - Australia was virulently anti Italian and Greek in the 50s and 60s. Now we almost couldn't imagine brunch without espresso and feta on our smashed avocado. The diversity made us better.

What I've always found interesting as a Frenchman living in North Americ, is that there's no real equivalent to "black american" or "afro American" or "hispano American" in French. The closest you'll find is "of Tunisian origins", but that's usually left out, and not really the same.

The "official" results[0] don't mention anything about his origins. The local press[1] does say his parents are from Tunisia, but only after introducing him as a Parisian. The right national press[2][3] does mention that he is... a chemist, which seems more relevant to the story than the country in which his parent were born.

Surely this is an anecdote, but it does match the general observation I've made. (although be sure that would he have killed a person rather than cooked a baguette, his origins would be of the utmost importance for the story telling).

[0] https://www.paris.fr/pages/goutez-et-choisissez-la-meilleure... [1] http://www.leparisien.fr/paris-75/paris-il-fait-la-meilleure... [2] https://www.bfmtv.com/societe/la-meilleure-baguette-de-paris... [3] http://www.lefigaro.fr/sortir-paris/2018/04/13/30004-2018041...

Thank you for the information! The idea that the rest of the press did not mention his origins reminds me of another part of the original article:

> “Sometimes we get clients coming in saying, ‘The neighbourhood is full of Tunisians – thank God you guys are here!’” he said, referring to him and his wife, who works alongside him in the bakery. “But we have Tunisian origins too.”

That's another interesting thing to me - which makes me also think about what you said:

> What I've always found interesting as a Frenchman living in North Americ, is that there's no real equivalent to "black american" or "afro American" or "hispano American" in French. The closest you'll find is "of Tunisian origins", but that's usually left out, and not really the same.

I think the core truth here is that even though the effects of racism and xenophobia are quite pronounced, and cannot be dismissed, that all these terms are "made up". I was trolling /pol/ one day and I had someone say to me that the French people weren't "white" which is, truly, consistent with some conceptions of whiteness. But, the most strict original conceptions of whiteness that were made in the 1800s said that Scottish and Irish people weren't white!!! It seems that these sorts of identities twist and change over time, because there's no underlying truth to them. Imagine the rage and fury of those who see white purity as possible when they encounter white hispanic people, or white slavic people, or southern Italians (who made up most american-italian immigrants) saying they are white.

So I think the identity of "Tunisian origins" is just as valid as any other racial identity, and just as indistinct. I don't think the American categories are any better or worse, but it is an interesting point of difference.

Neither were Swedes white in the USA when they first immigrated. A generation later, they were.

Neither were the refugees displaced from the eastern parts of the german reich after WWII. They were dismissed as Polacks (pejorative for polish people) and worse. Sometimes they were from a town no further than 30 or 40 kilometers away - just on the other side of the new border. These sorts of identities are twisted and made up in ways to suit the narrative.

The downside of this French attitude of everyone being "just French" is that the earlier diversity of identities/languages has also been largely homogenised. Think Alsacian, Languedoc, etc.

The effect reaches well beyond France: as other countries fell in love with the model, they went after their own historical ethnic/linguistic minorities with the same determination throughout the 20th century.

And the funny thing about that is that rhetoric on the right about the loss of national/white identity and the homogenisation of groups is also accompanied with rhetoric about people on the left having too many identities, or an obsession with different identities.

I think you're totally right though, there has definitely been a loss of racial/ethnic/linguistic identity in the world. However, additionally there's been an explosion of other identities. Take from this example the idea that there are a large group of Parisians of "tunisian origin". That just could not have existed in the ages when people rarely travelled a few miles from home. Consider also that the subjects now exist in a nationwide community of baguette bakers - very niche, probably enabled by better communications and transport in this age. Then there's all the other subcultures the subjects probably find themselves at the intersections of, that we don't see talked about in the article. But sure, identifying with your small region of France has been homogenised away.

>has also been largely homogenised

You say it like it's a bad thing.

why is it a good thing. For Alsace, the goal of the french state was clear: kill the alsatian culture so that alsatians do not side anymore with the germans. This began by prohibiting children to speak alsatian. Now, the new generation cannot speak it anymore and cannot understand their neighbours (Luxembourg, Germany, Switzerland). They have to learn German in school, and they are not particularly good at it. It is a shame, as it would be a nice advantage for them in the current EU.

The same happened for other regions (Bretagne, Languedoc, Corsica, Pays basque).

I believe what ur-whale is saying is that cultural homogenization, is often seen as bad things for the short term for people that have to endure it, but relatively for the long term it creates more homogeneous region with a shared culture.

For example, the Roman Empire destroyed or assimilated hundreds of smaller culture, but it also have the long term effect of creating a common ancestor culture for most of Europe.

>For all the rhetoric on the right about how people from other cultures are not "suitable" for "western" countries - some of the proudest citizens and torch-carriers for tradition, are foreigners.

That's not quite right--the premise you're I think you're alluding to is that certain cultures themselves are not compatible with the values of Western society. But people like the bakers featured here, who choose to assimilate headfirst instead of creating an enclave of the country they left behind, can prosper.

>“Whoever wins the contest is a winner,” M’Seddi said. “He’s a champion, whether he’s descended from immigrants or not... That’s someone who’s passionate about French culture, who has become integrated as a French person. We need to make people proud to be French.”

What do you think isn't quite right?

The article states that the bakery was in an area with a large "tunisian origin" population - which I think the right might say is an enclave - and if their views had more nuance they might say was a cheap area where immigrants tended to settle.

Rent is surely one of many factors but there are other factors and consequences of a population group concentrating in one area, it's not in a vacuum. If those immigrants by and large do not assimilate into French/Western culture, then in that case they are indeed forming an enclave.

Since the individuals in this story are eagerly assimilating, they are independent of the questions of whether these immigrant enclaves are real or whether they're compatible with French culture. They're only a counterexample if you conflate mainstream right-wing expectations of immigrants with hardcore Stormfront narratives, e.g. that foreigners are mentally inferior and incapable of adapting to a different culture.

I'm eager to hear what you think I'm incorrect about.

Clearly the baker in the story, who wins, lives in what most people would call an ethnic enclave (if such a thing exists). There's an expectation on the right that it's easy to identify when an immigrant is "one of the good ones" but that identification tends to be done at a comfortable distance, that doesn't tell people on the right anything about the people they're actually judging. As a result, the default view is that immigrants often aren't integrating, and that's bad. That's not a stormfront view - that's a very mainstream right wing view. The truth is that immigrants often desperately want to integrate, and that culture, and even celebrating and maintaining one's culture, is not incompatible with integration. People can and do have both. St Patrick's day doesn't stop people from celebrating the 4th of July. The difference between integrating and not integrating, from the signals given off by the right, is approximately 50-60 years. Suddenly, the Irish in NYC have all mysteriously integrated for some reason, when back in the 1850s they weren't integrated. So strange how that works, right?

It’s interesting that the modern baguette is such a symbol, as it’s a product of the Industrial Age (steam driven ovens) and its introduction alsmost drove artisanal breads from the market over a period of 50 years (until, it seems, Poilâne revived it. Of course people continued to produce non-baguettes all along, they just weren’t iconic or common).

So now there’s a lovely assortment of brads available again...and with all that choice I still continue to enjoy a humble baguette as well.

> It’s interesting that the modern baguette is such a symbol, as it’s a product of the Industrial Age

As many things that people consider iconically French (Eiffel tower, "Haussmann-style" architecture...)

Plenty of national symbols are products of the industrial age. England and ale that doesn't taste sour comes to mind as another example. Or, hey, the USA and cars.

This article reads like the quotes in https://www.wired.com/1995/02/chess/ about how computers would never beat people at chess. Winning at chess required "fantasy" and "creativity" and here baking requires "passion" and "magic".

https://www.cnet.com/news/bread-making-robot-makes-everyone-... is a fully-automated bakery, although it doesn't produce baguettes, and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5zfb456YrsM is half-automated from dough to finish; maybe we'll get a IBM Watson-style "robot bread" entry in the competition sometime.

There is a lot of decent industrially-produced baguette. Here's an example showing an automated line for forming baguettes from dough: https://youtu.be/qVB5EOAJT1w

Btw I don't know if the comparison with chess is right. Maybe I would think of the cooking arts as any other art, like painting or sculpture - nobody is the "best" at art. Once a certain point is passed in terms of mastery of the technique, at the high end, the kinds of things that set apart different artists tend to be very subjective, and subject to changing tastes. Not to say machines can't do decent art, but perhaps it's a game where it is harder to define the rules...

The quotes in the Wired article are all kind of the opposite though. For example:

"Today, 99.9 percent of humanity cannot beat the best commercial software at blitz chess. Within the decade, it's likely the machine on your desk will know how to play chess better than any human has played the game since its invention in AD 600."

I suppose that really just makes your point though. Even in 1995 we were only really trying to delay the inevitable. If playing chess is ultimately a mechanical process and baking bread is ultimately a mechanical process, then ultimately we should be make able to make a machine that does it better than we can.

> Even in 1995 we were only really trying to delay the inevitable.

Do people do this? Are there really people out there that are resistant to believing that machines can or eventually will outperform humans in any discrete task? I can see a reasonable doubt about general intelligence, but other than that surely every mechanical advance since the plow paints a clear trajectory.

These kinds of articles always strike me as absurdist handwringing. I suspect that it's just fear mongering for views. Is anyone here[0] actually in doubt about machines performing better than humans? I mean despite all of recorded history.

[0]I mean you, the reader yourself. Not speculation of other people's doubt, because I'm not sure these people exist.

Fair assertion. One I mostly agree with too.

But, what's the point then? I mean, if there's no point in pursuing anything because a machine will always be better and no one is going to appreciate anything handmade anymore... What's the point? To... eat, sleep and die?

I personally don't understand why a good portion of the population nowadays is okay with the idea that humans will be obsolete.

The point is simple: to paraphrase Marie Kondo, does it spark joy?

There are many things a human is better at, for example creativity and art. Maybe a computer will eventually be a better painter, but it's impossible for a computer to be a human. A work of art draws its power from how it speaks to the human experience, as such I don't think a computer will ever make good art in that sense.

Even speaking to something more concrete, just because a computer can play chess better than I can (as can the vast majority of humans), doesn't mean a game of chess with a friend is worthless. It's about the conversation, the challenge of matching wits, pushing your mind to see new things, all those things have meaning.

That's the point.

Musicians and artists have been co-creating with machines (including AI) for about 50 years. We play with the machines. Look at any artist working with AI and you will see that the human artist does a lot of process, experimentation, editing and presentation. I think it's a weird personification to declare that computers will do everything themselves.

When I was a kid, we'd go to the Amish stands at the farmers market and get fresh made loaves of bread (just white bread), dinner rolls, cinnamon rolls, strawberry jam...it was dirt cheap and delicious, even if it wasn't a baguette (which I love).

Now that farmers markets are 'in', you can go there and get the same stuff. But it's so marked up it's not funny. 12 dinner rolls for $5.50? $8.00 for a jar of jam? A loaf of bread for $4.00!

My grandmother is long gone but I guess I could get some mason jars and research on the internet, make my own jam and can it. I can already make bread, but only bother to do it a few times a year.

I'm sure in another generation or so it will be a black art. Very few people do that sort of thing anymore, but if you went back 60 years, everyone did it.

> Very few people do that sort of thing anymore

Bread and jam making and baking seems like probably the single most popular hobby for young women and many young men, next to something like running, from what I see from Facebook friends. Baking is also the subject of a major internationally popular TV competition for years. I can’t see why you’d think it was likely to become a black art.

You might have different social circles from the person you're replying to.

For what it's worth, a large number of my friends also seem to be obsessed with making bread.

Find a French Cafe run by a Frenchman. I used to go to one by my old job that sold loaves and half loaves. He had a sign that read “Life’s too short to eat bad bread”. The prices were reasonable for everything.

Funnily enough, one just opened a restaurant in my neighborhood, Miami. In a town bustling with so many tourists from France and Quebec you wouldn't think it would be this hard to find decent French food. But a lot of "french" bakeries are just passing reheated Costco pastries with an incredible markup. So it's been a treat to get French macarons that don't cost an arm; the nearest Laudurée charges ~$4 each.

To be fair:

Canning equipment isn't cheap. You need to have storage space, time to actually can things, and access to bulk fruit (or food). If you go beyond a narrow selection of canning, you need a pressure cooker. All this, and you might find your jars didn't seal properly. Botulism is a real issue with home canning.

Freezing, however, is generally safe and you can make "freezer jam". Freezing most vegetables generally only takes blanching and prep. I'd suggest this if you have some freezer space.

I'd pay those prices for something I knew was made with quality ingredients and when I knew the money was going directly to the producer of a good. Heck, I've paid $10-12 for a loaf of bread from some of the places around here and not regretted a single penny.

I'd rather have small business farmers, bakers, and jam makers around, and although it costs me more I know that less of the money is headed to big food conglomerates.

How long does it take you to make 12 dinner rolls? - More than 15 min of work? Then 5.50 sounds OK to me. - More than 30 min of work? Now 5.50 are a bargain!

Why do you think making a dinner roll should be billed at the same rate of your job?

The comment you replied to didn’t mention a specific rate, but in general, linking price to cost of production (including human time) makes a lot of sense. I don’t understand why the two comments before yours are getting downvoted.

It seems like nonsense because "How long would it take for you to acquire a dozen eggs? First, you have to buy chickens, wait for the eggs to hatch etc. Therefore, you should be okay with paying an amount at the rate you're getting paid for that amount of time."

Yeah, let's just throw basic economics principles out the window, shall we.

Some Japanese are also really good at the craft: https://www.google.fr/amp/s/www.lexpress.fr/styles/saveurs/l...

The Japanese always manage to excel at importing delicacies and perfecting them. Take for example Japanese whiskey, which is renowned and considered by some to be superior to the Scottish variety.

Well, in the case of bread, no. It's hard to find even decent bread here. But a lot of them are indeed learning very well to make good bread and pastry making in France. A least one baker in my region is taking advantage of this focused and hardworking workforce.

Japanese pastry is amazing. The best Baumkuchen, a special cake from germany that looks like the rings of a tree (baum = tree) and is considered a delicacy, now comes from Japan.

I like baguettes but not the crusty ones that shred your mouth root, or the ones with Palm oil

And here I was hoping for a good repeatable solid recipe

I put a lot of time into perfecting my baguettes. Well, not perfecting, but getting them to the point where they don't make me anxious.

I don't think reliably good baguette is as simple as a recipe. The recipe conveys very little of what goes into it. It takes a lot of practice to get down all the manual techniques. Just learning how to knead the bread properly is an art in and of itself, and, even if you use a mixer, you'll still need to experiment with the speed and mix time to get things dialed in. A lame can be a tricky thing to work with, and your slashing technique will show through in the final product. Pre-shaping and shaping the bread takes practice, and, unless you're really into climate control at your house, learning how to adjust ingredient quantities and rise times to account for changes in temperature and humidity is a science in and of itself. You'll have to fiddle with the bake time and temperature and steaming technique to figure out what works best in your oven.

Baguette is the pale lager of breads: Most the flavor comes from the technique, and the ingredients - four simple ingredients, very nearly the same four simple ingredients - have such delicate flavors on their own that there's not really anywhere for even the slightest mistake to hide.

Which isn't to say that you shouldn't do it. But I would say that you should do it because you sincerely love the process of baking bread, not simply because you enjoy eating the final product.

FWIW, one of my favorite books on the subject is Bread: A Baker's Book of Techniques and Recipes by Jeffrey Hamelman. The recipes are mostly meant for baking on a commercial scale, but the book also covers everything you need to know to adapt them to your home kitchen.

Quite agreed. My family bakes all of our own bread. In fact, the kids don't even like store-bought bread unless it comes from some fancy bakery. One of them has gotten into baking.

In addition to what you say, my advice is: Don't be afraid of it, just give it a try with realistic expectations. Start with something easy. Rolls and breadsticks are quite forgiving, if for no other reason than that they're usually gone before anybody can complain. ;-) Virtually any "failure" of bread can be redeemed by making toast, french toast, croutons, dipping in olive oil, etc. White is easier than grains, but you can work more grains in as you gain confidence.

Nice shapely loaves that I can make into sandwiches are the pinnacle for me, because I love my sandwiches.

When considering recipes, look at the timing of the steps. A recipe that fits with your schedule is more likely to be successful in the long run.

Speaking of schedule, Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day is one that worked well for us when we were busy. It's not the best bread in the world, but, considering the amount of effort that goes into it, the technique feels like cheating.

I should mention one more point, which is that a fair amount of the time spent making bread, is waiting. If you can interleave it with other tasks happening at home, then it isn't a huge time sink.

Wonderful. Quoting from the baguette recipe:

"The simplest breads are the most difficult to produce, and the baguette is high on the list of simple breads, in that it is made with a minimum of simple ingredients; there are no strong flavors that dominate, and it is above all the flavor of the flour that prevails. Properly made, it is magnificent, poorly made, it is bland and insipid. One of the more beautiful aspects of the baguette is the amount of crust it has. A finished baguette should have a rich, russet crust, crackling and fragrant -- don't underestimate the virtue of a bold bake. At the same time, the crumb should be creamy and aromatic, with a cell structure characterized by lots of random-sized holes, with translucent cell walls (if the holes are big enough to hide a mouse, though, your shaping skills need some attention)."

Oh I get you, been baking bread for my wife since before we got married. Started with the bread machine, got a fancier machine, then transitioned to sour dough and after all these years and a couple hundred loves later I’m finally making a product I’m at least somewhat happy with. There is always some detail that isn’t mentioned that comes to bite you in the butt and causes the recipe to come out wrong.

Here is one from a discussion in French about the recipe (automatic translation, but it seems ok)

In order to match the capacities of a robot and a household oven, let's start with 500g of flour, which will give you 4 baguettes of about 40 centimetres, the following recipe: Flour T65: 500g Water: 330 g Baker's yeast: 10g Salt: 9g

The French poolish is prepared from half the pouring water of the basic recipe; the equivalent quantity of flour is then added. This gives us for our poolish: Water: 165g (330g/2) Flour T65 : 165g

We then have to add yeast to ferment our water-flour mixture. The amount of yeast depends directly on the time we allow our poolish to ferment at room temperature (generally from 3am to 6pm). The quantities of yeast (per litre of water) are as follows: 3H: 15g 5H: 8g 8H: 5g 15H: 1 to 2g Let's keep it overnight, about 12 hours, which will give a quantity of yeast of about 2g per liter of water. As we put 165g of water (or 0.165l), the amount of yeast will be 0.33g. We see that the amount of yeast to put in a poolish over 12 hours is almost infinitesimal So let's go back to our poolish recipe which will be: Water: 165g Flour T65 : 165g Baker's yeast: 0.3g Note that you never put salt in the poolish Mix everything together, cover with a cloth and leave to work overnight. The next morning you will see your poolish full of bubbles and slightly dug in its center, a sign that it is ready. I invite you to smell the wonder you have just produced....

You will now have to add your poolish to your bread dough ingredients. All you have to do is take the basic recipe and deduct the quantities used for your poolish, i.e.: Flour T65: 335g (500g - the 165g of the poolish) Water: 165g (330g - the 165g of the poolish) Baker's yeast: 9.7g (10g - the 0.3g of the poolish), which can be rounded to 9g Salt: 9g and we add our entire poolish to it. Then continue in the classic way. Remember to cover the dough and dough pieces well during rest periods to prevent them from crushing. Don't hesitate to bake your bread well; barely browned white bread seems to be out of fashion (except in baking terminals and supermarkets) and that's good.

That isn't really something that can be done at home, though.

Like the other reply stated, a lot of bread is technique. This is simply going to take some practice and/or experimentation. Sponge or no sponge? Are you going for a quick fix or are you willing to let part of the dough sit overnight, and the rest have 8 more hours to develop flavor?

Ingredients, as they said. Flour makes a difference. YEast makes a difference. Your water makes a difference, as does whether or not you put a bit of sugar in your dough.

But the other part of this is things like humidity. The humidity and temperature in the room is going to affect how much flour you need to use to produce identical results and will also affect how the bread rises.

All this stuff basically means that you have to practice, and then you might need to experiment a bit if you move to another part of the country or to another country - and why there is so much leeway in home recipes. Industrial bread can control for a lot of this stuff.

Try doing it like John Kirkland in this Youtube video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m08i8oXpFB0

Not much actual work but it takes quite a lot of elapsed time.

While not baguette specific, here is a solid starting point: https://github.com/hendricius/the-bread-code

This article is not really about bread though, is it?

Is not really factory produce-able like original ciabatta- cause one part of the recipe that makes the taste, cant be effectively integrated. Its time. You need little yeast, you put the poolish in a olive-oil covered cup, and put it somewhere cool. And there it stays - for nearly a day. Then you add flour- and let it slowly come all the way. Then for all your work you get little bread. But it tastes oh so good. French bakerys - have a very limited supply of baguetts - because they have limited space to let the dough ripen for a hour or more (if it ripens cold). https://bakerbettie.com/french-baguette-recipe/

Not interesting on a industrial scale.. which is why you usually get only the tasteless whitebread you usually get.

All the French bakeries I went to actually had a huge amount of fresh baguettes, absolutely delicious and 35 cents each. Maybe they were bad compared to gourmet baguettes, of course, but they were great compared to the American variants

Average baguette price in France is 88 cents. Not sure you could find a 35c one anywhere. Unless it was it really long while ago :-)

They often sell low quality baguette along with the high priced one.

We manage to factory produce prosciutto, which takes 18 months, cheeses that require years to mature, alcohol that takes decades, etc. 24 hours is no obstacle to a factory.

Mass producing baguette is done in many supermarket in France, but I've never tasted any good one coming out of it

Producing a good baguette is an art, meaning that a good boulanger knows how to take into account many external factors like humidity in the air to adapt the recipe (% of water, prep time, cooking time). produce consistent result and a baguette that taste good and fresh for a full day.

As for the number of baguettes produced in one batch, it is also because baguettes (different from other bread that last serveral days) are really better fresh. Fresh from the oven (for breakfast !) is best, half a day is good, 1.5 day and still good means you have a very good boulanger.

Supermarkets are going to target "cheap and good enough", in general. An industrial-scale factory can control for a lot of those external factors - it's a lot more likely to have humidity and temperature control, automation that ensures precise timings and measurements, etc.

I do agree that freshness is key with breads like this - there's nothing like a freshly baked one, and I still miss the morning croissant and baguette from when I stayed in Paris years ago.

You want to adapt the recipe for the weather outside of the bakery / factory not only for what happens in the bakery, i.e. cook it a bit more when it's supposed to rain so the baguette doesn't become soft / stays crunchy. That can be done at small scale, but is difficult at industrial levels.

We buy a bunch and freeze the ones we don't use. Pop it back in the oven for 20m and you have something almost as good as first-day bread. For convenience (it reduces quality a bit) we pre-cut some of the ones to be frozen so we can just pop them in the toaster oven.

Baker is the English word.

I don't think the taste of mass produced baguettes is so bad as the lack of texture. And they are usually over cooked

A Baker makes bread but a boulanger is required to make a baguette !

I always find industrial baguettes under cooked, but you raise an important point : it all come back to personnal preferences and that's for me the special thing about the baguette, so few ingredients and so many variations in taste ...

IMO in supermarkets in the UK they're both under and over cooked - too consistent in colour and texture throughout.

In France, even in les supermarchés you get a nice crisp exterior and soft fluffy inside.

I agree with you, but I'm curious as to why french bread in stores is universally less good than french bread from dedicated bakers (places like ACME, a Berkeley based bread producer, that sell to larger stores such as Safeway I would classify as dedicated bakers).

Maybe something about the volume of dough required to make bread on a truly industrial scale means it's not feasible to knead the dough properly? I was reading that you actually knead a baguette relatively little, but I can see that with a large volume of dough, it would be hard to achieve a uniform dough with very little kneading.

There is nothing specific about french bread there - basically any bread produced at an industrial scale is noticeably inferior to the equivalent "human scaled" version if that exists (not always true). Sometimes shockingly so.

I suspect if anything was as elementary as "it's the kneading" they would have figured out a way to mimic the better technique. It's more likely that the logic of the industrial scale process itself is inimical to some of the finer points of producing top-shelf breads.

Which could be economics: at industrial scale, the relative cost of the ingredients is much higher than the cost of labor. at smaller scale, the labor cost starts to outweigh. so an industrial manufacturer is more tempted to cut costs on ingredient quality. Even if that quality reduction is primarily in service of variance reduction (i.e., going with a wheat supplier who can guarantee availability in large quantities year round, instead of continuously needing to tweak recipes to work with different wheats).

In many cases, the extra delay between production and consumption of a large industrial manufacturer also leads them to pursue solutions that improve shelf-stability.

It's perhaps worth noting that in your examples also (hams, cheeses, whisky, etc.) the very best stuff is far more likely to be small batch and eschews many of the "industry standard" approaches for larger producers.

The reasons may well be similar to bread.

They sell mass produced 'french baguettes' at the grocery store i go to regularly. They're not as good as the in store baked ones but they're passable. Definitely noticably different to the standard mass produced white bread.

The poor man's brioche...

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