Du Pain et Des Idées (“some bread and some ideas”) is the story of a man who dared to dream that he could become the best baker in Paris.
It is about a man who gave up a successful career in the fashion industry to take on a new life as a baker, at the age of 30. Who of us wish we had the courage to do just that?
His dream was not to become just another baker, but rather to restore the craft to its traditional roots using old-fashioned baking techniques and ingredients that have long since been forgotten.
In Paris, when you buy bread, you buy from artisans who are respected for the time it has taken to perfect their art.
Christophe is a true artisan in every sense of the word. He brings passion and love to his work. He works tirelessly at promoting the time-honoured traditions of his craft. There is no compromise, only quality.
I aim to show that this profession is amongst the most beautiful in the world, allowing for those who have mastered its secrets to give a simple yet intense happiness with something as simple as a piece of bread. Christophe Vasseur
His passion and hard work have paid off. After opening in 2002, he was awarded the Best Baker of Paris 2008 by the Gault Millau magazine and Baker of the Year 2012 by Guide Pudlo. His reputation has grown such that renowned chefs, such as Alain Ducasse, have to collect their own bread as Christophe is the only baker in Paris that does not deliver.
To bring his dream to fruition, Christophe needed an authentic boulangerie. He found one in the 10th arrondissement dating back to 1889. The antique furniture, mirrors, clocks and gilt lettering on the shop windows together with the original decorated ceiling convey an impression of travelling back in time.
You will spot the shop easily – it is the one with the long queue outside, and the unmistakable smell of baking bread. And, when you finally get inside, don’t forget to look up at the magnificent ceiling.
The bread of which he is most proud is Pain des Amis, bread that he made for his friends on a weekend, and who eventually persuaded him to make it for the bakery. It is made with wheat flour and features a thick, half-centimetre crust and a nutty taste. It is distinctive, unique, and original. It is his signature bread.
Ruth and I will travel across Paris, no matter how many métros it takes, just to get our hands on a piece of Pain des Amis.
For his baguette, he uses only organic flours, no additives, and a long fermentation period. His baguette is made in seven hours as opposed to the average of an hour and a half. He does all the shaping of the loaves by hand.
In 1920, the price for a baguette was officially fixed by French law, and while no longer in force, the legacy has stuck. Christophe’s baguette costs €1.20 while industrial ones are around one euro. He keeps his baguette prices low because he regards the baguette as daily food. For only 10 cents extra, Christophe can produce a quality product and still make a profit.
Another house specialty is the Escargot Chocolat Pistache , delicious swirls of pastry coiled around pistache cream and chocolate pieces. It sits alongside other pastry escargots, L’Escargot aux Pralines, L’Escargot au Citron et Nougat de Montélimar, L’Escargot aux Cassis Frais and L’Escargot Rhum Raisins.
Chausson à la Pomme Fraiche, another of my favourites, is a flaky apple turnover with fresh-cooked apples rather than apple purée as used by other bakers because it is cheaper and faster.
Brioche, which is a light, slightly sweet bread, delicately flavoured with orange blossom, lemon juice and vanilla. You can specify whether you want your piece to have sugar crystals on top or not, or you can also choose to have a piece cut from the end of the loaf which is well-cooked or from the centre part which is less well-cooked.
One thing you must do when you visit Du Pain et Des Idées is to try some of your purchases at the large timber table and bench outside. I am sure that table is there to seduce you into going back inside for more. Alternatively, stroll down Rue de Marseille to Canal Saint-Martin and eat by the water.
In short, Du Pain et Des Idees is a beautiful boulangerie with an extraordinary craftsman. His story is a journey in excellence, of a man who dared to dream that he could turn back the clock and create something worthwhile for today. He sums up his contagious passion in his mission statement:
I’m going to make you bread like you’ve never seen before, and in this bread there will be love and friendship.La Femme du Boulanger by Marc Pagnol
Du Pain et Des Idées
34 rue Yves Toudic 75010 Paris
+33 1 42 40 44 52
Hours: 6:45am to 8.00pm (Mon-Fri); Closed for Summer Holidays August (check exact dates).
Metro: Jacques Bonsergent
Bus: 56, 65