One of the benefits of living in Montréal is the quality of bread. Seriously, this is a benefit. If you grew up munching on packaged sliced white bread from one of the big bread companies selling at your local supermarket, the chances are that you may be accustomed to consuming sub par bread. But if you grew up in Montréal, your supermarket is stocked with excellent bread. Not to mention that each neighbourhood is dotted with boulangeries. With the choice of amazing and freshly baked bread, there is no excuse for buying mediocre products.
I recognize that I am a minority in that I grew up eating excellent bread in Canada, outside of Québec. During my early childhood, my mother baked our bread from scratch and without a bread machine. She would make the dough, let it rise, knead it, let it rise, knead again, before popping it in the oven and letting the perfume of the baking dough encompass our tiny apartment. Later, my father sought out quality baked goods and made weekly drop-ins to the Portuguese bakery in our neighbourhood. He would bring home European baked desserts and buns still hot from the oven in a large paper bag. I loved consuming freshly baked bread while it was still warm.
Now that I live in Montréal, I am spoiled with amazing bread. I drop by my chain supermarket and they stock various baked goods from local bakeries such as Premiere Moisson which, despite being a chain, produces amazing baguettes, ciabattas, focaccias, and other baked goods. But people here mostly purchase baguettes, and you will see many pedestrians, especially before dinner time, walking around with a baguette perched in their sack. Yes, this is like how some people stereotype the French except here you will be lucky if you see someone wearing a striped shirt and beret while holding on to their baguette.
Interestingly, a few months ago my boyfriend visited a bakery in his old neighbourhood in east Montréal which was closing. My boyfriend asked the baker/owner why the bakery was closing shop, and the baker’s reply was interesting. He explained that he was a failed baker, and failed bakers from Montréal relocate to Toronto. Because apparently Torontonians cannot tell the difference between bad and good bread! This happened before my boyfriend and I spent some time in Toronto for the Christmas Holidays. On our drive back to Montréal, we bought a baguette from the local Loblaws supermarket to snack on during the seven hour ride. As my boyfriend was driving, and he bit into the baguette then spit it back out. I tried that baguette too and honestly it was horrible. And this was from Loblaws’ bakery at their flagship location at Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto. Suddenly, that baker from east Montréal made complete sense.
So if you live in the province of Québec, you cannot help but eat baguettes. It is because they are so good, so versatile, and so affordable. You buy a fresh loaf for dinner and you slice some to have with your dinner (and pour some good olive oil or creamy butter for accompaniment), and use the rest the next day. Day-old baguettes are perfect for making croutons or toasts with your soup or salad, or pain doré (French toast) for breakfast. To make the perfect croutons or toasts, I slice the baguette into about one- to two-inch thick sections, toss them into a bowl, drizzle some good quality extra virgin olive oil, and sprinkle with Kosher salt. Then I place them on a baking sheet in a single layer until they are crisp and slightly browned. You can further crumble each slice to make croutons.
For pain doré, I just beat some eggs with a dash of milk, vanilla, and cinnamon, then submerge slices of the baguette so that all sides of the baguette are wet with the mixture. Then I melt some butter in a large fry pan over medium heat, and cook the pain doré one side at a time. After transferring the pain doré to your plate, drizzle some maple syrup and serve immediately.
So simple. So easy. Bon appétit!