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Baguette Bakers Battle for Title of Best in the City

By Nicole Levy | January 21, 2016 8:32am | Updated on January 21, 2016 11:56am
 Baguettes for sale at DUMBO's Almondine Bakery, a contestant in the
Baguettes for sale at DUMBO's Almondine Bakery, a contestant in the "Baguette Battle"
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French Morning

In a town that worships the bagel, the baguette is getting some love Thursday night.

Fifteen bakeries will present their baguettes before a jury of professional chefs and culinary celebrities at the Sofitel hotel in Midtown to win bragging rights for the best French loaf in the city.

The "quintessential French food," the baguette has come to prominence in New York over the last four years, said French Morning founder Emmanuel Saint-Martin, whose news site for French speakers living in the U.S. arranged the competition.

That's happened as more and more French and French-trained bakers open businesses in the city. 

The popularity of the baguette partially stems from its identity as a "social" bread, head baker at Runner & Stone Peter Endriss told us in an email: 

"One doesn't buy a baguette to accompany a perfunctory meal ... A baguette means that you're about to enjoy a meal that deserves to be honored." 

Judges will be basing their decisions on four criteria, according to a rating sheet provided to DNAinfo: appearance (does it have a caramelized crust with the "ears" produced by slashing?), structure (does a slice spring back into shape when it's squeezed?) along with aroma and flavor.

The competitors hail from around the five boroughs (and the nearby-state-that-shall-not-be-named), and they range in size from small shops to corporate operations, like Le Pain Quotidien.

To our chagrin, no baking will happen on the Sofitel premises, but ticket buyers will be welcomed to sample all the entries, talk to their makers, and vote for their favorites.

We asked finalists, via email, what makes their baguettes superior. Here are some of the best answers:

L'Imprimerie (1524 Myrtle Ave., Bushwick) owner Gus Reckel said his baguettes are made the way they "used to be made in France decades ago, with only one baker." That singular baker is, of course, him.

At Orwasher's Bakery (308 E 78th St., Upper East Side), it's understood that "bread is a living thing and weather plays an important part of the process," Cohen said. "I would like to think that the bakers are similar to surgeons in the way they make these [baguettes] each day." 

The "chewy, nutty crust and airy crumb with mild acidity" of the baguettes at Bien Cuit's (120 Smith St., Cobble Hill) give them a leg up, according to the bakery's marketing manager, Lloyd Ellman. Bon Appétit considers them one of the 10 best in America.

Breads Bakery (18 E. 16th St., Union Square) owner Gadi Peleg said his business "know[s] that baguettes are a measure of a great bakery." The company is so invested in bakers understanding the entire process of baguette baking that it sends some to study abroad at French flour mills.

Cannelle Patisserie (75-59 31st Ave., Jackson Heights) uses a long fermentation process, quality ingredients, and "a pinch of T.L.C.," said the bakery's pastry chef, Jean-Claude Perennou.