Born from one man's resolve to bring back the taste of bread to Charlevoix County, Quebec (see
), la Boulangerie La Rémy (La Rémy Bakery), located in Baie-Saint-Paul, is a modern establishment which operates the old-fashioned way. Bread is baked in two brick and clay wood-fire ovens modeled after 18th-century French ones. Except for the baguette and the brioche, it is made with local wheat stone-ground at the nearby mill. Everything is hand-shaped.
The Gift of Bread
Wheat field in La Malbaie
The bakery is in the hands of two master bakers from France who work alternate shifts (in season, the bakery is open 7 days a week). I met Hubert, from Brittany. Hugo, the other baker, had the day off. Like almost all the bakers I have ever met, I found Hubert passionate about his craft. He is also delighted to be practicing it in Quebec.
The bakery mixes every day two levain-based doughs and two yeast-based doughs. Out of these four doughs, it makes eight breads with some variation from day to day. Whatever doesn't sell on a given day is frozen then sold at a 20% discount on those days when fresh bread sells out. Looking at the list of ingredients for each bread, I noted that many of the yeasted breads included some percentage of levain as well.
Scoring the raisin bread
I would have loved to taste everything but even though I had purposely skipped breakfast, I just couldn't. I tasted the meteorite, the bakery's signature bread and one of its best-sellers.
I also tasted the hazelnut-cranberry bread, delicious with just the right combination of sweet tartness and fragrant nuttiness.
Chock-full packed with the locally produced Hercule cheese, it struck me as the perfect picnic bread. A loaf of this bread, a jug of wine and thou under a gentle sky... That's how I would spell h-e-a-v-e-n! Although of course it might taste just as good eaten at home with a green salad or with soup (in a restaurant, it'd be lovely to have it served alongside French onion soup instead of the limp croutons topped with heavy melted cheese which usually ruin this otherwise delicious dish)....and of course, Quebec's own traditional bread, the popular "pain à l'eau" or "pain de ménage" (made with white flour, lard and sugar):Having grown up in Paris (and traveling there regularly), I have eaten my fair share of brioches overtime and I can safely say that this unconventional looking one was probably one of the best, if not the best I have ever had. Kudos to the bakers!
There were many other tempting breads either already baked or awaiting their turn at the oven, including the "batard de Charlevoix" or the "miche La Rémy", both made with pure levain...
I haven't tasted this local staple but it must be good since Anne Perkins Cabot, who with her husband Frank, was instrumental in bringing back the taste of bread to Charlevoix County, regularly bakes a big batch of it in the ancient local outdoor oven installed on her property. She even keeps two thuyas trimmed in the shape of loaves (the two little round bushes represent "la galette", another Quebec specialty which the Cabots find particularly tasty).
I didn't have time to do more than glance at the pastries or viennoiseries but in the course of my visit, I was offered a little brioche . It looked a bit sugary and since I don't have much of a sweet tooth, I wasn't expecting to really like it but it turned out to be so delicious I could have eaten a dozen.
In short, I was quite taken by this bakery next to the mill on the Rémy. If I lived in Charlevoix County (where culinary delights other than bread seem to abound), I would certainly drop by regularly and stock up.
The pond by the mill and the bakery