Short List: BaguettesCall me a snob, but just because I don’t live next to a Parisian boulangerie doesn’t mean I have to accept an inferior baguette. I dismiss those lightweight, flimsy, 3½-inch-high loaves that are nothing like the real-deal baton. I ask the bakery for a plastic napkin so I can squeeze (gently, of course) the French stick to better scrutinize the texture – and avoid losing a tooth to a rock-hard heel. Meet the finalists whose baguettes made the list after being subjected to seven – yes, seven – tests to crust, heel and interior. Oh, and one more thing: If you want it really fresh, call ahead.
222 Artisan Bakery
222 N. Main St., Edwardsville, Ill., 618.659.1122, 222bakery.com
Do the residents of Edwardsville realize how lucky they are to have easy access to such a great baguette? The crust is the beautiful color of yellow corn. The loaf exhibits a springiness that’s spot on and offers fabulous flavor from heel to heel. 222’s artisan baguette holds up beautifully to wet and dry heat, making it an outstanding morning bread to be toasted, smeared with butter and jam, then dunked in some of that locally roasted Goshen coffee.
8143 Maryland Ave., Clayton, 314.721.5454 and 9781 Clayton Road, Ladue, 314.218.2280, companionstl.com
A baguette may simply be a combination of flour, water, salt and yeast baked fresh in a stone oven, but Companion’s delicately aromatic loaf boasts Old World charm, like the dusting of flour around a golden crust and the free-form shape of the heel that has “craft” written all over it. The distribution of large and small air pockets, known as alveoli, makes Companion’s rustic baguette the perfect, well, companion to an olive oil dip.
The Daily Bread Bakery & Cafe
11719 Manchester Road, Des Peres, 314.909.0010, thedbcafe.com
The baguette at The Daily Bread attracts us for its look and feel, which bespeak patient proofing and perfect baking – just the right temp for just the right amount of time. The bread mavens at this Des Peres bakery are clearly adept at working with dough, balancing vigorous handling to achieve structure, and delicate shaping and folding to attain an irresistible inner softness.