le Quignon: Bazin Bakery

Americans often wonder how French people some know we’re American before we even say one word. It used to be our sneakers; they were the dead giveaway. Nowadays, wearing sneakers, or les baskets, is as French as carrying a baguette.

The other way they can tell us-from-them is that Americans tend to smile. A lot. We are a rather happy tribe. And Americans tend to eat and drink while walking (or while driving, which I’ve explained to some of my French friends, but they look at me in disbelief). Even though in Paris it’s becoming a bit more common, it’s still unusual to see someone chowing down while walking on the street or in the métro. It’s just not done and people will definitely give you funny looks if you’re – say, cramming a Pierre Hermé pastry into your face while sitting on a sidewalk bench. Or shoving a sublime, cream-filled éclair au chocolat from La Maison du Chocolat into your mouth, trying to make sure not one precious drop of bittersweet chocolate pastry cream lands anywhere but in your tummy.

But one little nugget of Parisian tradition still amuses me every time I see it. It’s the yank, twist, and pull of le quignon.

bazinbaguetteparis.jpg

You’ll see it 99% of the time someone leaves a bakery with a freshly-baked baguette. The moment they exit, they grab the crackly knob at the end of the loaf, le quignon, and yank it off. It’s a quick twist and snap, then it gets popped right it into their mouth as they hurry on their way. I tend to think of it as an instant, on-the-spot, quality-control check.

I usually end up with a mess of flour on my dark overcoat, since one of my favorite breads in Paris, le Bazinette, has a fine dusting of flour on it’s crackly crust, and permeating all the little brittle crevasses. If you’re lucky enough to get to Bazin early in the day, a favorite baguette of mine is available with a hearty mixture of grains; flax, sesame, and poppy seeds.

The one shown above is their baguette de tradition, a hand-shaped baguette, slightly sour from the addition of un peu de levain, natural sourdough starter, which gives the bread a hearty, earthy character and allows it to remain fresher longer than the usual 4-hour lifespan of a regular baguette.

Bazin

Bazin is one of the prettiest bakeries in Paris too, overlooking what I am sure is the smallest (and most unnecessary) traffic rotary in the city. In order to get a Bazinette with grains, you need to get to the bakery early in the day, since they always seem to sell them out quickly.

Bazin
85, bis rue de Charenton
Métro: Ledru-Rollin
Tel: 01 43 07 75 21
(Closed Wednesday and Thursday)

16 comments

  • that explains why fred wont eat
    a) between meals
    b) at his desk
    c) in the car (biggest no no of all)
    of course, he’s French!

    i spotted the bread trick in Paris, and have been trying it out at the farmers market ever since, especially when the Acme Epi is still warm.

  • Haha, maybe now I know why I was greeted with so many “Hello’s” in France. It was my perpetual “I’m in France!” smile that did it. I always replied with “Bonjour,” though. And probably an even more amused smile. :)

  • I LOVE the Bazinette, our hosts introduced it to us while we were staying in the 11th in September, it’s a great neighborhood, isn’t it?The dead giveaway for Americans in France is still wearing jeans daily, and showing navels (though probably not during this season). The French mostly wear jeans when they are in Recreation mode, and they are often pressed and neat looking, or very designerish. And they don’t wear flip flops either. I was delighted to have seen only three baseball caps in the three weeks I was in France! And I always eat my Pierre Herme on the street or the bus, that’s how they can tell I”m not indigenous, but I’ll never stop.

  • Ooohhh la laaa….look at that baguette! The end part is always the best part!! Now I must start making baguettes with a little levain in it!!

  • For anyone who wants to plunge deeper into Paris pain there are TWO guides over at http://www.Amazon.fr One by an American, Steven-L Kaplan, and another by Augustin Paluel-Marmont…The American smile thing is hard to erase :(

  • I meant to add the guides don’t cost much dough :)
    le quignon isn’t Breton & related to le Kouign Amann is it? In NYC I see it spelled with a Q…

  • Ahah, this is so funny. I am French you see, married to an Irish-American and living in the US now, and all those things, he has been telling them to me ;-) I especially like the last comment “Why on earth would we want to do that?” So typical, like “Ben, pour quoi faire?”
    Didn’t you know yet that the French don’t see beyond the end of their nose? ;-)

  • Baguette pinching is the ultimate to being French! It is just as you say to pinch off the top and not bite it! Wear jeans, or baskets but don’t bite the top off of the baguette!

  • Bien sur!! Le Quignon!! How funny..my French father always helped himself to that when leaving the bakery, and then at home insisted on having the other end as well! Now that I am grown and Papa is many miles away I continue the tradition and enjoy Le Quignon myself! Another way to spot an American in Paris is when they are wearing a new beret and carrying a Rick Steve’s book, and they can be loud. Parisians also STARE without smiling[especially on the Metro]and I think American’s are uncomfortable with staring.
    May I ask what type of camera you use??? Your photo’s are stunning!! A new post from you is like a gift..Merci!! kp gallant

  • Nubbin love. It’s all about the nubbin.

  • Just like Bea, I am French, living in the US with my American husband. Your comment about the baguette is so true and funny, but I will just mention a linguistic note: in the France profonde, we usually call the extremity of the baguette “croûton”. “Un quignon de pain” is just a piece (small or large) of bread, not specifically the extremity. I did not invent it, it is the dictionnaire!

  • I am French and I have to add that Le Quignon is something that some people can beg for when others just despise it. I am quite addicted to the Quignon thing when leaving the bakery. Sometimes, loaded with bags and with no extra hand to tear the end of the baguette, I may have even bite into it. If she knew, my so chic French mother would just kill me…

  • That reminds me, while in Paris I went to Poilane with my boyfriend around three and asked for a baguette. I might as well have asked the lady for le Big Mac with cheese because she looked at me like I was E.T. I guess you have to get there early in the morning for their baguettes. But I do remember, very clearly, on my way home from school in Neuilly-sur- Seine I would often stop in the boulangerie and buy a baguette. And I could NEVER wait till I got home to…” tear me off a piece of that.. BIG BAGUETTE!”

  • Tongue-In-Cheek/Flo: I only chew off the end of my baguette when I’m in the privacy of my elevator (all alone, of course!)

    Mona: Poilane doesn’t make baguettes you big silly.

    Corine: I’m not gonna argue with a Frenchwoman, but I have heard friends call the end ‘le quignon’. Next time I’ll correct them! : )

    KP: Yes, we my fellow Americans are really loud!!! Last time I was in the US, I wanted to wear earplugs. Most restaurants were so noisy, I could barely hear my dining companions.
    I use a Sony Cybershot, which does a fine job, although I have a new camera on my Amazon wishlist, but no one’s offered to buy it for me…yet.

    Sam: When I told my French pals that some American fast-food companies develop food especially to eat while driving, they don’t believe me! (If they only knew most of us look at the coffee-cup holder first, when checking out a new car.)

    Carol: I’ve never seen that spelling in France, but who knows what they do in New York to French foods. I’ve even seen croissants stuffed with, gasp, melted cheese and ham!

  • That busted-off end of the baguette brought back childhood memories, man. Growing up in Montreal, mom taking me to the bakery and buying a baguette or two. I’d be in the back seat of the car, the bread in the front seat, and have the ends of those suckers knawed off by the time we got home (we weren’t strapped into car seats back then). I really enjoy your site, makes me miss Paris very much. Haven’t been back since 2000.

  • That’s very funny — I’m from Paris and I just posted something about how I eat bagels (yes, bagels) the way I eat baguettes. I never have my bagel halved. I just tear off one piece after the other (while walking down the street), as if the bagel was a big quignon. Just can’t help it.