Squirrel Bread

I can’t remember the last time I saw a real, live squirrel.

Yes, yes, I know. I live a city. But when I go out into the French countryside I just don’t see them there either. I never realized how much I missed the little rascals until I was back for a visit to the states and there were hoards of squirrels going about their business everywhere, from the wilds of Central Park to the streets of San Francisco.

Pain Ecureuil

French people when they go to the states, on the other hand, don’t miss squirrels. They miss bread.

Fresh bread is a given, an integral part of life in France and lining up daily at your local boulangerie is just another task one does during the course of your day. For me though, it’s a little more complicated. I’m no longer content to get the bread from the bakery just across the street from me and I’ll spend half a day hunting down grainy breads near and far, a type of bread I’m hopelessly partial to.


If I spot an interesting one though a bakery window, I’ll stop in and buy it. But more often than not, I’ll bring home a good-looking pain aux cereales, anxious to hack into it for that first slice. Unfortunately it’s often a bit of a disappointment when I find just a few meager seeds sprinkled in, rather than a dense, grainy loaf, the kind of bread that’s oh-so-good with a simple smear of salted butter or nice wedge of tangy-white fromage de chèvre piled on top.

When I want to be assured of bringing home a hearty, earthy bread, I’ll pick up a loaf of pain écureuil, or Squirrel Bread.

Squirrel Bread

In the bakeries, you’ll see compact, almost burnt-looking little loaves of bread in a floury basket, labeled Squirrel Bread. They’re packed with things that are favorites of those furry little critters, usually crunchy hazelnuts and nuggets of dried figs and apricots.

Pain Ecureuil

I picked up this hearty little fella this weekend and not only do I get a kick out of the name, but the bread is tasty as well. I’ve been squirreling it away, taking little bites and nibbles here and there all day long.

So there may not be many real squirrels in Paris, but as long as I’m here, I’m going to continue my own hunting and gathering of Squirrel Breads. And although the winter chill is fading away, I’m not going to bother stockpiling loaves.

With 1263 bakeries in town, I don’t think I’m in any danger of going hungry around here.

I’m just worried about running out of time.



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43 comments

  • March 2, 2008 12:23pm

    Oh, how clever! That looks delicious.

    Lucy just wrote a wonderful post about missing French bread in the U.S., too.

    (When I worked in France, I remember being amused that the folks I was staying with were so excited that there was a squirrel living in the tree outside their apartment building. One squirrel. And it’s true, that’s the only squirrel I ever saw there.)

  • Steve
    March 2, 2008 12:25pm

    Hm. So you’re telling me that I haven’t seen squirrels in Parisian parks? Now that you’ve got me thinking I guess you’re right.

    Of course the Google ads prompted by this post (“Squirrel-Off”) are hilarious.

  • Cascadia Girl
    March 2, 2008 12:32pm

    Oh, then you would dig Seattle the most. This place is RIFE with splendid bakeries: Wild Wheat, Macrina, Le Panier, Essential Baking, and Grand Central just to name a few. And to put on top? OMG, the local cheese are amazing. Beechers is one of my favorites. They’re right down at Pike Place Market.

    The food scene in Seattle is unparalleled these days, especially in terms of groceries (and wines out of the eastern part of the state, especially Walla Walla). But the restaurant scene is nothing to be sneezed at either.

  • Cascadia Girl
    March 2, 2008 12:34pm

    PS: We have loads of squirrels too.

  • March 2, 2008 12:45pm

    David, I bet that would be great with some brebis. A great breakfast bread too. Daily bread is taken to a whole new level here, that’s for sure. I remember the first time I saw a squirrel here, all these people stopped what they were doing to look at it. I was thinking – they probably do that with deer too.

  • March 2, 2008 12:57pm

    What do you lot do with the squirrels – eat them? I live in the heart of London and we see squirrels in our garden every day – and I mean every day. Maybe the problem is that we have crappy bread and throw half of it out for the wildlife, whereas you eat it all up.

  • March 2, 2008 1:19pm

    Darn. I thought this was going to be a recipe for squirrel in bread – like écureuil en croute. ;)

    I can confirm that there are no squirrels in Paris. My dog Karli – master squirreler – searched citywide and could find none. She did however once find one single red squirrel at Fontainebleu.

  • March 2, 2008 1:44pm

    oh, that’s exactly the kind of bread that never reaches my home : mysteriously, the paper bag is full in the boulangerie and progressively empty during the time i come back : )

    this kind of bread is excellent with foie gras, country-side foie gras poellé sur toast, for example. It’s also wonderful with some butter only, and crispy fleur de sel crystals sprinkled at the top.

    The only problem i see with this bread is that the flavour of seeds gets out really soon, the day after or the next, the bread is good but has no more seed taste. Well, actually it’s “as i remember”, i never had some of that bread left for one day for years :)

  • Gary
    March 2, 2008 2:23pm

    Qu’ils mangent de la brioche.

    p.s. I’m leading a charge to have our license plates changed from Connecticut the Constitution State to Connecticut the Squirrel State. So much are we daily overrun!

  • March 2, 2008 2:31pm

    Gary: What happened to The Nutmeg State? Did the squirrels eat all that too?

  • Yvette
    March 2, 2008 2:41pm

    What kind of flours and/or spices go into this bread besides all of the squirrel goodies? I wonder if I can duplicate it since I’m nice and far away from your bakeries in France. Aloha!

  • N. Rodrigues
    March 2, 2008 3:10pm

    David,
    (completely OT)

    Have you heard of this new CIA frozen desserts cookbook?

    It’s a bit expensive but lengthy. Should be worth while.
    Any thoughts?

    Take care!

  • sonya
    March 2, 2008 3:26pm

    hmmm, sounds like you might be hinting at the possibility of leaving paris…

  • Gary
    March 2, 2008 3:31pm

    Wikipedia: “Connecticut’s official nickname, adopted in 1959, is “The Constitution State,” based on its colonial constitution of 1638–39.[1] Unofficially (but popularly) Connecticut is also known as “The Nutmeg State”.

    When I was growing up in the 50s and 60s, all our license plates used to say “The Nutmeg State”. But at some point, I think in the 70s, the legislature must have decided that “The Constitution State” was much more dignified or better for tourism, who knows.

  • Gary
    March 2, 2008 3:34pm

    There are so many squirrels in Connecticut that I should try to devise a way of producing energy from squirrel pellets. Except that for all the squirrels we have, I’ve never seen any of their, uh, output, let alone experienced stepping in it. Go figure.

  • March 2, 2008 4:12pm

    Here down south we have neither squirrels nor squirrel bread. What we do have is delice d’ecureuil, which is chopped nuts mixed with honey, and is very good on bread. But it’s your squirrel bread that I’d rather have, and alas have never seen.

  • Jill
    March 2, 2008 4:35pm

    My local grocery store, a Publix, makes a breakfast bread on site that is just like that Squirrel Bread. My family loves it.

  • Phyllis
    March 2, 2008 5:02pm

    David, Have you checked out the pistachio bread, or black olive bread, at the Blanqui outdoor market? There’s a stand there that makes the BEST bread. Get there early on Sunday as they sell out of the nut bread early. The girl there used to reserve a couple of loaves for me every Sunday, but after my month long stint in California she stopped. Sometimes I buy tons and freeze it. (Yikes! Did I really say that? Naughty me.) I love your site! Mahalo nui loa, Phyllis

  • debinsf
    March 2, 2008 5:32pm

    We have a bakery here in SF (all the way out in the Avenues – Arizmendi) that makes rolls and loaves called wolverines. Just like your squirrel. So delish. I often think of looking for a recipe, but then I wouldn’t be dropping in to see my favorite commie bakers. I leave the baking of that one to them.

  • JEP
    March 2, 2008 5:51pm

    I’ve never heard of Squirrel Bread, but this looks really delicious.

  • Christine
    March 2, 2008 8:33pm

    I want to squirrel this bread it looks delicious! Love the pics. I bet it would freeze well for those that don’t want to eat it all in one day!

  • Linda Hammargren
    March 2, 2008 11:00pm

    Over-run with squirrels here in Illinois–it’s the black walnut trees, the pecans, the hazelnuts, the hickorys, I guess. Personally my favorite food to feed to the squirrels is Baskin Robbins bubble-gum ice cream–the kind with actual pieces of gum in it. Those little devils just look so funny chewing bubble gum. Eighty chomps per second.

  • March 3, 2008 6:36am

    We got squirrels. But we are in the Loire, so maybe it’s a regional speciality

    The ones we usually see are the black variants of the red squirrel, but sometimes we see the proper red one. When in London we only get your North American Greys, which are vermin (and started to be treated as such).

    We also get good bread in our village when in France. I think the real difference is in the flour – properly ground from older strains of wheat. Oh – and a LOT less yeast, and it is raised properly.

    I have been reading “Bread Matter” by Andrew Whitley. The things that are done to British bread is a bit scary…..

  • March 3, 2008 10:58am

    N. Rodriguez: That book isn’t scheduled to be released until next fall, but it’s right up my alley. Looks interesting…

    Simon: Well, there’s good bread and bad bread everywhere (ok…there’s more good bread in France than elsewhere, perhaps). But I’ve had great bread in Britain and lousy bread in Paris, too. Your village sounds lovely and I like those little bakeries using levain, too.

    Linda: LOL! But don’t let PETA catch you…

    Phyllis: Freezing bread in Paris? Mon dieu!

    (Some older neighbors of mine didn’t even know that you could freeze bread!)

    Gary: We have plenty of pigeons, which are perhaps your version of squirrels. But I don’t think they’d have too many sales if they called it ‘Pigeon Bread’.

    Certainly not in Paris.

  • March 3, 2008 11:49am

    David

    I should have stipulated “supermarket bread” as being scary – the kind of stuff that stays soft and squeezable on the shelf for 2 weeks, but is never actually fresh.

    Unfortunately, where we live in London the supermarket is just about our only choice, so I rarely eat bread here, although Susan produced amazing ciabatta yesterday, so all is not lost.

  • March 3, 2008 11:59am

    squirrels we have in Seattle, but we don’t have boulangeries like in Paris. (For the ardent Seattle fan above, hurrah! I loved Macrina Bakery, too much, before I had to stop eating there, but it’s still not like Paris.)

    this looks obscenely good. and by the density, I think I could adapt it to gluten-free. Any ideas on what might be lurking in there?

  • Claire
    March 3, 2008 12:56pm

    I still can’t quite master the pronunciation of ‘écureuil’ so I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to buy it!

  • March 3, 2008 2:18pm

    Yum! I’d much rather find loaves of this yummy-looking bread all over my yard than the evil squirrels I have digging in my flower beds. I bet these loaves would leave my tulips alone and never dig up my window boxes. ; )

    I agree with Clair, ecrueuil is one of the most difficult French words for anglophones to wrap their tongues around.

  • noah
    March 3, 2008 3:51pm

    If you think saying ecureil is hard…
    try to get a native speaker to say “squirrel”!

  • March 3, 2008 4:00pm

    Dana, Claire, and Noah: For me, écureuil is nothing compared to “sechage”…”RER” is another tough one…

    Shauna: I think it’s a mix of white and whole wheat flours, with the addition of hazelnuts and dried fruits. (I’ve seen examples with a few anise seeds as well.) I’m certain there was no buckwheat in it, but if that’s allowable, I might think in that direction to get a distinctively nutty earthy flavor.

    I’d imagine a gluten-free version is possible if you work your magic, since it’s density is a good part of its appeal.

  • March 3, 2008 8:33pm

    Must try soon, but I’m still reveling in your lemon sorbet, made with this year’s first batch of Meyer lemons..

  • Eric
    March 4, 2008 12:05am

    I’ve been a lurker here for awhile and really enjoy your posts. A close friend who lived in Paris would always give specific instructions to me when I’d visit regarding which boulangerie was best for baguette or for pain au chocolate. She’d discover new favorites that of course were *never* the ones nearest her apartment. I loved those little quests for daily bread.

  • tom
    March 4, 2008 12:54am

    I used to think that it was cute that the Caisse d’Epargne bank in France years ago used to have the ecureuil as its symbol. I guess the image of the squirrel “squirreling” away its hoard for the winter was a good image for a savings bank that wanted people to “squirrel” away savings for a rainy day!

  • March 4, 2008 9:21am

    That squirrel bread actually looks similar to the type of pancakes my sweetums and I eat. With just enough batter to barely hold the nuts/grains/seeds/raisins together. I’m thinking I’d LOVE this squirrel bread. It looks so dense and hearty, like a granola bar but maybe softer. I am inspired, next time I make bread I might see what happens if I throw a bunch of squirrel food in it. Yummsy!

  • michele
    March 6, 2008 6:42am

    Loved this post — is squirrel bread close in flavor / texture to ‘pain sportif’ ? I used munch on those while strolling through Paris (lived there 2005-2007).

    By the way, does anyone have any thoughts/hints suggestions regarding interesting bread in the UK? I live in East Anglia now, and all our local bakeries sell is puffy white bread and ghastly, flavorless pastries — ugh.

  • March 6, 2008 8:00am

    Oh, that looks so good! I love bread with “stuff” in it– might have to try to replicate this at home.

    I’m living in Germany by way of NYC at the moment and it’s funny how “exotic” squirrels are to Germans. In NYC they’re just those cute, sometimes pesky, little creatures that run around every park.

  • Donatella
    March 8, 2008 4:15pm

    I live in Brooklyn and have a monster maple tree that stretches over the properties of seven brownstones. So it is Squirrel Central. They eat my tulips, day lillies, daffodils, bulbs of all kinds. One month ago, one got into the house from the chimney and made it into my apartment and trashed it worse than a stoned rock band in a hotel. I had to get all new window treatments and it wasn’t clear the couches were going to survive (they did after a cleaning). We caught the squirrel in a cage trap and took it to the park, but I can tell you that whatever distant affection I felt for these creatures is GONE, GONE, GONE. The mere mention of a food that is named after squirrels sends my stomach flipping. If you want to see squirrels in spades, come to Brooklyn. They rule here.

  • Sandra
    March 10, 2008 9:46am

    You don’t see too many squirrels in Paris, you say? Boston is overrun, as is most of northern NJ where we used to live. When my kids were at Drew University, they said the squirrels there used to attack anyone crossing their paths or throw nuts at students from the trees. I try not to encourage the little @#$%s, but sometimes one needs to dispose of the old, lousy uneaten supermarket breads. And their annoying little cousins, chipmunks are another whole story–they steal my tomatoes and strawberries, etc in season, and have the absolute gall to sit on my steps on eat the fruits of my labor in front of me, as if I had planted just for them!! I guess we have to learn to live with them. But the breads of which you speak, with the nuts and fruits, how about doing a book on those?!?!?

  • Michelle
    March 10, 2008 12:48pm

    I love pain écureuil and have been looking for a recipe for it for a long time. Any chance you can put your hands on one David? I have tried googling for a recipe in any language and I haven’t had any luck. A recipe in French would be ok.

    Thanks,

    Michelle
    aka Baroness Tapuzina

  • March 10, 2008 1:14pm

    Hi Michelle: Try looking in one of the books by Paris bread whiz Eric Kayser. His bakery has a great pain écureuil, and his books have been translated into English, as well.

  • March 12, 2008 11:17am

    Have you seen that bank commercial in France with the little squirrel and various other creatures? I assume they must have a few squirrels in France but all I’ve ever seen in a marmot.

  • March 18, 2008 9:52am

    Yeah, the Eric Kayser book on bread (“100% pain”) is very good. All of his doughs use about 10-20% of liquid wheat sourdough, which enhances crust and flavor greatly. Once you learn one basic dough, you can make lots of lovely loaves of bread.

  • Jonnier
    March 27, 2008 3:27pm

    Thank you for this post. When I lived in Montreal, I used to stop in La Patisserie Belge, Ave de Parc, almost daily on my way home from class. A baguette and some brie were the usual suspects. (And I was always baffled and repelled by the fromage de t�ête.) But one time I got this crusty bread with apricots and nuts in it and I was totally smitten.

    Every now and then I think back to that bread, but I am sure I would never find it in NYC so I thought I would try to make my own. Alas, googling “apricot nut bread” gets you a whole different sweet sort of thing, which this bread was not. I also thought it had walnuts in it but maybe it was hazelnuts. Love the idea of figs and anise seed too. Thank you for putting a name to my bread grail. Now to find a recipe or someone willing to haul a truckload 7 hours down I-87 for me . . .