Le Petit Grain

A few months ago, I started following an interesting-looking Instagram account of a bakery in Paris that was making all their breads using natural leavenings, rather than commercial yeast. I didn’t know anything about it, but not only were they showing impressive loaves of just-baked breads, but they were also experimenting with croissants made with levain (sourdough). The results looked promising.


After they opened, I shot them a message, asking if I could come up and take a look. It was then I got a friendly note back from Edward Delling-Williams, former chef at Au Passage, who now owns Le Grand Bain, in the constantly evolving Belleville neighborhood. I didn’t realize he owned the bakery, which is just across the street from his casual restaurant, on what just might be the most undervalued sidestreet in Paris. (Which I’m certain, in a few years, will change.)

The street also boasts – something I’m just tossing out there – my favorite croissant in Paris right now.

The flavor of the croissant hit all the right notes for me. Because they source their flour from an organic mill, the flour tasted of wheat, as good, freshly milled flour should taste like. It was buttery, alright, but there was enough salt in it as well, which is sometimes lacking in croissants. (The salt enhances the buttery flavor.) The croissants aren’t as fly-away light as others around town, due to the natural leavening, but the flavor was right up there with the best, surpassing many others out there. The rich butter flavor came right through and I don’t mind sacrificing a little air for more butter.


Edward worked at St. Johns in London before moving to Paris, and one of the trademarks at Le Grand Bain has been the homemade bread, a rarity in restaurants. Many three-star places make their own bread but few small restaurants have the space, or inclination, to do it.

Natural leavenings can be tricky to work with, as they’re unpredictable. That volatility is fine in bread, where the details aren’t so noticeable, but Edward told me their croissants were still evolving, and they found they had to add some yeast to stabilize things until they could nail them down using only levain. I don’t mind gaffes in food; pizza doesn’t have to be perfectly round for me, a couple of extra-wide holes means the baguette I’m eating didn’t come from a factory, and apples that are irregular, but taste great, mean they haven’t been bred for looks, but for flavor.


Edward has his hand in many things, including a bun in the oven at home that just sprung forth (his second) and Sakaya Sawaguchi is in charge of bread production. My favorite is the multigrain loaf with plenty of seeds, but the whole wheat sourdough boules are excellent, too.

Edward also wanted his bakery to be anti-gaspillage, or against waste, so they don’t use plastic wrap and recycle as much as possible. On my last visit, I inquired about a few jars that seemed to be fermenting on the shelves and they’re using bread scraps to make kvas, a drink made with their 100% rye bread.

One thing Edward and I share is a love of Lamingtons, and he couldn’t resist adding them to the menu. While the French have adopted burgers and bagels, and kale and quinoa, the individual rectangular cakes from Australia haven’t made it here yet. With all the Australian-inspired coffee shops around Paris, their arrival seems long overdue. At last, they’re here. (And what good ones they are, too!)

In charge of the pastries is Diana Bush. She works with Edward to decide what’s on offer in the bakery case, which includes a number of pastries topped with tomatoes and chèvre, roasted eggplant, and mini focaccia, for savory snacking.

On the sweet side, the pastries riff on classics; rolling sesame seeds in Kouign amann; adding a dusting of cinnamon to buttery brioche, and fresh figs roasted atop Bakewell tarts, layered with jam and frangipane.

Our favorites of all, though, were the tartes cacahuètes. Bowls of peanuts are standard fare on the counters of bars and cafés in France, during the afternoon, when people are drinking apéros, but they don’t make appearances in French bakeries very often. They’re considered something to munch on when drinking a beer, not something to bake into a tart.

The ones at Le Petit Grain, with their soft marshmallow topping and buttery crust (which I didn’t get a picture because we attacked it), but let me assure you, are one of the best pastries in Paris. Even my peanut-averse Parisian partner remarked on how good it was not once, but two times, while we were eating it.

Le Petit Grain
7, rue Denoyez (20th)
Paris

Hours: Thursday through Monday, 10 am to 8 pm, closed Tuesday and Wednesday at present, but plans are to be open Wednesdays in October, and then Tuesdays by November.

 

 

A new bakery arrives in Paris!

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39 comments

  • September 25, 2018 2:51pm

    I want your life! Love, LOVE your posts… a momentary escape that never disappoints. Thank you David! Reply

  • Julie Anne Fearnside
    September 25, 2018 2:54pm

    Nothing better than a fresh lamington❤️ Thanks for sharing Reply

  • The Big House
    September 25, 2018 2:59pm

    Bonjour David, you never disappoint with your way of writing and how you invited us right into Le Petit Grain. Oh, how I wish I could be there to enjoy all of the goodies mentioned.

    Thanks for keeping us informed and wanting more and more of these delicious details. Coco Reply

  • PatsyG35
    September 25, 2018 3:03pm

    I would kill for bread like that.
    Decent bread disappeared in the States years ago. Reply

  • Marianne McGriff
    September 25, 2018 3:11pm

    Good morning, David You make me wish I was back in Paris. I delivered your signed copy of “L’Appart” to Darina. When she was last in the States, she saw an article promoting it! She was thrilled to have a copy and particularly, a signed one. Thank you! Her new book just arrived AFTER we left, so when I’m next there in April, I’ll pick up one for you!!!! Blessings on your day, Marianne Reply

  • Kathleen Mann
    September 25, 2018 3:16pm

    Bookmarked! I am very excited to seek out this bakery in Belleville, which I have started to explore on my recent visits. Especially the sourdough croissants. Oh, and the tartes cacahuètes. Thank you for the super guidance, as always. Reply

  • September 25, 2018 3:20pm

    Be still my heart! Reply

  • Tricia
    September 25, 2018 3:27pm

    I love croissants but like so many of my friends of a similar age I have developed an intolerance ( only that) to what ? Flour, yeasts; all I know is that only properly made sourdough works for me in terms of bread. In the UK even good bakeries aren’t making sourdough croissants, and that’s despite me bending the ear of every good Baker I have met this year about the popular demand for these. Mostly they look pretty bemused when I talk about the possibility.if this bakery in Paris is cracking the code I shall be first in line. Please tell them to keep on working at it!
    Thank you. Reply

  • Anne McDermott
    September 25, 2018 4:11pm

    Yum. Will get there in the next few days. Reply

  • September 25, 2018 4:45pm

    I love sourdough. Although everything in the photos looks picture perfect, I agree that misshapen things often are tastier.
    In my village bakery, the baguettes are handed out without any wrapper, and in town they are encircled with a hand-sized bit of paper. Maybe getting one’s baguette home clean in Paris is more challenging. But I’m glad they are making the anti-gaspillage effort. Reply

  • September 25, 2018 4:46pm

    Ahhhhh – I loved the article but was so excited to get the recipe. I live in the states so won’t be eating these anytime soon. Disappointment reigns. Reply

  • GiGi
    September 25, 2018 4:56pm

    Such a timely post for me. I’ve been working on my own sourdough at home for a year and have a good starter and dependable loaf conquered. However, the sweet ones are proving difficult. So I shall look for a follow-up on this bakery next year.
    The only way you can get a truly yeast-free loaf in the states is to make your own in most places. Brooklyn, Vermont, and LA may be exceptions. It’s a learning curve that doesn’t allow shortcuts, but so rewarding when accomplished.
    Thank you for telling us where great bread can be found in Paris.
    Oh, and by the way, the picture of the handsome and lean baker proves bread does NOT make you fat! The right fermented bread, that is! Reply

  • Vickie Harvey
    September 25, 2018 5:09pm

    I have started making natural leavened bread, but I’m just a novice. My dream would be to make a loaf like that whole grain one you show in the photo. Maybe you could ask them for the recipe and share with us . . . In the mean time I may need to go back to Paris! Reply

    • September 25, 2018 5:17pm
      David Lebovitz

      The recipes at bakeries make a lot of loaves, usually dozens, and it’s a challenge for them to scale them down to make just one, which is what home cooks are looking for. (Usually they only do it if they decide to write a book, then hire a writer and/or recipe tester to recast all the recipes.) I don’t think Le Petit Grain is there yet, but there are some excellent bread books out there by people like Peter Reinhart, Rose Levy Berenbaum, Zoe François, and a recent one by Martin Philip (that I featured here) that’s terrific – He’s a professional baker and scaled his recipes down for home cooks : ) Reply

    • Allison S.
      September 26, 2018 4:53am

      There is an American website with a homestyle baker who does only sourdough and natural levain. He has some very detailed baking guides that you may find useful. Most informative.
      theperfectloaf.com Good luck with your baking! Reply

      • Vickie Harvey
        September 26, 2018 1:20pm

        Thank you Allison S.! Reply

  • Vickie Harvey
    September 25, 2018 5:21pm

    I see what you mean David. I do have books by some of those authors, and will look through them. And you have me intrigued by the Martin Philip book. Thanks for your response! Reply

  • Kate
    September 25, 2018 5:27pm

    Hi David
    I’m an Australian (Melburnian) in Belleville and will definitely be visiting this establishment ASAP! Merci! Reply

  • Marsha McCollum Leutza
    September 25, 2018 5:36pm

    Lamingtons ! Just found a Kiwi bakery in Windsor, Sonoma County that turns out the best ive ever had. Great breads too. Burtonz consistently wins awards for their baking. Ok, enough on California food. Reply

  • September 25, 2018 6:40pm

    What a find! The wholegrain loaf looks seriously grainy. The last pic of a twirly pastry looks like it has cinnamon, a rare find in Paris. Is it svp? Belleville is my old turf…I will def go cinnamon or not. Thanks David Reply

  • Amanda Beresford
    September 25, 2018 7:07pm

    Ahh, lamingtons! Takes me back to the school fetes of my Sydney childhood! You can’t get them in Saint Louis where I live now, so do you have a good recipe? Btw, I made your Plum Flaugnarde on Sunday and my husband and I ate the whole thing at one go….it was utterly gorgeous. Love your recipes and your books, and your posts from Paris, my favorite city in the world after Sydney! Reply

  • cathi cantalupo
    September 25, 2018 7:09pm

    David
    you are the best! Reply

  • September 25, 2018 7:26pm

    going to Paris in early October – must visit this bakery! thanks, David! Reply

  • Janet
    September 25, 2018 7:39pm

    I heard an interview with Edward on the New Paris podcast. This was a great accompaniment. Thanks! Reply

  • E. Brady
    September 26, 2018 1:17am

    What a lovely post, thank you! So good to learn about new places, and in such a beautifully written article. Gorgeous photos. I felt like I was right inside the bakery. Cheers! Reply

  • Pat Milito
    September 26, 2018 4:15am

    Yum yum yum yum yum.
    I am an evolving bread maker, making sourdough every 2 weeks and a whole grain bread here and there.
    I’ve made croissants too- whew, pretty time consuming. And, I’ve made your Jerusalem bagels ( well not yours, but from your blog)-soo good.
    Thanks for keeping me inspired. Reply

  • june2
    September 26, 2018 9:04am

    Oh wow, the lamington’s and bakewells made me think of this Dan Barber interview on fresh bread below. I also love his mad2 talk on wheat – have you watched that (also on YTube)? It is incredibly interesting.

    Dan Barber (chef at Blue Hill) on why fresh bread is better:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T9zXLbdh_rE Reply

  • Vala
    September 26, 2018 12:03pm

    Can´t you please go again and photograph the peanut wonder? Half eaten would be OK too… sounds wonderful… Reply

  • September 26, 2018 4:14pm

    Another wonderful post of yours to pin on my Paris board and wishing I was there. Reply

  • Gavrielle
    September 27, 2018 4:53am

    I’m intrigued by the idea of a sourdough croissant – got to give that a try! By all means, let’s make croissants even more difficult:). This may be unorthodox, but I don’t think sourdough = heavier is necessarily always the case. I make a 100% wholemeal sourdough loaf that’s not only light but far lighter than any I ever made with yeast. Reply

  • Margaret
    October 1, 2018 5:25am

    Hi David,
    A friend asked me to bring pumpkin ice cream to her party so I used your recipe — it went together just fine and is chilling overnight before I freeze it. It tastes wonderful — like pumpkin pie — and is a beautiful caramel color, thanks! Reply

  • PB
    October 1, 2018 6:01pm

    Hi David,

    The most attractive picture was one of Edward with the biceps:)

    PB Reply

  • Jj trezz
    October 4, 2018 12:10am

    Bonjour! Sorry to say that I am very disappointed by the bread I eat in Paris. Maybe the enormous quantity of butter, or any kind of grease, insipid and expensive. I have been eating better, cheap compared with the Parisien and with more flavor in Mexico – any “panaderia” in Mexico make a better bread.
    Bonjour and bonne journe Reply

    • October 4, 2018 9:17am
      David Lebovitz

      I think the bread is very good in Paris and not expensive. A baguette costs €1-€1,40 (in the U.S. they cost at least twice that) and a one-quarter loaf of bread at Poilâne costs about €2. The multigrain bread here is €4.30 and it’s a pretty big loaf, made with fresh, organic flour and lots of grains, hence the higher price. (Similar bread costs $7-11 in the U.S.) Perhaps the breads are less-expensive in Mexico and I like the panaderias there, too, but I don’t find the bread in Paris expensive or greasy. (There usually isn’t any grease or fat in French bread, unless it’s a brioche or similar bread, made with butter.) Reply

  • Bruce
    October 4, 2018 3:54am

    Oh, if I could be in Paris. (With a healthy bank account.) David, your photography is beyond exemplary. Reply

    • October 4, 2018 9:18am
      David Lebovitz

      Thanks! Glad you like the photos : ) Reply

  • Larissa Sergeyeva
    October 6, 2018 7:00am

    David, glad to see more people embracing kvass. In fact, you can use any bread to make it and toasted bread scraps also change the flavour. My grandmother had a clay jug on the go and she did judt as those guys do- ang bread scraos go to chooks ir in kvass jug.
    On a subject of lamingtons, I highly recommend trying orange jelly as a dipping instead of chocolate. I came across this idea in “Salt Grill” by Luke Mangan and I’d say it’s good enough even for die hard Lamington traditionalists. Reply

  • October 8, 2018 7:38am

    What a fabulous post and the pastries just made me so hungry! Especially love that multigrain bread & lamington’s. Reply

  • Colleen
    October 12, 2018 5:15am

    This was our first stop in Paris after getting off the red eye from Boston. The kouign amann was delicious, as was a savory cheese pastry. (The coffee shop/ book store on the corner did not make good coffee.) Le Grand Bain was wonderful as well. The gougere with lardo were outstanding.
    In the same neighborhood, we loved La Cave de Belleville. We did not have a reservation, so we just sat at one of the tables in the shop and had a burrata drizzled with walnut oil, octopus, and oil poached sardines. I will look forward to going back to the neighborhood again. Reply

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