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Easy French Practice

Baking Bread in France

Emilie By Emilie on December 31, 2018
baking bread learn french bilingual practice

Experience how we bake bread in France and practice your French with this French English bilingual story + lots of pictures.

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Bonjour ! Nous sommes Bill et Cindy, des Ă©tudiants en immersion de français chez Emilie. Un jour, elle nous a proposĂ© d’aller faire du pain, et puis d’Ă©crire un article sur cette expĂ©rience unique pour French Today. Le voici !

Hi! We’re Bill and Cindy, French immersion students at Emilie’s. One day, she offered we go bake bread, and then write an article on this unique experience for French Today. Here it is!

Lundi dernier, nous nous étions baladés avec Emilie, et sa fille Myrtille, pour aller acheter du pain au chùteau de Boussan, en Occitanie.

Last Monday, we had taken a walk in the countryside with Emilie and her daughter Myrtille to buy bread at Boussan castle, in the Occitane region of France.

learn french bread vocabulary

Nous y avions rencontrĂ© la famille Mauvais – de leur vrai nom –. Ce sont des fermiers qui habitent dans un chĂąteau et qui ont une exploitation agricole depuis 25 ans.

There we met the Mauvais family – their real names [mauvais means bad]. They are farmers who live in a big country house (called castle) and who have been farming their land for 25 years.

1 – French Bread Baking Vocabulary

1. le pain – bread
2. un fermier – a farmer
3. un maraücher – a vegetable farmer
4. un Ă©leveur – a cattle raiser
5. un boulanger – a baker
6. nourrir le levain – to prepare the yeast
7. le pain au levain – sourdough bread
8. faire du pain – bake bread
9. le four Ă  pain en briques rĂ©fractaires – brick bread oven
10. le moulin – the mill
11. pĂ©trir – to knead
12. laisser la pñte lever – let the dough rise
13. façonner – to form or fashion
14. un pain, une miche – a loaf
15. un Ă©pi de blĂ© – an ear of wheat
16. fariner – to sprinkle flour
17. cuire – to bake
18. la cuisson – the baking/cooking
19. enfourner du pain – to put the loaves in the oven
20. l’enfournage ou l’enfournement du pain – the act of putting things in the oven
21. une fournĂ©e – a batch
22. dĂ©fourner du pain – remove the loaves from the oven
23. fait maison – homemade

For more French bread vocabulary, I invite you to follow the link to Camille’s article.

2 – French Idioms With Bread

1. avoir du pain sur la planche – to have a lot to accomplish
2. mettre la main à la pñte – to start to work, to help, to take part in some tasks/job
3. ĂȘtre dans le pĂ©trin – to be in a difficult situation
4. ne pas pouvoir ĂȘtre au four et au moulin –not be able to be in two places at the same time
5. se vendre / partir comme des petits pains – to sell very quickly, to sell like hot cakes

3 – Baking Bread is For Early Risers!

Nous sommes lundi. Le rĂ©veil sonne Ă  5h45. Quelle idĂ©e de tomber du lit si tĂŽt, nous sommes Ă  la retraite, quand mĂȘme! Nous nous levons de bonne heure, de bonne humeur, car aujourd’hui nous allons jouer les apprentis boulangers dans les petites PyrĂ©nĂ©es.

It’s Monday. The alarm clock goes off at 5:45 a.m. What an idea to drag ourselves out of bed so early, we’re retired after all! Nevertheless, we arise early and in a good frame of mind because today we are going to play apprentice bakers in the “petites PyrenĂ©es.”

4 – Meeting French Bread Bakers

La famille Mauvais – Jean-Paul, Françoise, et leur fils, Henri – en plus d’élever des vaches et de faire pousser des lĂ©gumes, font aussi leur propre farine avec leur blĂ©, et font du pain une fois par semaine, le lundi. En les rencontrant, Cindy a eu envie d’apprendre Ă  faire du pain. Ça tombait bien, Emilie voulait justement nous proposer cette activitĂ© pour notre immersion dans la culture française. Cela explique pourquoi nous sommes si matinaux aujourd’hui. C’est parti, “nous avons du pain sur la planche” !

The Mauvais family – Jean-Paul, Françoise, and their son Henri – besides raising cattle and growing vegetables, make their own flour from the wheat they grow, and make bread once a week, on Mondays. Upon meeting them, Cindy wanted to learn how they made their bread. The timing couldn’t have been better as Emilie wanted to suggest this activity as part of our immersion into French culture. This explains why we got up so early today. Let’s go! We have a lot to accomplish!

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5 – How To Bake Bread

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En fait, le procĂ©ssus commence le samedi soir : Françoise nourrit le levain Ă  partir d’un morceau de pĂąte restant du prĂ©cĂ©dent lundi qu’elle rallonge avec de l’eau.

In truth, the bread-making process begins on Saturday evening when Françoise prepares the yeast by adding water to the bit of dough she has saved from the previous Monday.

Le lundi matin, à six heures dans la dépendance non loin du chùteau, Henri allume le four à pain en posant du bois sur les briques. De 6h à midi, le bois va se consumer.

At six a.m. on Monday morning,in a small building not far from the chateau, Henri “turns on” the bread oven by setting wood on top of the oven bricks. From 6AM to noon, the wood will be totally consumed (leaving nothing but ashes.)

learn french bread vocabulary

6 – Preparing the Bread Dough

Jean-Paul pÚse la farine et prépare sept bassines de farine blanche, une bassine de farine au sésame, une bassine de farine aux raisins, et une bassine de farine complÚte.

Jean-Paul weighs the flour and prepares seven large bowls of white flour, one bowl of sesame flour, one bowl for raisin bread, and one bowl of whole wheat flour.

Françoise ajoute du gros sel de GuĂ©rande, le levain, et l’eau.

Françoise adds salt from the Guérande region of France, the prepared yeast, and the water.

learn french bread vocabulary

Ensuite, tout le monde “met la main Ă  la pĂąte” et pĂ©trit la pĂąte. L’expression “mettre la main Ă  la pĂąte” signifie aussi au sens figurĂ© “se mettre au travail ou participer Ă  une tĂąche”.

Then everyone sets to work and kneads the dough. The French expression, literally “put the hand in the dough” means figuratively speaking “set to work or participate in an endeavor/task”.

Jean-Paul nous conseille de pĂ©trir avec une main pour garder une main libre. A ce stade, la pĂąte est vraiment trĂšs collante, et nous comprenons tout le sens de l’expression imagĂ©e “ĂȘtre dans le pĂ©trin”, Ă  savoir ĂȘtre dans une situation dont il est difficile de sortir.

Jean-Paul advises us to knead the dough with one hand so as to keep one hand free. At this stage, the dough is really sticky and now we understand better that “to be in the dough” means to be in a ‘sticky’ situation that is hard to get out of.

learn french bread vocabulary

Pendant que la pùte lÚve, les Mauvais nous invitent à petit-déjeuner au chùteau. Ils nous servent de la brioche spécialement préparée pour nous la veille avec de la confiture, le tout fait maison bien sûr.

While the dough is rising, the Mauvais invite us to have a French breakfast at the chateau. They serve us brioche bread that was prepared specially for us the day before, and jam, homemade of course!

7 – Cutting the Bread Dough

AprĂšs le petit dej’, nous retournons Ă  la dĂ©pendance. La pĂąte a bien levĂ©. Jean-Paul prend chaque bassine, tour Ă  tour, et verse la pĂąte sur la table principale. La pĂąte est coupĂ©e en portions et pesĂ©e prĂ©cisĂ©ment.

After breakfast, we return to the outbuilding, where the dough has well risen. Jean-Paul takes each bowl and, one by one, turns it upside down on the main table. The dough is cut into pieces and precisely weighted.

learn french bread vocabulary

La troupe façonne les portions tantĂŽt en forme de baguettes, tantĂŽt en petites boules ou encore en pains moulĂ©s ou non moulĂ©s. Françoise n’oublie pas de mettre un peu de pĂąte de cĂŽtĂ© pour prĂ©parer le prochain levain.

The team forms the portions of dough sometimes into baguette shape, sometimes into small or large round loaves, or loaves to be cooked in a bread pan. Françoise does not forget to set aside a portion of the dough to be used as yeast for next week’s loaves.

Juste avant midi, Henri enlĂšve les cendres du four et nous retournons tous au chĂąteau manger le repas de midi.

Just before noon, Henri removes the ashes from the oven, and we return to the chateau to eat the lunch.

La Famille Mauvais nous offre un déjeuner vraiment délicieux. Le repas ne comprend que des produits de la ferme : pùté de sanglier, girolles au vinaigre, salade de tomates et haricots verts du jardin et enfin, un poulet fermier.

The Mauvais family treats us to a really delicious lunch. The meal only includes dishes made from their farm products: wild boar pùté, pickled chanterelle mushrooms, fresh tomato and garden green beans salad, and roasted farm-raised chicken.

learn french bread vocabulary

8 – Baking the Bread in the Oven

AprĂšs le dĂ©jeuner, c’est l’heure de cuire la pĂąte. Les briques du four Ă  pain qui ont emmagasinĂ© la chaleur toute la matinĂ©e vont maintenant la restituer tout l’aprĂšs midi pour cuire les pains.

After lunch, its time to bake the dough. The oven bricks, which have been storing up heat all morning, will now stay hot enough to bake bread all afternoon.

learn french bread vocabulary

Les pains façonnĂ©s le matin sont introduits dans le four en commençant par les fougasses, un pain typique de la rĂ©gion en forme d’épi de blĂ©.

The loaves formed in the morning are put in the oven, starting with the fougasse loaves, a bread typical of this region and shaped to resemble an ear of wheat.

Puis, c’est au tour des baguettes, des petites boules et des plus grands pains.

Then, the baguettes, the small round loaves, and the big round loaves get their turn.

Nous assistons a une vĂ©ritable chorĂ©graphie, faite de gestes et de dĂ©placements qui se rĂ©pĂštent. Henri ouvre la porte du four, Françoise Ă©claire le four, Henri, Ă  l’aide de la grand pelle, sort le pain qui est cuit et enfourne la fournĂ©e suivante. Puis, Jean-Paul dĂ©moule les pains et les laisse refroidir.

We witness a true choreography of movements and actions that are repeated over and over. Henri opens the oven door; Françoise lights up the oven with a lamp; Henri, with the help of a big paddle, takes out the loaves that are baked and puts the next batch in. Then Jean-Paul unmolds the loaves and leaves them to cool.

Et enfin, les assistant (e)s brossent les pains pour enlever les dépÎts de cendres.

Lastly, the assistants brush each loaf to scrape off any ashes.

learn french bread vocabulary

9 – Selling the Bread

En attendant la cuisson des derniers pains, tandis que nous entendons les premiers clients arriver au chĂąteau, Françoise prĂ©pare les commandes dans des sacs en papier. Le reste du pain est transportĂ© dans de grands paniers. Tout le monde se dĂ©pĂȘche pour ne pas faire attendre davantage les clients. Il reste des petites choses Ă  faire. Nous entendons plusieurs fois“ je ne peux pas ĂȘtre au four et au moulin”. C’est Henri qui ne peut qu’ĂȘtre Ă  un seul endroit Ă  la fois, autrement dit, il ne peut faire qu’une chose Ă  la fois.

While waiting for the last loaves to bake and expecting the first clients to be arriving at the chateau, Françoise bags up the pre-orders. The remaining loaves are taken to the chateau in big baskets. Everybody is hurrying so as to not keep the clients waiting too long. There are a few things left to do. We hear a number of times the expression “I can’t be at the oven and at the mill.” This is Henri, who cannot be in two places at once, otherwise put, he can only do one thing at a time.

learn french bread vocabulary

Les pains sont tout chauds et sentent dĂ©licieusement bons. Il est 18h. Les diffĂ©rents pains sont alignĂ©s sur la table dans le hall d’entrĂ©e du chĂąteau, oĂč il sont vendus en un temps records. On comprend alors l’expression “partir comme des petits pains”!

The bread is still warm and smells delicious. It is 6 p.m. The different loaves are lined up on the table in the entrance hall of the chateau, where they are sold in record time. Now we understand the expression “partir comme des petits pains” that is to say “to sell very quickly.”

10 – Conclusion

C’était une expĂ©rience unique. La journĂ©e a Ă©tĂ© longue mais ça valait vraiment la peine! Bravo Ă  la famille Mauvais – et, bien sĂ»r, Ă  Emilie de nous avoir permis de vivre cette journĂ©e mĂ©morable.

This was truly a unique experience. It was a long day, but well worth it! Congratulations to the Mauvais family and – of course – to Emily, for making it possible for us to have this memorable experience.

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