Can something rustic be precise? Can something that is a reflection of peasantry radiate elegance? What does “rustic” really mean? For me, it is the idea of ancient technique, comfort and organic beauty. I find that in more and more bakeries and boulangeries that I visit, the term “rustic” is thrown around very casually – to characterize products that are flawed or inconsistent. I find that using the term “rustic” as a blanket expression for sub-par product is insulting to true craftsmen who have dedicated their lives to creating products with pride and diligence, and who adhere to treasured techniques that are difficult and time consuming.
Breads that are made in the centuries old style and technique of des boulangeries rustiques are prized for the methods that are employed and for the flavors that are achieved. La Miche Poilâne is the one of the most recognized breads in Paris – which embodies the term “rustique.” However, the success of this bread is quality craftsmanship and consistency over decades of production. The recipe is comprised of only four ingredients – artisan flour, salt, yeast and water and attains its characteristic flavor from the wood burning ovens in which it is baked. The famed Poilâne sourdough is cherished worldwide for its consistent flavor, texture and aesthetic – which require precision and focus in production.
Le Petit Pain Ancien is one of many breads that Alen perfected at Robuchon. Although the flavor and technique are considered to be rustic – the accuracy required to create this bread consistently required pure dedication and meticulousness. At this level of skill, finding a faster way, an easier way, a less complicated way is the perfect way to compromise a truly beautiful product – shortcuts should never be tolerated.