How to Make French Bread at Home, According to a French Boulanger
With the last months under our belts, many of us have mastered the art of baking bread at home. However, diving into the world of French baguettes is a whole ‘nother beast. We scoured the streets of New York City looking for the best baguette, and after copious amounts of tasting, we can confidently say that there’s no better loaf than the one found at Le Fournil.
Although Le Fournil opened its doors less than a year ago, the boulangerie has already taken downtown Manhattan by storm. Founded by Jean-François Hebert, a Normandy native with a passion for his family’s recipes, this East Village hotspot has become a neighborhood go-to for pastries, patisseries, and of course, delicious French bread.
After spending much of his childhood at his grandfather’s bakery in La-Haie-du-Puits, Hebert long contemplated the idea of starting his own boulangerie. However, New York was calling. A quick trip to the States assured Hebert that the Big Apple was ultimately where his passion for bread would be realized. He took the leap across the pond in 2011 and arrived in the city with just a few bags of luggage.
He worked at a handful of French restaurants across Manhattan, Hebert was finally able to realize his boulangerie dreams in 2020. While many businesses were forced to shutter their doors during COVID-19 times, Hebert’s business serendipitously flourished.
Upon opening Le Fournil, there was no question in Hebert’s mind as to which baguette recipe he would use. Hebert’s grandfather’s recipe carried his family through generations of bread-baking success in France – why would it fail him now?
“I use this recipe because yes, it’s my grandfather’s, but it’s also been passed down for many years,” says Hebert. “Upon arriving in New York I had to update and adapt it because of the environment here.” Hebert explains that a city’s level of humidity, outside temperature, and water pH levels all affect the outcome of a loaf of bread. Not as simple as it sounds, huh?
To adapt the recipe to New York City’s climate, Hebert slightly increases the amount of yeast used, adds a bit more sourdough, and uses copious amounts of ice baths to keep his dough at the perfect temperature. “These little things, they change everything,” he says.
At the end of the day, chacun a sa recette – everyone has their own recipe. But for those looking to start straight at the top, look no further than this Hebert family gem.