Sunday, June 23, 2024

The baguette judging table Sunday at Le Grand Prix Elmendorf du Pain in East Cambridge. (Photo: Kate Wheatley)

A year ago, the best baguettes at the Le Grand Prix Elmendorf du Pain in Cambridge and Somerville weren’t from either city – the honors went to Clear Flour Bakery of Brookline and runner-up My Little Bakery of Duxbury. At the second annual Grand Prix on Sunday, second-place honors for best baguette went to Somerville’s Michette on Broadway in East Somerville, and first place went to Breadboard on Broadway in East Arlington.

In the amateur baker competition, making the rustic country bread known as a miche, the first-place winner was Anze Godicelj, a graduate student at Harvard Medical School originally from Slovenia; second place went to Michael Amato of Stoneham; and third place went to Lynn Hewes of Holliston.

They rose to the top of a field of 13 bakeries and 50 home bakers taking part in the event, a Parisian-style street fair held in East Cambridge in front of the Elmendorf Baking Goods and Supplies shop, whose Teddy and Alyssa Applebaum came up with the idea three years ago.

“They said, you know what would be really cool? And I said, that would be really cool, so let’s see if we can make that happen,” said Jason Alves, executive director of the East Cambridge Business Association, before the winners were announced.

Daisy Chow, of Breadboard in Arlington, with her Grand Prix prize of a Pampshade light. (Photo: Kate Wheatley)

It did – and this year up to 6,000 people moved through the closed-off stretch of Cambridge Street during the noon-to-4 p.m. event, Alves estimated. (One block up, the Saint Anthony Feast of Saint Anthony Parish was in its second day.) The street fair, with tented stands selling pastries, crepes and other goods, also grew by a block this year, with about 20 percent more vendors, Teddy Applebaum estimated.

The downpours in the first half of the Grand Prix deterred crowds initially, “then everybody came at once,” Applebaum said. “I was amazed with people coming out in the weather. It was really bad out there.”

The Elmendorf Grand Prix and street fair drew up to 6,000 people over the day. (Photo: Kate Wheatley)

The competition didn’t grow much from last year: The amateur competition stayed the same size and two bakeries joined in the professional category.

“There aren’t that many [professional] bread makers in the area. We opened it up to the entire state, but obviously people aren’t going to drive three hours to drop their bread off this morning,” Teddy Applebaum said. “Within the Boston area, there’s probably about 25 bakeries making baguettes, so we’ve got about half of them represented.”

That included Cambridge’s Batifol and La Saison, and in addition to Michette, Somerville fielded baguette from Forge. 

Coming to compete

Miche judging Sunday at the Grand Prix Elmendorf du Pain. (Photo: Kate Wheatley)

Breadboard was the closest competitor from outside Cambridge and Somerville, followed by Bread Obsession in Lexington; Clear Flour in Brookline; Eastern Standard Kitchen and Drinks in Boston; Salt Patisserie in Newton; A&J King in Salem; Appleton Farms in Ipswich; and the Pain D’Avignon Restaurant Boulangerie in Hyannis.

The people’s choice award for baguette went to another Brookline business: Bakey Babka.

As flattering as it is to draw a competitor from 75 miles away, the Applebaums would love to see more local bakeries involved. “I want them here. So I’m calling them out to represent those Cambridge bakeries, come on out next year and put their bread in this competition,” Teddy Applebaum said.

The miche judging table Sunday at the Grand Prix. (Photo: Kate Wheatley)

To the judge’s relief, the humidity in the early part of the day didn’t seem to affect the quality of the bread or keep bakers away. Teddy Applebaum pointed to a giant table filled with miche, each with a toothpick flag sticking out to identify them by anonymizing numbers for judging.

“Look at that pile of bread. We went for the biggest loaf on the planet, the miche – those are just like quarters and halves of those loaves, and they look like full loaves. It’s crazy,” Teddy Applebaum said. “People crushed it. I’m really proud of everybody.”

Breadboard bags the prize

Breadboard’s Daisy Chow was proud but modest after her win.“The weird thing is we’re open only three days a week and I only make baguette on Wednesdays, because they’re very labor intensive,” she said, clutching her prize Pampshade, a lamp made of real bread. 

While she’s used to baking those 45 baguettes a week, last year she made baguettes for the Breadboard tent at the Grand Prix as well as for competition, and those fell just short of a winning slot. This year she baked with a friend. “It was just a little bit of stress relief to have a second pair of hands, and there are times you can’t exactly predict when things are going to happen,” Chow said.

Because of Breadboard’s once-a-week schedule and lack of a car for deliveries, Chow said she has to decline the Grand Prix’s other honor: becoming the year’s official bread and baguette supplier for the residence of the French Consulate of Boston. “Unless they want to come pick it up,” Chow said.

A miche product

Home baker Michael Amato accepts a bag of prizes Sunday from Teddy Applebaum of Elmendorf Baking Goods and Supplies. (Photo: Kate Wheatley)

The silver winner among the amateurs, Amato, was another winner with an element of surprise: He’s been baking for only a year and a half, inspired by a cookbook gifted him by a patient from his physical therapy practice. Now he bakes from six to 10 loaves a week, most of which he gives away to patients, though he’s recently started to sell too. He took part in the Grand Prix last year but “underperformed.”

“I was like, I’m going to spend the whole year just trying to get better,” Amato said.

He began making miche loaves only around a month ago, so he could compete. “I doubt a lot of people were making miches before they knew about this event. It is not a very common bread to make, let alone making it at home,” Amato said. (It not being a common home loaf made it a good challenge, Teddy Applebaum said, but “a great idea because it’s often mostly leavened by sourdough, which home bakers would have experience with.”)

What will Amato bake next?

“Probably not a miche,” he said.

Judges this year were Maura Kilpatrick of Sofra; Rachel Sundet of the Big Dipper Hospitality Group; Jeffery Alexander of Johnson & Wales University’s College of Culinary Arts in Rhode Island; Andrea Colognese of the Jamestown Bread Project; and Mustafa Soykurt, consul general of France in Boston. Jason Bond, formerly of Bondir, was also announced as a judge

This post was updated June 10, 2024, with a clarification about the choice of the miche as a challenge for home bakers at this year’s competition.