Thursday, 2 June 2016

Memoirs of a Gentleman Baker - Chapter 2, Coco the Burlesque Baker

When Coco wasn’t selling her stunning breads in the markets of Paris she danced burlesque in some of its more exotic of nightspots. I was 17 when we met on the Pont Alexandre, both soaked from the midnight rain. I learnt more in that summer than any other, although I was far from the Gentleman I am today and certainly no baker. Coco’s skill with dough, her firm yet delicate touch, her instinct for when to apply pressure and when to be gentle was lost to me, still a graceless and impetuous boy. I had studied the theory and practiced the techniques, yet something was missing.

Outside the evening was warm and sultry as I furiously tugged and folded a batch of brioche dough in Coco’s tiny apartment kitchen. Coco sat across from me, perched on the counter, dabbing beads of sweat from her chest with an old scarf. “No no no Benedict...” she scolded “you must be firm with the dough, but sensitive to how it responds to your caress. It will tell you when it is ready”. I responded with a sigh as I dusted flour from my fevered brow. “I’m sorry ma chère, I don’t think I’ll ever understand”. She sat there for a moment in silent contemplation, before her eyes narrowed and she gave me a look that seemed to raise the temperature even further. She reached out her hand. “Come monsieur, I will show you”...

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