The saga of the brand: the Retrodor Baguette

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The Retrodor Baguette was created during the interwar period at the Minoteries Viron at the request of a client.


 

 

This artisan-baker asked Philippe Viron for flour with no additives that he could use to make a baguette weighing 300 grams modeled on bread made before the Second World War.

 

As a miller always interested in the search for innovative approaches that respected the French breadmaking tradition, Viron accepted the challenge.

 

A first version was prepared in the test oven at the mill. Experiments with many fermentation and baking processes were carried out at the mill and in the bakery. Perfecting the loaf took time, but the result was exceptional. The baguette had—and still has!—a distinctive and much-appreciated taste.

 

Artisanal bakers were soon asking the Minoteries Viron to give the baguette a name.

 

 

Since 1990, in France, it has been called the Retrodor Baguette,
evoking a golden age of traditional breadmaking.


 

 This baguette is a gastronomic innovation, a true artisanal product, combining the wonderful taste of yesteryear with contemporary breadmaking techniques. The dough is designed to be worked with prewar methods, including a long first fermentation in bulk, but it also takes advantage of bakery equipment designed specifically to meet modern artisanal needs.

 

Type 55 flour is used: this is a high-quality white flour that allows artisanal bakers to work under the best possible conditions.

 

The Retrodor was a response to a long-simmering crisis in French breadmaking that had resulted in a gradual de-skilling of artisans and widespread consumer disaffection for the bread historically celebrated as the finest in the world.


 

 

In the 1920s, bakers worked too quickly, drastically abridged the ground fermentation, used too much yeast (and salt!), and became dependent on various improvers and correctors.

 

In the 1930s, certain bakers became aware that the sensorial qualities of straight-dough bread had deteriorated. Their capacity for critical self-analysis led them to pay close attention to the exigencies of the first fermentation, and they were willing to prolong it, “giving time to time,” as the French saying goes. While others tried to make ends meet by producing pastries and candy and by selling processed items, these core artisans, sharply focused on breadmaking, produced a number of outstanding loaves, including the relatively new baguette.

 

Later, in an effort to overcome the devastating consequences of the Second World War and the decade of grain shortage and regulatory constraints that followed, bakers discovered a method called “intensified kneading”: this gave their clients the white, voluminous loaf for which they had been yearning since 1940.

 

The new system led thousands of bakers to modernize in a semi-industrial vein that further distanced them from their artisanal roots. However, it turned out that this beguiling, ultra-white bread was utterly devoid of taste and scent.


 

 

Philippe Viron was one of the first professionals who began openly worrying about the ability of the artisanal bakers to reconquer consumers, parry the challenge of the nascent parbaking industry (prebaked and frozen products) and the big-box stores, and reconnect with their past glory.

 

He preached a return to rigorously artisanal techniques based on respect for and mastery of fermentation, the core of the breadmaking craft. He insisted on using only the best raw materials, in particular a pristine flour.

 

Philippe Viron’s Retrodor was his answer, then, to the crisis in baking practices and public confidence. It was a gourmet-quality baguette, privileging aroma and savor over crumb whiteness, that required time, vigilance, and a certain passion to produce.

 

Viron’s simple yet powerful methodology—a long first fermentation and a rejection of additives—prefigured the now famous “Bread Decree” issued on September 13, 1993, by which the government created the “bread of French tradition,” the only loaf enjoying a status akin to the “appellation contrôlée” category that stands behind the excellence and authenticity of many French wines enjoyed around the world.

 

This decree codifies in detail the steps required for milling the flour and making bread that can be advertised as “in the French tradition.” In addition, the decree helps the consumer identify quality artisanal products. As a product of authentic artisanal work, the Retrodor Baguette has to be made on the baker’s premises from start to finish.

 

The Viron Mills were the first to offer a wholly pure flour, without any improvers or regulators, some of which were still tolerated by the Bread Decree.

 

This is how the Retrodor became the number one baguette in the French tradition. The insistence on quality led to today’s success: more than 600 bakers in France, Canada, and Japan now offer this delicious baguette. Soon the Retrodor will be available in the United States as well.

 

The special paper bag that protects the Retrodor when you buy it in a bakery guarantees that you have the real thing, the premiere baguette in the category officially known henceforth as the French tradition.

 

The Minoteries Viron teach artisanal bakers their special, traditional breadmaking process in internships that they organize at the mill.

 

Starting in September 1993, numerous Retrodor bakers have won first place in various breadmaking competitions, including the most prestigious one sponsored by the City of Paris, where the winning bakery is named an official supplier to the Elysée Palace—the French equivalent of the White House.

 

Today, the traditional baguette is recognized as part of the French gastronomical heritage.

 


The Minoteries Viron have played a decisive role in developing this patrimony and are proud to be contributing to its expansion.