France is famous for its baked goods, as am I! But they do things a bit differently here than back in the USA, particularly their very precise flour classification system. Here are some key things I have learned about shopping for your baking supplies.
Wheat flour is numbered based on how much of the original grain has been removed, ranging from the whitest Type 45, a pastry flour, all the way up to type 150 which is a 95% wholegrain. 55 (all-purpose) is used for white bread, and types 65, 80, 110 and 150 are for various kinds of brown bread.
My local shop doesn’t carry 45 or 55 so I usually go with 65 and it works very well for cakes and cookies. I usually prefer to use other kinds of flour that add some nutritional variety, like spelt, kamut, or brown rice and they are all available at a typical Paris health food store. One type of flour that I discovered only in France is chestnut flour. It’s very nice, a little more expensive than the others but very distinctive.
I personally have never used soy flour in the past, but did notice that Le Grand Appétit carries it in “precuit” [quick cooking] form. Le Grand Appétit does not carry egg replacement or baking powder and soda, though.
Valpiform vegan egg replacement powder is hard to find. It’s often hidden on the bottom shelf in the gluten free section of Naturalia. I brought a box of EnerG egg replacement powder with me when I moved here so haven’t tried Valpiform but I bet it works well. It’s probably so good that they have to hide it!
When it comes to baking powder, check the ingredients. I’ve noticed some powders contain non-vegan ingredients and it’s easy to get confused when you’ve got poudre à lever, poudre chimique, poudre levante and levure boulangère to choose from. I’ve been using this Nat-Ali poudre à lever. It works well but each packet contains such a small amount: if you want a container of good old Rumford baking powder without aluminum and Arm & Hammer baking soda, you’ll find it at Le Grand Épicerie of Le Bon Marché or Lafayette Gourmet at Galeries Lafayette.
Wheat gluten is generally available. If you use flax meal in your baking, you’ll have to grind the seeds yourself. I do mine in my Vitamix blender: you can also try a regular blender or use a coffee grinder, or even a mortar and pestle should do the trick.
I like to use canola oil for baking and here in Paris I use l’huile de colza. It’s not exactly the same: the color is much darker, a deeper gold, and the flavor strong. It works in baking but I’m thinking of switching to sunflower oil.
On the topic of Canadian baking supplies, I use organic maple syrup as the sweetener in most of the baked goods I make. However, a liter bottle is just under 20 euros! How I miss our Neighbour to the North. There is no shortage of other sweeteners: white sugar, brown sugar, rapadura, sucanat, agave, rice syrup and molasses.
A final tip: What’s really wonderful and great quality is the pre-made vegan and organic pâte brisée (tart pastry) and pâte feuilletée (puff pastry) that you’ll find at Naturalia, Monoprix etc. Really simplifies making tarts, pies, gallettes, etc.