No culinary fragrance can compete with that of freshly baked bread. You can be comforted, exalted, seduced, relieved or stimulated by nutty, yeast tones gently wafting toward you. Or maybe you're just hungry. The Coupe du Monde de la Boulangerie, or World Baking Cup, is an event that will make every gluten-free dieter collapse at mere mention. We hope Team USA is not afflicted as such.

This year, 12 countries over three years of competitions were granted entry to the Super Bowl of Bread. The three countries that medaled in the last World Cup, in 2008 — France (winner), Italy and Taiwan — were joined by Peru, the United States, South Korea, Sweden, Senegal, Japan, the Netherlands, Poland and Costa Rica. A lengthy vetting process whittled the best professional bakers in the world to teams of three, who were first chosen for their expertise in a given category, and then survived training in competition techniques and learned to work together. Turn the page for event details, and this year's winners.

U.S. Artistic Piece; Credit: Coupe Louis Lesaffre

U.S. Artistic Piece; Credit: Coupe Louis Lesaffre

The Event

For the eighth time, international teams comprising the top bakers in their countries assembled in Paris to determine what country produces the world's greatest bakers, and who they are. Christian Vabret founded the event in 1992 to “promote the bakery trade and improve the quality of bread worldwide.” Contestants are judged in four categories to determine greatest technique and taste in classic and innovative presentation.

The Categories

Contestants are judged in four baking categories: Bread, Viennese Pastry (Viennoiserie), Savory Presentation (think sandwich), and Artistic Piece (think sculpture). The criteria for these categories include number of pieces, completion time, volume, weight and an assessment of both individual output and teamwork. But those measures are objective. The great determining factors are texture, consistency, finish, overall harmony and final taste.

The Judges

Seven baking professionals are chosen to judge the event, based on their personal performance history and experience in baking competitions. They ensure neutrality by sharing no home country with any of the competing teams.

And the winners are…

In third place Taiwan places again, second goes to Team USA, and the winner of this year's Coupe du Monde de la Boulangerie is Japan. We should all be so lucky to break bread at such a magnificent occasion.

LA Weekly