updated 4/23/2005 2:14:01 AM ET 2005-04-23T06:14:01

Three Americans have claimed the World Cup of Baking, slicing up competition from around the globe in a Paris bake-off. It was the second gold for a U.S. team in the last three competitions.

The winners had just eight hours to make more than 80 baguettes and other specialty breads, 90 pastries, 160 mini-sandwiches and bread sculptures representing their country.

“It is amazing the quantity they do in such a small amount of time,” said Gina Piccolino, executive director of the Pennsylvania-based Bread Bakers Guild of America, which sponsored the team.

Team USA’s victory this week in the Coupe du Monde de la Boulangerie wasn’t their first. They also won gold in 1999; the competition is held every three years. In 2002, the Americans were bested by the Japanese.

“They didn’t see it coming,” said Michel Suas, co-founder of the San Francisco Baking Institute, where the team trains.

Taking gold this year were Jeffrey Yankellow, an instructor at the San Francisco Baking Institute, Jory Downer of Bennison’s Bakeries in Evanston, Ill., and team captain William Leaman of the Essential Baking Company in Seattle.

Baker’s ballet
A video clip on the Bread Bakers Guild of America Web site showed the proud winners waving their trophies to a background of cheers, whistles and the “Star-Spangled Banner.”

Suas, who went to Paris with the team, said there were a few tricky moments, including an overheating oven and a dough statue of Mt. Rushmore that only had room for three presidents; Lincoln got the chop.

Another challenge was keeping the Statue of Liberty’s arm upright on a second sculpture. The whole thing was held together with caramelized sugar.

It’s a requirement that sculptures be edible, although unlike the other categories, they don’t have to be tasty. “I don’t recommend you to eat the arm of the Statue of Liberty,” said Suas, a native of France who lives in San Francisco.

The baking takes place in a 12-by-12 foot bakery, which means a big part of winning is carefully choreographing each move in a sort of baker’s ballet.

The competition doesn’t come with any big-name sponsors or cash prizes.

“You don’t get any money,” said Suas, adding with a laugh, “only mistreatment during training.”

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