Baguette from A to Z: 26 Things to Know About the French Bread

From Napoleon to Fendi, from tartines to vending machines: here are 26 interesting facts you need to know if you love baguette, the traditional French bread.

Armpit. Tradition wants the French to carry their baguettes under their armpits without a wrapper. The French deny this to be true as it looks bad when it comes to personal hygiene.

Boulangeries. There are 26 thousand in France. We are talking about those magic places in which they make baguettes, croissants, viennoiseries and all of the typical pastries.

Crusty. To be perfect, a real baguette needs to be crusty and browned. For this reason, it’s difficult for a baguette to make it to the next day: it goes stale pretty fast.

Diamonds. It’s not only a famous bread, but a diamond cut, actually the cheapest one to get.

En mie de pain.It’s a French saying that goes like this: “To be like breadcrumbs”, indicating someone who doesn’t have much of a personality.

Fendi. To fashion lovers a baguette means Fendi: the brand’s it-bag named after the baguette is actually a bag you can carry under your armpit, exactly like a baguette, plus, contrary to its appearance, it has a lot of room for your personal things.

Gallic breakfast. The baguette is the star of a French breakfast: you open it and butter it (salted butter will do too) and jam, you find it next to the croissant with butter, pain au chocolat, orange juice, coffee, tea or hot chocolate.

Half a day. During the 1900s, the French ate almost three baguettes a day per person. Nowadays, only half a baguette. The French diet has changed and now you have other carbohydrates such as pasta to substitute for it.

Inhalation. How do you know a baguette is perfect? Just with the smell. It’s almost mandatory that you smell your baguette (as well as eating a piece with your hands to taste it) if you want to be a professional gourmand. You need to pay attention to the caramel scent coming from the crust and the odor of milk coming from the inside (although these ingredients are not used in making it).

Jambon-beurre. The jambon-beurre baguette is something like Mac Donald’s hamburger for the French. It’s filled with ham and butter, its price tells you how the economy is doing. Today it costs circa 2,68 euro.

Khadher. Ridha Khadher is Tunisian and holds the title of “best baguette maker in Paris” since 2013. The competition awards the best boulangerie with a money prize as well as giving it the opportunity to deliver bread to the Elysée (The French Government) for a year. “Au paradis du gourmand” is located on the XIV arrondissement.

Length. Long about 55 to 65 centimeters, weighing between 250 to 300 grams, 18 grams of salt for 1kg of flour: these are the measurements of a baguette. Only if you follow these numbers you can call your baguette truly French.

Baguette from A to Z

Maillard reaction. One last detail is needed for a baguette to fulfill all of the requirements: the Maillard effect. The chemical procedure happens after it’s cooked and makes the baguette different outside and inside.

Napoleon. According to a legend, it was Napoleon who asked for the baguette to have a long shape. This made it easier for his soldiers to carry their bread around down their pants while in the battlefield.

Observatoire du pain. It is the French Institute in charge of the Culture of Bread and Baguette in the countries. It studies its evolution, traditions, consumption, and inspires citizens to keep buying bread. The last campaign was called “Coucou, tu as pris le pain?” (Coucou did you buy the bread?) and was meant to remind the French to stop by the boulangerie everyday.

Paris. The French capital is also the capital of the baguette. Tourists and Parisians alike must try all of its boulangeries. You can check out the blog Painrisien to locate them.

Québec. The ex-colony is also fond of the baguette: the consumption is as high as it is in France and Belgium. Another country fond of the baguette is Algeria, followed by Vietnam, Cambodia and Tunisia.

Restrictions 10pm-4 am. According to the 1920 story, a Parisian law forbid people to work in a bakery from 10pm to 4 am: it was then easier and quicker to make a baguette (it cooks faster and ferments quickly) rather than a round bread.

Saucer l’assiette. It means to take the sauce from the plate: it’s one of the most inelegant gestures to do in public, but, it’s also very tasty and thrilling. The baguette, crusty on the outside and soft on the inside, is the perfect bread to clean your plate.

Tartines. The “tartines” are great at any hour in France. At breakfast with butter and jam, at lunch with vegetables, cheese, ham, salmon, sweet ones for a snack with tea, in the evening with an aperitif or dinner. Each French chef has its own.

Underbake. A research pointed out that 230 boulangers in Paris undercook the bread because people’s taste has changed and they want it less “croccant” and whiter. The reason? It keeps longer and you can eat it the next day.

Vending machine. This was breaking news at the end of 2013: a Parisian baker installed the first vending machine for baguettes, available 24/7.

Wand. The name baguette comes from the literal word “baguette” or wand, like a magic wand.

XIV (Louis). There are those who think its shape goes back to Louis XIV rather than Napoleon. (Louis XIV’s reign 1643-1715). Year 1993 It’s a turning point: after years of each boulanger having his own recipe for the perfect baguette, a decree establishes the ‘baguette tradition’: it’s made with water, flour, yeast, cooking salt and nothing else added.

Zang. Same as for the croissant, it was thanks to the Austrian Zang that Paris saw its first viennoiseries and especially its first steam oven, one capable of cooking the baguette perfectly.

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