A baguette (; ) is a long, thin loaf of French bread that is commonly made from basic lean dough (the dough, though not the shape, is defined by French law). It is distinguishable by its length and crisp crust. A baguette has a diameter of about and a usual length of about , although a baguette can be up to long.


Much of the history of the baguette is speculation; however, some facts can be established. Long, stick-like breads in France became more popular during the 18th century, French bakers started using "''gruau''", a highly refined Hungarian high-milled flour in the early 19th century, Viennese steam oven baking was introduced to Paris in 1839 by August Zang, and the Austrian 's compact yeast in 1867 at the Universal Exposition. Finally, the word "baguette" appears, to define a particular type of bread, in a regulation of the department of the Seine in August 1920: "The baguette, having a minimum weight of and a maximum length of , may not be sold for a price higher than 0.35 francs apiece" No one of these events constitutes "the invention of the baguette", but together they define the modern "baguette". In summary, "the bread which became known as the baguette first appeared in its most primitive form in the eighteenth century, then experienced a number of refinements and variations before being (officially) given that name in 1920." The word ''baguette'' simply means "wand", "baton" or "stick", as in ''baguette magique'' (magic wand), ''baguettes chinoises'' (chopsticks), or ''baguette de direction'' (conductor's baton). It is first recorded as a kind of bread in 1920. Outside France, the baguette is often considered a symbol of French culture, but the association of France with long loaves long predates it. Long, wide, loaves had been made since the time of King Louis XIV, long thin ones since the mid-18th century, and by the 19th century, some were far longer than today's baguette: "... loaves of bread long that look like crowbars!" "Housemaids were hurrying homewards with their purchases for various Gallic breakfasts, and the long sticks of bread, a yard or two to in length, carried under their arms, made an odd impression upon me." A less direct link can be made with deck or steam ovens. These combine of a gas-fired traditional oven and a brick oven, a thick "deck" of stone or firebrick heated by natural gas instead of wood. The first steam oven was brought to Paris in the early 19th century by August Zang, who also introduced Vienna bread (''pain viennois'') and the croissant, and whom some French sources thus credit with originating the baguette. Deck ovens heated to over use steam injection to allow the crust to expand before setting, thus creating a lighter, airier loaf, and to melt the dextrose on the bread's surface, giving a slightly glazed effect. In April 1944, a competition called began in France to determine who made the best baguettes. Nearly 200 bakers compete each year in front of a 14-judge panel following strict guidelines. They are judged based on baking, appearance, smell, taste, and crumb. The winner receives 4000€ and supplies France's president their daily bread for the duration of that year, until a new winner is chosen. Following the World Wars, French bakers began baking a whiter, softer baguette that contrasted with the darker loaves produced because of rationing during the wars. These doughs took less time to ferment and used more additives, but had significantly less taste. They also began using pre-made dough and molds. The average consumption of bread fell from 600 grams/day in the early 1900s to 170 grams/day in 1986. In 1993, France passed ''Le Décret Pain'' (The Bread Decree). ''Le Décret Pain'' states that breads under the name of ''pain maison'' (homemade bread) must be "fully kneaded, shaped, and baked at their place of sale." This decree also placed strict guidelines on what ''pain traditionnel français'' (traditional French bread) is allowed to be made of, banning pre-made dough from being used for traditional French baguettes.

Origin Myths

Because the history of the French baguette isn't completely known, several myths have spread about the origins of this type of bread. Some say Napoleon Bonaparte in essence created the French baguette in order to allow soldiers to more easily be able to carry bread with them. Since the round shape of other breads took up a lot of space, Bonaparte requested they be made into the skinny stick shape with specific measurements to be able to slide into the soldiers' uniform. Other stories credit baguettes as being an invention to stop French metro workers from having to carry knives that they used to cut their bread. The workers often fought, so the management did not want them to be carrying knives and requested for bread to be easily ripped apart, ending the need for knives. The skinny, easily-rippable shape of a baguette would have been the response to this. Some believe baguettes were the "Bread of Equality" following a decree post-French Revolution requiring a type of bread to be made accessible to both the rich and poor. Another account states that in October 1920 a law prevented bakers from working before 4 am, making it impossible to make traditional round loaves in time for customers' breakfasts. Switching from the round loaf to the previously less-common, slender shape of the ''baguette'' solved the problem, because it could be prepared and baked much more quickly. The law in question appears to be one from March 1919, though some say it took effect in October 1920:
It is forbidden to employ workers at bread and pastry making between ten in the evening and four in the morning.

Manufacture and styles

The "baguette de tradition française" is made from wheat flour, water, yeast, and common salt. It may contain up to 2% broad bean flour, up to 0.5% soya flour, and up to 0.3% wheat malt flour. Standard baguettes, ''baguettes ordinaires'', are made with baker's yeast, artisan-style loaves are usually made with a pre-ferment (''poolish'') to increase flavor complexity and other characteristics, and may include whole-wheat flour, or other grains such as rye. Baguettes are closely connected to France, though they are made around the world. In France, not all long loaves are baguettes; for example, a short, almost rugby ball-shaped loaf is a ''bâtard'' (literally, bastard), or a "torpedo loaf" in English; its origin is variously explained, but undocumented. Another tubular shaped loaf is known as a ''flûte'', also known in the United States as a ''parisienne''. Flûtes closely resemble baguettes but are about twice the size. A thinner loaf is called a ''ficelle'' (string). A short baguette is sometimes known as a ''baton'' (stick), or in the UK referred to using the English translation ''French stick''. None of these are officially defined, either legally or, for instance, in major dictionaries, any more than the baguette. French breads are also made in forms such as a ''miche'', which is a large pan loaf, and a ''boule'', literally ball in French, a large round loaf. Sandwich-sized loaves are sometimes known as ''demi-baguettes'' or ''tiers''. Italian baguettes, or ''baguette italienne'', involves more spices and a denser texture, giving the baguette a slightly different, more Italian, taste. ''Un pain vennois'' is much sweeter and softer than the standard baguette. In France, a baguette typically weighs around , a bâtard and a ficelle ; no legal text actually establishes any of these weights, which can vary throughout the country. Baguettes, either relatively short single-serving size or cut from a longer loaf, are very often used for sandwiches, usually of the submarine sandwich type, but also a panini. They are often sliced and served with pâté or cheese. As part of the traditional continental breakfast in France, slices of baguette are spread with butter and jam and dunked in bowls of coffee or hot chocolate, known as ''tartines''. Baguettes are generally made as partially free-form loaves, with the loaf formed with a series of folding and rolling motions, raised in cloth-lined baskets or in rows on a flour-impregnated towel, called a couche, and baked either directly on the hearth of a deck oven or in special perforated pans designed to hold the shape of the baguette while allowing heat through the perforations. American-style "French bread" is generally much fatter and is not baked in deck ovens, but in convection ovens. Outside France, baguettes are also made with other doughs. For example, the Vietnamese ''bánh mì'' uses a high proportion of rice flour, while many North American bakeries make whole wheat, multigrain, and sourdough baguettes alongside French-style loaves. In addition, even classical French-style recipes vary from place to place, with some recipes adding small amounts of milk, butter, sugar, or malt extract, depending on the desired flavor and properties in the final loaf.

See also

* Bánh mì * Breakfast roll * Ciabatta * Croissant * Cuban bread * Faluche (bread) * Hoagie roll * Marraqueta * Mitraillette * Submarine sandwich * Zapiekanka


Further reading

* Child, Julia. ''From Julia Child's Kitchen''. New York: Knopf, 1970. * Child, Julia and Simone Beck. ''Mastering the Art of French Cooking, vol. 2''. New York: Knopf, 1970. * Rambali, Paul. ''Boulangerie''. New York: Macmillan, 1994, . * Reinhard, Peter. ''Crust and Crumb''. Berkeley, CA: Ten Speed Press, 1998, .

External links

About the Baguette
nbsp;– an investigation into the origin of the baguette {{Authority control Category:French breads Category:French cuisine