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French Bread

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Not to be confused with Breadstick.

A baguette (pronounced /bæˈɡɛt/) is a specific shape of bread, commonly made from basic lean dough, a simple guideline set down by French law, distinguishable by its length, very crisp crust, and slits cut into it to enable proper expansion of gases and thus formation of the crumb, the inner soft part of bread. The standard diameter of a baguette is approximately 5 or 6 cm (1.98 or 2.36 inches), but the bread itself can be up to a meter in length, though usually about 60 cm. A Parisian baguette typically weighs 250 grams (8.8 oz), but this is not legally regulated and varies by region[1]. It is also known in English as a French stick or as French bread.

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History

The ``baguette`` is sometimes said to be a descendant of the pain viennois, bread first developed in Vienna, Austria, in the mid-19th century when deck ovens, or steam ovens, were first brought into common use. Deck/steam ovens are a combination 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 such oven was brought (in the early nineteenth century) to Paris by the Austrian officer August Zang, whom some French sources thus credit with originating the (probably twentieth century) baguette.[2]

Deck ovens use steam injection, through various methods, to create the proper baguette. The oven is typically well over 205 °C (400 °F). The steam allows the crust to expand before setting, thus creating a lighter, more airy loaf.

The baguette today is often considered one of the symbols of French culture viewed from abroad, but the association of France with long loaves predates its creation. These had been made since the time of Louis XIV, and in fact could be far longer than the baguette: ``loaves of bread six feet long that look like crowbars!`` (1862)[3]; ``Housemaids were hurrying homewards with their purchases for various Gallic breakfasts, and the long sticks of bread, a yard or two in length, carried under their arms, made an odd impression upon me.`` (1898)[4]

But, states an article in The Economist, in October 1920 a law prevented bakers from working before 4am, making it impossible to make the traditional, round loaf in time for customers' breakfasts. The slender baguette solved the problem because it could be prepared and baked much more rapidly. [1] Unfortunately, the article is not sourced. The law in question appears in fact to be one from March 1919, though some say it took effect on October 1920: ``It is forbidden to employ workers at bread and pastry making between ten in the evening and four in the morning.``[5]. The rest of the account remains to be verified, but the baguette - that is, a much thinner, crustier version of the several traditional ``pains longs`` - does appear to be a twentieth century innovation.

In 1960 an ad campaign was launched to further the popularity of ``La Baguette``, a woman dressed in a smock walking through the streets claiming ``Ben, que c'est bon!`` (Well, it's good) and grinning. This brought in a significant increase in sales.[citation needed]

Manufacture and styles

A traditional french baguette

The ``baguette de tradition française`` is made from wheat flour, water, yeast, and common salt. It does not contain additives, but it may contain broad bean flour (max 2%), soya flour (max 0.5%), wheat malt flour (max 0.3%) [2].

While a regular baguette is made with a direct addition of