Written by © Janine Marsh of TheGoodLifeFrance
About baguettes: ask most people what is the most French thing they can think of – some will say the Eiffel Tower, some will say a beret, some will say Paris. However, many will say it is the baguette, the long, crispy, delicious loaf of bread that just seems to be the epitome of French-ness.
To the French the baguette, the word actually means “wand”, is a ritual and more than 10 billion are produced each year in France, that’s a staggering 320 per second.
The baguette is so French that it is governed by law in France. According to decree 93-1074 of 13 September 1993, the baguette de tradition Française may only be made with the following ingredients: wheat flour, water, yeast or raising agent and salt. There are a couple of sub-clauses allowing very small deviations from the golden regulation, mostly concerning types of flour. Traditional baguettes have to be made on the premises where they are sold. They cannot be frozen and additives and preservatives are banned – which means they go stale within 24 hours.
All of which means that your traditional baguette Française looks, feels, sounds and smells very Frenchly delicious! A thin, golden, crispy shell that cracks when you squeeze it; a soft, light dough that tastes almost sweet…
Now, all this does not mean that every baguette you buy is as delectable as you’d like. You need to know where to look and buying a mass produced baguette is not the same as buying one from an artisan in a boulangerie.
That there is a clue.
To be called a boulangerie, a French bakery has to make its bread on the premises. If this esteemed word doesn’t feature in the name of the bakery or isn’t highlighted on the window it could be a plain old dépôt de pain selling industrially-made bread. Lots of boulangeries have a blue and yellow sign reading “Votre boulanger. Un artisan authentique”.