With its lovely caramel colour, crusty exterior and soft crumb interior, the baguette is one of the emblems of France, and especially Paris. What’s more, this culinary treasure is one of life’s affordable little pleasures!
A bit of history...
The experts don’t all agree on its origins: some think that it was imported from Vienna; others, think that it was invented by the bakers of Napoleon … All that is known for sure is that the baguette became widespread in Paris in the 1920s.
In fact, as a result of a law in 1919 on working at night, bakers were prevented from working the dough before 4am in the morning. In order to provide customers with bread in time, they opted for long thin-shaped bread that required a shorter period in which to rise and be cooked than a round loaf. That is how the baguette came into being!
La Tradition, the ‘Rolls-Royce’ of baguettes
In the 1980s, French people were less and less enamoured of the ‘standard’ baguette: lack of flavour, too white inside … It was therefore time to restore the noble reputation of this flower of Parisian gastronomy.
This was accomplished with the ‘bread decree’ of 1993, which regulates the appellation and making of the ‘baguette de tradition française’. Its profile: an updated recipe from the 1930s, with a short kneading process, long fermentation, and the use of flour without additives.
How to choose?
Rustique, bûcheron, forestière … With all the different varieties of bread available, it is often difficult to make a choice. To find the ideal baguette, let your senses guide you. It should feel heavy in your hand. You should be able to hear a light cracking of the crust under your fingers. The bread should emit a good smell of wheat. The crust should be nicely golden and the crumb inside, with irregular alveoli, should be a cream colour. These are the ingredients for success.
The best baguette in Paris
Since 1994, the Grand Prix for the ‘baguette de tradition française’ is awarded for the best baguette in Paris according to five criteria: aspect, baking, crumb, smell and taste. In 2019, the happy winner is Fabrice Leroy, baker at Leroy-Monti. The award gives him the privilege of supplying the Elysée Palace with bread for a whole year.
Some good addresses
Among the many great baguettes in Paris, don’t miss the baguette at the Grenier à Pain, the Baguette Monge at Eric Kayser, the Baguette Paysanne with the sour flavours of the famous ‘maison’ Lenôtre or the Retrodor at Raoul Maeder. And to vary the pleasures, go to Gontran Cherrier to discover a black baguette with cuttlefish ink and nigella seeds. A change of flavour guaranteed!