The French Baguette

The French Baguette

The French Baguette has just been included in the intangible heritage of humanity by UNESCO on 30 November 2022. But do you know how it came to be on French tables?
It is made of flour, water, salt and yeast, is 65 cm long, has partly replaced the traditional loaf of bread and has been listed as an intangible heritage of humanity by UNESCO on 30 November.
The image of the Parisian with his beret, his sailor suit, his glass of red wine and his baguette under his arm is a bit exaggerated, but in France, one can ask oneself: what would we do without our little daily french baguette of bread? Without that soft white crumb surrounded by that golden, crispy crust...?

The French Bread in a few figures.

In France, and not only in Paris, the french baguette has become an indispensable part of our diet. Each French person consumes 160 grams a day. And every second, 320 baguettes are consumed and produced in our country. In Paris, there are thousands of bakeries, and you can find them on every street corner. There are 32,000 bakeries in France. The French consume 58 kg of bread per year (in 1900, they consumed 328 kg!) 95% of French people eat french bread for lunch and dinner.

But how was the french baguette born?

In the past, french bread was only sold as a loaf. So why did the loaf become longer and longer and whiter? The origin of the white baguette dates back to the time of Napoleon. His bakers invented an elongated loaf of bread to make it easier for the soldiers to carry. Even then, bread was sacred!
Another version of the story exists. Some say that this style of bread was actually invented in Vienna and then imported to France during the 19th century. It was in Paris that August Zang opened his Boulangerie Viennoise, the first of its kind, in 1839: this business, located at 92 rue de Richelieu, is at the origin of what is still known today as Viennese bread, but also introduced Parisians to the kipferl, a traditional bread from Central and Eastern Europe, the precursor of our famous croissant.
After a brief return of the dark bread during the First World War, the french baguette returned to Parisians in the 1920s, but it was especially in the 1930s that it reached its peak because of its quality and consumption.
After the Second World War, French bakeries modernised: the industrialisation of the french baguette and mass production led to a new model of French-style bread making.
In 1967, meal vouchers were introduced in France and bakeries evolved. At that time, Parisian employees no longer went home for lunch and stopped taking it ready to work, so they went to bakeries for their meals: what was initially considered an accompaniment became a dish in its own right and it was at that time that the famous ham and butter sandwich was born.
Despite this development, bread consumption fell to such an extent that the french baguette was reduced from 300 to 250 grams: the bakers went through a serious crisis and the mills began to disappear.
In the 1980s, a small revolution shook up the world of bakeries: the arrival of frozen raw dough and the control of delayed fermentation. These techniques made it possible to export frozen dough in large quantities at low cost to countries that did not have the means to train bakers.

The French baguette today.

Every year in Paris the Grand Prix of the french baguette takes place and the winner becomes the official bread supplier of the Elysée Palace for one year. To win the competition, competitors must present a french baguette between 55 and 70 cm long, weighing between 250 and 300 grams and with the right proportion of salt (18 g of salt per Kg of flour). The baguettes are then judged on taste, baking, crumb, smell and appearance.

The different breads of the French regions. 

French Breads Map

French breads - about a hundred of them - vary in composition and shape. Each region produces its own specialities, more or less ancient; they tell the story of the land and its traditions. Here is a short, non-exhaustive journey...

  • The Alsace Bread : The Subrot

The Alsace Bread : The Subrot

Shaped like two superimposed lozenges, light and crispy, this french bread roll owes its name to its price. For centuries, these loaves cost only a penny. But "sü" means penny and "brot" means bread, hence the name! Its two layers are lightly oiled between the two sides so that they burst when baked. This white flour bread was invented in the 18th century to satisfy customers in the cities who were eager for refined food. Then it conquered village festivals, stuffed with sausages and mustard. If it always accompanies cold meats, fresh at breakfast, with its light and fragrant crumb, it also knows how to give the best of itself!

  • The Aquitaine Bread : The Bordeaux Crown
The Aquitaine Bread : The Bordeaux Crown

A typical speciality of the South-West, it is also called King's Crown of Bordeaux. Attractive in the shop windows with its beautiful golden crust, this generous bread is presented in the form of a large necklace of eight to nine balls (when it has six, it is called "la gasconne"). The balls are welded together by a thin layer of dough which decorates them with a pretty collar. This crown is made from country-style bread dough with natural leaven and rye flour. Crunchy at first bite, it surprises the gourmet with a very soft and airy crumb. It goes well with the fish that swim up the Gironde and their "prestigious" eggs...

  • The Auvergne Bread : Le-Bougnat

The Aquitaine Bread : The Bordeaux Crown

This french bread roll is very popular because it keeps well. It is made from organically grown wheat and rye flour. With its sandwich shape, it lends itself to all sorts of gastronomic fantasies. Ideal for a picnic!

  •   The Bourguignon Bread

The Bourguignon Bread

This 400 or 600g loaf is made from a dough that contains at least 10% rye. It is fermented with leaven or poolish, between yeast and leaven, which makes the bread softer and more airy. Bourguignon bread can take several forms: bâtard, joko (short bread) or boulot (oval). It is the rustic bread par excellence!

  • The Bretain Bread : Le Fleuron

The Bretain Bread : Le Fleuron

This french bread is preaty recent, it was created in 1989 by the Association of Breton Baker Creators. A young product that has perfectly integrated into the gastronomic universe of the region. This long-life sourdough bread is made from three Breton flours: wheat, rye and buckwheat. Often rectangular in shape, it can be identified by its ermine, the symbol of Brittany. Its thick grey crumb can be spread with salted butter to accompany seafood and cold cuts. Grilled, it is excellent with foie gras.

  • The Franche-Comté Bread : L’Amitchote

The Franche-Comté Bread : L’Amitchote

Certainly one of the most delicious breads! A true assortment of flavours at the heart of the same bread, it is a Franc-Comtois speciality created in 2002. The characteristic of the Amitchote - pronounced "Michote" which means loaf in Franche-Comtois dialect - is its shape and its taste. Representing the logo of Franche-Comté, it is made up of two breads nested one inside the other: a country bread and an aromatic bread filled with figs, green apples, prunes/almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts or even bacon/comté. The recipes also vary according to the bakers' imagination. The breads of Amitchote are pleasant breads that go well with cheese and often delight guests at buffets and weddings. To be enjoyed without moderation and to be offered as a gift!


  • The-French Parisian Baguette
The-French Parisian Baguette

The emblem of Parisian bread! It is said that it was invented by Napoleon's bakers to make bread more easily transportable by soldiers in the field... One thing is certain, it was not until the 20th century that it spread throughout the country after having long been the preserve of the city. The characteristic long shape of the baguette meets certain criteria. Today, the traditional Parisian French Baguette measures between 55 and 65 cm and weighs between 250 and 300 g. This bread must not undergo any freezing treatment during its preparation and must not contain any additives. Its production has not changed since the 1930s. Made from wheat flour, salt, yeast and water, it is lightly kneaded and has a long fermentation time. It reveals aromas of hazelnut and wheat. The yeast content is low, thus preserving the flavour and shelf life. Crunchy, with a well-dented crumb and an international aura, the baguette is a delight for young and old alike, especially when it is still warm: it has no equal, and is eaten without moderation!

  • The Languedoc-Roussillon Bread : The Paillasse of Lodève Bread 

The Languedoc-Roussillon Bread : The Paillasse of Lodève Bread

Disappeared in 1889, The Paillasse of Lodève Bread is again kneaded by the bakers of Lodève since 1949. Its creation is said to be associated with Saint Fulcran, the patron saint of Lodève, a town located at the foot of the Larzac plateau. Originally, its price was written in pencil on its crust! This bread owes its name to the "paillasse", a basket made of rye straw assembled with bramble bark, used to shape and raise the loaves. After fermenting with leaven in its canvas-covered paillassou, the dough is cut into shreds, the baker then gives it an elongated and slightly twisted shape, then places it on the oven shovel. Each baker is free to add his or her "little grain of salt" to this recipe, which makes this bread unique, especially as it is neither weighed nor shaped, but cut at a glance. For gourmets, it is always a joy to discover its different flavours with the scents of undergrowth, hazelnut and dried fruit. Its amber crust crunches under the tooth, revealing a cream-coloured melting crumb. Pain Paillasse can be served with all the dishes in a meal and is best eaten well cooked!

  • The Nord-pas-de-Calais Bread : The Cramique Bread

The Nord-pas-de-Calais Bread : The Cramique Bread

Fondant, greedy, the Cramique, also called cracker or couque, is a kind of brioche bread whose origins date back to the 17th century. It is a recipe from the north of France that can also be found in Belgium. Some consider it a "luxury bread". Filled with grains of sugar, this milk-based round loaf is shaped like a ball, weighing between 250 and 500 g, with a beautiful golden colour. Its creamy white crumb is often filled with sultanas. It is a treat for breakfast or a snack. It is also served with foie gras. A pure delight to discover.

  • The Limousin Bread : The Twisted Bread

The Limousin Bread : The Twisted Bread

A speciality of the Limousin, in particular the Haute-Vienne, this bread owes its name to its twisted shape. Its origins date back to the beginning of the 20th century. In a 1909 article on L'Art culinaire en Limousin, its author Pierre L'Escurol is said to have mentioned the making of twisted bread. Twisted breads that are still called "pain tordu" or "Le Tourné" in Haute-Garonne. This bread made from wheat flour is 75 cm long and weighs 400 or 500 g. It has a twisted appearance on the top and a thick, crunchy, golden-brown crust, which ensures that it keeps for a long time. The crumb is tasty and very airy, with large, irregular cells. It has a pleasantly tangy taste in the mouth. It goes well with local charcuterie and poultry confit.

  • The Normandie Bread : The Brié Bread
The Normandie Bread : The Brié Bread
    Of Spanish origin, this bread was introduced into Normandy in 1588 following the shipwreck of the Calvador on its shores. It was once widely consumed in Calvados and the western part of the Eure department as far as Pont Audemer. It was also much appreciated by Norman fishermen who went to sea for several days because it kept for a long time without spoiling and its dense crumb prevented the growth of mould. On land, it was even preferred to ordinary bread thanks to its good conservation, to the great displeasure of bakers because it was sold at almost the same price. However, this sourdough bread requires a special kneading process to obtain its compact crumb. It consists of compressing and folding the dough with the help of a "brie". This typical Normandy tool consists of a semi-spherical cast-iron container with a blade that follows the shape of the bowl to flatten the dough and remove air bubbles. The dough is folded in this way and becomes hard, before being baked over a high heat. This wheat-scented bread with a smooth crust is wonderful when cut into thin slices to accompany cheese and seafood.
    • The Loire Country Bread : The Méteil Bread
    The Loire Country Bread : The Méteil Bread
    This rare bread was originally made from flour milled from meteil, a natural mixture of soft wheat and rye. Today it is made from a mixture of equal parts rye and wheat flour. This dark bread can be stored for up to eight to ten days. It has a stronger taste than country bread, but is less pronounced than rye. It is mainly used for surprise breads, but also makes very good sandwiches.
    • The Poitou Charente Bread : The-Souflame-Bread
    The Poitu Charente Bread : The-Souflame-Bread
    Antoine-Augustin Parmentier said that this bread was "extraordinarily white, light and easily digestible". Made from spelt flour, it is traditionally made from a poolish. Revived at the end of the 1980s, Pain de Tradition Picarde is now made with 35% spelt, a cereal that is very popular with organic enthusiasts, and which gives it a delicate hazelnut flavour.
    • The Provencal Bread : La Fougasse
    The Provencal Bread : La-Fougasse
    Quite flat indeed, no more than 2 cm, this bread is carved in several branches. Originally, it allowed the baker to ensure that the oven was at the right temperature before putting the bread in the oven. The fougasse was the first baking of the day and served as a morning snack for the apprentices. And then this leavened soft wheat dough became an undisputed success since the Middle Ages. Fougasse became a festive bread for centuries. Today, there is an extreme diversity of fougasses whose recipes vary according to the town. Most are salted and may contain olives, bacon, anchovies, cheese or even be filled with rillons in the Pyrénées-Orientales! These ingredients are mixed into the preparation or placed on the surface of the bread before baking. There are also sweet versions. These are specialities of the Aveyron and Lozere Aubrac regions. The Rouergue region has kept the name fouace to designate this Aubrac fougasse. There is also fougasse from Aigues-Mortes or fougassette from Grasse, slightly brioche-like and flavoured with orange blossom. A flat bread that makes an appetizing sweet or savoury snack.
    • The Rhône-Alpes Bread : The Lyonnaise Crown
    The Rhône-Alpes Bread : The Lyonnaise Crown
    Considered as a high land of gastronomy, the Rhône-Alpes region presents culinary gems such as its famous Lyonnaise Crown. This is a round white sourdough french bread that must be sprinkled with flour before being baked. This crown is shaped into a ball that the baker pierces with the palm of the hand. It is then gradually opened, like a sculpture, by rotating the dough. It is then covered with a simple layer of cloth, in order to swell quietly and form a crust before being put in the oven. When baked, the crown bursts but retains a smooth, floured top. This crown often accompanies the dishes of the bouchons lyonnais, a good hot sausage or quenelles. Top of the world!
    • The Center France Bread : The Traditionnal Pear of Loiret
    The Center France Bread : The Traditionnal Pear of Loiret
    Unlike the other departments in the Centre region, the Loiret, although a cereal-growing region, did not have a baking tradition. This gap was filled in 2003 thanks to the creation of this original recipe, which saw the light of day at the 5th Salon National de la Boulangerie. Its characteristic feature is one of its main components: turmeric, which gives this bread its special colour. Its unique flavour is a perfect match for the goat's cheese from the Sancerrois region. Soft and easy to store, this festive bread is the king of aperitifs and cocktail parties.
    • The Guadeloupean Bread : La Pomme Cannelle Bread
    The Guadeloupean Bread : La Pomme Cannelle Bread
    It is no wonder that this lightly browned bread roll is highly sought after by gourmets. It has a unique texture and sweet flavours of apple, cinnamon and sometimes honey. Slightly golden, it reveals a white and compact crumb that keeps very well. A real delight to get a kick out of breakfast. This bread also goes very well with a fresh fruit juice at lunchtime and at snack time. A change of scenery and deliciousness guaranteed!
    • The Réunion Island Bread : The Macatia Bread
    The Réunion Island Bread : The Macatia BreadOriginally, according to the historian Prosper Eve, it was the bread of slaves. Today, it is the bread of all gourmets! This sweet bread comes in the form of a small compact ball, with a very fine and slightly sweet texture. While still warm, it reveals irresistible brioche aromas. It can also be stuffed with bananas, coconuts and melting chocolate, or eaten salted, with bacon, ham and cheese. It's up to you to decide what you want and how you want it!


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