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What is a Baguette?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 23 March 2014
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A baguette is classically a long, thin loaf of bread that is intimately associated with France and particularly Paris. The bread has been made in that country since the 1800s, although it started to become truly popular in the early 1900s. Outside of France, baguettes are often found at bakeries and grocers since they make excellent sandwich and picnic loaves. Like other French breads, they are best when fresh, and will stale rapidly.

The word is derived from the Latin baculum, for “rod” or “stick.” A traditional baguette does strongly resemble a rod, since it is long and classically narrow. Wider loaves are called flutes in French, and they are also very popular. Since this type of bread bakes quickly, it is often the first offering of the morning at French bakeries.

A true baguette contains only flour, water, salt, and yeast, by French law. Breads with other ingredients cannot carry this name in France, and many bakers take their production very seriously. Paris actually sponsors an annual competition for the best baguette made in city limits. Other artisan breads are also featured in this competition, although the winner of this division is usually a topic of intense interest.

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Several things set baguettes aside from other loaves of bread. The first is their dense, crusty exterior, which is typically slashed multiple times before baking to make a puffy, crusty top. The crust also tends to be slightly chewy and elastic. The crumb of the bread is white, with large irregular holes, and it is also rather chewy. This texture is often accomplished with a starter, which will develop a more complex flavor in the finished bread.

Outside France, this style of bread may be sold as a French stick or French loaf. It is ideally suited for taking on picnics, especially the shorter and more compact versions. Spreads such as cheese and pate can be eaten with it, or they can be used as sandwich breads. A good crusty loaf can also be served with soup, salad, and other meals. If the bread must be stored for more than a day, it should be wrapped in paper and then in plastic. This will allow the bread to breathe without drying out, although the texture and flavor will suffer slightly.

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SteamLouis
Post 4

I stayed with a French family in Paris for a short time when I was in college.

The streets smell divine in the mornings in Paris because all the bakeries are baking baguettes for breakfast. It's such a great feeling to wake up in the morning and head to the bakery for some bread.

I also remember the kids of the family I stayed with would have chocolate sandwiches when they got home from school. It was literally a chocolate bar inside a demi baguette. It sounds crazy but it was delicious.

donasmrs
Post 3

@literally-- Why don't you just buy a petite baguette?

Those are the perfect size for a sandwich and you won't be wasting any bread.

literally45
Post 2

I love baguettes. They really do make the best sandwiches and it's a really good accompaniment to any soup or salad.

The problem is that it stales too quickly. I live alone so I can never finish a whole baguette by myself in one day. And a baguette never lasts longer. I have tried wrapping it and refrigerating it, but it didn't work. It hardens very quickly and goes to waste.

Because of this I buy baguette very rarely, even though I do enjoy it a lot.

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