Oui! La baguette! Egads, is this crispy pole of a loaf the best bread in the world!? Oui. Indeed it is (with rye bread a close second).
In England we may have our cucumber sandwiches, but they don’t remotely compare to the exquisite brilliance of France’s baguette.
And that’s why we’re here today to pay homage to this glorious, elongated loaf of bread. Totally worth the time, we assure you.
What’s a Baguette?
It’s a long, thin bread that’s iconic with France. It’s made from lean dough and is crisp and crunchy to munch on.
Unquestionably, it’s that lengthy nature of it that stands out. Some baguettes are 5-6 centimetres in diameter.
And they can be as long as 26 inches (or 2.1 feet).
Not all of us get to live in France, sadly, but you can go to British supermarkets to get baguettes. However, at least in the UK, these are godawful.
There’s none of the crispy crunch and more of a soggy, spongy mess. They’re contemptible and completely worth avoiding.
French baguettes are so good as the flour there is high-quality. To the very highest standards! And the fermentation process is different, with French bakers using a poolish system.
That’s where a mix of yeast and water ferments overnight.
If you’ve read Orwell’s Down and Out in Paris and London, you’ll know how seriously they take their cuisine.
What’s the History of Baguettes?
Unfortunately, much of la baguette’s early history is lost to time. And that means there’s only speculation about its origins.
Food historians do at least agree elongated sticks of bread became popular in France during the 18th century. And French bakers adopted an Asian style of oven baking in Paris from 1839.
However, it appears there wasn’t a “Eureka!” kind of moment in the history of this bread. More a combination of factors combined, evolved, and led to the iconic bread we know today.
There were variations on how baguettes looked up until 1920, when it finally took on its name and distinctive form. The name means “wand”, “baton”, or “stick”.
We like the “stick” one best.
It’s taken very seriously in France. In fact, French law dictates a baguette can only be made using flour, salt, water, and yeast.
The French government actually passed the Le Décret Pain (The Bread Decree) in 1993. It’s responsible for the rules and regulations.
Baguettes have to be at least 65cm, but can be as long as a metre. And la baguette must be sold at the premises where it was baked. Or else!
What’s the Best Baguette in France?
In Paris, there’s the annual Concours de la meilleure baguette de Paris. You can see the 2018 winner above, which was Mahmoud M’seddi. Congrats, dude.
His father immigrated to France in the 1980s and his son worked tirelessly alongside him to fine-tune one of the best bakeries in all of Paris.
These competitions are nothing new, however, as Le Grand Prix de la Baguette was recorded as early as April 1944. That’s during Nazi occupation of two-thirds of France, although Paris was liberated on August 25th, 1944.
We believe this competition is still an annual thing as well. Up to 200 bakers compete every year for the grand prize.
It’s competitions like this that have cemented la baguette as France’s foodie icon.
Like the distinguished cretins we are, Professional Moron did used to disgrace the streets of Paris around 2000.
During which time, the fantabulous array of bakeries was quite dazzling. The food exceptional. The craft impeccable.
Full credit to all the bakeries in the city as we can’t imagine any of them are rubbish. French food standards are at stake! Best in the world and all that.
What’s the Biggest Baguette Ever Made?
In 2015, some 60 French and Italian bakers got together to cook up the biggest baguette in history.
The result? This massive SOB! It was cooked at the Milan Expo of 2015.
It took some seven hours to create, but it ended up registering in at 400ft (122 metres). And isn’t that quite something?
How to Make a Baguette
If you’re brave enough to try and replicate one of France’s masterpieces, it is possible (to at least try).
John Kirkwood’s soothing tones in the video above will help. The basic ingredients you’ll need go like this:
200 grams of strong white bread flour
Half a tablespoon of easy-bake yeast
200 grams of plain white flour
250 grams of strong white flour, plus extra for dusting and kneading
Remaining yeast from a 7g sachet
1 and a half tablespoons of fine salt
A little semolina/more flour for dusting
You can than pray to the Baguette Gods and hope to bejeezus you don’t disgrace the whole of France with your efforts.
And if you screw it up… may baguettes have mercy on your soul.