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The History of the Baguette

The French baguette’s flavor, appearance, and texture have made it a global emblem of France. The most recognizable bread in the world, millions of it consumed daily. France sells 10 billion baguettes annually, or half a baguette for every person! Crazy!! When visiting France, it is customary for visitors to at least try a genuine French baguette. What makes baguettes so popular, then? But given that the history of the baguette is shrouded in legends and riddles, what is its origin? Here is what I discovered.

Because of its shape, the word baguette is translated into English as a “stick” or “wand.” French bread or “French sticks” are typical terms used outside France. Yeast is used in making baguettes, frequently in conjunction with preferments like sourdough or poolish. Most of the leaving power comes from the yeast, while the preferment improves flavor, texture, and quality. To adequately define a baguette: it should be noted that the crumb of an authentic baguette is made up of large, irregular holes held together by a dense gluten network. The crumb will be springy in texture and will be a chalk-like color, not white. The crumb will quickly regain its standard shape after being pressed down. Golden, crispy, and thick describe its signature crust.

There are several legends surrounding the baguette’s early history. Among them is that Napoleon Bonaparte needed his soldiers to have food to eat in between fights. Each fighter had a pocket precisely the right size placed into their jacket. Napoleon then asked bakers to create a long, bread-like stick to fit within. Fighting broke out amongst construction workers from various Paris suburbs during the metro system construction. At this time, carrying a knife for slicing bread was typical among employees. So a Metro supervisor urged nearby bakers to make bread that didn’t need a knife to cut to stop the violence from getting worse.