The Origin of the French Baguette

If you are reading these words,  it is that you have a real interest in bread and you also believe that commercial bread is crap (especially sandwich bread, you should never eat that again – seriously)

It all begins in Egypt

It is a well-known fact that some form of bread was made from different varieties of plants more than 3000 BC, and we know that the Egyptians were the first ones to make bread with fermentation. The Nile water has a kind of seaweed that ferments the water and, probably by mistake, they made the first known sourdough bread. We (and by we, I mean Egyptologists), have found perfectly long and puffy bread in Pharaonic tombs!

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Here come the Greeks

Then the Greeks took over and made better bread after they came up with a wood oven and a new technique was born. Since then, bread has been the base of food for many people, dark bread for the poor, white bread for the rich. Don’t believe me? Ask Wikipedia

And What about the baguette?

The origin of the baguette is not certain. Three theories exist. (choose the one you like to show off at your next family dinner)

  1. Napoleon, yes him again, asked for bread that is easy to transport for his soldiers. The large loaf of bread took too much space and was very hard to chew. So the baker decided to make bread that is long and can be broken with hands. The soldiers were carrying the baguette in their pants…Yep, I kid you not.
  2. August Zang, the famous baker who brought viennoiserie over from Austria to France and the famous Croissant, decided to make a bread that looked like the long bread he was making in Austria. A 100 years later a new French law, forbade bakers to start working before 4 am, so to make sure they could make a quick bread, they remembered dear old August Zang, adapted the recipe, kept the shape and the quick baguette was born…
  3. The last hypothesis is that the baguette was born during the construction of the Parisian subway. Around 1900, the need for people to build the tunnels was so important that people from everywhere in France came to work in Paris, and, sometimes, in the dark, with the heat and the wine (because what’s a day in France without wine), some people started fighting… They were fighting with the knives they carried on them to cut the big pieces of tough bread…. Mr. Fuldence Bienvenue, who was in charge of the Subway, decided to forbid knives and asked the bakers to make bread that was easy to break with your hands.

 

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Making things official

La Baguette was born…

In 1993, a French Law came to the rescue of real artisan bakers, as the quality of the baguette was dangerously at an all-time low. A label, “Baguette tradition” was created, only using water, salt, yeast or a starter added to the flour, and absolutely nothing else.

And the baguette became good again.

baguette

Want an initiation into the world of bread baking? Join us for a 3-day Bread Masterclass so you can start making better homemade bread. Join us for a  3-day bread master class in Paris & Seville, Spain. More information and dates on the tour page.


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