When it comes to French cuisine, the Parisian Baguette holds a special place. Known for its lovely caramel color, crusty exterior when still warm, and soft crumb interior, this bread is a symbol of Parisian life. Eating a baguette is often on every traveler's bucket list when they visit Paris, and for a good reason.
Parisian Baguette: History and Culture
History of the Parisian BaguetteThe history of the Parisian Baguette is as fascinating as its taste. While the exact origin is uncertain, some theories suggest that the idea of a long bread was imported from Vienna in the 19th century. Others believe it originated during the French Revolution. It was Napoleon Bonaparte who opted for its elongated shape so that soldiers could easily carry it. The baguette became widespread in Paris in the 1920s, and it took some time for it to be accepted in the countryside where people preferred darker, round bread that could be kept longer.
The Bread Decree (1993)
The traditional baguette is so important in French culture that it's protected by law. The French Bread Law, passed in 1993, outlines the rules for making a traditional baguette. It can only be made on-site and with specific ingredients: wheat flour, water, yeast and/or sourdough, and salt. Only three additives are allowed: 2% bean flour, 0.5% soy flour, and 0.3% wheat malt flour.
The Best Baguette in Paris
Each year, the City of Paris holds a contest called "La Meilleure Baguette de Paris" to choose the best baguette in the city. Bakers must follow strict rules in making the Parisian baguettes, and the criteria for choosing the winner include cooking, crumb, taste, smell, and appearance. The winner receives a medal, a prize of 4,000 euros, and the honor to become a baguette supplier to the Élysée for a year.
In Paris, it's common to see people eating baguettes on the street. Baguettes are an integral part of French breakfasts, but they're also eaten at lunch and dinner. Baguette sandwiches are one of the most popular cheap eats in Paris. The most famous baguette sandwich is the "Parisien," also known as "jambon-beurre," which consists of a half baguette sliced open, spread with butter, and filled with slices of 'jambon de Paris'.
BONUS: Authentic Parisian Baguette Recipe
Now that you're familiar with the history and cultural significance of the Parisian Baguette, why not try baking one yourself? Below is a traditional recipe for Parisian Baguette.
- 1.25 cups (300 ml) warm water
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 2 teaspoons active dry yeast
- 3 cups (375 grams) all-purpose flour
- 1.5 teaspoons salt
- In a small bowl, combine warm water and sugar. Stir until the sugar dissolves.
- Sprinkle the yeast over the water and let it sit for 5 minutes.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour and salt.
- Make a well in the center of the flour and pour in the yeast mixture.
- Stir with a spoon until a dough forms.
- Place the dough in a greased bowl, cover the bowl, and let it rise for 1 hour.
- After the dough has risen, divide it into two equal pieces. Shape each piece into a long loaf.
- Place the loaves on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Cover them and let them rise for 15 minutes.
- Preheat your oven to 470°F (240°C). Place a pan of water on the bottom rack of the oven.
- Spray the loaves with water before you put them in the oven.
- Bake the baguettes for 25 minutes or until they're golden brown.
- Let the baguettes cool on a wire rack.
The Parisian Baguette is more than just bread. It's a symbol of French culture and history, and it's an essential part of daily life in France. Whether you're enjoying a traditional French breakfast, a Parisien sandwich for lunch, or a warm baguette straight from the oven, you're participating in a centuries-old tradition. The next time you bite into a baguette, remember the rich history and cultural significance that this simple, yet delicious, bread carries. So, whether you're planning a trip to Paris or baking a baguette at home, embrace the opportunity to enjoy one of the world's most iconic foods. Bon appétit!