it comes to bread, there are few things that can match the
taste and savour of a fresh French baguette; but the
iconic French baguette if by no means the only type of bread
eaten in France. On the contrary, French bakers now produce an inspired
selection of different types of white bread and darker varieties, made
with a range of different flours
"French stick", the long thin crusty loaf, is perhaps one of
the better known icons of French life. In France, it is known as a "baguette"
litterally means "a stick" – and it is indeed the most
popular type of
bread in France, notably in towns and cities. The standard baguette
weighs 250 grams (about half a pound); it comes in three slightly
different forms; the ordinary baguette - with its crisp golden-brown
crust; the "moulded baguette" (baguette
moulée), which is often a baguette manufactured
industrial bread-oven, and can be recognised by the fine lattice
pattern on all the underside; and finally a floured baguette, or baguette farinée,
which is paler in colour, as the crust is covered with flour before
cooking. From any given bakery, the three types will be very similar -
the crust often being thinner on the moulded baguette than on the other
But of course la baguette is by no
means the only type of bread in France. Au contraire...
In addition to baguettes, France
has a wonderful range of delicious breads to offer. Ordinary French
white bread comes in several other shapes and sizes, from the couronne
in the shape of a ring), via the flute
size of a baguette) to the batard
half-length normal loaf) and the ficelle,
a long and
very thin loaf. Ficelles must be eaten fresh, as they are so thin that
the inside dries out rather fast once they have been baked.
Another traditional type of French
bread is "country bread", pain de
white bread made in a slightly different way to ordinary bread and
often incorporating some whole wheat flour or some rye flour, so that
it keeps longer; pain de campagne often has a thick crust, which helps
the bread to keep.
Apart from these basic types of
bread, France's bakeries also sell a whole range of other
types of bread, including wholemeal breads (pain complet
rye bread (pain
de seigle), sourdough bread (pain au levain),
and a sweet bread called brioche.
resembling the classic English or American sliced white loaf is known
de mie", and is usually available in supermarkets, though
rarely on the fresh bread counter.
These days, most boulangeries also
offer a range of breads spiced up with nuts (pain aux noix)
olives, bacon (pain
cheese and a variety of other natural additives. Many bakers
make bread by their own proven recipes, meaning that even a
baguette will be different from one shop to another; but a sign of the
times has been the development of a number of "brands" such as "Banette", bread made
locally using a specific type of flour, and following a strict
Bread from the bread counter of French
supermarkets is often quite tasty, and generally needs to be
eaten as quickly as baker's bread; but generally speaking
supermarkets use industrial dough which has been deep-frozen before
being baked on the premises. Bread counters selling this kind of bread
are not allowed, by law, to call themselves "boulangeries".
Tourists travelling through France, who
want to stop and buy Fresh bread for a picnic, should bear in mind that
many small shops close for up to two hours in the middle of the day.
Boulangeries often stay open beyond the traditional midday closing
hour, but after 12.30 you may well find a locked door if you stop off
at a village bakery. Be warned.