A baguette (play /bæˈɡɛt/) is "a long thin loaf of French bread" that is commonly made from basic lean dough (the dough, though not the shape, is defined by French law). It is distinguishable by its length and crisp crust.
A standard baguette has a diameter of about 5 or 6 cm (2 or 2⅓ in) and a usual length of about 65 cm (24 in), although a baguette can be up to a meter (39 in) long.
The origin of the baguette is poorly documented and most versions offered are to a degree speculative.
The word itself was not used to refer to a type of bread until apparently 1920, but what is now known as "baguette" may have existed well before that. Though the baguette today is often considered one of the symbols of French culture viewed from abroad, the association of France with long loaves predates any mention of it. Long, if wide, loaves had been made since the time of Louis XIV, long thin ones since the mid-eighteenth century and in fact by the nineteenth century some were far longer than the baguette: "loaves of bread six feet long that look like crowbars!" (1862); "Housemaids were hurrying homewards with their purchases for various Gallic breakfasts, and the long sticks of bread, a yard or two in length, carried under their arms, made an odd impression upon me." (1898).
Some claim that the baguette is a descendant of the pain viennois, a bread first introduced from Vienna, Austria, towards the mid-19th century. However, this claim seems to be based on a misunderstanding. Though today's pain viennois is long and baguette-like, when first introduced into France, it was, basically, a Kaiser roll. Others claim, less precisely, that it was based on an existing Viennese bread. But no 19th century source confirms this link or the existence of any similar Austrian bread.
A less direct link can be made however with deck ovens, or steam ovens. Deck/steam ovens are a combination of a gas-fired traditional oven and a brick oven, a thick "deck" of stone or firebrick heated by natural gas instead of wood. The first steam oven was brought (in the early nineteenth century) to Paris by the Austrian officer August Zang, who also introduced the pain viennois (and the croissant) and whom some French sources thus credit with originating the baguette.
Deck ovens use steam injection, through various methods, to create the proper baguette. The oven is typically well over 205 °C (400 °F). The steam allows the crust to expand before setting, thus creating a lighter, more airy loaf. It also melts the dextrose on the bread's surface, giving a slightly glazed effect.
An article in The Economist states that in October 1920 a law prevented bakers from working before 4am, making it impossible to make the traditional, round loaf in time for customers' breakfasts. The slender baguette, the article claims, solved the problem because it could be prepared and baked much more rapidly. Unfortunately, the article is not sourced and at any rate France had already had long thin breads for over a century at that point.
The law in question appears in fact to be one from March 1919, though some say it took effect on October 1920: "It is forbidden to employ workers at bread and pastry making between ten in the evening and four in the morning." The rest of the account remains to be verified, but the use of the word for a long thin bread does appear to be a twentieth century innovation.
Manufacture and styles
The "baguette de tradition française" is made from wheat flour, water, yeast, and common salt. It does not contain additives, but it may contain broad bean flour (max 2%), soya flour (max 0.5%), wheat malt flour (max 0.3%). Standard baguettes however may contain a certain number of additives. Depending on those used either in the original flour or in making the bread itself, a baguette (or any other French bread) may not be considered either vegan or kosher.
While a regular baguette is made with a direct addition of baker's yeast, it is not unusual for artisan-style loaves to be made with a poolish, "biga" or other bread pre-ferments to increase flavor complexity and other characteristics, as well as the addition of whole wheat flour or other grains such as rye. French bread is required by law to avoid preservatives, and as a result bread goes stale in under 24 hours, thus baking baguettes is a daily occurrence, unlike sourdough bread which is baked generally once or twice a week, due to the natural preservatives in a sourdough starter.
Baguettes are closely connected to France and especially to Paris, though they are made around the world. In France, not all long loaves are baguettes; for example, a short, almost rugby ball shaped loaf is a bâtard (literally, bastard), or a "torpedo loaf" in English (its origin is variously explained, but undocumented), another tubular shaped loaf is known as a flûte (also known in the United States as a parisienne) flûtes closely resemble baguettes and weigh more or less than these, depending on the region, and a thinner loaf is called a ficelle (string). (None of these are officially defined either legally or, for instance, in major dictionaries, any more than the baguette itself.)
Baguettes, either relatively short single-serving size or cut from a longer loaf, are very often used for sandwiches (usually of the submarine sandwich type, but also panini); Baguettes are often sliced and served with pâté or cheese.
Baguettes are generally made as partially free-form loaves, with the loaf formed with a series of folding and rolling motions, raised in cloth-lined baskets or in rows on a flour-impregnated towel, called a couche, and baked either directly on the hearth of a deck oven or in special perforated pans designed to hold the shape of the baguette while allowing heat through the perforations. These pans are never used in artisan-style baking, only in the Americanized version of the traditional baking process, which commonly uses frozen bread dough.
Outside France, baguettes are also made with other doughs; for example, the Vietnamese bánh mì uses a high proportion of rice flour, while many North American bakeries make whole wheat, multigrain, and sourdough baguettes alongside French-style loaves. In addition, even classical French-style recipes vary from place to place, with some recipes adding small amounts of milk, butter, sugar, or malt extract depending on the desired flavour and properties in the final loaf.
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Baguette symbol of French culture in Indochina, wwwbaguetteindochina-somkieth.blogspot.com