Baguette: The Better Known French Bread

The baguette, also known as French Bread, is a staple and symbol of France. The word “baguette” simply means wand, baton, or stick and refers to the shape of the bread. This term became attached to the thin, round sticks of bread we know today, in the early twentieth century. The diameter of the baguette can be 5-6 cm, but the length of the bread may be up to a meter in length.

The reason for their size and length is actually more based on practically. In the 19th century, a French law dictated that bakers could not begin work before 4 a.m. This led to the creation of the distinctly elongated loaf. The longer, thinner loaf allowed bakers to complete their task before breakfast time.

The baguette is not completely French in origin, as it has ties to bread in Vienna and in Germany. But it has become synonymous with France. When one thinks of France, a picture often pops up of an artist wearing a beret, sitting outside, enjoying some coffee and a baguette, staring at the Eiffel Tower.


What Makes the Baguette great?

Baguettes are pretty versatile. Baguettes are light and airy, but also moist on the inside with a crisp dry crust. But, not all long loaves are considered baguettes. To be considered a baguette, the loaf must weigh 250 grams (8.75 ounces). Baguettes, either relatively short single-serving size or cut from a longer loaf, are very often used for sandwiches. They are often sliced and served with pâté or cheese. As part of the traditional continental breakfast in France, slices of baguette are spread with butter and jam, then dunked in bowls of coffee or hot chocolate. In the United States, French bread loaves are sometimes split in half to make French bread pizza.

Fresh Baguettes Gone Stale?

Since baguettes use no preservatives, the freshness and softness typically lasts for several hours or up to 24 hours after baking. The lightness and moisture in the inside, coupled with the crisp dry crust, essentially causes the bread to stale from the inside out. Their shape as well as unique structure makes it worse than some other breads. Most baked good with an open crumb and air pockets stale very quickly.

To prevent this, we recommend to store the baguette in the freezer until several hours before you need it. When you remove the frozen baguette from the freezer, wrap it in a tea towel and thaw it on the counter for two hours, or until fully thawed. Heat the thawed baguette in the oven at 200 degrees Fahrenheit for a few minutes to warm it, if desired.

If your baguette has already gone stale, we recommend one of these two tips:

Oven Method
1. Moisten the baguette with an ice cube or cold, running water, making a quick pass under the water so the bread is moist but not soaked.
2. Wrap the baguette with aluminum foil, tightly sealing all seams to trap in steam.
3. Set the foil-wrapped baguette on your oven's center rack. Set the temperature to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Do not place the loaf on a pan and do not preheat the oven.
4. Bake the baguette for about 15 minutes. Unwrap the baguette and press it with your fingers to check for softness. You can eat it at this stage or place it back on the rack for another 5 minutes if you want a slightly crispy crust typical of fresh baguettes.

Microwave Method
1. Dip a clean, lint-free dish towel in cold water. Wring out all excess water so the rag is damp, but not wet.
2. Roll up the baguette in the towel, folding over all the edges so all the bread is fully encased.
3. Place the wrapped baguette in the microwave and heat for about 30 seconds on the high setting. Unroll the baguette and check it for softness. If the bread still feels hard and stale, wrap it back in the towel and microwave it at 10 second intervals until soft. Microwave ovens vary greatly, but it shouldn't take more than 1 minute total to completely soften the baguette.

Cooking with a baguette.

Baguettes can be used in a variety of recipes, both as an appetizer and part of the main course. These are just a few of our favorite dishes using baguettes.

 

Wild Mushroom Bruschetta

Ingredients
1 baguette
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
12 ounces gourmet mushroom mix, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons packed fresh oregano leaves
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 ounce aged pecorino cheese
2 cups baby arugula

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 450°.
2. Cut baguette into 24 (1/4-inch-thick) slices; arrange in a single layer on baking sheets, and bake until golden (4-5 minutes).
3. Heat 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil until very hot but not smoking. Add mushroom mix; cook until water releases and mushrooms brown 4-5 minutes.
4. Transfer to a bowl; cool.
5. Toss mushrooms with 1 tablespoon olive oil, balsamic vinegar, oregano leaves, kosher salt, and black pepper.
6. Thinly shave pecorino cheese.
7. Divide arugula among baguette slices; top each with 1 tablespoon mushrooms and some pecorino.

Pressed Sandwich with Roasted Eggplant

Ingredients
2 medium eggplants
4 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 baguette
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon olive oil
1/4 pound mozzarella
2 cups fresh basil leaves

Directions
1. Preheat grill to medium-high.
2. Brush eggplants, cut into 1/2-inch thick rounds, with 4 tablespoons olive oil; sprinkle with salt and pepper.
3. Grill eggplant until grill marks form (2-3 minutes); flip, and grill until tender (3-4 minutes more).
4. Remove and drizzle with balsamic vinegar.
5. Cut baguette into 4 pieces; slice each in half. Brush bottoms of baguette evenly with 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon olive oil.
6. Slice mozzarella into 8 slices; layer half of the slices among sandwiches.
7. Top each sandwich with 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, 3-4 slices eggplant, remaining cheese, and baguette tops.
8. Press sandwiches in a panini press or in a large skillet over medium-high heat for 3 minutes per side.
French Bread Pizza


Ingredients
1 (12–14") baguette, split in half lengthwise
1 garlic clove, smashed
1/2 cup store-bought tomato sauce
1 cup coarsely grated mozzarella (about 4 ounces)
3 ounces sliced pepperoni
1/4 teaspoon crushed red-pepper flakes (optional)
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh basil

Directions:
Position rack in top third of oven and preheat to 425°F. Place bread, cut side up, on a rimmed baking sheet and bake 5 minutes. Remove from oven and rub cut sides with garlic.Spread tomato sauce on cut sides of bread. Top with mozzarella, pepperoni, and red-pepper flakes, if using. Bake until cheese is melted and golden brown, about 10 minutes. Top with basil.

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