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Everything You Want to Know About the Baguette

Last Updated on 2nd December 2022 by Sophie Nadeau

If there’s one food staple that visitors can’t miss during a trip to France, it’s the baguette. The long baked bread is one of the most iconic symbols of France and is best-enjoyed when it’s still warm and toasty from the boulangerie. Here’s everything you ever wanted to know about the baguette in France and how to buy a baguette in Paris.

french baguette

When are baguettes eaten in France?

Baguettes are eaten during every meal in France. At breakfast, a ‘tartine’ is where a slice of bread is eaten together with butter or jam. At lunch and at dinner, baguette is a staple at every meal and is served alongside the starters and main dishes.

Bread is seldom served with oil or butter and is never served on its own plate. Instead, it is kept on the table itself. For more information about serving baguette, be sure to check out our guide on how to host a French dinner party.

Is there a criteria for a baguette?

There is no specific criteria for what can be called a baguette. Generally speaking though, baguettes are at least 55 cm in length, though they can be up to 1 m long. The diameter of a baguette is typically 5-6 cm wide. The dough of the baguette is scored before baking to give its centre the baguette look.

There is a specificity, however, if you are buying a baguette tradition. This is when the baguette has been made with the most basic of ingredients and has to have been baked on site. Most importantly, the baguette tradition takes a while to make and if you try to rush the process, you won’t end up with a good bread at the end.

Care goes into the entire process, from leaving enough time to knead the flour and water before adding the yeast and salt, to making sure that the dough is smooth enough before baking. With a baguette tradition, the dough is left until the following day to rest before baking, whereas with a normal baguette the dough is made and baked the same day.

UNESCO listing of the French Baguette

As of the 30th November 2022, the French Baguette has been given UNESCO World Heritage status. The foodstuff has joined the list of “intangible cultural heritage” alongside things such as traditional tea making in China and a Korean mask dance known as “talchum”.

On the subject, president Macron said that the baguette is “envied around the world” and offers up “250 grams of magic and perfection in our daily lives”.

What is a French baguette made of?

The basic French baguette recipe is very simple and only requires yeast, water, flour, and salt. This also explains why fresh baguette only keeps for a day or less after you buy it- there are no preservatives.

If you do want to keep your baguette for longer, I suggest freezing it before sprinkling it with water and heating it up for five minutes or so in an oven that has been warmed to around 180 degrees Celsius.

Where should you buy baguette in France?

Please note that, hands down, the best place to buy a baguette in France is in a ‘boulangerie’ (bakery). Though you can purchase baguette in most French supermarkets, the quality is never as good or as fresh and so I would recommend heading out of your way to go to a French bakery instead.

As you’ll soon read, not all bakeries nor baguettes are created equal. Bread is such an important part of French culture, that up until 2014, there was a law which prevented all boulangeries in a local area from taking place at the same time.

If you’re visiting Paris in the near future (or even France), then here’s our guide to navigating French bakeries– which are known as boulangeries in l’Hexagone. If you’re looking for mouthwatering addresses, then be sure to check out our guide to the best Paris bakeries.

bread festival in paris

Are all baguettes the same in France?

One thing you should know before visiting anywhere in France is that the French take their baguettes very seriously. The bread stuff is a staple at every meal time (at breakfast it is eaten as a ‘tartinette’ with a side of French butter or jam, whereas at lunch or dinner it is eaten on the side of the meal).

In bigger cities, there are numerous bakeries to choose from. When a Parisian changes apartments, it is not uncommon for them to spend the first few weeks in their new home exploring all of the boulangeries in their local area. My boyfriend and I both prefer baguettes from different bakeries in our neighbourhood and often discuss why we think ours is the best!

If you’re planning on having a picnic in Paris, then a baguette is a must. Type in ‘boulangerie’ into your maps application and find the nearest bakery where you can buy a baguette. If you want to have a less crunchy baguette, ask for a bread that is ‘pas trop cuite’.

Breakfast at Maison Violette

Best baguette in Paris

One of the most prestigious awards that any baker could hope to win in Paris is the ‘best baguette in Paris’ (known in French as le meilleure baguette de Paris). The annual competition has taken place every year since 1994.

The winner earns a cash prize of €4000, as well as a gold medal. But what is perhaps most enticing of all when it comes to winning the competition is that the baker becomes a supplier to the Élysée (where the president of France lives).

In order to enter into the ‘best baguette in Paris’ competition, a baguette has to meet several important criteria. A baguette has to measure between 55 and 65 cm in length. As well as this, the baguette must weight between 250 and 300 grams and have a salt content of 18g per kg of flour.

The best baguette in Paris is not the only competition that takes place on the subject of bread on an annual basis. Each year, there is also a ‘bread festival’ that takes place in the heart of Paris.

What makes French butter different?

Are baguettes vegan?

Traditional baguettes are vegan due to their simple plant-derived ingredients. They are meant to be both egg-free and dairy-free. However, if you want to be completely sure that your baked good is vegan, be sure to ask the person at the counter of the boulangerie you visit.

Learn more about French bread at a cooking class

If going to the boulangerie and tasting baguettes has made you even more keen to discover more about bread culture in France, then you can even learn how to make your own bread in a bread making class in Paris. The two-hour course will show you how to make a croissant, as well as a baguette. Find out more details here.

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