French bread is also known as a"Baguette". 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 .
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. 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." (Wikipedia)
Five Fun Facts:
- It takes 9 seconds for a combine to harvest enough wheat to make about 70 loaves of bread.
- Each American consumes, on average, 53 pounds of bread per year.
- Breaking bread is a universal sign of peace.
- Farmers receive approximately 5 cents (or less) from each loaf of bread sold.
- Bread is probably the one food eaten by people of every race, culture and religion.
Five Bread Recipes:
- Mexican Bread/ Challah - One of the best challah recipes I’ve ever tasted. Once you taste this recipe, I hope you will agree. Serve this bread hot if at all possible.
- Bialy Loaf- I make this all the time, you can use whole wheat flour and regular.
- Everyday Whole-Wheat Bread -This is a good transitional loaf of bread. Start with this and get ready to go all whole wheat. This whole-wheat loaf is excellent for sandwiches, toast or eating plain. It has a light, springy texture and a mellow, slightly sweet grain taste from cracked wheat. The crust is crisp when the bread is first baked, but gradually softens as it stands.
- Irish Soda Bread- I love slathering a slice of this bread with a thick layer of butter, and some strawberry jam. A purely decadent treat.
- Hot Pretzel Challah - The ballpark meets the Shabbos table!
Click for more bread recipes.
Nutrition information for one medium slice of French bread:
Fat: 1 g
Carbohydrates: 36 g
Cholesterol: 0 mg
Sodium: 328 mg
Protein: 8 g
Sugars: 2 g