Perhaps the best-known hallmark of French cuisine is the baguette. The long, lean loaves of bread have been popular throughout France for centuries, and laws even formally define the ingredients in the dough. In fact, the country has numerous regulations on bakeries due to bread's deep roots among the people.
This bread has journeyed all over the world in forms such as the Vietnamese Banh Mi, but culinary aficionados still travel to Paris to taste and learn about traditional breads.
Since the reign of Louis XIV, long loaves of bread have been an important staple of French food. However, the term "baguette" did not arise until the 20th Century; when a law forbade bakers from working before 4am, they supposedly started to make longer, leaner loaves that would bake faster and be ready by the morning. Today, they remain a culinary staple, and the government continues to heavily regulate the production of bread.
If you travel to Paris, you can find baguettes in nearly any bakery, or boulangerie. To become a baker anywhere in the country, you must undergo years of training, so nearly anywhere you go will have good quality bread (with the exception of chain stores and supermarkets). Keep in mind that boulangeries are distinct from patisseries, but you may find shops that act as both.
Parisians take their cuisine seriously, and bread is no exception. Butter is not often served with it, but you won't commit a cardinal sin by asking for it. Though you may see people nibbling on ends as they walk down the street, you should avoid ripping off a chunk of bread with your teeth in public. Typically, you're supposed to rip off a bite-sized chunk with your hands and then place it into your mouth.
Nearly all traditional boulangeries craft delicious breads. However, to find the best, visit these shops:
This list is by no means exhaustive considering the massive number of delicious bakeries throughout the City of Light. Additionally, keep in mind that all bakeries must close for one day per week as required by law, so pay careful attention to opening days and hours.
After tasting authentic French bread, you may want to bring as much back with you as possible. While you may be able to stick a loaf or two in your bag, the best way to bring the magic of boulangeries home is to learn how to bake traditional breads yourself. A other delicious treats.
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