This long, thin, crusty loaf embodies French tradition, art and precision—and pure deliciousness. For many, the baguette (along with the croissant) is symbolic of France itself. A standard baguette is about 2 inches thick and 26 inches long. The loaf is scored vertically and baked in a hot, hot oven until it achieves a rich golden brown color.
At a recent baguette seminar and demonstration, we learned three critical things about baguettes. Call them the tricks of the trade or secrets of the Boulanger (baker).
1) Baguettes require steam to get a good crusty crust. This is achieved by spraying the baguettes and oven walls with water, and/or placing a pan of water in the bottom of the oven during baking.
2) Baguettes take on that perfect cylindrical look because they're baked in a special perforated pan that fits that round mold. The perforation also helps with allowing steam to get to the bread on all sides, forming substantial crust.
3) Baguettes that have a rich golden hue have been baked with a starter dough (called a Pate Fermentée, in French). Baguettes can be made without a starter dough, but they don't take on the same deep coloration.
One thing’s for sure: There’s nothing better than tearing off hunks of a fresh baguette, slathering them with good butter and sprinkling them with a pinch of salt. Another tasty option? Make a sandwich, like Provencal Chicken Baguettes.