An unmistakable icon of French cuisine

The Baguette. An unmistakable icon of French cuisine and culture, few breads around the world are as instantly recognisable. Its unique, long, stick-like shape (baguette is French for “small stick”), crispy crust and tender crumb require high-quality ingredients and a deep knowledge of baking and bread-making. In France, the trip to the bakery for a baguette after a day of work is a daily ritual for more than half the country.

The French have a storied relationship with the baguette. Despite this, the origins of this bread are uncertain. The most popular and historically likely theory states that the baguette started becoming popular in the 19th century for à variety of reasons :

Firstly, it is important to note that long, flat loaves of bread had been popular in France since the reign of King Louis XIV in the 17th century

Secondly, the Industrial Revolution of the late 18th and 19th centuries brought new technologies to all aspects of life. One of these inventions, the steam oven, was introduced to Parisian bakers in 1839 by Austrian baker August Zang, who opened a “Viennese Bakery” and popularised Viennese-style breads and pastries (like the croissant). These ovens and new knowledge of bread-making were necessary to the production of the light and airy baguette. 

Finally, the early 19th century saw the introduction of Hungarian gruau flour to France. Made from high-quality, tender wheat and subsequently highly refined, it provided the necessary gluten and protein base for the light, airy and soft breads popular in Viennese-style baking. 

These three “ingredients” came together in the right place, at the right time, to create the baguette of today. While initially, the baguette was an expensive and luxurious bread made of soft, tender flour, the industrialisation of France and Europe made it much cheaper and more accessible, leading to its popularity among all socio-economic classes. 

By the early 20th century, the baguette had become omnipresent in Paris according to visitors. In 1957, the humble baguette took on new importance as it replaced the regular 600g loaf of bread as a factor in the determination of average buying power for households by the INSEE (French National Institute of Statistics and Economics).

Today, baguettes can be found all over the world, from American bakeries to the variations put on it by former French colonies like Vietnam or many African countries. You can experience this piece of French history by trying our home-made baguettes as part of our bread baskets and Sandwiches at Au Parc and The Refinery.