It is known that bread holds a special status to the French people. For many people in France the baguette is something of a staple food. In fact, a visit to France will not be considered complete without trying their baguette. Ever tried one or seen one? It’s that elongated thin loaf you see in bakeshops that is actually a veritable symbol to them. Don’t you know that there’s an interesting story behind it? Here we narrate to you now the history of the baguette.
Bread that resembled the shape of the baguette had already existed for some time. However, it was in the eighteenth century in France where bread weighing one to three pounds, in a form that resembles what became known later as the baguette, started in production. The production was a result of severe bread shortage because of the limited sale of grains, along with the unfavorable weather conditions. Prices for bread then increased beyond the usual normal costs, making the poor and the peasants either starve or resort to eating bread made from poorly milled bran grains. On the other hand, that time, the rich had plenty of fine bread made from pure white flour.
Napoleon then took over and when he was already running the show, he issued decrees that established standards for the production of French bread. These decrees specified the ingredients and baking methods in making bread, down to the quality control for flour milling, mixing, and dough kneading. He also limited the freedom to produce high quality bread to the actual bakers, who were given an important status in the society that time. Later, the government started specifying ways to knead and aerate the dough too, and subsequently establish the shape and size criteria for any loaf designated as an authentic French baguette.
In the 19th century, technological advancements made everything easier for the bakers to produce different kinds of bread, even the baguettes. Bread became more accessible and cooking in the communal ovens decreased. Production of bread made from poorly milled bran grains also disappeared. In the 1920’s, a law was established which prevented workers from starting work before 4 am. This law made it impossible to get the bread cooked in time for breakfast. This was not a problem, however, as bakers resorted to making bread into long, thin baguettes that cooked faster. Although there had been long, thin breads in France for around a century before this, they had not been referred to as baguettes until 1920. The word baguette comes from the Latin word baculum which became baccheto, meaning staff or stick.