In November, before I got a horrible cold, I was walking home from my local boulangerie, with baguette in hand. And walking right behind me was a young boy and his mother. With a lot of coughing, and hacking, and weirdly enough, some hiccups thrown in for good measure. And my thought, while walking down the length of my street, was, “omg don’t cough on my baguette”. I am convinced that coughing-boy gave me that awful cold.
A baguette is a weird thing to carry down the street, or at least I am not habitué (/accustomed to it) yet. It’s such a long object, that I am never sure if I should hold it upright, or down and at an angle. I usually put it in my shopping bag and hopefully it doesn’t stick out too much and thwack passers-by, or objects in the street. Sometimes the end of it catches on my clothes, or leaves little bits of flour on the fabric where it has brushed past. And sometimes, especially when it’s nice and hot from the oven, I end up lightly crushing the center with my hand while carrying it home (or getting flour on my nose from delighting in that fresh baked scent). Luckily it still tastes just as good. And fresh baguette smells amazing.
I also have to make sure I don’t end up hitting the end of the baguette against the apartment buildings by accident while walking. No Paris soot on my baguette please. Which means that it’s a good thing I don’t eat the quignon (/end of the baguette). Although, you’re supposed to rip off the quignon and eat it while walking home from the bakery.
There are two kinds of baguettes you can order, une baguette, or une tradition.
Une baguette is the classic baguette you usually see in pictures, and the kind imitated by American supermarkets.
Une tradition has more tapered, almost pointy edges, a crunchier crust, and more air bubbles in the crumb.
A comparison of the two kinds, une tradition on the left, and une baguette on the right. Picture source, with a description in French: http://www.compagnons-boulangers-patissiers.com/crebesc/baguette-tradition/
You can get a baguette more well done, or less well done. It took me a couple tries to figure out the correct wording. When I asked for “une baguette pas trop cuite” (/not too cooked) the woman at the bakery sounded almost insulted and said something like “bien sûr, c’est pas trop cuite” (/of course it’s not too cooked). So I’ve since discovered, by evesdropping on other orders, that the correct phrase is: “une baguette moins cuite” (/less cooked).
Thankfully my faux pas did not insult the women who sell me delicious baguettes at the bakery on the end of my street.
But make sure not to get to the bakery too late, or there will be no baguettes left!
After 8.30pm you may be out of luck. Tragedy!
Although, that is how I tried the tradition because one day, around 8pm, there were no more baguettes ordinaires left.
That’s also how I have tried other kinds of bread.
The pain aux cereales is just not my thing I have discovered. And I have yet to try fresh white bread called pain de mie. I do like breads with nuts in them, and my local boulangerie bio (/organic bakery) has a great pain aux noix, with walnuts, that makes super great toast when it’s stale.
Because baguettes make such incredible toast that I just can never pass up the chance to buy one, even if it’s only for stale baguette toast the next morning. Stale bread makes the best crunchy toast, especially when lightly charred. And I love the smell of burnt baguette that floats up through the courtyard and through my window on weekend mornings.
My favorite baguette in my neighborhood comes from Maison Kayser, who always has a huge line come dinner time. It’s called the Baguette Monge, and if you just ask for une baguette, this is the version that gets handed to you.
It looks like a tradition, with pointy edges that could put your eye out, but seems to have less air bubbles inside so there is more crumb (or squishy bread insides as I call it), which is exactly how I like it. Glorious.
But I tend to go to one of the two closer bakeries, who also have very good baguettes, there is one at either end of my street. I am spoiled for choice really.
I am not lacking in good baguettes, that’s for sure.
Baguettes are definitely one of the best things about living in France.
Check back soon, a post on croissants and other viennoiseries is forthcoming.