How to Spot a Good Baguette

As the French baguette enters the race to be given Unesco World Heritage status, American historian and French bread expert Steven Kaplan teaches us how to recognize and enjoy a good baguette de tradition. Six criteria matter: appearance, crust, crumb, mouth-feel, aroma, and taste.

Viewed as a "fancy" food reserved for the bourgeoisie in the early 20th century, the baguette grew in popularity before World War I. "The baguette was developed to satisfy wealthy city-dwellers’ appetites for crusty, fresh bread several times a day," says Steven Kaplan.

While its shape was hardly revolutionary for the time, as long breads had been around since the 17th century, the baguette’s weight was the real novelty. The new creation weighed in at several hundred grams, compared to 3-12lbs for ordinary breads. The baguette’s taste also developed with time as bakers gradually stopped using wild yeast, which was too acidic and hard to control, in favor of what is now known as baker’s yeast. As a result, bread-makers reduced their workload while producing more consistently flavorsome


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