These emblematic long loaves are not just a type of bread, they're a way of life. The French consume some 10 billion loaves annually (yes, you read that right), and a trip to la boulangerie to buy a fresh baguette is an important daily ritual.
Unlike much of the bread we consume in Australia, baguettes go stale within 24 hours. This is because, by law, traditional baguettes can only be made with four ingredients: wheat flour, water, yeast and salt. They cannot contain any preservatives or be frozen at any stage.
Many laws have protected when, where and how baguettes can be made: today, baguettes must be made on-site where they are sold, and in the odd case there is no baker in a village, a clear "dépôt de pain" sign will indicate that the bread is delivered fresh daily from elsewhere. Until recently, bakers were prevented from going on summer holidays at the same time to ensure a constant supply of fresh bread for hungry locals.
One day - in a hopefully not-too-distant future when international travel restrictions are lifted - we'll be able to once again taste the gold standard in baguettes. Until then, we have two tried and true recipes for a traditional baguette: one for those wanting a quick no-fuss loaf and one for those willing to go the extra mile to get an authentic taste of France.
They make a delicious snack or addition to any meal, and travel perfectly in a handbag, bike basket or pocket for those heading to their favourite picnic spot in these warmer months. Tear them with your hands and serve them hot, but be aware: they will disappear faster than you can say bon appétit !
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