French bread is a type of bread that originated in France. There are many types of French bread, but the most familiar is the baguette. It’s because of this that many people call baguettes, French bread. But is this the correct term, and, what is the difference between French bread and baguettes?
Baguettes are a type of French bread, but not all French bread is baguette-style. French bread comes in all shapes and sizes, including; pain de Campagne, Brioche, Pain au levain and there are plenty of other variations! Baguettes are just the most popular type of French bread, inside, and outside of its country of origin.
France has many different types of bread. There are more than 300 different kinds! France is known for its strict regulations around the ingredients bakers are allowed to use in bread. Pain de tradition française is to be made with flour, salt, yeast, and water. It can also contain up to four additional ingredients: soy flour, diastatic malt (enzyme-active barley malt), fungal amylase and broad bean flour.
There are fewer restrictions in “pain courant Français” yet many of the ingredients used in US and UK bakeries such as potassium bromate or ascorbic acid are restricted. For a detailed list see what ingredients are allowed in French bread.
This means that the majority of “French bread” produced outside of France is an inaccurate representation. French bread is typically lean (meaning there’s no fat or sweeteners). This makes it crispy and best eaten on the day of purchase.
There are enriched loaves of bread which do contain fats and sugar including, Pain de mie and Pain Brioche. Typically, French bread does not contain these enrichments.
The baguette is the most popular type of French bread in France. It became popular after World War II when government working restrictions made it difficult to produce other kinds of bread. The baguette is a long, thin loaf of bread. It has a crisp crust on the outside and a soft inner core – perfect for dipping into various soups and sauces. Authentic baguettes will use French flour, usually T65, yet, T55 is acceptable.
In France, you’ll find high-quality organic and artisanal baguettes sold in boulangeries. You can also find less expensive, mass-produced baguettes at larger chain stores.
Batards are French bread made from the same dough as baguettes, but shorter. Pain d’ epi is made and shaped in the same way as baguettes. But, instead of the long diagonal cuts before baking baguettes, pain de epis are ¾ cut several times with scissors at a 45-degree angle.
Once baked the segments can then be pulled apart. This gives them a different texture than baguettes, with a harder crust on the outside and a softer inner core.
Ficelle is a thin bread that’s half the size of a standard baguette. You will also find sourdough baguettes (“baguette au levain”), made with only flour, water, salt and a sourdough starter. There are plenty of other variations which I’ve listed in the what baguette types exist article.
French flours are weaker than those milled from American and Canadian grown wheat. They contain neither bromate nor malt and offer excellent properties for making baguettes. It yields slightly flatter loaves than American or Italian type 00 flour to produce a perfectly crispy crust.
French flour is classified by the mineral content that remains after burning. This is its ash content. Type 45 is a light pastry flour. Type 55 is a typical all-purpose, or bread flour. Type 65 contains more bran and, therefore, flavour! Types higher than this include more bran, similar to brown or whole-wheat flour.
Baguettes are a type of French bread made with a limited range of ingredients. If you see similar products labelled as “French sticks” or “French bread”, they are not baguettes. These are likely to contain ingredients not allowed in authentic baguettes in France.
Many of the “French bread” found in the US is more closely related to Vienna bread than baguettes.
These are enriched bread doughs made popular by Viennese bakers who settled in France. Fantastic as they are, when a baguette contains fat, it is not a baguette!
I hope this has cleared up any French bread vs baguette arguments you may have had! Let me know if you have any questions in the comments, à bientôt!