Crunchy on the outside, airy on the inside — a winning combination. Bread has always been important in France, and Paris baguettes are most definitely a part of that tradition. While the French eat a lot of bread, particularly baguettes, they used to eat a lot more.
A hundred years ago the typical Parisian ate 620 grams of bread per day, nearly a pound and a half. Today, that amount is more like 150 grams, just over five ounces. Over the years, as demand declined, so did the quality of Paris baguettes. Things got worse during World War I and World War II when rationing affected bakers' ability to get supplies. Were the food-loving French going to sit back and take this? Mais, non !
The dubious quality of some Paris baguettes led to changes in the early 1990s. Consumers and artisan boulangers banded together to try to return the traditional quality of Paris baguettes. In 1993 a law was passed in France that regulates how a baguette de tradition (traditional baguette) must be made. Baguettes de tradition have to be made on the premises of the boulangerie, from start to finish. They can contain only four ingredients — wheat flour, yeast, salt and water. Only then can they be called tradition.
The baguette law is supported by an annual competition for the best Paris baguettes, the Grand Prix de la Baguette de la Ville de Paris, in which then winner, the top baguette maker of the year, gets the honor of supplying the French presidential residence with baguettes every morning for the entire year.
So, when buying a baguette in Paris, we recommend you always ask for a tradition and, if you get a chance, try a baguette from one of the prize winning boulangeries. By the way, that's our son Alexandre & his Paris baguettes through the years
Behind the Scenes in a Paris Boulangerie
To really get into baguettes while you're in Paris, one of the best things to do is take a tour behind the scenes at a authentic Parisian boulangerie to discover every aspect of the art of the baguette and that other paragon of french pastry, the croissant.
There will be plenty of baguette and croissant tasting in this one-hour guided tour. Eat bread, be happy.