A Baguette is the name used to designate an elongated thin bread loaf very popular in France and other neighbouring French speaking nations. In these regions, a baguette is commonly referred to as a ‘french stick’. Typically a baguette is composed of white bread with a slightly hard brown crusty outer layer and a softer white centre. Ordinarily this bread form is available at every grocery and bakery and is known to fly off the shelves in no time. A baguette that weighs approximately 250 g is about 65 cm long, 3-4 cm in height, and around 5-6 cm wide. This bread is a trusted accompaniment with almost every main course that features as part of French and European Cuisine.
Although the baguette is thought to have a French History, its origins may be traced back to Vienna in the early 19th century. When steam ovens came into use in the middle of the 19th century, bread began to be made with a brown crust and white centre similar to the modern day baguette. A rule was brought out that did not allow bakers to prepare bread before 4 am, the subsequent delay led to the production of longer, thinner loaves that took much lesser time to bake.
Preparation of a Baguette
According to traditional French bakers, bread contains only 4 major ingredients – flour, water, salt and yeast. The addition of any other ingredient does not make it bread.
- A Poolish or French starter dough is made using the same ingredients, and is allowed to develop over time (overnight fermentation would be ideal).
- The Poolish is mixed with remaining ingredients to form dough.
- The dough is suitably kneaded, divided into portions and shaped into a thin, elongated baguette before baking.
- Steam oven baking is essential to obtain the browned French style outer crust.
Uses of a Baguette
The Baguette has become a symbol of modern day French cuisine. Normally being only 4-5 cm in diameter it can be made even up to one metre in length. If it is 8-10 cm in diameter it is called a ‘pain’, whereas a thinner variety is called ‘ficelle’. Baguettes are commonly used in any meal - at breakfast with a herb-cheese, preserve or chocolate spread, at lunch or dinner - with soup or by itself, dipped in herbed olive oil. As a snack, it may be used to make a variety of sandwiches too.
Approximately 70 g of Baguette bread (of normal size) provides 200 calories. The best quality of this bread is that it is low in fat content, provides about 42.5 g of total carbohydrate, of which 1.25 g accounts for sugar and the same amount for fibre. It provides 6.25 g protein and some minerals notably sodium as high as 500 mg, calcium 25 mg and iron 2.25 mg.
Evidently multi-grain loaves boast of superior nutritional values with higher protein, vitamin, mineral and fibre contents. Multi-grain baguettes are usually prepared using whole wheat flour as a base with millet, rye, spelt, cornmeal or other flours added on. This variant proves to be more healthful for diabetics, obese individuals and those having cardiovascular concerns and elevated cholesterol levels.
Healthy sandwich options using the multi-grain baguette loaf can be introduced everyday using unique and nutritious ingredients like chicken, egg whites, tuna, walnuts, roasted bell peppers, hummus, tomatoes, lettuce in combination with herbs like basil etc. to enhance flavour.