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The Origin of the Baguette

Think of iconic French food and many people immediately think of the baguette. A standard baguette is about 5 or 6 cm across and is usually around 65 cm long, although a baguette can be up to a metre in length.

There are many theories as to how it came into being .. and very little historically documented information to prove any of it! Here are some theories.

The word itself was not used to refer to bread until around 1920, but what is now known as a "baguette" may have existed well before that.

Many think the bread was developed in Vienna in the middle of the 19th century, a descendant of the pain viennois. However, this claim may be based on a misunderstanding. Though today's pain viennois is long and baguette-like, when first introduced into France, it was, basically a Kaiser roll. Others claim it was based on an existing Viennese bread.

In the early nineteenth century, steam ovens were introduced. The first steam oven was brought to Paris by an Austrian officer who also introduced the pain viennois and the croissant. Some French sources also credit him with originating the baguette. The steam generated by the oven allowed the crust to expand before setting, which created a lighter, more airy loaf. It also melted the dextrose on the bread's surface, giving a slightly glazed effect.

Then in 1920 a law was passed preventing bakers from working between 10pm and 4am. This made it impossible to make the traditional larger bread loaf in time for customers' breakfasts. The longer, thinner baguette solved the problem because it could be prepared and baked much more rapidly. And some say, that's how the baguette was born.


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