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Explore the baking and culture of Europe: France

Updated Tuesday, 28th February 2012

French bread doesn't start and end with the baguette

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France shown on a map of Western Europe

Introduction: English

In most French families, buying bread is a daily task. The French traditional baguette is much nicer eaten fresh, sometimes when it's still warm, which is why most French people visit their local bakery at least once a day. The baguette is still the most popular form of bread, but several others are available. There are several white bread varieties, distinguished by their size, from the small ficelle to the large flûte, and by their shape, from the round boule to crown-shaped couronne and the spiky épi. There are also types of rye bread, pain de seigle, wholemeal bread, pain complet, seeded bread, pain aux céréales and many regional specialities.


Dans la plupart des familles françaises, on achète son pain tous les jours. La baguette traditionnelle est bien meilleure lorsqu’elle est fraîche, ou même encore chaude, et c’est pour cette raison que les Français vont à la boulangerie de leur quartier au moins une fois par jour. La baguette est toujours le type de pain le plus répandu, mais il en existe beaucoup d’autres. Il y a de nombreuses sortes de pains blancs. On les distingue grâce à leur taille, de la ficelle à la flûte, et grâce à leur forme, de la boule à la couronne, en passant par l’épi. On trouve aussi des pains faits de farines différentes, comme le pain de seigle, le pain complet ou le pain aux céréales, ainsi que de nombreuses spécialités régionales.

At the bakery

-Bonjour. Je voudrais une baguette, une tartelette aux pommes et un éclair au chocolat s’il-vous-plaît.
-D’accord, voilà. Et avec ceci?
-Ce sera tout, merci.
-Je vous en prie. Au revoir!
-Au revoir!

-Hello. I would like one baguette, one apple tartlet and one chocolate éclair please.
-OK, here you are. Anything else?
-That’s it, thank you.
-You’re welcome. Bye!



Quand je vais à la boulangerie en France, j’aime acheter des chouquettes. Quand j’étais petite, j’adorais en manger pour le goûter à la sortie de l’école. J’aimais bien finir le sucre qui tombait au fond du sac en papier. Maintenant c’est avec mon fils que j’achète des chouquettes!


When I visit the bakery in France, I like to buy chouquettes. When I was small, I loved eating them on my way home from school. Best of all, I liked to finish off the sugar which collected at the bottom of the paper bag. Now I still buy chouquettes but for my son!

Image: Sifu Renka under Creative Commons license


Le saucisson brioché

Served as a starter or main course, saucisson brioché is a sausage baked in a loaf of brioche. It can be eaten warm or cold.

Originating from the city of Lyon, saucisson brioché is a classic of the Lyonnais regional cuisine. Lyon is sometimes referred to as the gastronomic capital of France. Many famous French chefs originate from that area of the country.

Image: Marylise Doctrinal under Creative Commons license


Le millefeuille

Millefeuille, literally a thousand sheets or leaves in French, is traditionally made from three layers of puff pastry and two layers of crème patissière.

The top layer may be coated with a sprinkling of icing sugar or glazed with patterned icing. Millefeuille is usually called a vanilla slice in England, where it's easy to find in bakeries and supermarkets.

Image: Yuichi Sakuraba under Creative Commons license


La baguette

We’re all familiar with the baguette, literally translated as a stick, available around the world today. The standard French baguette weighs 250 g and is just one of many long white loaves freshly baked every day by French bakers. Typically, a baguette is about 5-6 cm in diameter and 60 cm long, although they can be as long as a metre. People buy their baguettes every day, sometimes in the morning and again in the afternoon, so they’re deliciously fresh to accompany breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Image: Fred Pallu under Creative Commons license


Le croissant

In 1839, an Austrian artillery officer, August Zang, visited Paris and set up the first Boulangerie Viennoise Viennese bakery. He introduced Parisians to the delicious, crisp crescent-shaped rolls known as kipferl in his native Austria and croissant in France. Croissants remain a staple part of French breakfast, but they, and other viennoiseries, are also frequently eaten by children as an after school snack.

Image: Zdenko Zivkovic under Creative Commons license


La chouquette

Chouquettes are delicious small balls of choux pastry sprinkled with pearl sugar and sold by weight in French bakeries. Chouquettes are really popular with children, who love to scoop up the coarse sugar crystals that collect in the bottom of the bag.

Image: Sifu Renka under Creative Commons license


La tarte tatin

Tarte tatin is an upside down apple tart made from apples, sugar and butter with plain dough made from flour, butter, and water. There are numerous stories about the origins of this tart, reputedly created accidentally by two sisters who ran the Tatin Hotel in the Sologne region of France. It's now popular in restaurants around the world.

Image: joyosity under Creative Commons license


Le clafoutis

Clafoutis is a delicious, summertime dessert made from thick, sweet batter poured over cherries, prunes or other fresh stone fruit like peaches or apricots.

It's a popular dessert in French families because it is easy to bake at home.

Image: Knile under Creative Commons license


Le pain de campagne

Pain de campagne is a traditional loaf of rustic bread made in all the regions of France.

The loaves may be made with rye, wholewheat or white flour and baker’s yeast or natural leaven. Each loaf usually has a heavy dusting of flour.

Image: delayedneutron under Creative Commons license


L’éclair au chocolat

Eclair au chocolat is a long choux pastry covered in chocolate, coffee or vanilla icing, filled with thick chocolate, coffee or vanilla flavoured crème patissière.

Eclairs are found in many countries, but they are thought to originate in France. The word éclair means lightning flash. The French phrase en un éclair translates as ‘quick as a flash’. It’s a mystery as to why the cake was given that name: could it be that they can be eaten so quickly, or that the icing glistens with the confectioner’s glaze?

Image: Sara Maternini under Creative Commons license


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