A short guide to French bread

No meal in France is complete without fresh bread. Here are our tips for avoiding embarrassment in the boulangerie.

One of the most alluring things about a holiday in France has to be the morning bread run. Returning to the breakfast table with a golden baguette, from which—if you want to act really French—you would have torn off the quignon (the heel) and nibbled it on the way home, dunking the rest, buttered and jammy, into a bowl of café au lait. We British adore this ritual, but, for the French, it’s a way of life. Gluten and white flour may be pariahs on this side of the Channel, but a Frenchman’s daily bread remains very much à la mode. Thrice daily, in fact—French nutritionists recommend a third of a baguette with every meal.

Here’s our short guide to French bread:

Baguette: the word means “wand” and this is the cheapest stick of bread, varying from excellent to mediocre. Lasts a day max.

Baguette tradition: slightly more expensive, this has no additives, more flavour and a slightly chewier crust.

Flute: a fatter baguette, with a higher ratio of dough to crust. Good for families.

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Ficelle: a skinny baguette, with a lot of crust. Sometimes flavoured with lardons or cheese.

Baguette aux céréales: healthier version made from wholegrain flour with added fibre from seeds and grains. Also comes in a “pavé” — a loaf.

Pain levain: made with pate fermentée (leftover dough) rather than yeast. Slightly acidic, and goes well with strong flavours such as smoked salmon and foie gras.

Pain de seigle: a loaf made with rye flour. Less intensely rye than its Northern European equivalent, as it’s diluted with white flour.

Pain de campagne:  a doorstopper suitable for meats, cheeses and soups with a thick crust and dense wholegrain dough. This bread lasts more than a day.

Pain complet: wholegrain loaf.

And… we all know what a pain au chocolat is, but if you’re in the south-west, it’s called a chocolatine.