I thought I knew my friends.
Then we talked about baguettes. You know? Baguettes. The Queen of Bread. The staple in any self-proclaimed bread lover’s arsenal. The epicurean delight whose proper enjoyment thereof separates the wheat from the chaff. I’m likely suffering from a bread and cheese overload. What are the symptoms? Use of thereof?
That’s when I realized, it’s my duty as a caring friend to correct the misconceptions scattered around, like day old crumbs, on why and how to properly buy, store, and eat a baguette. Consider it my good deed for humanity. I can’t in good conscience let friends continue down a garden path choked with stale and chewy bread.
Success is in the details for the big things in life, and that includes eating a baguette correctly, because there is a right and a wrong way. Don’t let Mr. Politically Correct tell you differently. He doesn’t even eat bread.
Buying a Baguette:
In many Canadian shops, a baguette is sold in individual sleeves and the buyer chooses his or her own. One false move in this first step and there’s no saving you or your guests from a dislocated jaw.
- Gently squeeze the baguette through the sleeve. NO TOUCHING THE GOODS DIRECTLY. This is no time to prove that bootcamp is working. Be delicate.
- The baguette will give slightly and you should detect crunchiness to the exterior of the bread.
- Ignore anything that feels doughy or hard. If the baguettes are warm from the oven, buy them all.
- Occasionally my local store runs out of fresh-baked baguettes, because a greedy bastard scooped up the last ones before I got there. The early bird gets the carbs. Instead of leaving empty-handed, ask the baker for frozen baguettes.
* Bonus Tip: To practice for a future visit to France, eat the end off a fresh baguette as soon as you leave the store.
Storing a Baguette:
Sometimes you buy too many baguettes to eat at one sitting. It’s possible. Letting them grow stale on your crumby counter is a crime under the Baguette Union Act. Baguettes can be frozen under the right conditions.
- Freeze them whole if possible. I’ll grudgingly accept the need to cut them in half if you don’t eat much bread, but this puts our friendship on precarious footing.
- You must place the baguette—preferably still in its sleeve—inside a plastic bag or two. NOT a garbage bag. So gauche. NOT a compost bag. How are we even friends? Use two plastic grocery bags—which we all have lying around, because even though we’re green and shop with reusable bags, you (or my husband) forgot to bring them the last time you (or he) went to the store—and slide one over each end of the baguette, twisting the plastic snug. The entire bread must be covered.
- Make room in the freezer by getting rid of the edamame you bought during those three bleak hours you vowed to eat only health guru-approved foods. They’ve got freezer burn anyway.
- If you’re eating the baguette directly and have a bit left over, wrap the remainder back into its sleeve and put this into a plastic bag. See below for eating day-old bread.
Serving and Eating a Baguette:
There is nothing so sad as having to discard stale baguette. Okay, maybe there are things that are sadder, like an empty jar of Nutella or running out of coffee, but the list is short. Here are my secrets for eating and serving bread that tastes as though it came straight from the bakery.
- If the bread is fresh, eat it. Best enjoyed with butter and honey. Or Brie. Or blueberry jam. Peanut butter works, too.
- Prepping a frozen baguette is simple. Set your oven to 400F/205C. Once the oven has reached the correct temperature, place the baguette directly on the middle rack and bake for 5 minutes.
- Remove from oven and either cut into hunks immediately (no thin slices—this isn’t crostini), or wrap the entire bread in a clean dishcloth to keep the crusty exterior to soft interior ratio stable. It’s a science.
- Unwrap and cut, and serve as needed.
- Day-old baguette can be reheated for 2-3 minutes and enjoyed almost as much as when it’s fresh, as long as it was properly stored.
A friend sent me a link to a baguette wrap. I haven't tried it, but it looks like it could work as well as my high-tech sleeve and plastic bag method.
That’s it. Easy, oui?
To complement the fresh baguette, read these tips on how to store and serve cheese, and learn how to open a pomegranate with a few whacks of a wooden spoon. It works.