A holiday in France just would not be complete without frequent trips to the local boulangerie. The smell of freshly baked baguettes, piles of croissants and pain au chocolat in front of your eyes all create a fantastic display making you want to buy more than you can healthily eat! Whether you’re popping in for your morning pastries or lunchtime baguette, boulangeries play a big part in people’s daily routine in France. One often sees the man of the house walking home from work with a paper-wrapped baguette in hand.
8 types of bread you can you expect to see in your local boulangerie
There are lots of different types, but here are the main ones…
In France, bakers have impeccably high standards and bake each item to exact specifications and mostly to their own bespoke recipes. Most French bakeries sell a variety of baguette-type loaves as well as round, square and cylindrical shapes.
We are all familiar with the baguette “normale”. This is your standard baguette and generally the cheapest. The one you tend to see locals carry under their arm wrapped in brown paper, on its way to be eaten at breakfast, lunch or dinner. It is, however, not at all like the soft, doughy thing you can buy in the UK.
Baguette tradition (or “La Tradition”)
Baguette aux cereals
Pain de campagne
Pain aux noix
Pain de seigle
Remember your manners
In France, when you enter a boulangerie it is like stepping inside someone’s home. The custom in France is to say ‘Bonjour Madame/Monsieur’ when entering a shop or a restaurant and ‘Merci Madame/Monsieur’ when leaving. If you are feeling extra confident, you can ask for your items in French too.
Croissant au beurre vs. croissants ordinaires
Whatever boulangerie you visit, be sure to only consume a true croissant au beurre. No we’re not being food snobs! You’ll thank us as you enjoy that unmistakable smell of deeply-toasted, caramelized-crunchy pastry made with French butter. Croissants ordinaires are made with margarine and are usually crescent-shaped and obviously there is a big taste difference. Fortunately, you won’t find many of them as not all bakeries make the two varieties. But let this be a warning and keep your eyes peeled!
Bakers used to have their summer holidays restricted by law
Laws dating back to the French Revolution restricted, or more precisely, prescribed when boulangers could take their summer break. The laws were initiated to ensure the population remained fed in the years immediately post revolution. The law also required them to indicate, via a sign in their shop window, where the nearest alternative was during their absence. 2015 saw the first summer where the law, regulated by the Paris préfet, was relaxed allowing bakers to take as much time off as they like in July and August. It led to fears of a ‘baguette crisis’ in Paris and there are tales of queues and having to walk block after block to find an open boulangerie, but the locals all appear to have been fed.
Sunday opening laws are also being relaxed. However, they are still told which day they have to take off every week so the bakeries are not closed at the same time.
To be called a boulangerie, you have to follow 3 basic rules:
Another French law is in place that states for you to be called a boulangerie in France you have knead, shape and bake the dough on the premises.
- Choose the bakeries with the longest queues – quite often the trail leads out the door and down the street
- The boulanger needs to eat too, so buy your bread before the shop shuts for lunch
- If you ask for your pain ‘bien cuit’ you’ll receive a well-baked, crustier or browner loaf
- If you’d like it sliced asked for tranché
- Have your change ready and place it in the saucer on the counter. If you are owed any change, that will be placed in the saucer too. They won’t take money from your hand.
We hope you enjoy your trip to the bakery as much as we do.