How to Find a Good Baguette in Paris

Baguette

There are a lot of people who come to Paris and can’t wait to get their hands on one of the amazing baguettes that are packed in baskets and lined up on flour-dusted bakery counters seemingly on just every street corner. (And people still ask me why I moved here?) Well I have good news and bad news for you – there are plenty of great baguettes in Paris, and unfortunately a few not-so-great ones out there as well.

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You just can’t assume that every bakery makes great bread, just like not all wine companies make great wine or all restaurants serve good food. Paris is a large city with lots of bakeries of various quality. And in Paris, a baguette generally isn’t something worthy of great adulation or bread that someone would take two métros to buy – a baguette is simply part of everyday life and something you’d pick up on your way home from work for dinner. And they come in all different sizes, shapes, dimensions, and colors.

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That said, baguettes are abundant and cheap; it’s hard to find a baguette that costs over €1,30 and many bakeries do a good job with their baguettes simply because with so many bakeries to choose from, people gravitate to the bakeries in their neighborhoods with good baguettes. A line snaking outside if often a good sign. But a good baguette costs almost the same as a dud, so here are a few tips:

1. Look for the yellow and blue sign or sticker on the bakery that says “Artisan Boulanger”, which means the bread is made on the premises. Another encouraging sign is that if there is the name of the baker or owner printed somewhere on the storefront or awning.

2. A Dépôt de pain is a place that sells bread, but doesn’t make it there. A boulangerie is a place that makes and sells bread. A boule is a ball, in French, so a baker was traditionally someone who made rounds of bread. Some dépôts may be affiliate with good bakeries, but not always. Many buy frozen baguettes, and bake them off.

3. A Baguette ordinaire, sometimes called a Baguette parisienne, is white inside with a crisp crust, and is leavened with yeast. The price varies but most cost less than €1. I find it hard to find a good Baguette ordinaire in Paris as most good bakeries seem to put their energy toward the most artisanal Baguette tradition.

4. A Baguette tradition, Baguette à l’ancienne, or Baguette de campagne are names given to baguettes that are mixed, hand-formed (you can tell by the pointy ends and irregularities in the loaves), and baked on the premises, and usually have levain (sourdough) starter in them. Most of the baguettes pictures here are variations and you can certainly see they all look quite different, depending on the bakery.

By a law enacted in 1993, a baguette tradition can only contain four ingredients: flour, leavening, water, and salt. Some bakers use levain and others augment their baguettes by adding yeast, but that’s not common. They invariably cost over €1, but rarely more than €1,40.

(Some bakeries will personalize the name of their “house” Baguette tradition, reflecting the name of their bakery, neighborhood, or for other reasons.)

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5. You can ask for a baguette bien cuite (well-cooked) or pas trop cuite (not too cooked), which seem to be more in fashion. Most people behind the counter are used to rifling through the baguettes for customers—so don’t be afraid to ask.

6. You can almost always buy a half a baguette in most places which is not considered odd.

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7. If you check the underside of the baguette, if it has a raised grid pattern, dots similar to braille, it wasn’t made by an artisanal boulanger. In spite of what you read, not all French people are necessarily discriminating about their bread. So just because you’re in France, doesn’t mean you’re going to be ensured of getting good bread at a bakery. Avoid buying baguettes in supermarkets, which are generally awful.

8. A good baguette, when you cut into it, should have large, irregular holes. If it has a fine, even mie (crumb), it generally wasn’t left to rise long enough.

9. The best way to keep a baguette overnight is to wrap it in a linen or cotton tea towel. You can warm it in a low oven for five minutes or so to restore its crispness, but it won’t be exactly the same.

10. There are a number of factors why the baguettes in France taste different from the ones elsewhere; the flour is a different variety of wheat, the bakers are skilled from churning out hundreds and hundreds a day, bakeries have wild yeast in the air, which aids in breadmaking, and with over a thousand bakeries in Paris, there’s competition, so those who want to be successful will strive to make a better baguette.

Baguette



Related Articles

Baking Baguettes in Paris (Afar)

The Best Baguette in Paris (Wall Street Journal)

Best Baguette in Paris: Winners of Grand Prix de la Baguette de la Ville de Paris (Paris by Mouth)

Baguettes Tradition (Stuff Parisians Like)

Classic Baguette Recipe (King Arthur Flour)

One Man Searches for a True Parisian Baguette (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

Paris Gets Its First 24-hour Baguette Dispenser (The Guardian)

Baguette Traditional Recipe (Chewswise)

La Baguette

La Crise de la Baguette

The Bread Knife

76 comments

  • Thanks for posting this. The first thing I buy in Paris is a baguette, and once in a while I’ve gotten one that’s just sad. I’ll use your tips to make sure that doesn’t happen again!

  • Thanks for sharing such great tips! Lovely photos, too.

  • Hi David,

    Do you know of any good bakeries/baguettes and/or cafés near Boulevard Morland? Thanks.

  • I grew up eating New Orleans French bread which is very good but still doesn’t hold a candle to a good baguette. I miss Paris.

  • Have you been to Boulangerie Mauvieux? Is it really the best? I just read that it won “Best Baguette in Paris” in the NYT – http://intransit.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/05/31/paris-boulangerie-awarded-coveted-top-prize-for-best-baguette/.

    • Hi Emme: I haven’t been, but as I wrote about a little, most Parisians just go to their neighborhood bakery to buy their baguette, as do I (although I have been known to cross town to get chocolates, or other treats – and I do travel a bit to get other kinds of bread.) A friend of mine judged one of those baguette contests a few years back in Paris and they said after tasting a few baguettes, you start losing your ability to differentiate them all. So while I’m sure their baguettes are very good, I generally hit a place close to home.

  • I have always loved eating a baguette with jam and milk. But if you are in Paris, I would suggest you to sit in a cafe, eat a croissant and drink some coffee with it. The trick to eat croissant is to dip it in the coffee – then it tastes better ;)

  • Hi David,

    Can you explain what it produces a “raised grid pattern” in a baguette? I love the baguettes I get at my local French-Vietnamese bakery here in California, and I’ve noticed that they have that Braille-like dotty texture to them on their underside.

    • Those baguettes are baked on metal racks (which are fitted to go on larger racks, which go in rotating ovens) with perforations. Places that bake off pre-formed baguettes use them. Those baguettes are fine for Vietnamese sandwiches, because of their plain, airy interior and thin, crackly crust.

  • So excited to see this post as I am going on my first-ever trip to Paris in two weeks. Excellent advice — I will be looking for those blue-and-yellow signs!

  • oh I remember this little place on the way up by gare du nord,Amazing!!!

  • after living in paris for a few, I can agree with every single word…
    Well except my boulangerie does a very good standard baguette… while you say it is difficult to find one…

    (however the boulangerie 30 m farther has the bread much worst..)

    • It’s funny because there are 2 bakeries near me, and both have pretty bad desserts and pastries, (I got a tarte au citron at one the other day, and after one bite, I spit it out because the filling wasn’t just very grainy, but the filling was made with either bottled lemon juice, or a mix) – but their baguettes are very, very good. There’s another one where the bakers/owners are from Africa that has an awesome baguette, but their pastries are just so-so.

  • Love your column in general, but I think you may have been in Paris too long … From the point of view of someone living in the U.S., ANY baguette in Paris is a superlative experience … you’re in Paris, you’re eating a baguette you just purchased from a boulangerie … it’s all good!!!

  • There is a great little boulangerie on Sq. de Clignancourt, in the 18th. Across from the little park in a charming, wonderful neighborhood of WWI era buildings. When I was there, they were doing the “standard” baguette. Terrific.

  • Go figure, we are back in the states for the summer and you write a post about something we already miss after only 6 days away, the baguette!! My mouth is watering just seeing the pictures. The boulangerie near our house in France was to die for, often times my husband would come home with only a third of it remaining. I initially would be mad but when he told me it was warm, I couldn’t blame him. Have a great day.

  • I believe the raised grid pattern comes from the pans it’s raised/baked on, which are a metal frame with metal mesh draped over it in a sort of undulating pattern. This allows the steam from the oven (they have steaming buttons, to help create the crust) to hit all surfaces of the bread, and keeps it more rounded on the sides. Are you saying artisans do not use this type of pan?

    • Artisans use deck ovens, which are large ovens with horizontal doors and the baguettes & other breads get baked directly on the very hot floor of the oven, which produces that nice, finish to the breads. Some have a steam option, to allow for the bakers to ‘spritz’ the bread, to make a crispier crust.

  • I prefer bread without sourdough. Do I understand you to say that the artisanal bakers who make the better baguettes use levain?

    • It’s a matter of taste; when I moved to Paris, the bakery next door had excellent baguette ordinaire.. then they changed owners, and they never tasted good. In my opinion, it’s not so easy to find a regular baguette as most bakers seem to concentrate on baguette tradition, which are popular in Paris.

  • Bonjour from Seattle, David. I agree with Dee, above. :-) When I get to sample some of the local breads sold as “baguette” in the United States -and that includes would-be French bakeries- I can’t help thinking that I would take a “bad” Parisian baguette over any of those pale copies any day! Fortunately, this baguette-deprived French import is about to fly home for a few weeks. Phew. Great post. Veronique (French Girl in Seattle)

    • There’s people making very good bread in America but it’s hard to replicate French baguettes elsewhere for some reason. I linked to a few bakers in America who seem to have captured it, but folks in the states aren’t used to buying bread daily from a local baker, so they’re not as available. When I travel and come back to France, the first thing I go out and grab is a baguette : )

  • i love this post, and i love these pictures! so helpful.

  • I adore your precious blog.Though haven’t posted my comments here yet.
    Thoughtful post.The clicks as usual are classic..Baguette..Thanks .

  • Excellently informative, you learn something new every day.

  • A great and helpful post! In Paris, I’m usually in the 7eme, so I go to Boulangerie Julien at 85 Rue Saint-Dominique. Their baguettes have such a delicious creamy crumb and smell of hazelnuts. But as you say, everyone has their own favorite bakery, and the baguettes are definitely not made equal.

  • I’ve been back from Paris for 10 years – way more time than I spent there. Whenever I buy a baguette from a baker here in the states, as soon as the word “baguette” leaves my mouth, I still have the instinct to add “pas trop cuite.”

  • Dear David,

    I always get a kick out of your posts.

    I want to know if you’ve ever heard of Michel Tremblay, the writer from Québec. If you have time, read his book ”Des Nouvelles d’Édouard” (News from Edouard in English). It tells the story of a gay shoe salesman from Montreal who goes to Paris for the first time in 1947 by boat. This book will have you laughing a lot, I promise. You make us laugh with your astonishment about the “moeurs” of the French. Well, Michel Tremblay’s character was also flabbergasted by many French customs. And he talks about French bread, which he was dying to taste, but which he found out was being rationed at the time Edouard arrived in Paris, much to his dismay.

    Read it in the English version if you’re not familiar with Québecois French, which this book is full of! Maybe the English version misses out on some of the subtle jokes that just can’t be translated, though. I read the French and it’s great.

    Claire

  • Thanks, David! I was wondering. When we lived there, we were lucky to have a good boulangerie just across the street. It has since changed owners and from what I hear is not as good. But, being the oddball American, I really preferred their pain au céréales. ;-)

  • David, greany suggestions w

  • David, great post. Any good baguettes in NYC? Would really appreciate your suggestions. Thanks.

  • “bakeries have wild yeast in the air”-
    That’s so cool! Can you explain that?
    No wonder it’s so hard to try it at home.

  • We celebrated fête du pain at my office and there was actually a dégustation du pain hosted by the inbp! The guy mentioned that a true baguette de tradition is made with unrefrigerated dough without additives, and generally tastes more acidic. In any case, it’s delicious…I find it hard to go back to baguette ordinaire!

  • I found that once I stopped asking for a “baguette” and started asking for a “tradition,” the baguettes were much better.

  • a fabulous article on this staple food and glorious photos – I have only just let my lunch-time guests part from the house and already my stomach is grumbling for more delicious bread – you are also SO right about ‘the longer the waiting line’ the better the bread is…. we live in super close vicinity to a Patisserie with absolutely delicious bakery staples and awful bread; and we go for 5′ on foot to a marvellous boulangerie with mile-long cues around the midday and evening – I just came in after the farewell with a good sized, well baked (bien broncé…) Bucheron…..mmmh

  • What I am interested in is a recipe for a great authentic baguette. They are very hard to find and we can’t all live close enough to a nice bakery. Any suggestions for a good baguette recipe for the home baker? I love baking breads – as well as eating them! I have tried some recipes from the king arthur flour website – but it still wasn’t quite right. Thanks for any help in pointing me towards a great recipe!

  • I remember when I first came to the SF Bay area to live and questioned why the sour dough bread was said to be so good here. The answer I was given was that the wild yeast in the area were different than those anywhere else and lent their particular flavors to the starter. I suppose that is true, but it can’t possibly make up for an indifferent bread baker. And…taste is subjective and is as subject to tends and the whim of the baker as anything else.

    The breads that wow’d me then don’t do it for me now as my preferences have changed, too. Fortunately, bread became an even bigger deal here and all these artisian bakeries have opened affording us the opportunity to choose whose bread suits our taste better. That has it’s own challanges in that if they don’t sell it at the local Whole Food market, you might have to drive to Big Sur or Los Angeles to get it! The baguette here is really treated as a special occasion item rather than a daily loaf.

  • Now you’ve done it. I think I devoured each and every baguette I tripped over with gusto and made no discerning effort to decide on its quality. Maybe I lack the bread gene and don’t know the difference. Or maybe all was so superior compared to MN that I was desperate.

  • Thank you, David, for another mouth-watering post.

    The picture of the bread slices in the basket, those on the left have lovely large holes but one slice on the right has a smaller more even texture. So this would be a loaf that hasn’t risen loaf enough? And is that a bad thing affecting it’s taste, or would it just be non-traditional?

  • I’ll be flying to Paris for vacation in three days and will find your information very helpful. I have never seen Paris before. Very much looking forward to the experience.
    SB
    Minneapolis, Mn.

  • Great post! Like a previous commenter, I want to know more about the wild yeast in the air.

  • Gorgeous photos. I’ve taken to showing my students some of your pictures. Today we took a quick look at your Jules Vernes chinese lunch since they had just done “Paris Monument” projects. A 15-year-old commented on how beautiful your food photos are! (hee hee).

  • I picked up my daughter at the airport an hour ago, returning from a whirlwind reunion in Paris, and am enjoying a baguette from her favorite boulangerie with a cheese she smuggled home in her suitcase, as I read your latest post! Fantastique!

  • What a great post. Thank you for sharing such good information. And your pictures are beautiful too. You are the Paris dood!

  • What is the phrase in French one would use to ask for 1/2 a baguette? I had thought that if one asked for a demi baguette that would mean a smaller sized baguette, not 1/2 of a full one (assuming that’s what you meant in #6, that you can ask for 1/2 of an ordinary baguette).

  • Mike: A demi baguette is right. There are smaller baguettes, or ficelles in many bakeries as well. But for a half a baguette, it’s ‘demi.’

    Primordial Soup: I bring folks bread from Paris as well. It’s always appreciated!

    La Rêveuse: I love grainy bread as well, and do get grainy baguettes from time-to-time, although I’ve returned to buying regular baguettes, for the time being..because I am loving the baguettes I get across from my place.

    Ann K: Each baguette and bakery is different. Some baguettes have exceptionally large holes, while others have closer one. And some baguettes have semolina flour in them, which that one had, which I think made for a tighter consistency.

    Becky: Sam Fromartz, who I also linked to, is an ace baker and you might want to give his recipe a shot. Also people recommend the recipe in Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Baking, although I’ve not made baguettes personally (they’re so inexpensive here, and pretty darned good..), so can’t advise – good luck with your baking endeavor!

  • Thanks David. It’s so hard to find good baguette here in Los Angeles. There are only less than half a dozen places that offer those like the baguette tradition. I found this one but since i live so far from the shop i had to load up and freeze when i had a chance to. http://shanti4evr.blogspot.com/2012/05/baguette-from-bread-lounge.html

  • I love your articles and pictures.

  • Hi David, A valuable post. I will be visiting Paris for the first time in August and am looking forward to visiting and tasting from as many bakeries as possible during a holiday season. I bake approx. 25-60 baguettes per day in my own shop with varying quality. I use pate fermentee as the preferment, the flavour is always quite good and my scoring is ok, but it’s hard to achieve a nice full rise with a voluptuous crumb. I am anxious to see how the Frenchies are able to do it. Best regards

  • We were in Paris and Provence in March and must have gotten lucky. We loved every bite we took of whatever baguette we bought whether it was to go with some recently purchased pate or some cheese from one of the markets. I’ve made my share of bread but have never been able to get the hard crusty crust that I like so well. I also was happy to find fougasse bread since I had recently made it for a blog post. Mine was too far off the French version.

  • I wasn’t expecting this post to be as insightful as it was, but behold! Another surprise gift from the Internet. Thank you so much for always writing such lovely, simple pieces. I’m so charmed.

    (Boy, does this make me crave baguette right now!)

  • Such a simple subject but such a great post! Thank you David for some great tips that I’ll use to select bread at home and hopefully also when I visit Paris.

  • always enjoy this site….
    off the topic…BUT….that grand looking spice market
    in Galleries Lafayette….are the spices as dreamy as they look?
    Making my yearly pilgrimage to Paris and wonder…..
    thank you anyone who might know….!
    Jenny

  • Thanks for clearing up the baguette confusion. I did wonder.

  • Come to Tucson’s saturday farmer’s market! There is a bakery call Barrio Bread Company, and the owner/baker uses the french ‘levain’ method. People line up in the parking lot to help him carry in his wares, and foreign visitors weep over his baguettes! Wild yeast is in the air, everywhere, btw … :-)

  • Over a thousand bakeries in Paris. Wow. With all that healthy competition, it’s no wonder the bread and pastries are world famous. I live in the U.S. in the state of Idaho, and I think we might have 2 owner operated bakeries in the whole state, and the quality is not great. So, if someone wants to come to Idaho and open a bakery (or a thousand), there is definitely a market for it.

  • what gorgeous loaves of bread! oh gluten…why must you exist? haha…thanks for sharing!

  • In Minneapolis, Minnesota we are fortunate to have Rustica Bakery which makes a bien cuite. Fabulous. Their kouign amann looks just like the pictures David posted from Paris….but….to enjoy them in Paris…that is a dream.
    David, I want to see your Paris. I have been reading your blog for years and your feelings for the city are expressed so well. It’s not perfect, it’s just wonderful.
    SB

  • Bread…the manna of the gods!

    Wonderful post, David.

  • While I may never make it to Paris (it’s on my list, I swear! But the list keeps growing…), this post is beautiful. I love that you shared so many pictures of the rustic, imperfect but absolutely wonderful baguettes.

  • I’ve never attempted baking baguettes, but highly recommend the no-knead recipe Mark Bittman posted in the New York Times. It’s a very wet dough that produces a blustery, crisp crust with a light yet chewy exterior. The recipe is embarrassingly easy.

  • Hello, I assume you know of Steven Kaplan, History teacher at Cornell University NY, who wrote many books on French bread from a social point of view ?
    I have some books and attended one or 2 conferences. Deserves the reading ….

  • When I was a student in France, I made it a point to find the bakery with the best baguette in my town. I think I was successful, but I also made a lot of other bread discoveries on the way, including something called pain ardèchois–it had hazelnuts and prunes in it. Incredible.
    I loved learning that boulanger comes from “boule.” You’d think that as a French major I would have figured that out…

  • I won’t even buy baguettes at home because they will never be as good as the ones I ate every day in France. That could also be because I’m in Iowa and some bakeries clearly have never even seen a real one in person. Although I see Minneapolis might have a decent one so I’ll save my airfare and drive up there for the time being.

  • Finding a good baguette is a handy thing to know. I am often in Paris on my own and it isn’t always easy to eat dinner alone.

    Question: I’ve often wondered what the French attitude is toward women dining alone, especially in the evening??

  • Speaking of bakeries, I always wonder how some pastries can look so pretty and taste so bland and ordinary. It’s almost like they’re just for show.

  • David,
    I am one of the many who say ‘I am your biggest fan.’ I keep your Sweet Life book next to my bed when I need my Paris/David fix (which is almost every night) and I always peruse your blog (the archives!) when I need a little inspiration. Tonight I made your Tiramisu from 2008 and served it in the IKEA votives because a) I actually had them on hand and b) I love the verrines concept. Might you revisit that ida for some summer desserts? Your recipe worked beautifully and fit perfectly into the 6 glass votives. Thank you!!

  • Thanks for the helpful advice. I will give the recipe a try from the Julia Child book. What is the name of blog for Sam Fromartz? I didn’t see his name on your links – or I may have missed it. If we had access to good bakeries in the states I would defintely buy daily bread as the French and Italians do and not have to search out my own recipe. It just isn’t part of our culture for some sad and strange reason. Thanks!

  • Thank you for this post and the timing couldn’t have been better – my 12 year daughter had to do a powerpoint presentation (due June 4) on bread in France and your post helped her tremendously.

  • This was a great post with so much info… I hope to one day be able to buy a fresh baguette in Paris myself. I just came across your blog a few weeks ago which I am now obsessed with! Thank you for sharing all of your knowledge and love for Paris… it makes me feel like I take a mini-vacation everytime I visit your blog.

  • Another excellent post! I’m sure Paris has a tourist bureau, Convention and Visitors Bureau, or something similar — they should at the earliest moment possible, give you a monthly stipend/salary. Seriously, since I began reading your blog my already strong desire to come visit Paris, has gradually increased to near fever pitch. Instead of a weeks stay, I’m plotting and scheming trying to come up with a way to afford a few weeks to a month stay.

  • I’m French and living in the US. Thanks for that wonderful post that makes me feel like home -can’t wait to come back

  • Thank you for the great post and pictures. The pictures look so realistic. It seems as if I can reach in and grab one! I loved sampling baguettes all around Paris with my Mother on our last trip. There is nothing like them. We stayed in an apartment on Rue de Ponthieu and a couple of blocks down the road (then a left on a cross street) was our favorite bakery. I can picture walking to the bakery each morning to bring back breakfast. I wish I could remember the name. I believe it had the yellow/blue sign in the window to indicate it was an artisan bakery. Oh well, I guess a trip to Paris is in order to find out the name of that bakery!

  • Something so simple as bread conjures up such wonder. Amazing. Good post, great info. I’d like to share my favorite spot when I’m in Nice. It’s J. Multari. Excellent baguettes. While we indulge in nice lunches, we don’t often dine out for dinner. It’s just too much of a good thing. So, we go to J. Multari, then off to Monoprix for a bag of salad and the fabulous bottled vinaigrette that has nothing but vinegar, oil and shallots, a wedge of blue cheese, a bottle of wine, and that’s dinner. Oh, and first item we buy when we hit France: a jar of mustard. Well, and sometimes we indulge in a baba au rhum and a little tarte au citron.

  • May I disagree with your point 7? I was working in a boulagerie in the 7th arrondissement, bread was made there by Compagnons. The grid pattern goes usually with a more rounded shaped baguette: it’s been cooked in a mould contrary to other baguettes, a bit more flat which are not “moulées” (baked in a mould). Customers who enjoy more “mie” and less crust usually buy the “moulée”.
    But I agree in a way: the “moulée” can be found usually in baking stations where they receive the dough frozen and bake it, or in supermarkets.

  • I wonder what you think of the bread from the Paul chain? If getting a good baguette can be tricky in Paris, it’s almost impossible in the UK. I’m just back from a weekend in Paris and enjoyed one baguette in particular that we had at resto La Rotonda. I spotted a couple of Paul branches around the city so I wondered how you thought they fair?