A recent New York Times article brought to light very distressing news to us. Forget the economy, global warming, and politics, the world is facing a…French bread CRISIS! The article stated that, “the average Frenchman these days eats only half a baguette a day compared with almost a whole baguette in 1970 and more than three in 1900.”
Take heart, baguette lovers, help is on the way! To counteract this unacceptable situation, the Observatoire du Pain, a lobby for bakers and millers, has started a campaign to promote the consumption of one of France’s most iconic food staples, French bread.
And because there’s nothing that we love more than a good food cause, we’re joining the cause, and giving French bread some love and attention. Here’s our list of Five Favorite French Breads plus, a delicious Pain Au Chocolat recipe to try your bread-baking hand at home.
Tackling the French bread crisis, one baguette at a time!
OUR FAVORITE TYPES OF FRENCH BREAD
- The Baguette: the ultimate classic, this flute of crusty bread should practically be stamped on your passport when you enter the country. A traditional baguette or “baguette de tradition” must, by French law, have the following ingredients: wheat flour, water, salt and yeast. Perfect in it’s simplicity! Don’t feel like baking? Try our frozen, ready-for-the-oven artisan baguettes by Bridor! Click here
- The Brioche: a mixture between bread a pastry, brioche is made with a super buttery dough, braided into the classic shape. But it’s the addition of sugar and eggs which makes this a sweet treat as well, perfect to make French toast (see below), or to eat with a cup of tea or coffee. Oh la la!
- Le Pain Perdu: Also known as the world-famous, USA-favorite, French toast! The name, pain perdu, means “lost bread”, so named (some say) because it was made using leftover, stale bread. Well, if stale bread dipped in eggs and fried turned into French toast, then not all is lost!
- Beignets: Probably just as much a tradition in New Orleans as in Paris, this doughnut is actually a deep-fried bread dough. There are several variations of this, but the most well-known, at least in America, is the one popularized by New Orlean’s famed restaurant, Café du Monde. Theirs is fried in cottonseed oil and then liberally covered in delicious powdered sugar.
- Pain au Chocolat: last, but absolutely not all least, our favorite (and featured) type of French bread! The French call it “pain” (bread), but Pain a Chocolat is really a buttery and flaky croissant, filled with gooey melted luscious chocolate. Oh, oui! We found the greatest recipe for a homemade Pain au Chocolat, by our featured blogger, Alexandra from Confessions of a Bright-Eyed Baker. It might take a few tries to get it right, but the results are completely worth it, we swear!
- 4 teaspoons active dry yeast
- 1/2 cup lukewarm water
- 11 tablespoons butter, divided
- generous 1/2 cup milk
- 3 1/2 cups bread flour
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- generous 1 cup chocolate chips (I used dark chocolate)
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 2 tablespoons milk
- In the bowl of stand mixer, dissolve the yeast into the lukewarm water and let sit for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, melt 3 tablespoons butter and combine with milk to cool quickly. Place another 1/2 cup butter (1 stick) out to soften.
- Add the melted butter, milk, bread flour, granulated sugar, and salt, to the yeast/water mixture. Mix on lowest speed for 2 minutes. If the dough seems tough, add another tablespoon melted butter. Change attachment to the dough hook and knead on medium speed for another two minutes. At this point the dough should be soft and supple.
- Shape the dough into a ball and place in a large bowl covered with plastic wrap. Allow to rest for 30 minutes.
- Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface to a rectangle, 10" x 15". Cover again with plastic wrap and let rise for 40 minutes.
- Take the softened stick of butter and rub onto the rectangle of dough (Your hands will get very buttery). Rub on as much butter as possible, and then, with the shorter side facing you, fold into thirds, like you would a letter. Roll again into a 10" x 15" rectangle and fold into thirds once more. Place on a plate, cover with plastic wrap, and place in the refrigerator to chill for 1 hour.
- Remove dough from the refrigerator and roll again into a 10" x 15" rectangle. Rub the remaining butter onto the dough, fold into thirds, roll out once more (10" x 15"), and fold once more.
- Using a sharp knife, cut the folded dough into 12 rectangles, using 4 slices in the longer direction and 3 slices in the shorter direction.
- One rectangle at a time, with the shorter end facing you, place about 10 chocolate chips halfway along the rectangle. Fold the end closer to you over these chocolate chips, and repeat on the other side, adding chocolate chips to the other half and folding over the first half. Press end into dough to form a seam.
- Repeat the above process for each rectangle of dough. Place each pain au chocolat seam-side down on a lined baking sheet. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for another 45 minutes to 1 hour, until almost doubled in size.
- Preheat oven to 400 F. Combine egg and 2 tablespoons milk in a small bowl to form egg wash. Brush over each pain au chocolat. Bake in the preheated oven for 12-14 minutes, until puffed up and lightly golden.
- Enjoy warm from the oven, or store in refrigerator and microwave each pain au chocolat for 25-30 seconds when ready to eat.
Time includes resting and rising time for the dough.