A baguette is a variety of bread distinguishable by its length, very crispy crust, and slits cut into it to enable proper expansion. The standard girth of a baguette is approximately 5 or 6 cm, but the bread itself can be up to a meter in length. One baguette typically weighs 250 grams (8.8 oz). It is also known in English as a French stick or a French loaf.
Baguettes are closely connected to France and especially to Paris, though they are made around the world. In France, not all long loaves are baguettes; for example, a short loaf is a bâtard, a standard thicker stick is a flûte (also known in the United States as a parisienne), and a thinner loaf is a ficelle. (French breads are also made in forms such as a miche, which is a large pan loaf, and a boule, which is a round loaf similar to some peasant breads.)
Baguettes, either relatively short single-serving size or cut from a longer loaf, are very often used for sandwiches (usually of the submarine sandwich type, but also panini); sandwich-sized loaves are sometimes known as demi-baguettes, tiers, or sometimes "Rudi rolls". Baguettes are often sliced and served with pâté or cheeses. As part of the traditional continental breakfast in France, slices of baguette are spread with jam and dunked in bowls of coffee or hot chocolate. In the United States, baguettes are sometimes split in half to make French bread pizza.
According to a joke, French law bans walking more than seven paces from a boulangerie without pinching and tasting a just-bought baguette. The joke states that the penalty for this offense is unknown, because it is a law no one has ever been able to break.
French food laws define bread as a product containing only the following four ingredients: water, flour, yeast, and common salt ; the addition of any other ingredient to the basic recipe requires the baker to use a different name for the final product. As a result, the traditional baguette is made from a very lean dough, made from a moderately soft flour. While a typical baguette is made with a direct addition of baker's yeast, it is not unusual for artisan-style loaves to be made with a poolish or other bread pre-ferment to increase flavor complexity, as well as the addition of whole wheat flour and other grains such as rye. French bread is required by law to avoid preservatives, and as a result baguettes quite frequently go stale within a day of being baked.
Baguettes are generally made as partially free-form loaves, with the loaf formed with a series of folding and rolling motions, raised in cloth-lined baskets or in rows on a flour-impregnated towel, and baked either directly on the hearth of an oven or in special perforated pans designed to hold the shape of the baguette while allowing heat through the perforations.
Outside France, baguettes are also made with other doughs; for example, the Vietnamese bánh mì uses a high proportion of rice flour, while many United States bakeries make whole wheat, multigrain, and sourdough baguettes alongside traditional French-style loaves. In addition, even classical French-style recipes vary from place to place, with some recipes adding small amounts of milk, butter, sugar, or malt extract depending on the desired flavor and properties in the final loaf.