(asked by Grace G. from New Mexico)

Is it true that the traditional French bread in France (like the pain de deux or baguettes) is made with a special flour, that is protected by law and can’t be exported? I was told that numerous times over there, and that that was the reason the “French” bread you get anywhere else (like here in the USA) just isn’t the same, even when it’s made by a French baker. I can definitely vouch for the French bread not being the same here, it’s not anywhere near as good as in France.

Nah… Seriously, you’ve heard people say that?
French bread is made with normal French flour, remember that if in the US, French bread is a fancy thing for the bourgeoisie and Francophiles, in France it used to be the base of all food. Nowadays, it’s just an item that’s on your table because “it has to be”, back in the days it was the main food for the people, sometimes the only food.
So, no, French bread is not made with special fancy flour, it’s made with any flour you have.

And of course, it’s not illegal to export (I don’t think there’s anything in France that’s illegal to export, our commercial balance needs any exportation it can get).

The reason that French bread you get anywhere else is different resides elsewhere.

Just like (re, the discussion on the peanut butter post) what makes food healthy or unhealthy has not much to do with fat content but many other factors, what makes French bread what it is, is not the flour. Or should I say, not only the flour. It’s the flour, the water, the yeast, the air even as well as any other ingredient I have not mentioned. And that’s not all, it’s also the ovens and of course the baker’s skills.

For example, when I lived in Florida, I knew the baker that worked in the bakery where all the Francophiles swarmed to get their overpriced imported products and locally made bread. That baker was American but had learned his job in France and used French recipes and French flour. Still, his bread was not that great and he was totally aware of that. He explained me that it was because of two main reasons: his ovens were too recent and lacked the “patina” and the Floridian air was too humid.
Strangely, his French pastries were awesome and tasted just like the ones one can get in France (I’ll inquiry more about that if necesseray).

So basically, this is this combination of all of those that makes French bread the way it is, this is also why –and foreigners too often forget about this- French bread is also different from one area to another, or even from one bakery to the other.

And –here I’ll extrapolate with any product- this applies to basically any kind of food, where it’s made is important, and this is why in France, one takes the matter very seriously and –for example- one cannot call Champagne a sparkling wine that doesn’t come from Champagne. Because it’s just not the same thing.

pixel Is it true that the traditional French bread in France is made with a special flour, that is protected by law and and cant be exported?

9 Responses to “Is it true that the traditional French bread in France is made with a special flour, that is protected by law and and can’t be exported?”

  1. Interesting. I’d heard the special flour thing too.

  2. The reason French bread is different to American bread has a lot to do with the ingredients - french bread doesn’t have any sugar or fat. American bread typically has 10%-13% sugar (I am shocked by this and am sure it can’t be true - but thats the figures my research show) and 8% fat. French bread (that is pain) is only allowed by law to contain flour salt water and yeast.

    The main difference with the flour is probably milling techniques - American and UK flour is roller milled and has much less of the bran and husk (which contains most of the nutrients) than French flour.

  3. Flour IS different here, Frenchman - it has to do with how it’s milled… I’m sure there are different grades in flour in the U.S., too.. I just use tous usages and cake flour, honestly….

    I don’t really care about the difference -
    but my cookies bake differently as a result- I just add more flour… They don’t TASTE any different, that’s for sure…

    Bagels in NY taste different than in California and I’m CONVINCED it’s b/c of the water because the recipe for a bagel is soooo basic!!!!
    Also, I have had sucky tasting baguettes here - it depends on a number of factors- all of which you already mentioned… I just don’t go back to the bakeries whose bread I don’t care for as there are about one million all over the place….
    Also, don’t forget Champagne is trademarked and others outside of this region are legally NOT allowed to call their sparkling stuff “Champagne” when it’s really not… I can’t tell you how many times Alex has recounted this story to me… : )

  4. Hmm, maybe it was just eating it in France that made it taste so good then!

    - Grace

  5. WHAT?!!! NO PRESERVATIFS?!! You mean conservateurs, don't you? ; ) I have found one bakery in San Diego that I really liked- Bread & Cie- Damn good bread… Different but good… I have to stay away from wheat right now so don't remind me how good the bread is here… that also applies to pastries.. because of course, they're made with flour- and I'm off of sugar, too… My cough has gone on long enough!!

  6. Generally speaking the flour in France contains less protein than American all-purpose flour (and even less compared to American “bread flour”). But good bread can be made from all types of flour.

  7. Actually, everyone is correct in some way, some a wrong a little, but all have missed the vital type de farrine regulation.
    The flour is used in French bread is in fact, always unique. There used to be a trade barrier,prohibiting its export, except to Canada and the Channel Islands until the EEC came into play, then it was more widely available.
    The main reason French flour must be used to make authentic french bread and baguettes, is because of;
    1. Basic, pure ingredients
    2. Milling method.
    3. Soil type where ingredients are grown.
    4. Protein content
    5. Humidity
    6. Type and quality of oven
    7. Purity of water
    8. Care of process
    9. Elevation level (affects baking time)
    and the biggest difference of all -10. The “type de farine” - “Ash” grade, which still differs between each EU country - and is a sicentific measure of the mineral content in flour. French baguette are usually made with type 55. Type 45 is pastry flour made from a softer wheat, and it goes stronger and darker up to type 150 which is wholemeal flour. The UK and US has no such standardisation, hence in part the poorer quality bread.
    The French would certainly bring France to a halt, if these ancient, exacting type de farine standards were to be scrapped. Bread is life to a Franch national.
    Which brings the question, why are so few French nationals “gluten intolerant”?
    Perhaps the answer is in the unfailing quality of French ingredients and food.

  8. Another thing that can make bread different from location to location is the water. I grew up with very hard mineral well water and was used to the way bread turned out there, then I moved somewhere with processed city water (still with lots of calcuim but the other minerals taken out mostly) and I could no longer make bread that I liked.

    The other ingredients and technique didn’t change, just the water and the oven.

    • True. This is why bread is so special. It’s the most basic food in the world, it’s the most spread out prepared food in the world and not too are alike, simply because they totally depend on location.
      If after that, people still don’t understand the importance of location in food, they’re hopeless. :-)

Leave a Reply



You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.

© 2007-2011 Ask a Frenchman (except for pictures, graphics and such - Logo © 2011 - FB) Suffusion theme by Sayontan Sinha