(asked by Grace G. from New Mexico)
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.