One cannot think of France and not think about a baguette, and vice versa. The loaf is burned into our consciousness as part of something truly French, and the French, great cultural marketers that they are, have firmly anchored their bread culture around it.
Interestingly, the baguette as we know it only showed up with any regularity in the 1920s and since then has become standardized across the country - the French are fiends for regulation - as to weight and content. This makes sense as white flour - something we take for granted these days - was a luxury reserved for the very rich.
I find the modern Parisian baguette airy to the point of being almost tasteless, and certainly not having the punch one comes to expect with sourdough breads. In fact, most baguettes are made using commercial yeast, sometimes with a little sourdough levain for flavor. Paris real estate is so expensive that many central bakeries have their loaves par baked or even baked at another location, which changes the end product.
When I was at baking school a couple of years ago, the instructor pointed out a machine standing in the corner of the kitchen. Japanese made, it could crank out perfectly shaped baguettes using volumes of proofed dough. This struck me as a distillation of the Japanese fascination with all things French (about 1 MM visit Paris annually): take the essential French food and automate its production.
This Saturday's Bake
I will be baking 100% sourdough baguettes, whose dough has been proofed for 24 hours, deepening its flavor. The dough has 5% rye and 5% high extraction flour, giving the bread a substantial taste and crumb. My baguette shaping skills are still developing, so your loaf will likely look a little rough.
Your Canadian Baker