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The Beauty of the Baguette

Carbohydrates have fallen from grace. Regardless of their nutritive value, affordability or ability to keep, admitting to eating, preparing or heavens forbid enjoying anything containing carbohydrates is almost social suicide in certain circles. A staple food in many countries however, carbohydrates are served in various forms all over the world, but most notably in a culinary sense, as rice, potatoes, pasta and bread.

As the Franschhoek Valley is celebrating its French heritage with the annual Bastille Festival this weekend, we thought to have a look at that one French carbohydrate no one can ignore – bread. Despite carbs being out of fashion, the French still regularly buy their bread freshly baked from the boulangerie and serve it with almost any meal.

Although it is a contentious quote, the story of Queen Marie-Antoinette having said “Let them eat cake”, the traditional translation for “Qu’ils mangent de la brioche” and the anger with which it was received by the French population, does give one an idea of how serious the French regard their bread. In fact, today, bread dough categories are protected by French law!

For breads with traditional French names, this law only allows the addition of ascorbic acid and rye flour to the four basic ingredients of water, flour, yeast and salt. French bakers therefore rely on various techniques of kneading, proofing and baking to create an assortment of breads. Of these various types of French breads, the Baguette is the best-known.

The history of the Baguette is more complex than one would think. While it seems that it has evolved directly from long French breads in the seventeenth century, another theory is that the longer, thinner baguette originally developed in Vienna in the middle of the 19th century. Viennese bakers were not allowed to bake before 4 am and this type of bread could be prepared and baked much quicker than other loaves.

Despite the complexity of its origin though, the Baguette’s crispy crust and chewy interior has made it popular globally while its classic “wand” shape after which it has been named, has become an unofficial symbol of the French lifestyle.

The La Motte farm kitchen will be baking some beautiful Baguettes this weekend to enjoy with Pierneef à La Motte’s French-inspired menu or to take home and serve with some delectable cheese and wine.

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