The term “French bread” encompasses a wide range of different bread recipes. In most cases, “French bread” signifies the baguette, the light, crusty loaf that has come to symbolize the country’s cuisine. The baguette is made according to a simple traditional recipe that does not contain eggs. However, there are some types of bread made in France that do.
Baking the Baguette
The traditional French baguette uses a simple mixture of ingredients. Flour, salt, yeast, water and olive oil are the only ingredients in this kind of French bread. A little additional water during baking helps create steam, which stiffens the crust, giving it the baguette’s characteristic crunch. Although there are some variations on this recipe, such as adding a small amount of rye flour, a radical change like adding eggs to the mixture would violate the basic definition of a baguette.
Let Them Eat Brioche
The most famous product of French bakeries to include eggs is undoubtedly the brioche. Made from milk, yeast, eggs, flour, butter and sugar, brioche was traditionally a richer alternative to the plain baguette. “Let them eat brioche,” mistakenly attributed to Marie Antoinette, is meant to represent the obliviousness of royalty, who failed to understand that the poor couldn’t afford such expensive food. Eggs and butter give brioche a rich, sweet taste; it’s a popular breakfast treat.
Unlike French bread, French toast is made with eggs, being soaked in egg and other ingredients before cooking. Despite the name, though, there’s nothing particularly French about this dish, which has its origins in ancient Roman cookbooks. In France, it’s known as “pain perdu” or “lost bread,” referring to its role as a way of using bread that has gone stale.
Other French Pastries
Despite not being an ingredient in French bread itself, eggs appear in many other French pastries and breads. Perhaps the most famous are crepes, made from eggs, butter, flour, salt and sugar. Eggs are also an important ingredient in the pastry crust that forms the base for France’s famous tarts and pies. Sometimes it seems like French bread is the only French food that doesn’t contain eggs.
References and ResourcesBBC: Baguettes
Epicurious: French Bread
NPR: Recipe - Classic French Bread
The Phrase Finder: Let Them Eat Cake
The Guardian: How to Make the Perfect French Toast
BBC: Classic Crepes Suzette