You can’t go to France and not enjoy a French baguette. In this article, we’ll study all the French vocabulary related to bread, the different French bread types and other useful info for when you go to “la boulangerie”
There are many French bread specialities in France, with different flours, ingredients and shapes. let’s start with the baguettes and then list other types of French bread and then bread specialties such as croissants etc…
1 – What is a baguette
A baguette is a typical French bread loaf. It’s usually a bit long and thin, although different shapes are possible. Here is more about the French baguette.
2 – Baguette Type French Breads
- Une baguette – typical French bread loaf
- Un pain – bigger than the baguette
- Une ficelle – like a baguette but smaller and/or thinner. It’s also called “une flûte”
- Un bâtard – bigger than the baguette, but smaller than le pain (yes, the name means “bastard”… because it’s a mix between une baguette and un pain!). It’s also sometimes called “une flûte”… so it’s confusing…
- Une demi-baguette – you can ask only for half a baguette
- Une baguette sarmentine – French loaf with 4 ends (quatre croûtons – see picture above)
- Une baguette viennoise – Sweet baguette with chocolate or nuts. Much smaller and definitely sweet
3 – Bread in France
It’s very common to ask for only half of a baguette: une demi baguette s’il vous plaît. However it usually only apply to the regular baguette or le pain (not to other bread specialties, although it really depends on each bakery’s habits and also the size of the bread)
You may also ask the baker to slice your bigger loaf of bread: “pouvez-vous trancher ce pain s’il vous plaît” ? They have a machine for it, so it’s no problem at all. If they refuse it means the bread doesn’t fit in their machine.
For more info about la baguette, check out Wikipedia. You may also enjoy my article about the French baguette where I’ll explain why you should not order just “une baguette” in France! Here is a short and fun video of Oliver Gee from the Earful Tower with me at a boulangerie drive in Paimpol
4 – French Bread Names
There are more to French breads than la baguette! Here are the various names of French breads.
- Un pain rond – a round loaf of French bread
- Un pain complet – whole wheat French bread
- Un pain de seigle – rye bread (typically served with oysters)
- Un pain aux graines – French bread loaf with whole pieces of seeds
- Un pain aux lardons, aux olives – French bread loaf with bacon, olives…
- Un épis – French loaf of bread you can tear-up and then you get individual loaves
- Le pain de mie – typical sandwich bread – you can buy some at the bakery but there will be a larger selection at the supermarket
- There are many, many more fresh French breads named according to the shape, ingredients, type of flour, way it was prepared…
5 – Important French Bread Vocabulary
- La mie – the white part of the bread
- La croûte – the crust, the crunchy part
- Le croûton – favorite baguette part for many French people: the very end, with all the crust!
6 – What is “Une Biscotte” in French?
“Une biscotte” is a dry sort of bread which almost any French home has, in case you run out of fresh French bread! “Les biscottes” are also a common French breakfast food. You buy them at the supermarket in France.
7 – Name of Sweet French Bread Specialities 🥐
On top of the typical savoury French breads, there are many sweet French bread specialities called “les viennoiseries”
- Une viennoiserie – sweet French bread specialities such as croissants etc…
- Un croissant – croissant
- Un pain au chocolat – chocolate croissant
- Un pain au raisin – round pastry with cream and raisins
- Une brioche – sweet and fluffy sweet bread
- Un chausson – filled with apples or chocolate…
- Un pain au lait – close to the brioche but yet different
- There are many more… un palmier, un beignet, un sacristain… and many local specialities as well!
8 – French Expressions With Bread
We use many French idioms with bread
1. avoir du pain sur la planche – to have a lot to accomplish
2. mettre la main à la pâte – to start to work, to help, to take part in some tasks/job
3. être dans le pétrin – to be in a difficult situation
4. ne pas pouvoir être au four et au moulin –not be able to be in two places at the same time
5. se vendre / partir comme des petits pains – to sell very quickly, to sell like hot cakes
9 – What is the Difference Between Une Boulangerie and Une Pâtisserie
A lot of French boutiques combine both specialties: une boulangerie-pâtisserie. But it’s not always the case.
- Une boulangerie serves bread specialties: des baguettes, all sorts of bread, including the sweet kind, les viennoiseries.
- Une pâtisserie serves pastries.
10 – How to Eat Bread Politely in France?
Bread is essential to the French, who eat a lot of it, with each meal, each course – except desert when bread is put away. It is served in slices in a basket.
Help yourself, then put the bread directly on the tablecloth, close to your plate – not on your plate. If you are in a formal place, bread plates might be used.
Passing Bread at the table in France
When someone asks if “est-ce que je peux avoir un peu de pain” (may I have a bit of bread?), you should pass the whole basket, not just a piece of bread.
How to eat bread politely in France
- Tear your bread into a small bite-size piece before eating it. If you are eating cheese or pâté, including “foie gras”, cut a
piece with your knife, then put it on the bite size of bread you have torn, and then put the bread in your mouth.
- Do not spread cheese or paté on a big piece of bread; it’s impolite to take a bite from a whole piece of bread, unless it’s breakfast and you are eating “une tartine” (kind of a toast, but it could be not toasted baguette for example).
- Never place the bread face down on the table an old superstition, symbol of death, the baker kept the one loaf of bread for the village executioner in that position.
- You should use your silverware if you need to push some food around in your plate, not a piece of bread.
- Finally, you are not supposed to finish up the sauce with your bread, although… I do it all the time!! Sauce on bread is so good, why should it be impolite? Well, if you are like me, then do it by securing a small bite-size piece of bread on your fork, then gather up the sauce this way. But you may get dirty looks…
Voilà – you know all about French bread and will know what to order on your next trip to France.
I now invite you to read Emilie’s short French story about baking bread in France.