Here’s Why Science Says a Crackly Crust Is Essential to the Identity of a French Baguette

published May 19, 2017
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There’s nothing like getting a baguette straight out of the oven from your local bakery. It’s perfect to eat by itself or as the bookends to a wonderful sandwich. Why is it just so delicious? It turns out the secret may be in the crust. According to research published in the American Chemical Society’s Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, the crackly crust is non-negotiable, as it gives the bread its aroma and, in turn, its perceived flavor.

The Preliminary Findings of the Baguette Study

Part of what makes freshly baked bread so appetizing is the aroma. It adds to the experience of biting into a loaf of warm bread and teases the taste that can be expected, which is why Anne Saint-Eve and colleagues tested how texture played into aroma and perceived taste in a small-scale study.

The study had three participants eat samples of nine baguettes. Each of the baguettes varied based on crumb and crust densities, water content, and elasticity. The researchers analyzed the volatile organic compounds exhaled and their chewing activity. Their findings: Firm bread and brittle crusts resulted in more chewing and a greater rate of release of aroma molecules.

Why Aroma Is So Important When We Eat

Aroma plays a pivotal role in food satisfaction. Not only does it cause mouths to water before you ingest foods, but while you’re chewing foods, molecules in your mouth interact with your olfactory receptors — these detect odors and are responsible for your sense of smell. How molecules from food interact with your olfactory receptors while you eat influences how you perceive taste.

So, in the case of the French baguette, the crispy exterior of the bread results in more aroma molecules being released and heightened satisfaction with taste for the diner. These findings are significant, albeit preliminary, as they can assist food scientists in creating a new type of bread that meet the needs and expectations of consumers.

Fingers crossed that further research can help food scientists create bread that tastes even better than what it’s like now.