French bread is bread made from white wheat flour that has a strong and chewy crust. The interior is full of bubbles, often due to the use of sourdough starters to prepare the bread, though not all French bread is sourdough. Usually, the loaf is shaped into a torpedo, batard, or baguette style. In France, the baguette form is standard, and bakers may prepare this type several times a day so people have access to fresh bread for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or a late-night snack.
There are now many bakers throughout the world who prepare some variant of French bread. Getting the crust to be crisp and chewy is generally the hardest part. This is especially the case if the bread must be wrapped in plastic, where it will quickly become soft instead of hard and chewy. In the US, shoppers are most likely to find it in the form of sourdough bread made by bakers in San Francisco and the surrounding areas. The bread should be bougt fresh, and it’s normally bagged in paper bags to retain that outer chewy texture that is so desirable. Though many associate the bread with San Francisco, the French style is not usually made with a sourdough starter in France.
This variety of bread doesn’t store well, and it will be hard within a day of purchase if it isn't wrapped in plastic. Some softness can be restored to the bread by heating it, so it is okay to buy it a day ahead if it will be warmed up. Some people may find even re-heated bread a little challenging to eat, and may be an acquired taste. Those who want to get that special crispy crust on French bread that has been packed in plastic will often also find that heating it up can help make it crispier. It won’t quite have the thick brown crust that diners are accustomed to in a more authentic version, but it can make for a good substitute.
As far as ingredients are concerned, French bread is very simple: it should contain only flour, yeast, water, and salt. Shoppers who see that the ingredient list contains things like vegetable oil or emulsifiers will generally be eating inferior bread. The simplicity of the ingredients makes this bread a good accompaniment to virtually any dish. Some Europeans enjoy their bread with slices of chocolate on it, or it can be dipped in sauces, spread with butter or mayonnaise, used for sandwiches, or just eaten plain and hot.