When Making French Onion Soup, Choose Your Bread Wisely

Lots of folks swoon for the copious amount of gooey cheese, the rich beef broth, and the melted, caramelized onions, but when it comes to French onion soup, where's the love for the bread? This classic comfort warms the soul, but let's face it: It would be a mess without the crouton raft that gives the whole affair structure. As such, it is absolutely critical to pick the right bread when making French onion soup; not just any old loaf will do.

Traditionally, the baguette has been the go-to choice, and for good reason. Its slender profile allows for one or two thick slices to be floated easily over a crock of broth and onions. It also toasts nicely, providing a delightful crunch that contrasts the strands of onions and gooey cheese. Further, baguette's light crumb is ideal for absorbing the flavorful broth without becoming soggy, and its sturdy crust allows it to maintain structural integrity without dissolving into mush.

However, the beauty of French onion soup lies in its adaptability. Any bread that possesses the right combination of sturdiness and absorbency can take the reins. The key is to find a bread that won't disintegrate in the soup but can withstand toasting for that crucial textural contrast.

Sturdy bread for a stout soup

Thankfully, there's a spectrum of possibilities when it comes to picking bread for French onion soup. After weeding out breads that are just too ephemeral, like brioche, white, and Japanese milk bread, there are scads of loaves that feature the right combination of crumb consistency and crust composition to ably sit atop a murky bowl of onion broth. Consider ciabatta, with its rustic appearance and airy crumb. This Italian bread's porous structure soaks up the broth, enhancing the overall flavor experience. The crust, when toasted, adds a satisfying crispness, creating a delightful interplay of textures. You can even up the Italian influence by slipping some provolone into the cheese blend.

Sourdough, with its tangy flavor profile, introduces a new dimension to classic French onion soup. The robust crust of a hearty sourdough holds up well against the broth, maintaining its integrity while offering a delightful chewiness. The slight acidity from the sourdough complements the sweetness of the caramelized onions.

For those seeking a more rustic option, a country boule, with its dense crumb and substantial crust, is an excellent choice. This bread stands up well to the robust flavors of the soup, providing a satisfying chew and ensuring a substantial bite in every spoonful. While the baguette remains a classic choice for French onion soup, don't feel hedged in by it. Experimenting with different bread varieties allows for a personalized touch, adding layers of flavor and texture to elevate this comforting soup.