In the last Cooking Tip, I discussed lean and enriched doughs, how to recognize them and what type of product they produce. It is just amazing that the same simple ingredients – flour, water, salt, sometimes yeast – can be used to produce such very different breads. As we learned in last week’s Tip, adding enriching ingredients such as eggs, butter and dairy will produce a much different type of bread. Other add-ins or flavorings may be added. Techniques used also can produce different results. In this Tip, I will go over just some of the myriad types of bread that can be found around the world. This list is far from comprehensive. For example, I have only listed five kinds of Italian bread whereas there are at least 350 different types. You will recognize many of the following but will also probably find some that are new to you.
This is an Italian yeasted Easter bread that was supposedly made after Easter to use up leftovers. It is stuffed with meat, cheese and even hard-boiled eggs before baking. It is baked in a round shape with a hole in the middle.
The word “ciabatta” means “slipper”, a reference to its oval shape. It is an Italian yeasted bread made with a lean dough. It has a chewy crust and soft interior due to a high water content. It is characterized by numerous air pockets in the interior and is excellent for sandwiches and paninis.
This Italian bread is baked in a sheet pan to produce a flat loaf with a texture similar to pizza dough. It is made of flour, yeast, salt, water and olive oil. Before baking, it is usually dimpled and coated in olive oil, creating a crunchy, thin crust. Many bakers will add herbs, garlic and/or flaky salt. Others will top this bread with veggies or meat.
This is an Italian breadstick that is crisp and dry.
This translates to “Tuscan Bread” and is a regional specialty of the Tuscany area. Another name is “pane sciocco” and is translated “tasteless bread”. That name is due to the absence of salt in the dough. It is thought to have begun in the Middle Ages and was a way for the people to protest high taxes on salt. Since the absence of salt does make it bland, it is not normally eaten on its own. Rather, it is typically served with cured meats and/or strong cheeses.
This is a yeasted bread that makes one automatically think of France. It is typically long and oval in shape with slits in the top that allow for gas expansion while the bread is baking. As its only ingredients are flour, water, yeast and salt, it would be considered a lean dough.
This is another French bread but one made with an enriched dough containing abundant butter and eggs. The crust is soft and the texture light. The flavor is rich and slightly sweet. It is delicious to eat on its own but also makes a spectacular French Toast or bread pudding.
This delicacy is not only yeasted but is laminated, a process that involves rolling and folding the dough numerous times with plenty of resting times as you go along. It is this process along with the butter that creates the flaky, crispy layers that we all love.
This is France’s version of focaccia. Traditionally shaped to look like a leaf, it is spongy and light and often garnished with fresh herbs. Other typical ingredients include sundried tomatoes and cheese.
Pain de mie
Another yeasted bread, it has a very thin crust and a thick interior. These characteristics are achieved by baking in square or rectangular covered pans. The lid prevents the bread from fully rising, giving it a fine, compact crumb. It looks like your typical American sliced white sandwich bread and is ideal for the classic Croque Monsieur sandwich.
A type of unleavened Indian flatbread that is usually grilled rather than baked. It is typically eaten with meals but can be used to scoop for eating.
A very popular Indian flatbread that uses yogurt in the dough, which adds softness, chewiness and acidity. It is traditionally cooked in a tandoor oven but there are methods to make great Naan in your home kitchen.
Another unleavened Indian flatbread that is very flaky due to layers formed during the shaping process.
A deep-fried unleavened Indian flatbread that has simple ingredients of flour, water and maybe cumin seeds. The dough is rolled into flat round disks and then deep-fried. It is during this frying process that the puri puffs up like a pillow.
An unleavened flatbread that is popular in India as well as the Caribbean. There are different versions with different ingredients and are usually cooked on a griddle.
Breads from other regions
Coming from Latin America, arepa bread is made from cornmeal. It is flat and round and may be baked, grilled or fried. It may be plain or made with fillings.
A Jamaican flatbread made from cassava root, soaked in coconut milk and then fried, steamed or baked.
An unyeasted quick bread popular in the UK and traditionally made from a single type of grain such as barley, oats, wheat or rye along with water, buttermilk and baking soda. It is typically baked on a griddle.
This is an Irish yeasted bread that adds sultanas and raisins into the dough. It is said to be part of the Halloween tradition in Ireland. Various small objects may be baked into the dough and then used to tell the person’s fortune.
This Jewish yeasted bread’s typical shape is a long braid. It is yellow in color due to the addition of eggs and/or egg yolks. Other ingredient’s include sugar or honey but no milk or butter.
From Ethiopia comes this bread made from teff. It is a type of sourdough and is used to scoop up meats and stews. It has a spongy texture and slightly sour flavor.
This is a Swedish crisp bread that is more of a cracker than a bread, it is made mostly from rye flour. A variety of seeds (sesame, sunflower, pumpkin, flax) are often used to make different versions.
Claimed by food experts to be Armenian in origin, this is a large, oval-shaped flatbread made only from flour, salt and water. It is leavened with a sourdough starter. It is traditionally cooked by placing it against the inside of a clay oven known as a tonir. It is a staple of Armenian, Iranian and Turkish cuisine. Here’s a great video showing how it is made in Armenia.
This is a Jewish unleavened bread with the texture of a cracker that is traditionally consumed during Passover.
From the Middle East, pita bread is cooked at very high temperatures, creating an air bubble in the center. This makes a pocket into which you can stuff other ingredients.
It is a traditional Irish treat. This is a quick bread made with flour, buttermilk and baking soda. It may or may not also contain oil, butter, eggs and/or sugar. When made with whole wheat flour, it is known as Brown Soda Bread or Wheaten Bread. Typically, it is sprinkled on top with rolled oats.
This is an Iranian leavened bread that is made from whole wheat flour, milk, eggs and yogurt and often flavored with saffron or cardamom. It is normally baked on the walls of a tandoori oven.
This is a sweet bread from the Czech Republic that is prepared during the Christmas season. It is braided with a texture similar to brioche. It is usually flavored with rum and lemon zest and topped with sugar, almonds & dried fruit.
This is a very thin, round unleavened bread that originated in Turkey and made from flour, water, salt and olive oil. It is rolled out to a paper-thin thickness. Some feel this was a precursor to phyllo dough and is often used in making Turkish pastries. However, it may also be found filled with sandwich items.
A traditional Swiss bread that is braided and has a rich, buttery flavor. It is made of flour, butter, yeast, milk and eggs. Both in appearance and texture, it is similar to the Jewish bread, challah.
I don’t know about you but just reading and writing about all these breads makes me want to get into the kitchen and try something new. If you do that, let me know.