The world is enjoying what seems to be a bread renaissance. Bakeries are stocked with a buffet of options. Feeling adventurous? Reach for a ‘slice’ from another culture: the pita breads of the Middle East, or the naan of India and Pakistan. On a diet? Get a high-fiber multigrain loaf. Planning a dinner party? Prepare dainty appetizers on dainty crostinis, or make a quick but impressive dessert with phyllo pastry.
There are too many kinds of breads to write about in just one article, but this can give you an idea of what’s available—and what you can serve on your table, in an adorable wicker bread basket no less!
Most people are familiar with white bread, which is traditionally made from wheat flour. But creative breadmakers have put their own twist to this classic bread. They incorporate special ingredients, herbs and seeds. Some delicious examples: that a savory blend of jalapeno and melt-in-your mouth Gouda cheese, or a sweet chocolate-and-walnut loaf that’s perfect with a cup of coffee.
However, if you’re trying to watch your carbs, nutritionists recommend wholewheat bread, or mixed grains (usually made from a combination of white flour, rye, etc.) The use of different grains add texture and deepen the flavor. Some, like kibbled wheat and cracked wheat bread, uses wheat grains.
Some breads are made from rye, not wheat. One example is the Pumpernickel, which uses both rye flour and kibbled or cracked rye grains. It tends to be more filling than white bread, and the flavor is quite intense.
Other breads use wheat flour, but add other ingredients to the usual flour, water and yeast. For example, sourdough often uses yoghurt, and the acidic content gives it a characteristic tartness or ‘bite.’
Each culture has its own kind of bread. The Australian bush people have something called a ‘damper.’ The Jewish people developed a bagel, which is shaped like a ring and is dipped in very hot water before it is baked, imparting a characteristic chewiness. Modern chefs also add extra flavor to bagels: adding poppy or sesame seeds, or a sweet mix of cinnamon and raisin.
Pita breads, a Middle Eastern invention, is shaped like a pocket, which can be filled with meat and other savory fillings. The traditional Indian ‘naan’ is prepared in a Tandoor clay oven, which helps give this crispy bread a unique flavor. Chapatti bread, also of Indian origin, is cooked in an iron pan: it’s thin, round shape makes it an ‘edible plate’ that can be used to hold or scoop food.
The Chinese, on the other hand, steam their breads, which are shaped into small balls. These can be eaten plain, though many make versions with savory or sweet fillings. (The Japanese version, called manju, often have bite-sized fillings of curry.)
Of course, there are the famous French breads (like the croissant) and little-known ethnic varieties like the Filipino-Spanish pandesal (small, light and bite-sized rolls). There’s a big wide world of bread to explore—and this article only names a few you can try. What’s your favorite bread, and how do you like to enjoy it? (We like eating it with different kinds of cheese.)
Photo from paleoglot.blogspot.com