Bread is beloved by cultures across the globe. That said, depending on where you are, “bread” can mean wildly different things. To some, it’s a pillowy loaf, meant to be sliced up and toasted; to others, it’s a flat vessel for meat and vegetables or a dense roll made for dipping in a hearty stew. The possibilities are endless, not to mention endlessly delicious. These six styles of international bread are just the tip of the iceberg.
Crumpet: United Kingdom
Crumpets, also known as “pikelets,” are a staple of afternoon tea. Unlike other breads, they aren’t the result of baking dough; instead, they begin as an unsweetened mixture of flour, yeast, and liquid – either water or milk. The batter is cooked in shallow rings on a griddle, producing crumpets’ characteristic flat top and spongy texture. Their porous surface allows them to soak up butter, jam, or whatever else you choose to spread on top. At breakfast, teatime, or as a snack, you can’t go wrong with a crumpet.
While synonymous with Indian cuisine, these flatbreads are equally prolific in Western Asia, Indonesia, and the Caribbean. Naan is traditionally baked in a tandoor – a cylindrical clay oven. Raw dough is stuck to its sides, then left to cook until tender. You can eat naan plain, or augment it with additional flavours; butter, herbs, and garlic are popular choices. Flavoured or otherwise, the flatbread is best used to mop up masala sauce or clean the last dregs of curry from your bowl.
If any bread deserves to be called “iconic,” it’s the French baguette. These loaves are characterized by their length—spanning up to a meter long, in some cases—and crunchy exterior. According to French food law, baguette dough cannot consist of more than four ingredients: water, flour, yeast, and salt. With oil and fat absent from the mix, baguettes come out light and crispy, making them ideal for dunking in soup or slapping on the panini press.
Originating from Eritrea and adored in Ethiopia, this sweet bread is typically reserved for special occasions. Himbasha, or ambasha, is often flavoured with ground cardamom. Some recipes call for further additions; these can be sweet ingredients, such as candied orange and raisins, or savoury additives, like black sesame and fenugreek seeds. Before baking, the dough is stamped with a decorative wheel pattern. The finished product is then sliced and served, putting smiles on the faces of all who taste it.
Focaccia is sometimes referred to as “pizza bianca.” That’s because this oven-baked bread resembles pizza in both taste and texture. Moreover, like the widespread comfort food, focaccia can be prepared in a number of ways. Focaccia genovese, for instance, is sprinkled with olive oil and coarse salt, and pairs beautifully with balsamic vinegar. Then there’s focaccia al rosmarino, which calls for a garnish of rosemary, or focaccia col formaggio, distinguished by a layer of stracchino cheese. With focaccia, there’s no shortage of options, and not one bad one among them.
Tijgerbrood—“tiger bread” in English—derives its name from its mottled crust. This is achieved by brushing rice paste onto the bread, which dries and cracks during baking, ultimately imparting a unique flavour and texture. Tijgerbrood usually takes the form of white loaves or dinner rolls, but the technique works just as well with other shapes of bread. If you’re craving bread with a hard crust and pillowy crumb, tijgerbrood is right up your alley.
Featured Image: Quin Engle