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Across the globe, breads of all shapes and sizes are a staple part of cultural cuisine. Traceable back to pre-historic times, bread is one of the oldest forms of fare, and to this day is one of the most comforting. We take a culinary journey round the world to discover some of the best breads the planet has to offer.
A dense and doughy, ring-shaped snack that is said to originate from 16th Century Poland. Boiled and then baked, these wheat-based bread products were often given as a gift to women in childbirth. Since the middle of the 19th Century, they’ve been sold in the Brick Lane area of London, and they were brought to the US by Polish-Jewish migrants. Traditionally served with cream cheese and lox, or salt beef and mustard, a shipment was even taken into space on the 2008 shuttle!
A rich and buttery Viennoiserie, this Gallic delicacy is light and pillowy, with a fine, shiny crust. Often embellished with fruit or chocolate chips, this flexible foodstuff is great at breakfast or as dessert, but can also be served toasted to accompany foie gras or soup. Hailing from Norman origins, a region famous for the quality of its butter, its name derives from the French verb broyer, which means to break or grind.
This soda bread was originally made by colonial settlers during their exploration of the Australian outback due to its simplicity and ease of preparation. Baked among the campfire coals, it was often eaten with dried meat or golden syrup, and is traditionally enjoyed with a hot mug of ‘Billy’ tea. Nowadays it’s available in bakeries throughout Australia, distinguished by its slow-baked hard shell.
Originating in Northern Italy, this broad loaf is named after the Italian word for ‘slipper’ although natives to the region call it pane Francese or ‘French bread’, possibly due to French influences on cuisine in the area. The bread has a holey texture and is delicately flavoured with olive oil, perfect for the basis of a panino or brushed with garlic and olive oil to make bruschetta.
Another Italian candidate, this flat, oven-baked bread is seasoned with rosemary, sage or basil and can be topped with cheese, tomatoes, olives, or pine nuts before baking. The dough is dotted with wells prior to cooking to preserve moisture, giving the loaf its dented crust. Traditionally baked in a stone-bottomed oven, this rustic bread dates back to ancient Rome where it was typically baked in the hearth ashes.
For a taste of South Asia, this teardrop-shaped flatbread is leavened with yeast and cooked in a traditional tandoor. Served hot and brushed with ghee, it is often used to accompany curries or stews, but can also be stuffed with mincemeat or nuts and raisins. Often flavoured with fennel or black onion seeds, the bubbled texture derives from the heat of the clay oven base.
This oval-shaped flatbread is widely consumed in the Middle East and Mediterranean and can be traced back to the 3rd Century BC. Commonly used to wrap gyros or souvlaki (Greek kebabs) and falafel, or used to dip into hummous, the bread cools and flattens during baking, forming an interior ‘pocket’ created by steam.
Mainly associated with the Westphalia region of Germany, this dense rye bread was once a typical peasant food, but nowadays is found in upmarket delis. Often paired with smoked salmon or caviar in canapé cuisine, its dark brown colour comes from the coarsely-ground rye and slow baking process that can take up to 24 hours.
Native to both Scotland and South West England, this leavened ‘quick bread’ is eaten much like a cake as the main component of a Devonshire cream tea. Pronunciation is much debated, but regionally they have many curious names, such as ‘fat rascals’ or ‘singing hinnies’. These round, oven-baked tea-time favourites often contain raisins or cheese.
This iconic French loaf is well-known for its thin shape and crisp crust. Dating back to the days of Louis XIV, this rustic foodstuff forms a staple part of traditional French mealtimes. Due to French law, bread is required to avoid preservatives, so loaves tend to go stale in under 24 hours, which makes fresh bread a daily essential.
These bread suggestion are provided by Show and Stay, the UK theatre break providers.