Last Updated: June 16, 2020
Welcome back to another instalment of our Produce Explained series.
Just like salt and chocolate, bread has been around for a long time.
To give you an idea, the ancient Egyptians baked too. Yes, the ancient Egyptians were prolific bakers and we have the hieroglyphics to prove it.
When it comes to the wonderful world of bread, the many categories can be baffling. What is the difference between whole grain bread and whole-wheat bread? Why is sourdough so sour and so expensive?
Here, we’ll shed some light on the wonderful world of bread from the mass-produced commercial loaves to the artisanal small-batch goods. These are 10 types of bread that you should know, so carb-load away.
This bread needs no introduction. Ubiquitous throughout every household, this is probably the bag you reach for first.
White bread usually comes conveniently pre-sliced, and that’s great for sandwiches.
White bread is made from wheat flour, where the bran and germ layers have been removed during the milling process.
The bran and germ are basically the outer layers of the grain that are a little coarser.
This results in a light-coloured flour that gives white-bread that characteristic clean and pure look. With the bran and germ layers removed, this flour also has a longer shelf-life which is a boon to manufactures.
Sometimes, you’ll notice that white bread is labelled as ‘enriched’.
That’s because white bread notoriously lacks many nutrients, so many brands would add extra vitamins such as vitamin B, calcium and iron to fortify the bread.
The uses for white bread run the gamut—besides sandwiches, you can have this as morning toast with bananas or your favourite spread.
Price: From S$2
Wholemeal bread is often touted as the healthier choice and rightly so. You’ll notice that straight away that whole grain bread has a distinct brown hue and a coarser texture than your white bread.
The phrases ‘whole grain’ and ‘whole wheat’ are tossed around when it comes to this bread and are sometimes used interchangeably.
Truth be told, ‘whole grain’ and ‘ whole wheat’ are not exactly the same thing but the differences are a matter of technicalities. So, rather than split hairs and bore you with semantics, what both of these terms mean is that the grain is whole and left intact.
The bran, endosperm and germ are present in whole grain and whole wheat bread. The bran is where you find all the nutrients, so wholemeal bread is more nutritious and full of vitamin B and other minerals such as magnesium, calcium, iron, zinc and selenium. The more parts of the grain used, the healthier and more nutritious your bread.
Since whole grain bread is so much better for you, I would encourage you to replace all your white bread with whole wheat/whole grain bread if you can. Since it’s much coarser than white bread, this has a much better texture as well.
Sometimes, you might ask also see the label ‘Low G.I’ on bread. G.I refers to the glycemic index, and the higher the number, the quicker sugar is released into the bloodstream.
That sugar spike and crash you get is often due to eating high G.I food. Just to give an idea, white bread has a G.I of 71. Wholewheat/ wholegrain bread would have a much lower G.I score that ensures you stay fuller for longer and not sink into a food coma.
Price: From S$3
Rye bread might be confused with whole wheat/whole grain bread since they bear a similar toasty caramel hue. Usually sold in rotund loaves and artisanal bakeries, rye bread is a good gateway bread for you to enter the artisanal bread sphere.
Rye bread is made with varying proportions of flour from rye grain. These loaves can range from a light brown or an intense dark brown.
High in fibre with an earthy taste, this one is style with substance.
Rye bread is used for a scrumptious Reuben sandwich or even a classic liverwurst sandwich. A Reuben sandwich is a kind of sandwich with layers of salty corned beef, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut and Russian dressing.
My mouth is watering just looking at that sandwich. A sturdy and hearty loaf, rye can even be used for the classic grilled cheese.
Price: From S$8
Perhaps one of the hottest and most talked-about bread as of late, sourdough is a naturally leavened bread made with the wild yeast found in flour.
One of the oldest types of bread, sourdough is characterised by its tangy, chewy consistency. We talked about sourdough in out fermented food article and I’m sure you’ve seen countless videos online of people attempting to make their own sourdough.
Well, sourdough is somewhat of an ancient bread that requires no leavening agent from commercial yeast, as opposed to other kinds of bread. Instead, sourdough relies on the natural yeast and lactobacilli that are found in flour.
Sourdough begins with a starter, that’s made with a combination of flour and rye flour and water. The mixture is left to ferment and can be kept alive literally forever.
The more ‘mature’ the starter, the more complex and tasty your bread will be.
I like to enjoy sourdough as it is, to appreciate the artistry and effort it takes to produce a loaf like this.
Price: From S$10
Think: the quintessential French loaf. A crusty baguette brings to mind Breton stripes, berets and the Eiffel Tower.
A classic French bread, the baguette is a long, thin French loaf. Baguette means ‘wand’, ‘stick’ or ‘baton’ in French, which explains its shape.
This French bread is known for a crunchy exterior with a tender and yeasty centre.
When selecting your baguettes, the first thing you have to look for is the colour. Eric Kayser of the Maison Kayser emphasises that baguettes should have a sort of patchwork of brown and yellow which signifies good caramelisation and developed flavour from fermentation.
Furthermore, when you cut open this baby you should see lots of holes. Those with trichophobia might want to step back. The more ‘hole-y’ your baguette, the better your dough has proofed and risen.
A pretty versatile bread, this can be enjoyed on its own or used to mop up excess soup. Even better is to enjoy your French baguette with a slice of cheese—that’s a perfect afternoon snack right there.
Not exactly the French baguette and more like a sister, the bread of the Vietnamese sandwich bahn mi is similar in composition to the baguette. The baguette was introduced to Vietnam when it was part of French Indochina and quickly became a staple food.
Price: From S$5
Another French bread for all our Francophiles, brioche is a buttery, airy bread with golden hue.
Unlike most types of bread, brioche is made with a high amount of eggs and butter. This enriched bread is rich, soft and ever so moreish. You’ll be able to tell brioches by its glossy and shiny crust.
Brioche is the ultimate go-to for French toast, because of its light and tight crumb which makes it an effective ‘sponge’ to soak up that egg wash.
Remember to use day-old brioche for the best French toast. Soft, sweet but so sumptuous at the same time—it’s the best kind breakfast.
Price: From S$8
Foccacia is an Italian-style flatbread that is replete with herbs such as rosemary.
You’ll often find focaccia in the bread basket at most Italian restaurants.
Like anything out of Italy, focaccia is kept simple. Most recipes call for ingredients that are already found in your pantry such as olive oil, salt, flour and maybe a herb or two.
There are many variations to focaccia but you’ll find this bread fragrant with herbs, savoury and with a lick of salt. It would usually have a puffy appearance, owing to the yeast.
For the purist who wants to know how focaccia started and how it ‘should’ taste, the Ligurian focaccia is the one you should concern yourself with. This is focaccia is more biscuit-like and flatter than the airy focaccia loaves.
Since focaccia is so flavourful already, you can have it on its own or as a snack. This herby, salty loaf is sure to curb all afternoon munchies. Or sometimes, you can use focaccia as pizza base if you’re in a pinch.
Price: From S$6
Italian for ‘shoe-slipper’, the oblong ciabatta is a light, crusty bread that was created in response to the French baguette.
This rustic bread has a porous and chewy crumb pattern that makes it perfect for sandwiches.
Being an Italian loaf, you can expect the ingredients to be few and simple. Ciabatta is made with wheat flour, water, salt, and yeast. This simple Italian bread is known for having lots of holes, so do be on a lookout when you pick your ciabatta.
Of course, ciabatta is good on its own, dipped in good quality olive oil.
However, if you are feeling a little crafty, you can make yourself a panini. Here is a bread crumb for you: every panini is a sandwich while every sandwich is not a panini.
‘Panini’ is actually plural for ‘Panino’ which means sandwich, but if you have a panini, it has to be done using Italian bread. So, a panini can only be made with ciabatta or focaccia.
Price: From S$7
Naan is a type of leavened oven-baked flatbread that you can find parts of Western and South Asia.
There are variations of naan all around Asia but generally, naan from South Asia is cooked in a tandoor (cylindrical clay or metal oven). The tandoor gives naan that charred smoky quality that makes you reach for a second piece.
Also, if you love naan as much as I do then remember it’s just ‘naan’ and not ‘naan bread’. Just like it’s just chai and not ‘chai tea’, no making any culinary faux pas here.
Naan, like any other bread, is a great vehicle for curries, soups and dips. You can have naan just as it is, plain and perfect or with butter and/or with garlic.
Price: From S$2
When it comes to Asian-style bread, there are just too types and variations for this list to encompass. So, forgive me for not including everything I possibly can.
Asian bread is basically bread that you find in your HBD bakeries that are soft, pillowy and just a little sweeter than European-style bread.
The reason Asian bread is softer and springier is the higher amount of fat and sugar. Think the ever comforting sausage bun and kaya toast versus sourdough. Sometimes Asian-stye bread is also made with a Japanese-invented dough called tangzhong.
This is a cooked dough to give the bread a moister mouthfeel. Tangzhong is made by cooking flour in water at 65°C to a gel-like mixture, before it’s added into the bread mix.
A good example of this would be the Hokkaido milk bread that is soft, cloud-like and sweet. Or walk into your local HDB bakeries and you can have your pick there.
Price: From S$2
The world of bread is vast and ever-changing. Of course, I haven’t covered all that bread has to offer.
I hope with this list and other Produce Explained articles will help you make more informed choices the best time you are in the supermarket. Go against the grain and try our that rye bread or even that sourdough! Trust me, you’ll enjoy it!