Bread doesn’t have the best reputation lately. This is mostly because the breads that are mass-produced to fill the shelves at your local grocery store tend to swap out whole grains and other healthier ingredients in favor of extra chemicals and bleached flours. In the last few decades, low-carb and gluten-free lifestyles have become more common, whether for medical reasons or by choice; this hasn’t done any favors for what used to be one of the most popular foods in the nation.
Even though you may see more whole grain options nowadays when you peruse the bread aisle at the supermarket, they’re still loaded down with ingredients like refined sugars and vegetable oils that pretty much negate any health benefits they may have had.
If you’re looking for good-quality bread that has been made with only the simplest and healthiest ingredients, visit the in-store bakery at the grocery store or one of your local independent bakeries where they make fresh breads with real, fresh, wholesome ingredients. Not only are these breads better for you, but there is just something about freshly baked bread that tastes so much better than the highly processed breads that everyone is used to.
You may be wondering where to start. While the sheer variety of some bakeries can indeed seem a little daunting, each and while just about every bread there is great for an ordinary sandwich, they’re made to use in different culinary ways. We’ve tracked down and made a list of eight of some of the best and most interesting kinds of baked breads that you can find at your local bakery to help you figure out which type you may find the tastiest and most useful in your daily life.
Olive bread is a crusty Mediterranean bread made from wholemeal flour and olives. It’s a great bread for anyone who likes olives, as the flavor really shines through in the finished loaf. Health-wise, wholemeal flour is better for you; this, along with the olives studded in the bread, help you feel as though you’ve really eaten something and keeps you full for hours. Olive bread is a great choice for just about any kind of savory sandwich or open-faced sandwich option you can think of, especially if you’re serving it with brie.
To make potato bread, the traditional wheat flour that you use to make bread is replaced with potato flour. This is not a gluten-free bread, but if you’re not on any dietary restrictions and you’re looking to get away from traditional wheat breads, then this thick, yet light and airy bread with just the lightest potato flavor is an interesting choice. Potato bread can provide you with up to seventeen percent of your daily phosphorus intake needs, as well as working with B-complex vitamins to help you better metabolize food. Potato bread is great when toasted with butter and/or cheese and used as soaking bread for foods like soup and runny eggs.
Brioche is an enriched French bread that can also be classified as a pastry because of its high butter and egg content. This is a more rich bread that is light and slightly puffy in texture and appearance; its rich, buttery, and slightly sweet taste make it perfect for just about anything from peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to burgers, French Toast, and so many other options. Admittedly, this bread is high in carbs and fat – so you will want to eat this one only every so often.
Focaccia is a flat Italian bread that is made from a dough that is actually quite similar to pizza dough. It is best known for its pockmarked appearance, which is caused by indentations made in the dough to prevent large bubbles from forming during baking. Focaccia is warm and yeasty; it is best eaten as a side with a savory meal or as a sandwich bread. It is traditionally used as a dipping bread; a warm foccacia loaf and a plate of olive oil can be a truly delightful snack. Focaccia is another bread that helps you feel fuller longer and really helps to energize you because of its complex carbs, not to mention the potential amount of vitamins and minerals it can provide.
Ciabatta is a soft, chewy white bread made with wheat flour, water, salt, yeast, and olive oil. It is still relatively new in relation to its counterparts, having been created by an Italian baker in 1982 in response to the popular French baguette. Unlike other more traditional breads, ciabatta is more elongated, wide, and flat. Its characteristic shape is what gives ciabatta is name: the word translates to “slipper” in Italian. Because of its texture and the holes honeycombing throughout the loaf, ciabatta is best for dunking into soup, wiping up sauce from your plate, and makes for a delicious sandwich bread as well.
Rye bread is a relatively dense bread made from a variety of flour proportions from rye grain. Depending on the particular flour used, rye bread can come out darker or lighter in color. A good loaf of rye bread is thick in texture and tastes earthy with a slightly sour note that isn’t quite as intense as sourdough bread. Although there are many ways to eat rye bread, some of the most popular options are to top it with cream cheese and smoked salmon, with butter and jam, and with avocado. The iconic Reuben sandwich is made using rye bread as well. Health-wise, rye bread can help with weight loss, controlling blood sugar, increasing your fiber intake, and can even improve digestive and heart health.
A variation of rye bread, pumpernickel is heavy and slightly sweet. It is made with a sourdough starter and coarse ground rye or flour made from rye and whole rye grains. This dark German bread actually has a bit of humor to its name, as the word pumpern means “to break wind,” and Nickel is a take on the name Nicholas, which in German lore is most often associated with devils and goblins; so essentially, pumpernickel means “Devil’s Fart.” In spite of this, pumpernickel is quite delicious and goes good with butter, honey, fruit jams, sliced lunch meats, and horseradish among many other choices. Pumpernickel is good for you, oddly enough, because of the acid and soluble fibers of the rye keep the glycemic load of the bread down; it doesn’t have nearly as many carbs as other breads.
Sourdough bread is made by fermenting dough with the use of naturally occurring yeast and lactobacilli, which gives the bread its unique sour flavor because of its lactic acid content. Although the oldest loaf of sourdough known to exist was excavated in Switzerland and was dated sometime around 3700 BCE, it’s most likely that this type of bread was produced in the Fertile Crescent several thousand year prior. Sourdough bread is great for sandwiches, but it’s also great as a bread bowl for soups, torn up and used in stuffing, in bread pudding, and as bread crumbs. Sourdough bread is better for you than more conventional breads because of its lower phytate levels, which make it easier to digest as well as being more nutritious. It’s also a bread that is less likely to raise your blood sugar.
Although there are many other interesting and delicious bread in local bakeries everywhere, we feel that this list of eight is a good, comprehensive starting point when it comes to your bread exploration. Expand your horizons and give some of these breads a try!