Types of French Bread: 15 Varieties – Grow Your Pantry

Types of French Bread: 15 Varieties

by Susan Grey on July 07, 2019
types_of_french_bread_illustration

 

The history of France is littered with bread, literally. From the middle ages to the renaissance period and today. The primary reason for this is due to the cultural significance that bread holds to the French people. In fact, during the French revolution, it was estimated that on average, a Frenchman would consume three pounds of bread per day.
Therefore it is no surprise that there are more than 20 varieties of French bread. Over the years small local bakeries popularized these varieties of loaves. However, the one thing that remains constant is the number of ingredients: 4. In fact, it's mandated that for any bread to be termed as ‘French’ bread, it must only consist of flour, water, salt, and yeast. The difference in the loaves arises in the manipulation of rising times, baking, and kneading techniques.
To keep up with changing demands, other ingredients such as rye flour and ascorbic acid have been permitted. However, the traditional French bread still remains a specialty in many independent bakeries and family recipes. The result of all this? A beautiful crust with crispy golden-brown hue and a chewy interior that always ignites a smile knowing you are partaking in a meal that has been perfected over hundreds of years. 

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1. La Baguette

La_Baguette
Recipe: (link)
How to Enjoy: (link)
Taste and Texture: Crispy with a fluffy crumb.
Best Served: Some of the best tasting baguette meals include zucchini tomato strata also known as a savory bread pudding, Lao-style chicken baguette sandwiches with watercress, and buttery crab bread pudding.
Additional Information:
The baguette is probably the most iconic French bread. What sets it aside from other loaves is its size, measuring around 2 inches in width and up to 1.5 inches high but with an extraordinary length of 25 inches. This bread is simply hard to miss, and that’s not all; even though the regulations stipulate that the bread is to be prepared with wheat flour, water, yeast or leaven and cooking salt just like any other bread, it has a distinctive crispy taste.
Baguettes have a deep golden crunchy crust with a white and fluffy crumb interior riddled with numerous holes. However, with time, the crust will become chewy and its, therefore, recommended to consume this loaf within a few days of baking.
Image from @ugurun_bocugu Instagram

2. Ficelle

Ficelle
Recipe: (link)
How to Enjoy: (link) 
Taste and Texture: Spongy interior with a slight saltiness.
Best Served: In French cuisine ficelles are mostly served at formal meals, however, they still make for a perfect breakfast bread. Simply break a piece of the bread and spread a dollop of butter on it. Its closeness to a baguette in terms of flavor and ingredients also makes it a perfect substitute in any baguette related meals.
Additional Information:
Ficelle is a slimmer version of the classic French baguette. This loaf has an elegant slender shape; in fact, its name refers to a string which sort of explains the reference to one. 
Ficelle features a tasty and crunchy crust with a somewhat chewy interior. The outer crust has a golden-brown hue while the interior is mostly creamy brown.
Baking a ficelle can be quite daunting for first-timers, especially if you are considering going the sourdough way. Some form of scoring and shaping experience is required in the preparation of the dough if you want to pull off an aesthetically pleasing ficelle. Most artisan bakers will use both sourdough preferment and yeast in the preparation of the dough.
Image from @carmensoon Instagram

3. Brioche

Brioche
Recipe: (link)
How to Enjoy: (link)
Taste and Texture: Sweet and fluffy.
Best Served: Just like other French bread varieties, there’s no shortage of dishes that go down well with a brioche. From crunchy bacon to juicy sliced tomatoes. This buttery bread can be eaten with breakfast or made into a sandwich for lunch. If you have leftover brioche simply make French toast with it.
Additional Information:
While most French bread varieties are known to be strict sticklers to the four ingredients recipe, the brioche is a welcome departure from this tradition. This classic French yeasted bread has a high butter and egg content, giving it a soft and fluffy texture. This also extends to the flavor whereby the combination of flour and these two ingredients create magical savory sweetness that will have you coming back for more.
Brioche bread is rather easy to identify thanks to the pale-yellow crumb with a shiny crust that’s thin but with a golden-brown hue. Majority of the loaves are rectangular shaped, but some artisan bakers usually take it a step further by shaping round boule with a muffin-like ball on top.
Image from @sharon.balamos Instagram

4. Fougasse

Fougasse
Recipe: (link)
How to Enjoy: (link)
Taste and Texture: Salty and herby flavor with a supple texture.
Best Served: Fougasse is best eaten while still warm from the oven and it can be used to make a French version of a calzone. This is achieved by using cheese and small squarish bacon strips folded over the bread. Other tasty variations include Roquefort and nuts, dried fruit, and olives.
Additional Information: 
Fougasse has its origins in the southeastern region of France, also known as Provence. This flatbread has a salty and herby flavor credited to the numerous ingredients used.  Some fougasse varieties have slashed patterns or are sculpted to resemble an ear of wheat. 
Fougasse is in fact regarded to be an ancient form of the modern pizza, without the tomatoes that is. Some of the herbs and vegetables used in its preparation include thyme, sage, sundried tomatoes, anchovies, olives, and fresh rosemary.
Image from @matthewjamesduffy Instagram

5. Pain de Campagne

Pain_de_Campagne
Recipe: (link)
How to Enjoy: (link)
Taste and Texture: Sour flavor with a dense crumb.
Best Served: Like any other wholemeal bread, Pain de Campagne can be consumed with just about any meal, from preparing sandwiches to toast and even making bread crumbs. However, the sour like flavor goes down best with meat such as ham.
Additional Information:
Pain de Campagne also known as the French sourdough, is a large loaf often round in shape. The dense nature of this bread can be attributed to the combination of whole wheat flour and white flour that is used to make the loaf. While most recipes rely on baker’s yeast, natural leavening can also be used. Due to its rather large size, most loaves are scored to allow the crust to expand evenly without cracking. This also allows it to develop a rich flavor and a brownish hue.
In the French countryside, the bread is also referred to as Pain Paysan, which loosely translates to farmer’s bread. This is because, for years, when communal bakeries were a thing, this was the most common bread. 
Image from @knowahdee Instagram

6. Pain a l'Ail

Pain a l'Ail

Recipe: (link)
How to Enjoy: (link)
Taste and Texture: Garlic flavor with a soft spongy crumb.
Best Served: There are many unique ways to eat this bread. Putting cheese on it or adding some herbs will instantly transform its already rich flavor. Also, don’t limit yourself to just one bread variety; essentially, most bread recipes can become garlic bread by just adding garlic in the preparation process. Then go ahead and experiment with various meal combos such as spaghetti Bolognese with crispy garlic bread.
Additional Information:
Pain a l'Ail refers to French garlic flavored bread. The recipe varies wildly from one baker to the next with only one consistent ingredient; garlic. With a brownish almost golden crust and a soft crumb that soaks up sauce this bread is more than a welcome addition in any pantry. The baking process also brings out the rustic garlic flavor with a crispy texture.
Image from @wakandaskitchen Instagram

7. Pain au Son

Pain _au_Son

Recipe: (link)
How to Enjoy: (link)
Taste and Texture: A bit salty with a chewy crumb.
Best Served: Add it to stews and casseroles, make dinner rolls, or simply toast it. You can also use wholemeal bread crumbs on oatmeal for breakfast.
Additional Information:
Technically speaking Pain au Son is just an ordinary bran bread. The primary constituent of this bread is whole grain wheat flour. The extra bran and germ give it a high fiber content, which is highly recommended for your digestive system and prevention of heart-related diseases. With a dark brown crust that’s often chewy and a dark interior with a dense crumb, this bread is hard to miss out.
Wholemeal bread is also recommended due to being high in fiber, which makes one feel full and satisfied for longer, thus avoiding the frequent need to eat. This goes a long way in maintaining a healthy weight. 
Image from @titareco Instagram

8. Boule de Pain

Boule_de_ Pain
Recipe: (link)
How to Enjoy: (link)
Taste and Texture: Creamy and fluffy crumb.
Best Served: In rural France, pain boule is a common site on many breakfast tables. However, don’t let that stop you; the bread can still be consumed with other meals and will perfectly fit with any dishes that require bread.
Additional Information:
Meet the ‘original’ French bread also known as pain boule, is a round loaf prepared using the four original ingredients recipe. The boule was much more famous in the early 1900s before the popularization of baguette. This French bread has a golden brownish crust that’s often chewy and a cream interior that’s often fluffy.
Most loaves are often scored mostly for artistic purposes as well as allowing the crust to expand evenly. The bread will stay fresh for at least three days allowing it to be consumed over a more extended period unlike thinner bread such as baguettes.  
Image from @les_freres_o_fornil Instagram

9. Pain Couronne

Pain_Couronne

Recipe: (link)
How to Enjoy: (link)
Taste and Texture: Sweet but the texture varies from soft to crispy depending on the baker’s preference.
Best Served: There’s really no limitation in terms of how you can eat this bread as a snack; it goes down really well with morning coffee, or you can simply slice it and dip into your favorite sauce.
Additional Information:
There’s no shortage of bread designs in France, meet pain Couronne a circular bread with a hole in the middle hence the ring-shaped design. In fact, the French name Couronne translates as a crown. The bread is quite flavorful and is usually prepared using wheat flour, yeast, salt, and sugar. This gives it a fluffy interior, but depending on the baker, the loaf may also be dense.
There are two major varieties of pain Couronne: the petit couronne which is a small version with an almost doughnut-like appearance and the grande couronne which is rather large but easy to slice. Over the years, artisan bakers have come up with two other classes depending on the texture of the crust whereby we have the regular crust which is a tad bit soft almost like white bread, and the crispy crust which is golden brown with a crispy texture.
Image from @deck_cafe Instagram

10. Fouée

Fouée

Recipe: (link)
How to Enjoy: (link)
Taste and Texture: Earthy flavor with an airy crumb.
Best Served: This bread is best served with salted butter and a variety of white beans known as mogettes. 
Additional Information:
Fouée is an airy bread from the western France region that’s also known as fouace especially in Touraine. The bread is rather small in size, and its preparation process includes filling it with rillettes, butter, mushrooms, or mogettes. It's important to note that the combination of these ingredients will change between regions.
Due to its diverse ingredients, there’s no way to describe the exact flavor of this bread accurately, but the crust will generally be crispy after baking. Some versions of fouée are also thick instead of having an airy interior. 
Image from @decahnceny Instagram

11. Faluche

Faluche
Recipe: (link)
How to Enjoy: (link)
Taste and Texture: On the salty end with a soft but dense texture.
Best Served: Faluche is best consumed while still hot from the oven over breakfast with jam and butter. The bread also goes down perfectly with smoked salmon and cream cheese. In case of any leftovers, you can pair up the faluche with brown sugar and butter or with brie cheese for that quick afternoon snack.
Additional Information:
Faluche is probably the best version of French white bread. This pale loaf is prepared using white flour, water, salt, butter, and baker’s yeast. The result is a soft and somewhat dense white bread that still manages to have an exquisite taste despite the simplicity of the recipe. Faluche cannot be described as either round or flat. Instead, it looks like a deflated soccer ball making it hard to mix up with other bread varieties.
Image from @monabread Instagram

12. Gibassier

Gibassier
Recipe: (link)
How to Enjoy: (link)
Taste and Texture: Orange flavor and a fluffy crumb.
Best Served: Gibassier is part of the 13 Christmas desserts in Provence. It is, therefore, no surprise to find the bread being served during Christmas dinner. Aside from that, the bread will generally be perfect for breakfast alongside a cup of coffee, of course.
Additional Information:
Gibassier is a French pastry from Provence that’s mainly recognized for its orange color. This comes from the candied orange peel as well as orange flower water used in its preparation. Other ingredients include white wheat flour, and anise. Gibassier also requires fruited olive oil instead of butter, which is common in other enriched bread.
Gibassier is often confused with another enriched bread the Pompe à l'huile. However, Pompe is more raised and somewhat moist. 
Image from @lida_gottwaldova Instagram
 

13. Pain Brié

Pain_Brié

Recipe: (link)
How to Enjoy: (link)
Taste and Texture: Salty with a dense crumb.
Best Served: Its dry crumb makes it perfect for dunking in all kinds of sauces and soups. You can also slice it up and apply butter, making it ideal for breakfast.
Additional Information:
Pain brie refers to a Normandy bread. This name comes from the Norman verb ‘brie’ which means to pound. This bread requires dough which has undergone long kneading session in order to tighten it. As a result, the bread is often dense with a tight crumb despite the presence of yeast. Just like other traditional French bread recipes, this one also requires the four basic ingredients; water, salt, yeast, and wheat flour.
Due to its dense nature, this loaf can stay fresh for more extended periods and was once given to sailors and fishermen.
Image from @fsumir Instagram

14. Miche

Miche
Recipe: (link)
How to Enjoy: (link)
Taste and Texture: Earthy flavor and a chewy crumb.
Best Served: Applying a drizzle of honey and spreading a few slices of bananas on a slice of miche will give you a perfect snack any time of the day. The bread also goes down well with egg and spinach dishes.
Additional Information:
Miche refers to a large sourdough bread with a rustic flavor and a round shape. Most bakers will use whole wheat flour mixed with rye flour to give a natural leavening to this bread and create a wholemeal rye bread. The loaf has a rather low crust to crumb ratio, and its vast size means it can feed an entire family for a couple of meals.
The crust is often scored but will still end up with numerous cracks due to the high amount of fiber. After baking it is recommended to let the loaf set and cool for at least a day before cutting it up. 
Image from @corto_olive Instagram

15. Le Cramique

Le Cramique
Recipe: (link)
How to Enjoy: (link)
Taste and Texture: Sweet flavor and a fluffy crumb.
Best Served: Due to its softness and taste, this bread is best recommended for breakfast with a cup of tea or coffee. Applying cocoa, jam, or butter to the slices will also improve its taste. Grilled cramique slices can be used to accompany foie gras.
Additional Information:
Cramique is closely related to brioche bread, but with a significant distinction in that, it is stuffed with raisins. The bread is originally from the Northern France region as well as Belgium. Cramiques are usually enriched with eggs, sugar, and butter giving them a fluffy crumb and a slightly sweet flavor. The raisins serve to add more flavor to the bread.
Image from @jasisou Instagram

 

 

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Top 10 Bread Slicers of 2019
Buckwheat Bread
Understanding and Using a Bread Lame
What is Meal Bread?
How Many Slices in a Loaf of Bread?
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