Taste of Bread: Reference Terms
The diversity of bread throughout the world has not come about by accident. It is difficult to classify bread according to type because of its worldwide heritage and numerous diversifying factors such as geography, climate, and culture.
Influences of geographic region
For centuries, cereal growing was governed by climatic conditions, which led to the predominance of a single breadmaking method dominating a region. Agricultural progress in the 20th century, such as changes in wheat and rye growing areas, selection of varieties and exchanges between continents has encouraged the sharing of baking practices and has led to the enlargement of the range of bread products available.
From traditional links…
Our “daily bread,” inherited from the habits of our forefathers, is very different from one country to another and everyone has his own repertoire of tastes and sensory references. Every consumer assesses the shape, color and crustiness of bread, as well as texture and taste according to his own experiences and judges all other bread accordingly. Nevertheless, while in some countries bread is still a basic foodstuff, elsewhere it is following the tendencies of the consumer society. The higher the standard of living, the more the consumer searches for the exotic and sophisticated.
…To the mixing and intermingling of cultures
Today, there is so much diversity that any consumer looking for new types of bread is spoiled for choice. Migratory movements and the development of exchanges between countries have contributed to an intermingling of cultures from which bread has not escaped—all the better for us! Certain bread varieties have been exported together with their methods of manufacture and have been fully assimilated by their hosts—for example, the baguette in Japan, Turkish bread in Germany and the ciabatta, which was originally Italian, but is now found throughout Northern Europe.
Pita bread, also known as Arabic bread, has its origins in a valley between the Euphrates and the Tigris. This area is one of the cradles of civilization, of agriculture—and of bread. Its flat shape arises from being baked on a stone by means of heat conduction or directly in the embers. Pita bread is soft and very lightly salted. It should not be torn. These days pita bread is used throughout the world instead of a spoon or a plate. It is widely used to make oriental sandwiches, by filling between the two layers. It dries out rapidly and should be eaten quickly.
Rye is typical of Central and Northern Europe and was for a long time the dominant cereal in these regions. Then selective breeding and importation allowed cultivation to become more diversified and led to the introduction of wheat. Rye bread always requires the use of an acidifier to prevent it becoming sticky. It is therefore often characterized by a strong acidity. Rye bread is best eaten after two days when it is beginning to dry out.
The origins of the baguette are obscure. It is an emblem of France, much appreciated for its length and its slimness. Over time, it has grown in length, no doubt to increase its crustiness and perhaps to distinguish it from the large round loaves that bakers used to make and which kept for longer. In the 19th century, baguettes weighed no less than two pounds! Today they are made to be eaten the same day. They are rarely wrapped. Bakers bake them daily, preferring freshness and crustiness to long shelf-life.
This is the typical Anglo-Saxon bread. Although its highest production level is in the United States, the home of the famous “sliced white loaf” is actually in England. It has been widely adopted throughout Northern Europe and is often eaten toasted. In the United States, it has a higher sugar and fat content. The key factor of this bread is its softness. In English-speaking parts of Africa, such as Nigeria, white bread is preferred very sweet, well kneaded and cooked at low temperature. More surprisingly, Japan holds the record for consumption of white bread, comprising 60% of its total bread consumption.