Bread is considered a necessity by many. You buy it at the grocery store not necessarily because you want it, but because you need it. We like bread, but we don’t think of it as a particular treat. In fact, some people have gotten used to the idea of bread as boring — “white bread” is synonymous with blandness. The thing is that it doesn’t have to be; you can have quality bread without sacrificing flavor and richness. Interestingly, recent trends have suggested that the best way to enliven people’s appetite for bread is to look to the past. In the 20th century, the consumption of bread was steadily declining. Things changed with the rediscovery of artisanal breads — now, bread bakeries are looking to reproduce the types of bread that people ate 1,000 years ago. Not only do artisan breads taste better — they’re often better for you as well. A bread bakery shouldn’t be a place that you visit because you have to, but because you want to. Below, we’ll explore the best ways that you can explore different breads. You might have to look outside of the box, and try out a bread bakery that you haven’t thought of before. Some of the best breads you’ll ever try may be those that you never would have considered a few years ago. But trust us — you’ll be glad you did. With that being said, let’s explore some of the most interesting artisan breads on the market right now.
Focaccia bread hails from a nation famous for its love of bread — Italy. Italians have always loved bread, or as it’s called there, “pane”. They include it in a wide variety of recipes, both by itself and incorporated to meals like “Day Old Bread Soup”. Focaccia is perhaps the most popular type of bread in Tuscany, where it is referred to as schiacciata. This bread is known for being somewhat difficult to make, as it has to have a certain amount of air pockets in the day. This gives focaccia its unique texture, making it a completely different experience from other types of flatbread. Focaccia has sometimes been compared to pizza crust, but in fact pizza crust dough uses very little yeast; focaccia bread is more leavened, and thus rises higher. Yeast, a single-celled organism that feeds off of simple sugars, is crucial to baking most breads, and focaccia is no different. Focaccia is sometimes made “al rosmarino” — that is, with rosemary.
You won’t find challah at every bread bakery — but when you do find it, you should snatch it up. Challah is a bread traditionally associated with Judaism. It’s an ancient type of bread — though it’s not alone in that respect, as historians suspect that humans started baking bread about 30,000 years ago. Challah bread is known for being distinctly braided, and is often used in Jewish ceremonies. During some of these ceremonies, a portion of challah will be set aside as an offering. Challah is a dense bread with a somewhat sweat taste — unlike focaccia, which is saltier. It’s delicious, and when served fresh is truly memorable. Everyone loves fresh bread, to be sure; but fresh challah is very unique, and hard to forget after you’ve had it.
For our last artisan bread, we’ll go back to an Italian bread. Panettone may be a unique option for a bread bakery to serve, but it certainly should be treasured. This sweet bread is a Christmas tradition in Italy. It’s flaky and delicious, often baked with certain sweet ingredients. Some panettone breads are served with fruit, much like a Christmas fruit crake — though often markedly better than the American version. Others are served with chocolate chips inside. Either way, they’re very seasonal and delicious. If you see a bread bakery serving panettone, don’t hesitate to buy it. You can’t get this special bread everywhere, or all year round.