In towns and villages of France, boulangeries, or bakery shops, sell fresh French bread daily, and many bakers make it to their own recipe. Real, traditional French bread must use fresh flour, salt and yeast. Some types of supermarket breads use frozen dough, but this isn't regarded as real French bread. With so many types of delicious French breads, there's something that everyone can enjoy.
Types of French Breads
The French baguette names a classic type of French bread and probably what you think of first when you think of French breads. The well-known, stick-like baguette can be found in most food shops and bakeries. Travel through the villages of France and you'll see the freshly made long baguettes sticking out of a paper bag or from the basket on someone's bicycle.
Crusty and crispy, the French baguette is best fresh. Baguettes have very little fat, so they don't keep for much longer than a day. Many French families eat baguettes with breakfast daily. Baguettes look similar to French breadsticks, but they're longer and thicker.
Brioche is a sweeter and richer type of French bread containing eggs and butter with a little sugar. With a soft, golden crust, brioche is often eaten at breakfast or used as a base for desserts. Brioche is made either in a bun shape, the brioche a tête, or in a special loaf tin, which is known as the brioche Nanterre.
Brioche recipes vary widely so the flavor may be very different depending on where you buy the bread. Some people top brioche with jam or other spreads.
Viennoiserie French Breads
Viennoiserie is a type of bread made with butter, like the brioche, that's essentially a cross between a pastry and bread. These types of French breads usually include white flour and active yeast cultures to rise quickly for a flaky texture. They're often eaten at breakfast.
Croissants are one popular example. Almost as popular now in countries like Britain, croissants are warm, flaky pastry-style breads that are often eaten at breakfast or mid-morning. Some croissants have a chocolate, raisin or almond filling. They're also eaten with savory fillings, such as cheese and ham, for lunch.
Another type is the pain au chocolat, which is a rectangular shaped treat filled with chocolate. The outside is crispy and the inside is light and fluffy.
La chouquette is a small ball of dough topped with large grains of sugar. You might think of a donut hole when you see them. When you bite into one, you'll notice it's much lighter than a donut hole.
Pain de Campagne
The French word for bread is "pain," and boulangeries usually sell several types of pain, including rye bread, also known as pain de seigle, and sourdough bread, or pain du levain. The traditional type of country farmhouse bread, pain de campagne, tends to keep a little longer than the long, thin baguette.
This type of bread often uses white flour, whole wheat flour or a mix. It has a mild flavor that can be compared to American sourdough. Pain de campagne has a thicker crust that helps it keep longer and has a chewy texture
Pain de Mie
Similar to English and American white sliced bread, although slightly sweeter, pain de mie is generally used for sandwiches. It's often available in supermarkets already packaged, but it won't be on the fresh bread counter. Often toasted, this is the type of French bread normally used in croque monsieur, which is a toasted cheese and ham sandwich.
France is known for some distinct flatbreads, including crepes. You might think of a crepe as a pancake, and it is very similar. But it's also considered a type of flatbread.
Crepes don't have a leavening agent in them. They're used for both savory and sweet fillings, making them a versatile type of flatbread.
Socca is a French flatbread made of chickpea flour. The traditional cooking method is over a fire, but broiler and oven cooking also work.