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About Bread

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Few foods are as universal in their use and appeal, and as varied in selection, as breads. From sweet muffins to hearty rye bread, French rolls to Mexican tortillas, breads have a place in every cuisine, and at every meal. The varieties are nearly endless, from pre-sliced sandwich bread to whole loaves hot from the bakery. Bread is made from flour, water (or other liquid such as milk or buttermilk), and, with the exception of unleavened bread, some kind of leavening agent. It can be baked (in an oven or, as with pancakes, on a griddle), fried, or steamed. Yeast breads are leavened with yeast and kneaded to develop the flour’s gluten. Quick breads—so named because they require no kneading—use baking soda, baking powder, or eggs to leaven the bread. Unleavened bread like tortillas use no leavening agent and are quite flat.

Breads are usually made from wheat flour, but may be made from any variety of grains, and may contain seeds, nuts, and fruits for flavor and texture. Whole-grain breads are the best nutritional choice. They typically contain more than three times the fiber of breads made from refined flour (e.g., white breads). Store breads at room temperature in a breadbox, wrapped in a clean towel, or in a perforated plastic bag—refrigerating bread makes it stale faster. However, tortillas, chapatis, and other quick breads should be refrigerated, since they mold quickly. Crisp breads should be stored in a tightly sealed plastic bag. Smaller, thinner loaves like baguettes dry out faster, so they should be eaten within a day. Stale bread can be freshened up by steaming or warming it in the oven. To steam, cut the bread into thick pieces and place it in a vegetable steamer over boiling water, uncovered, for two to three minutes. To bake, preheat oven to 350°F (180°C), sprinkle stale bread with water, wrap it loosely in foil, and bake for ten minutes.

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