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French Bread Types, their Rich History and Variety

2023-03-03   ◆   4 minutes read
French bread is one of the main defining symbols of French culture. In fact, with so many French bread types, there’s bread for every occasion, every mood and every taste! Between “tartines” (bread spread with butter or jam), a hearty loaf to accompany a meal, a cheese-filled bread or a croissant for an afternoon snack, the choice is endless.  Not only is French bread an emblematic cultural symbol, it also once had strong political connotations. As a matter of fact, it was a huge issue during the French Revolution, in the late 1700s. At the time, the quality of bread was an indicator of social class. The nobler classes had access to refined white bread, while the poor survived on rough, darker bread made with inferior grains such as barley and millet. And who can forget the famous phrase attributed to Queen Marie-Antoinette responding to peasants’ grievances about bread shortages (although it was made up by revolutionaries to slander her): “Let them eat brioche”. After the Revolution, it was proposed that everybody should eat the same type of bread, and thus bread became a symbol of equality. As you can see, French bread has a rich history, full of ups and downs. Now, let’s take a look at the incredible variety of French breads. Many of them are products of their regional uniqueness, of their respective wheat, preparation methods and cuisines.

French bread types


To begin with, the most famous French bread is probably the baguette bread. Baguette is a thin and elongated form of bread. It is crisp outside and soft and airy inside. It is the most consumed bread in France. It can be made of various types of dough including regular wheat, multigrain, and sourdough as long as it complies with the French government measurement regulations (i.e., Length: usually 65 cm, but can go up to 1 meter long and with 5 to 6 cm diameter). The word baguette means a stick in French and probably this name was chosen due to the special shape of this bread. In 2022, baguette bread was inscribed to the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage Lists. Pain de campagne Cookidoo
Pain de campagne (Cookidoo)


Bigger and rounder than the baguette, pain de campagne (meaning country bread) is the French equivalent of sourdough. It’s made using a starter, and traditionally contains different flours, usually white and wholewheat or rye. This bread used to be the common peasant loaf, big enough to feed a family for days. These days, pain de campagne is making a comeback, in France but also in the UK and the US, after being long overshadowed by the baguette. Pain Poilane Les carnets de Normann
Pain Poilâne (Les carnets de Normann)


Created by the Poilâne family using stone-ground flour and natural fermentation, this world-renown artisanal loaf, also called miche, is a round sourdough bread. It contains 30% spelt, a healthy alternative to wheat. Some restaurants offer a decadent and rich dish, called the soupe en miche: a French onion soup poured into an emptied out miche loaf, which acts as the bowl, and which you can eat along with your soup! Flaky croissant Footo Croissant
Flaky croissant (Footo Croissant)


Does this type of bread even need an introduction? Who doesn’t love these flaky, buttery treats that can be enjoyed any time of the day? If you’ve ever tried making one, you will appreciate how much work goes into it. To make a croissant, the dough is rolled, dotted with butter, folded and rolled again several times over in a process called laminating before being formed into the crescent shape. Inspired by the Austrian kipferl, no breakfast is complete without a croissant, a side of jam and butter and a cup of strong espresso. Chocolatine bread Sophie Sucree
Chocolatine bread (Sophie Sucrée)


This pastry originated from south-west of France and is made from the same dough as croissants, with some pieces of dark chocolate inserted in the middle, and is best served warm straight from the oven. For the quintessential French experience, dip it in your coffee and take a bite of the dripping, buttery chocolaty goodness. Also, did you know that there is an age-old disagreement in France over what to call this pastry? In some regions, people call it “pain au chocolat”, while in others, they say “chocolatine”. This debate can often get quite heated, but in any case, everyone can agree on its deliciousness! Brioche with head Fous Desserts
Brioche with head (Fous Desserts)


Next up, we have a light, puffy, sweet bread containing eggs and butter. Sometimes it is glazed with egg to give it a shiny look and crispy cover. Brioche is also baked with fruits and chocolate pieces. Each region has its own variation. Considered a viennoiserie, this is often served at breakfast or teatime, to be enjoyed with fruits and friends. Kalamata olive fougasse Boulangerie Guillaume
Kalamata olive fougasse (Boulangerie Guillaume)


This hearty bread is typically associated with the region of Provence, and often contains local ingredients such as olives, sun-dried tomatoes, anchovies or herbs. One could compare Fougasse to the Italian focaccia, which are mostly different in shape, but believe it or not originated from ancient Rome. The Fougasse is usually shaped as a big flat leaf and traditionally it was used to test the temperature of wood-fired ovens. This bread will be placed first and this will offer an indication if the oven is ready for the other types of breads. The French Northen bread Faluche Les Papilles de Karen
The French Northen bread Faluche (Les Papilles de Karen)


A list of French bread types would be incomplete without the faluche. It is a white bread with a yellowish tinge, traditionally prepared in Nord-Pas-de-Calais, in Northern France. This bread is lightly baked and it is fluffy inside. Always serve it hot. It is usually eaten for breakfast with butter or jam, but also as a savoury snack with salmon and cheese. Pain Brie Kenwood Club
Pain Brié (Kenwood Club)


Pain Brié (pounded bread) is a traditional bread from Normandy. The name comes from the bread-making process, involving beating or pounding the dough for a long period of time. This ensures that the dough tightens, and, as a result, that the bread becomes heavy and rich. Normandy is known for its famous rainy coastline, and its sailors demanded bread that they could eat while at sea. Hence this dry unsalted bread, and to which they could add salty sea water for moisture and flavour. In fact, everything about this bread reminds us of sailors, like its hull shape. Fouee breads Comme des francais
Fouée breads (Comme des français)


Fouée, (also called Fouace), is a flaky and light bread with some filling, such as goat cheese or pork rillettes, and preferably consumed warm or hot. Think of it like folded pockets of bread, similar to pita bread. Like the fougasse, its origins date back to when bakers wished to test the heat of their ovens and stuck pieces of dough on the edges. This bread was popular in Western France rural areas, where villagers would gather around community ovens to bake their goods. Oat Bran bread CuisineAZ
Oat Bran bread (CuisineAZ)


A traditional bran bread in an oval or long loaf shape and which must contain at least 25 percent of bran. It is an wholewheat bread with a hearty light taste. You can find it in bakeries, or even bake it yourself. Sprinkle it with oat bran to give it an authentic look.  Gibassier Bake from Scratch
Gibassier (Bake from Scratch)


Gibassier (pronounced jee-bah-see-ay) hails from Provence and is flavoured with its delicious aromas: anise, orange blossom water, and candied orange peel. It is more of a pastry as opposed to French bread. It uses fruited olive oil to give it flavour. While you can find it in abundance in Provence, gibassier is unfortunately rare in the anglosphere.  Goodness, this blog evokes so much crunchy, buttery and floury feelings. Nothing sounds better than picking up a hot loaf or a bag of bread from your local bakery to feast on, all day long. Luckily, you can find the best French bread types on Dessert Advisor’s search engine. Find the best French bread near you, and bon appétit

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