Savor a pleasant sensory excursion into the world of French bread, where every morsel narrates a tale of artisanal skill and long-standing customs. This post explores the enticing variety of the greatest varieties of French bread that are served on tables and in patisseries around the world. Every loaf is a tribute to the subtle skill of French boulangeries, from the buttery layers of pain de campagne to the crisp elegance of baguettes, which are ideal for tearing and sharing. Whether you’re in the mood for the airy ecstasy of bâtard or the rustic appeal of pain Poilâne, our investigation explores the subtleties that make each variation a culinary delight. Improve your bread game and taste France in every delicious crumb.
Brioche is a French bread made with enriched dough. It is a rich bread that is lightly sweet and has a soft texture. This golden bread works for both sweet and savory dishes. Brioche is a versatile bread. Substitute your regular sandwich bread for a couple of slices of brioche for a change to the everyday meal. Use it to make French toast for an even sweeter, softer variation of your favorite breakfast meal. I love to make brioche buns for my hamburgers! It adds just the right amount of sweetness to my jalapeno and cheddar burgers! I also love it with some rich butter and fresh raspberries for a lovely desert.
In French, ficelle means string. As you can imagine, ficelle is a long, thin bread. It is similar to a French baguette, just smaller in size. Ficelle bread is about the same length as a baguette but half the diameter. Ficelle bread uses a combination of all-purpose flour and bread flour. It features a crispy crust and a soft, chewy interior. I love to cut my ficelle loaves into small rounds, pop them in the oven with some olive oil and let them become crispy. I top them with some tomato, onion, and basil bruschetta. It is the perfect hors d’oeuvre to start an evening meal!
La baguette is one of the most popular French bread. It is a staple in French cooking, made with simple dough. It is a long, thin French loaf of bread that is considered the national bread of France. In France, it is rude to serve a meal without a fresh baguette as a side! Because it is a staple, there are many ways to eat a baguette. One of my favorite ways to eat a baguette is as a classic grilled cheese sandwich, grilled to perfection. The crunchy bread with gooey cheese is to die for! I like to serve it with homemade tomato soup.
Pain de Campagne
Pain de campagne is a round, freeform French bread. The name means country bread in French. People all over France bake these large round loaves in large communal settings because of how much they love them. Pain de campagne is essentially a sourdough. It gets its character from a tough of rye flour and whole wheat. It is a simple bread but boasts flavor. I like to use pain de campagne as the base for my avocado toast in the mornings. I fry up some bacon to a crisp, then mash my avocado with salt, pepper, and olive oil. My toasted, buttered pain de campagne is topped first with the delicious bacon, then the avocado mash. I finish by sprinkling some everything bagel seasoning on top!
Boule de Pain
Boule de pain is very similar to pain de campagne. It is a round, free-form bread made with a sourdough-type dough. It uses only wheat flour, without the rye added to pain de campagne. I love to add interesting flavors to my boule de pain. My favorite is when I add Kalamata olives to the boule dough before baking. I have also made an herbed variation and an asiago cheese variation!
Pain brie is different than most French bread because of its soft, tender crust. It has a buttery aroma that is irresistible. Its interesting shape and flavor characterize the delicious bread. The name means to beat in French. It comes from an ancient tool that was used to beat the dough. The long kneading develops the gluten to result in tight crumb bread. Because of its unique texture and flavor, I like to keep things simple when eating pain brie. I love getting the loaf right out of the oven, ripping off a big chunk, and melting some butter on top. That’s it! It is delicious.
Pain a l’Ail
Pain a l’ail is a fancy way of saying French garlic bread. It usually refers to French baguettes sliced and flavored with garlic and herbs. I put this incredibly flavorful bread in the oven and cook it until browned. I love to pair my pain a l’ail with pasta dinners. Spaghetti and meatballs with a side of pain a l’ail and salad is a well-balanced meal in my household!
Pain au Son
Pain au son is a traditional bran bread from France. I like to make my pain au son bread with oat bran, yeast, flour, honey, salt, and warm water. Like all French bread, it only contains simple ingredients. You can bake pain au son free form in an oval loaf. Before baking, sprinkle it with oat bran to give it an authentic look. I like to eat my pain au son as part of my breakfast. I cook some chicken sausages, fry some eggs, and cut a hefty slice of pain au son. I like to toast my bread, slather it in butter, and top it with a homemade peach preserve. It adds just enough sweetness to the oat bran bread.
Fougasse is one of the most recognizable French types of bread because of its interesting shape. It is a flat loaf that you shape into a leaf shape and slash to look like an ear of wheat. It is one of the most adaptable types of bread as well. Fougasse can go either sweet or savory. My favorite way to eat it is filled with red bell peppers, walnuts, and gouda cheese. It’s a great mid-day snack paired with a French soda! The combinations are endless with this adaptable bread. I have also made a sweet version of fougasse. I fashioned it after my mother’s cinnamon rolls, filling the center with cinnamon, sugar, and butter for a dessert bread.
Faluche comes from the northern part of France and the southern part of Belgium. It is a pale white bread that is dense and soft. It has an interesting shape, not round or flat, but an in-between height. In French bakeries, they will bake faluche first thing in the morning while their ovens are still heating up. This way of baking gives faluche its pale color. My favorite way to eat my faluche is spreading a glob of cream cheese on a chunk and throwing on some smoked salmon.
Fouee is a light and airy traditional French bread. If you go with tradition, serve it with goat’s cheese. It resembles a pita bread from Greece or even a sopapilla from Latino cultures. You can bake it in a square shape and open it to put in fillings. I like to open my fouee and fill it with gyro meat and eat it as a sandwich. Give it a side of roasted sweet potatoes and you have a full meal!
Gibassier comes from Provence and is flavored with anise, orange blossom water, and candied orange peel. It is more of a French pastry as opposed to bread. It uses fruited olive oil to give it flavor. While you can find it in abundance in Provence, you will not find gibassier in many English-speaking parts of the world. I have never made gibassier, but I have had it one time. My husband and I took a trip to Portland, Oregon, and found it at Pearl Bakery. After the trip, I came home and looked for it everywhere! I was unable to find it, but I know I will be visiting the Pearl Bakery again just to have it again!
Miche is a round sourdough loaf of French country bread. It is a hardy bread, with wheat, rye, and barley flour as its ingredients. In the past, miche fed large families for several days because it could last for a long time. My favorite way to eat miche bread is alongside a bowl of stew. Its density and tang are perfect to sop up a rich stew sauce on a winter’s day. I love to make this bread for my family because it is so easy, and all my kids love it!
Pain couronne is another rustic, French sourdough bread. It has a unique shape, resembling a crown. It has the classic crunchy crust and chewy interior. The bread is a fun loaf to make when you want to stray from your usual round or oblong loaves. My kids love to say my pain couronne is a giant bagel. Since they started saying this, I have started to treat it like a bagel. I slice it along the entire loaf, throw it under the broiler to toast it, and smear it with cream cheese. The kids love to think of it as a bagel for a giant. I use it to serve a large group of kids for parties. It also makes a great centerpiece for your table!
Last but not least, we have a favorite French pastry, the croissant. This butter, flakey pastry is readily available in all parts of the world. It can be used in savory or sweet dishes. You can make it with laminated dough, alternating between layers of butter and dough. The croissant’s crescent shape comes from the Austrian Kipferl, an Austrian yeast bread roll. I love to eat a chicken salad-filled croissant as a brunch option. Another great way to eat croissants is covered in a chocolate sauce and filled with raspberries!