Sandwich, accompaniment, dip or toast, there’s always room on the table for bread – wherever you are in the world. There’s something so satisfying and deceptively simple about that lump of baked dough, which is in fact a creation of precise craftsmanship and which varies exotically from culture to culture. While many of us would happily identify ourselves as bread addicts, some will be desperate to kick the carbs – leaving the rest of us to explore the wider world of bread with ravenous enthusiasm.
The Russians, for example, fill their qistibi with mashed potato or meat – a no-nonsense spin that should warm the body and soul in any chilly kitchen. The Italian climate, on the other hand, allows for a more subtle approach to flavor – they call their spiced breadsticks grissini, and dip them in whatever works, or even wrap them in prosciutto.
Some bread, though, is best taken as it comes. In Wales, bara brith teases the borders between bread and cake country. You’ll want to spread it with butter, but other than that, its signature ingredients – dried fruits, brown sugar, and tea – will deliver the goods. Czech Vanocka makes for an east European alternative, especially at Christmas time, though it’s sweeter and nuttier than the Welsh classic.
Taken neat or with a meal, our hearts and bellies know there’s never a bad time for bread, even if our heads sometimes doubt the wisdom of the carb binge. For a little more direction in your own compulsive bread life, be sure to check out this new guide to breads from around the world – what goes in them, and how to devour them.