France is a popular tourist destination for many reasons, one of which is French food. More specifically, bread. Everyone knows of the baguette but there are many other types of French bread that are just as delicious. In this article, we list seven types of French bread you need to try, although there are many more than that! The next time you’re in the country, at a bakery or a restaurant, you will therefore know your French bread inside and out.
It would be a sin to start this list of French breads with anything other than the baguette! This long, skinny bread is an absolute classic and can be found in every bakery in France. Seasoned bakers will even offer you the choice of a white baguette (not baked for a long time), normal, or overbaked for a crispy taste. French families will always have a baguette as part of every meal, breakfast, lunch and dinner.
What you may not know is that there are lots of different types of baguettes. Examples include baguette tradition (artisanal baguette, no artificial additives), la ficelle (shorter, thinner and lighter than a normal baguette) and baguettes spéciales (generally refers to baguettes with extra ingredients like grains and nuts).
2. Pain de campagne
Le pain de campagne (literally country bread) is a type of French bread that looks like a loaf. English speakers often refer to it as a sourdough loaf. This round, rustic bread tends to be made of both wheat and rye flour. Traditionally, pain de campagne was made by the community as a way to feed families for long periods of time. It was eventually replaced by the baguette, before coming back into fashion in the 20th century.
The brioche is a controversial French bread, as many people consider it to be more of a viennoiserie (pastry) due to its sweet taste. It is made with butter and eggs and is a very soft, light bread. It’s often compared with pains au lait (milk bread), which is a similar yet different type of French bread. Both are sweet sorts of bread and equally yummy!
4. Pain au son
If you love bread but want to opt for a healthier version, the pain au son (bran bread) is the closest you’re going to get. This whole grain loaf is made with flour mixed with bran, which adds more flavor and gives the loaf a darker color. The loaf must contain at least 20% of this bran/flour mixture to earn the name pain au son.
La fougasse is a type of French bread that is a Provencal specialty. It is made of flour, yeast and olive oil, and is usually topped with different ingredients such as onions, cheese and mushrooms. It is similar to a pizza. If you visit Provence at Christmas, you will find a fougasse in the 13 desserts, a traditional French meal.
6. Pains spéciaux
Les pains spéciaux (“special” bread) is an umbrella term for all types of French bread that use additional ingredients other than the traditional recipe of flour, water, yeast and salt. This includes sliced bread (pain de mie) that can be bought in the supermarket and bread with grains, like sunflower seed bread. If all of these ingredients are making your head spin, it’s worth taking up a French class to get to grips with the terms!
7. Pain au fromage
To round off this fabulous list of French breads, we must mention the pain au fromage (cheese bread). Many bakeries now sell bread that is made with ingredients such as cheese, bacon strips and olives. These are delicious and provide a little change from traditional French bread.
Bread meets bread
Honestly, we could go on all day about the different types of French bread but that would be a very, very long article! This list of French bread is a great overview of the most popular types that can be found in every bakery in the country. We also recommend learning some French food expressions you can use when ordering at the bakery. So, allons-y (let’s go!)
Clara Avrillier is a writer, linguist and content manager living in the South of France. She loves getting out in nature, doing sport, reading and playing music. She also works with expats looking to move to France. Connect with her on LinkedIn.