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Types of bread and flour

The French love baguette, the English soft white bread and the Italians ciabatta... from light to dark, from delicate to coarse – there is an endless variety of bread to cater to every taste.

Types of bread

Classic bread dough is made with flour, water, salt, yeast or sourdough. Bread containing additional ingredients such as nuts, fruit or seeds is known as speciality bread.

Typical types of bread:

  • Whole wheat bread, which is made with at least 90 percent wheat flour and has a mild flavour. Other types of flour can be used to make up the remaining 10 percent.
  • Mixed-wheat bread, which is made with 51–89 percent wheat flour, has a stronger flavour than whole wheat bread.
  • Rye bread, which contains at least 90 percent rye flour, has a strong, often slightly sour taste.
  • Mixed-rye bread, contains 51–89 percent rye flour. The higher the proportion of rye flour, the stronger the flavour.

Below are descriptions of some classic types of Swiss bread:

Ruchbrot (brown bread)
Ruchbrot is a type of dark bread made mainly from flour with a medium extraction rate, but can also contain other types of flour. This is the cheapest type of bread in Switzerland and is normally shaped into a long loaf and scored several times before baking.
Zopf (plaited bread)
Zopf bread is a plaited yeast loaf which is traditionally baked in Switzerland, Austria and the south of Germany. Unlike Hefezopf, another type of plaited yeast loaf, it is not sweetened. Zopf bread dough contains butter and milk and can be kept for several days. Zopf bread can be made with normal white flour or with special 'Zopf flour' which contains some spelt flour to improve the structure of the dough. Zopf bread is typically eaten on Sundays or for brunch. Speckzopf (literally 'bacon plait') is a popular variation which can be eaten as a savoury snack and has bacon cubes added to the dough.
Tessinerbrot (Ticinese bread)
Ticinese bread is Switzerland's best-known canton-specific bread. It is a white bread, made with several pieces that can be easily broken off. The dough is traditionally made from semi-white flour, but there are also dark varieties.
Silserbrot/Laugenbrot (pretzel bread)
Pretzel bread is made from whole wheat flour and yeast dough and is dipped in a lye solution before baking. The lye reacts with the gluten in the dough, giving the surface its typical brown, shiny appearance and the bread its unusual, strong flavour. The lye remains on the surface of the dough and is not absorbed. Pretzel dough is typically used to make pretzels and Silserkränze (pretzel roll wreath bread).
Krustenkranz (crusty roll wreath bread)
A Krustenkranz consists of small rolls in a ring, which are easy to break off individually. The bread is baked using various types of flour and therefore comes in different varieties. It is suitable for making filled rolls or as an accompaniment to salads or barbecues.
Sourdough bread
Sourdough is a leaven that is usually fed with lactic acid bacteria and yeast to keep it permanently fermenting. The dough is aerated by the carbon dioxide which is given off during the process. Sourdough is added to the bread dough as a raising agent to add air to the bread and enable rye dough, which would otherwise not rise, to be baked.
Potato bread
Potato bread dough consists mainly of potatoes which have been boiled and mashed. This makes the bread particularly light and moist. Nuts are often added to give the bread a rustic character.
Nut bread
Nut bread is usually made with brown Ruchmehl flour, but can also be made with semi-white or white flour according to personal preference. The nuts – usually walnuts – are roughly chopped and added to the dough.

Types of flour

Flour can be produced from a whole variety of different grains. Traditionally, flour is made from wheat and rye. Wheat flour can be categorized as follows: white flour is mainly produced from the inner part of the grain, with an extraction rate of around 65 percent. Semi-white flour is practically bran-free and contains approximately 75 percent of the grain. Swiss brown flour (Ruchmehl) contains around 85 percent of the grain, including some of the bran. Whole grain flour is extracted from approximately 98 percent of the grain – in other words, the entire grain – with or without the bran. Any whole grains on the crust or inside a loaf of bread, however, are no guarantee that the dough has been made with whole grain flour.
Rye flour has a slightly lower percentage of gluten than wheat flour, but a higher percentage of minerals and fibre, giving the bread a strong flavour. Rye bread is usually dark with a dense crust. Rye flour is excellent for making sourdough bread.
Ancient varieties of flour like spelt flour are also becoming ever more popular. Spelt flour is particularly aromatic and nutty and contains the whole spelt grain. Spelt is closely related to wheat, but is regarded as being easier to digest and considered to be healthier. Spelt flour has a high gluten content and is therefore easy to work with. It also contains more protein and minerals than whole wheat flour.
Buckwheat may sound like a classic grain variety, but it belongs to the grass family. It has a high mineral content and is a handy alternative for people who are sensitive to gluten as it does not contain any. However, it is not advisable to bake bread using only buckwheat flour as there is no gluten to give the dough structure and stability.

Bread flavour

What does bread actually taste like? This question is not easy to give a general answer to because it depends largely on the type of bread, the type of flour and the other ingredients used.
White bread has a fresh, typically floury and sometimes slightly malty flavour. Examples include baguette, soft English bread and ciabatta.
Mixed-wheat bread has a wealth of different flavours. The more whole wheat flour it contains, the milder, more delicate and neutral its aroma.
Whole grain wheat bread has a rather mild, often slightly nutty flavour.
Rye bread has a strong, tangy flavour.
Mixed-rye bread is often highly aromatic with a strong flavour. Examples include Bauernbrot (rustic bread) and Landbrot (country loaf).
Whole grain rye bread ranges from slightly tangy to strong and sour.
Speciality bread has different flavours depending on the ingredients used.