A slice of bread is a staple in many areas around the world. French and Italian bread are two popular varieties with distinct characteristics. While both are artisanal Old World breads made from wheat flour, water, yeast, and salt, there are key differences between French bread and Italian bread, or even bread in the US, regarding ingredients, texture, taste, and baking methods.
Traditional Italian bread, such as ciabatta, focaccia, and pane pugliese, are made with unrefined flours and olive oil for a heartier, rustic taste and chewy crumb. Italian loaf of bread recipes uses starters over packaged yeast for complex flavor.
The hand shaping and long rises create an irregular interior crumb with large holes. French breads like the classic French baguette and buttery brioche tend to be lighter and airy. While Italian bread may be baked similarly elongated, Italian bread differs by adding herbs, garlic bread, and hard durum wheat for robust flavor and toothsome texture.
In our guide, you can learn more about Italian bread Vs French bread. By the end, you’ll better understand the differences of and for traditional Italian bread made at home or even traditional French bread. (Read Can You Freeze White Claws)
White Bread Vs Italian Bread: What’s the Difference?
A white loaf is a popular bread and staple food for many cultures worldwide. From being stuffed with sandwich filling to toast, bread is versatile and can be incorporated into meals and snacks in many ways. Two popular types of bread are white bread and Italian bread.
While the bread is similar at first glance, yet, you’ll find this bread different from other types or even between Italian and French bread.
What is White Bread?
White bread is made from wheat flour from which the bran and germ have been removed through milling. This leaves behind the wheat’s endosperm, which produces a light color and soft texture characteristic of white bread.
Some key features of white bread:
- To get the light color of the bread due to being made from refined white flour, which only contains wheat endosperm.
- It lacks the nutritional benefits of whole grains since bran and germ are removed.
- Rises high due to high levels of gluten from refined flour. This makes it light and airy.
- Has a neutral flavor and taste.
- The soft texture makes it suited to toast, sandwiches, or where you need fluffy bread.
What is Italian Bread?
Italian bread refers to the many different breads originating in Italy. Many Italian breads are made from flour, yeast, salt, and water, so the bread often gets mistaken for regular white bread.
While ingredients are simple, the bread’s secret lies in its techniques to create crusty loaves with unique texture and flavor for several bread options to accompany Italian dishes.
Some characteristics of Italian bread:
- Made from wheat flour, often an unrefined variety like durum flour which gives it a distinctive yellow hue.
- It may include whole wheat flour for a heartier, nuttier taste and chewier texture.
- Utilizes a starter instead of packaged yeast for the added complexity of flavor.
- Shape varies – common shapes are filone, ciabatta, pagnotta. Crusty exteriors are slashed decoratively before baking.
- Has a crispier crust and chewier interior crumb than white bread.
- Brushed with olive oil and sprinkled with herbs, garlic, onions, cheese, or other toppings before baking for added flavor.
- The rustic style of preparation results in an artisanal look.
Well-known types of Italian bread include ciabatta, focaccia, and pane pugliese. These breads are almost enough to dip in olive oil and eat on their own or for serving with Italian meals and making sandwiches. (Read 7up Vs Sprite Vs Sierra Mist)
The Main Differences Between White Bread and Italian Bread
While white bread and Italian bread are both made from wheat, there is a difference between Italian bread and white bread.
White bread is made from refined white flour containing only the wheat endosperm. Italian bread can be made from refined flour, but many traditional recipes call for unrefined flour like durum wheat flour, semolina flour, or whole wheat flour. This gives Italian bread more texture, color, and nutrients.
Flavor and Texture
The refinement process for white flour removes bran and germ, resulting in a neutral flavor and light texture. Italian bread has a more complex, wheaty, rustic flavor and chewy texture from the addition of unrefined flour.
White sandwich bread is baked in rectangular loaf pans. Italian bread comes in a variety shapes like filone, ciabatta, and round pagnotta or pugliese loaves. The irregular shapes and slashed crusts create a rustic appearance.
White bread has a soft, thin crust that gives way to a fluffy interior crumb. Italian breads have a crispy, crunchy crust and uneven holes in the interior crumb. This comes from artisanal baking methods. (Read Sweet And Sour Chicken Vs Orange Chicken)
Since white bread is made from refined grains, it lacks the fiber, vitamins, and minerals provided by whole grains. Italian bread can have added nutrition when made with whole wheat or unrefined flour.
The neutral bread flavor and soft texture make white bread ideal for sandwiches, toast, and French toast. Italian bread’s hearty texture and robust flavor make it preferable for dipping in oils, serving with Italian food, and making bruschetta. Panettone is a dessert bread from Milan, although the sweet bread is also enjoyed around the globe.
White sandwich bread is a common addition in many countries. Italian bread are rustic breads of Italy, which have been baked the same way for centuries.
So, in summary – white bread has a fluffy texture and mild taste, while Italian bread is crusty and flavorful. They differ in ingredients, preparation method, shape, and best uses.
Types of French Bread Compared to Italian
French bread is known for its delicious taste. How does French bread differ from Italian bread?
Some main types of French bread:
- Baguette: Long, narrow loaf with a crispy crust and soft interior. The quintessential French bread.
- Ficelle: Very thin baguette-style bread.
- Brioche: Made with eggs and butter for rich flavor and light texture.
- Pain de campagne: Country-style bread made with whole grains. Hearty, nutty flavor.
- Boule: Round artisanal loaf. It can be made with whole wheat.
- Fougasse: Shaped into a leaf pattern with holes. Crispy crust.
One thing to note is the French bakery trade is governed by French Law, so bread must stick to some rules. Thus, you can always buy bread that may be made to a set standard. So, French bread must be made with flour, water, salt, and beer yeast.
Making Bread at Home
Making Italian white bread at home is very rewarding! Here are some tips for the best Italian bread recipe:
- For white soft bread, use all-purpose or bread flour and yeast. Knead well and bake in loaf pans.
- Italian bread is often filled with flavors like garlic, herbs, oil, and cheese in the basic dough. Shape into rounds or logs and bake free-form.
- For a crispier crust, use a bread stone and pour some water in the oven when baking to create steam.
- Let dough rise twice for best flavor – once after kneading and again after shaping.
- Proof dough by letting it rise until doubled in size before baking.
- For a nutty crunch, sprinkle sesame or poppy seeds on top before baking.
- Brush the hot loaf with oil or butter when it comes out of the oven for a softer crust.
Baking your bread takes effort but lets you control the ingredients and customize the loaf. You can create bakery-worthy Italian and French-inspired breads at home with practice. You can even form the bread differently and use wheat to make whole wheat pita bread. (Read Is Dried Oregano The Same As Oregano Leaves)
What’s the difference between white, whole wheat, and multigrain bread?
White European bread and American bread that’s made with refined white type of flour and has a light color and texture. Whole wheat bread contains whole wheat flour with more fiber and nutrients. Multigrain bread includes a blend of different whole grain bread like oats, rye bread, and barley for texture and flavor variety.
Is sourdough bread the healthiest?
Bread, known as sourdough, undergoes a long fermentation, creating nutrients and making it easier to digest. The acids can reduce the bread’s glycemic index. So sourdough can be a healthy choice, especially if made from whole grain or sprouted flour.
Can you freeze bread?
Yes, bread can be frozen to extend its shelf life. First, seal your sliced bread, then seal it tightly in plastic wrap or bags and freeze. Take a slice of white bread as needed and thaw at room temperature or toast from frozen.
What’s the healthiest bread?
For maximum nutrition, start choosing bread with 100% whole grain, like whole-wheat bread or sourdough bread, which is known to be healthy. Look for terms like “whole grain” as the first ingredient. The best bread made from sprouted grains that haven’t been finely milled is also a very healthy option.