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Sep 10, 2011 06:04 AM

A Taxonomy of Bread Texture

This is a plea for two things:

1. Words to describe bread textures
2. The associated techniques and ingredients that produce those textures

Most folks who enjoy bread are thrilled by the variety of textures that can be achieved with
simple ingredients and techniques. For example, consider the differences between
the gummy white bread typical of grocery-store hot dog buns, the wholey yet chewy texture of mountain bread, the dense textures of some whole grain breads, and the cotton-candy like texture of some dinner rolls.

Perhaps taxonomy is not the right word; all breads fall on a continuum of textures. Perhaps you have a better word for that as well!!


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  1. I think Peter Reinhart hit the best words in his book Crust and Crumb. Both are the essence of bread, imo

    This is a good description:

    As technique and ingredients go, basic bread is flour, water, yeast and salt. Hydration, length of rise, shaping, baking (eg. steam and temperature) give you infinite variations. Adding milk, eggs, sugar, etc. give you a softer texture and flavor w/ less rise time (although longer rise still makes these better). There are thousands of books dedicated to just these few things.

    4 Replies
    1. re: chowser

      Thank you.

      I appreciate your interest.

      Crumb and Crust is great, but I think it is a subset of what I'm after.


      1. re: alfloyd

        I don't know how in depth you want to get but for a superficial view, that link I posted had good information on hydration and the crumb/texture of the bread, as well as a comparison of the breads baked with different techniques and the resulting crust/crumb. For a more in depth study, there are books that can cover more than can be done here. I'm not understanding what you're looking for, I think.

        1. re: chowser

          Thank You.

          I think at this stage, I am interested in breadth more than depth. That is, I think the link you posted demonstrates one variable for one type of bread. . There are clearly many more to investigate. Big project with lofty to speak.

          I do like the pictures in the link. They are very effective at communicating the effect of water content and just the time that you let the flour and water sit together.

          1. re: alfloyd

            For more breadth than depth, have you been to There are some good lessons on the basics of what each does, as well as helpful pictures:


            Lesson three might be especially helpful for your purposes but I find them all very informative. Lesson one is a good quick overview.

    2. I think the above "cotton candy" should be included in our glossary and hopefully as this thread ages I can contribute more....

      I'd like to come up with a word to describe when bread has the big "rustic" bubbles inside that are smooth...

      7 Replies
      1. re: iheartcooking

        Thank You!

        I would love to hear of your language for describing such rustic bread.

        Some breads exhibit birefringence like a piece of ham. I have been fascinated by that.


        1. re: alfloyd

          Oh, I think I understand better what you're looking for--not the actual technique but the description of the technique and a more poetic description of the result? I'm such a science person that I don't use artistic terms but more matter of fact (eg I'd say varying holes sizes from miniscule to 1/2" vs freshly opened champagne bubbles). The window pane test is where you can just see light through, not barely transluscent thinness.

          1. re: chowser

            If this is the case, this might fit better under General Chowhounding than Home Cooking.

            1. re: chowser


              Thank you for your comments.

              I enjoy the technicalities that you describe. I hope to learn more.

              I do however engage making many styles of bread at home from naan, to NY pizza crust , to Irish soda and Italian ..these are what fascinate me.

              1. re: alfloyd

                Would you share what you've learned about Irish soda bread (possibly on a new thread on its own)? It's a completely different bread than the yeast ones and there are so many variations on it. I have a couple of recipes for them that I like but would love to learn more about what they should be like, what the texture of the dough is like, etc. If you have a favorite recipe, that would be great. Thanks.

                1. re: chowser

                  I like making it a little sweet and a little salty. Keeps better that way.

                  I grew up on US Southern cornbread and biscuits, so Irish soda is not all that different.

                  BTW, I can't stand wheat flour in my cornbread. Not a teaspoon.

                  1. re: chowser

                    thank you for your interest Chowser, but I would really like to
                    get back on thread..