How many shapes can bread have?

Every country has its traditions. Every region its specialities. Every bread has its shape. And the name is often suggested by the shape

The many shapes of bread

The Italians spend on average EUR 19.78 per person per month on bread, eight euros more than on pasta. It is one of our oldest, simplest traditional recipes, the food where we are least likely to change our habits when it comes to quantity and quality – even in times of crisis. But bread is not just a necessity: the shape of the bread tells us much more. There is the natural, most beautiful shape, created by the phases of the production process: the harvest and processing of the raw material, the dough, the leavening and the cooking. The air bubbles inside the bread, the breaks in the crust and the outline shape of a loaf depend on the quantities of water, flour and yeast, weather conditions and oven temperature. And then it’s down to chance.

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However, there are other shapes. Pane Ferrarese is X-shaped; Rosetta is curved, puffed up and light; Spiga is rich and long; Pane di Altamura is squat, compact and heavy; Pane Carasau is thin, transparent and light like parchment. The design that humans have sketched out over the centuries seems to have deeper roots in regional traditions. Pretzels, for example, were the reward given by the monks to children after the Catechism and have the look of hands joined together in prayer. The soft weave of the Jewish Challah, the sweet-tasting bread of Jewish holidays, is reminiscent of the decorative motif of a Corinthian capital. Unleavened bread is the bread of fugitives and would become the host of the first Christians. Its shape is a perfect circle.

Nowadays, designers and artists also design bread, following their intuition, practicality and imagination. Spanish designer Juan Soriano Blanco has created an edible menu and bread hooks, baguettes with hook handles that are easy to transport. Paolo Ulian invented finger biscuits, biscuit thimbles for eating hazelnut cream, and Katja Gruijters designed a bag to be filled with a choice of bread accompaniments.

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