Its history dates back almost 15,000 years. In many cultures, it is a symbol of abundance and prosperity. Although simple in composition, it surprises with its wealth of flavours, forms and additions, depending on the region, culture and tradition. It occupies a place of honour on the table and is used to welcome distinguished guests. It accompanies us in our daily lives, is the basis for many dishes, and its aroma makes it impossible to pass by with indifference. After all, who could say no to a slice of fresh bread?

A brief history of the loaf

Humanity enjoyed the taste for bread thousands of years ago, although, at the time, it did not yet resemble the loaves we know so well from home. Back then, cereal grains were ground on stones, water was added and then baked on glowing rocks. The taste and shape was more like that of a flatbread. It was only in ancient Egypt, and quite by accident, that it was discovered that this baked product would be plumper and tastier if a sourdough starter was also used. According to legend, the fermentation was unintentionally discovered by a servant girl who had inadvertently left the dough kneaded in the sun. It is also to the Egyptians that we owe the first bread oven. In ancient Greece, bread was baked according to one of fifty recipes; in Rome, there were more than 300 bakeries.

Climate conditions, a variety of grains and individual preferences have made bread look different depending on the latitude. In countries with colder climates, whole-grain bread with high nutritional value predominates. The dark, distinctive-tasting ruisleipä reigns above all on Finnish tables. Danes use rye bread as the basis for their smørrebrød sandwiches, which are surprisingly rich in ingredients and intriguing combinations, while Icelanders specialise in baking their highly nutritious hverabrauð in… volcanic hot springs! German pretzels are the perfect accompaniment to typical regional dishes, but they also taste great, served on their own with butter and Bavarian sweet mustard. We can also attribute pumpernickel to our western neighbours.

The further south you go in Europe, the lighter and lighter the bread becomes. Italian panini, or ciabatta with fresh local toppings, can be bought on almost every corner. On the other hand, a Greek pita filled to the brim with vegetables and tzatziki sauce is a great snack to grab on the run and head off to explore further. Long baguettes with crispy crusts and soft interiors have become an indispensable symbol of France, while deliciously fluffy pancakes made from wheat flour, potatoes, and milk have made langos the main character of Hungarian cuisine.

The further we go in the world, the more we are surprised by the variety of bread. Boston Brown Bread, made from corn, with the addition of molasses and wheat and rye flour, is not baked but… cooked in aluminium coffee cans. In Mexico, we can enjoy the flavour of a corn flour tortilla, which accompanies any Mexican dish. In Venezuela or Colombia, people start their day with a nutritious arepa – eaten alone or stuffed with their favourite ingredients.

In Central Asia and especially India, flatter baked goods predominate and are served as a complement to dishes, especially with thick sauces. Baked in a special tandoor oven, naan bread is shaped like a large blob – with just a few ingredients, such as flour, yoghurt and spices, and tastes delicious. The round, thin chapati patties act as cutlery and are used to eat the food. A variation of pan-fried pancakes is the quick roti, which has an interesting texture. No matter which side of the world you go to, you can enjoy fantastic and varied baked goods.

Which is the best bread in the world?

According to the culinary website Taste Atlas, the title of the best bread in the world goes to Malaysian roti canai. It is a traditional pancake made with flour, water, eggs and fat of Indian origin (such as ghee, the traditional clarified butter in India) and fried in a pan. The batter is folded over many times so that when fried, it has a layered texture with a soft interior and crispy top. Roti canai is most often served in its original round form as an accompaniment to curry.

Also, on the bread podium are garlic naan and Colombian pan de bono. The top ten is rounded off by baked goods from Brazil, Iran, Bangladesh and Italy. The top 100 bakery products also included a Polish accent: the unique taste of the Prądnik Bread was recognised. The bread’s history is more than 500 years old, and it owes its name to the village of Prądnik (currently one of Kraków’s districts), where it was baked according to a traditional recipe. The sizeable loaves (usually around 4.5 kg!) are made from rye and wheat flour, boiled potatoes, rye bran and fresh yeast. Baked Prądnik Bread keeps its freshness for up to two weeks. This delicious product was also awarded a prize in the “Taste of Małopolska” competition and made it to the list of protected regional products.

The world’s most expensive loaf

In the tiny town of Algatocin in Andalusia, the most expensive bread in the world is currently being baked. You have to pay as much as €1480 for a loaf there! At the bakery owned by Juan Manuel Moreno, only organic ingredients of the highest quality and local origin are used to make the bread. It includes quinoa flour, chia seeds, oat flakes, sun-dried tomatoes, water straight from the surrounding mountains, dry honey and hand-mined rock salt.

What makes this bread so unique and precious are the flakes of gold and silver. According to the Spanish baker, the precious metals do not affect the flavour of the bread itself, but their addition is said to have a beneficial effect on the body. After all, gold and silver are renowned for their antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. The 400 g loaf is in demand, although mainly from the Arabic countries and China. Moreno has other surprising ideas for his own baked goods – a plan has already germinated in his mind for bread, the composition of which will be individually selected to suit the consumer’s needs. The price? Only EUR 10,000 for a 1 kg loaf!

Good to know
Good to know

Fermented bread

Some breads are baked in ovens for an hour, while others are fermented underground for a year! Originating in Ethiopia, kocho is made from the chopped and grated flesh of the banana ensete plant. With the addition of yeast, a dough is kneaded, which then ferments buried underground for several weeks or even months. The finished bread is then baked in the form of thin cakes, has a sour taste and a thick texture, and is served with milk, cheese, cabbage, meat or coffee. Thanks to its long fermentation process, it is an excellent source of nutrition during periods of food shortage.

Tastes of tradition around Kraków

Honouring the history and traditions associated with bread, even museums dedicated to this baked product have been established. The Museum of Bread, School and Curiosities in Radzionków was founded out of passion by local activist Piotr Mankiewicz. He collected various exhibits for years, which he finally decided to show to a broader audience. The museum, founded in 2000, is all about bread. There you can see the objects used to make bread in the old days, as well as try your hand at making your own braided bread during a workshop.
The Krasocin Bread Museum chose a historic Dutch windmill built in 1920 as its headquarters. Inside, it has managed to obtain a rich collection of objects and tools once used on the land. You can admire old flails, sickles, scythes, chaff cutters, ploughs and bread shovels there. A highlight is the exhibition of photographs from the 1940s and 1950s depicting daily work in the fields and harvest festivals.
The cooker used to be the heart of every cottage, around which the entire life of the household revolved. It is no different at the Bread Cottage in Górki Małe, where you can closely follow the entire process of bread making - from the grain to the finished loaf. There is also a scone-making workshop. These homemade delicacies can then be eaten with the addition of butter, honey or lard from the home larder.