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13 Easy Breads to Bake From Around the World

By Aislyn Greene

May 22, 2020

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Learn how to make the slightly sweet, bagel-like simit bread, a common sight on the streets of Istanbul.

Photo by Amani A/Shutterstock

Learn how to make the slightly sweet, bagel-like simit bread, a common sight on the streets of Istanbul.

From Armenian lavash to Italian focaccia, here are some of the easiest breads from around the world to make at home.

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It’s pretty clear that bread baking has become the national quarantine pastime. But while I love to bake, I just can’t bring myself to spend hours kneading dough and nursing sourdough starters right now. So here’s a baker’s dozen for the lazy carb lover—just keep in mind that you still need to account for rise time. You’ll find classics (focaccia, brioche) but also a few surprises (Armenian lavash, South African roosterkoek, whaaaat?). Most are possible to whip up with standard pantry ingredients, no bread flour or sourdough starters required. (I noted any exceptions.) Ready, set, BAKE!

Simit

From: Turkey
Prep time: 30 minutes

Dating back to the Ottoman era, this slender, twisted ring—a cousin to the bagel—was once the snack food of sultans and considered a valuable gift. These days, the sesame seed–studded rounds are a ubiquitous sight on the streets of Istanbul. The secret to its addicting, lightly sweetened flavor? The dough is briefly dipped in molasses-sweetened water before baking.

Get the recipe.

Naan, once a bread savored only by royals, is surprisingly easy to make at home.

Naan

From: India
Prep time: 30 minutes

This flatbread is among the oldest breads in the world. The first recorded mention of naan was in 1300, in the “notes of the Indo-Persian poet Amir Kushrau.” While traditionally made in a tandoor oven—the dough is slapped onto the walls of a 750-degree oven—you can use a cast-iron pan and get surprisingly impressive results. This recipe from the Food Network’s Aarti Sequeira walks you through everything you need to know.

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The ingredient that led to the rise of banana bread in the United States was not actually bananas—but baking powder.

Banana Bread

From: the United States
Prep time: 10 minutes

When it comes to iconic American bread, you might think San Francisco sourdough or New York bagels. But both of those require time—a lot of time—and effort. Who can be bothered! Banana bread, on the other hand, is easy to make, easy to riff on, and as classic as American pie. It’s a relatively new addition to the American diet, but it took off quickly (as this King Arthur Flour story reveals). I’ve used Molly Wizenberg’s recipe from A Homemade Life for years—the combo of crystallized ginger and chopped chocolate really make the bread pop.

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In Italy, focaccia varies from region to region.

Focaccia

From: Italy
Prep time: 15 minutes

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One of the most fascinating parts about focaccia—well, if you’re a baking nerd like me—is its regional differences. Each region of Italy has its own unique (and passionately defended) version of the light, spongy bread. In Liguria, considered the birthplace of the bread, focaccia ligure is treated with a brine before baking; Venice has a sweet version baked at Easter; Puglia’s focaccia barese is made with durum flour and topped with rosemary and olives or tomatoes. And so on. Bon Appetit’s simple, no-knead primer is a great place to begin.

Get the recipe.

Pão de queijo are typically made with a mix of fresh cheese (such as mozzarella) and parmesan.

Pão de Queijo

From: Brazil
Prep time: 10 minutes

These cheesy, golden rounds are the quintessential Brazilian snack. But what many people don’t know is that pão de queijo—which are similar to a French gougère, but likely evolved from a bread made by Brazil’sindigenous Guaraní people—are gluten-free. The only special ingredient you’ll need is tapioca flour, which can be purchased on Amazon.

Get the recipe.

In France, brioche comes in many shapes and sizes, including loaf form.

Brioche

From: France
Prep time: 25 minutes

Rich with butter and eggs, brioche is surprisingly easy to make. The bread dates back to the early 15th century—but the first (recorded) mention was not from the mouth of Marie Antoinette, as many have claimed, but rather in the writings of the philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Bake up a loaf (which is a little less fussy to make than the traditional top knots) and dig into the fascinating history.

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In 2014, Armenian lavash was designated a UNESCO “expression of culture.”

Lavash

From: Armenia
Prep time: 30 minutes

An unleavened flatbread similar to naan, lavash is the center around which Armenian food revolves—even the Armenian phrase for “let’s eat” translates to “let’s eat bread.” Lavash, traditionally prepared only by women, has been the subject of an entire book and, in 2014, it was recognized as a UNESCO expression of culture. So, yeah, Armenians take bread seriously. But don’t let that intimidate you, because, despite its ancient history, it’s simple to prepare.

Get the recipe.

Roosterkoek, a South African bread cooked over coals, is pronounced

Roosterkoek

From: South Africa
Prep time: About 15 minutes

This fun little bun is traditionally baked over coals (roosterkoek translates to “grill cake”) and served at a braai, or barbecue, making it the perfect summer bread. All you need is a grill, flour, yeast, salt, and water. Make sure you have a very stiff dough, otherwise the dough will stick to your grill. They’re best eaten hot, slathered with butter.

Get the recipe.

Irish brown bread is a simple, hearty bread that requires no kneading (and tastes great with Irish butter).

Brown Bread

From: Ireland
Prep time: About 10 minutes

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Brown bread, when done well, is one of Ireland’s greatest treats. Writer Jessica Colley Clarke explored the bread, which forms the backbone of any self-respecting Irish breakfast, in a story for AFAR, writing: “Fresh from the oven, thickly sliced, slathered in salted Irish butter, brown bread soothes you with its unfussy nourishment.” The version below calls for wheat germ, buttermilk (use this trick if you don’t have any on hand), and two different types of wheat flour, though you can just use regular whole wheat in a pinch.

Get the recipe.

The secret to Malaysia’s roti canai is all in properly spreading the dough.

Roti Canai

From: Malaysia
Prep time: About 25 minutes

I still remember the first roti canai—a classic breakfast flatbread—I tried in Malaysia last year. First, we watched, mesmerized, as the baker spread and tossed the dough. He drizzled it with clarified butter, then went on to twist and fold it into a tiny dough crown, then griddled the whole thing. The result was a flaky, buttery flatbread that haunts me (in a good way) to this day. The dough is super simple to prepare—the trick to those flaky layers comes in the spreading technique, so make sure you watch the video in the recipe below before you dive in.

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Finnish pulla bread can be served as a braided loaf—or more shareable cinnamon rolls.

Pulla

From: Finland
Prep time: About 20 minutes, including 5 minutes of kneading

In Finland, like in many Scandinavian cultures, the day is divided into coffee breaks. There’s aamukahvi (morning coffee), päiväkahvi (daytime coffee), and even saunakahvi (sauna coffee!). And pulla, a cardamom-spiced sweet bread, is one of the most common pastries to munch on while sipping a kahvi. Most frequently braided into a loaf, the dough can also be used to make cinnamon rolls, which are so much easier to share with hungry quarantined neighbors.

Get the recipe.

Khachapuri, a boat-shaped bread filled with cheese and egg, is traditionally made with imeruli and sulguni cheeses (but feta and mozzarella work just fine).

Khachapuri

From: Georgia
Prep time: About 30 minutes

The moment I read about these egg-topped, “cheesy-oozing pies” in Anya von Bremzen's story about Georgian hospitality, I was hooked. (Honestly, who wouldn’t be?) So I was delighted to discover that football-shaped khachapuri—Georgia’s national dish—are relatively easy to prepare at home, so long as you have mozzarella and/or feta. This is, admittedly, the most ambitious bread on the list, but given that you can eat it as a meal, it’s worth the extra labor, no?

Get the recipe.

The look and preparation (sometimes they’re griddled, sometimes they're baked) of Chinese shaobing vary from region to region.

Shaobing

From: China
Prep time: About 30 minutes

Most people don’t associate China with bread but the country has plenty of iconic carbs, beyond rice. Case in point: this layered sesame flatbread common in northern China—where wheat is a staple crop—and often served alongside meals instead of rice. From the outside, it looks like a flat bun, sprinkled with sesame seeds, but cut it open and you’ll find airy, flavor-packed layers. The recipe below calls for sesame paste but includes a great hack if you don’t want to make your own.

Get the recipe.

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