Bread shapes

I've been doing some research on yeast breads, and the thought occurred to me that there must be a reason why breads are shaped the way they are. Some seem obvious--rectangular loaves are for sandwiches (or so it would seem), and that shape speaks to the common usage of the bread. But others are not so obvious. Does anyone know of a source that might give me more insight into why breads are shaped the way they are?

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6 Comments

boulangere July 6, 2015
You're so right, Nancy! Elizabeth David and Bernard Clayton are jewels. His book The Breads of France is similarly excellent and informative.
 
Nancy July 6, 2015
in addition to the books Cynthia recommends, look at
Elizabeth David, English Bread and Yeast Cookery (lots of good historical info)
Bernard Clayton, New Complete Book of Bread (any edition)
Rose Levy Beranbaum, Bread Bible
 
petitbleu July 6, 2015
Great recommendations, Nancy. I have English Bread and Yeast Cookery and the Bread Bible, so I'll delve into those and see if they have anything to say.
 
boulangere July 6, 2015
What an interesting question. You are correct, that sandwich breads have come to be conventionally baked in deep, rectangular pans for the sake of uniformity. Other breads' shapes have much to do with their history and traditions. Stollen, typically prepared around the Christmas holidays, is hand-folded so as to incorporate as much fruit as possible, but also to resemble the folding of the infant Jesus's diaper. In 1993, France set down in law once and for all via the Décret Pain (Bread Decree) the length, diameter, and contents of the baguette. Naan is flat and thin so that it will bake quickly when slapped against the inside of a large tandoor oven. 3 books come immediately to mind that will give you some good information as to breads' histories and traditions: The Bread Baker's Apprentice by Peter Reinhart, Flatbreads and Flavors: A Baker's Atlas by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid, and Home Baking: The Artful Mix of Flour and Traditions from Around the World. Aside from each being deeply researched and highly informative, they are also eminently readable, and each is perfectly outstanding in its own right. I hope this launches you on an interesting journey.
 
boulangere July 6, 2015
P.S. Home Baking is also by Alford and Duguid.
 
petitbleu July 6, 2015
Thank you so much, Cynthia! This is super helpful, especially since I own two of those books already! I'll start reading and see if they have anything to say.
 
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