Our Guide to Different Types of Yeast Breads
Yeast bread comes in so many different varieties. We break down the different types of yeast breads and how to make them your own.
From fluffy sandwich bread to sweet cinnamon rolls, yeast bread is incredibly versatile. And while you’ve almost definitely enjoyed these rolls, loaves and breadsticks, you might not know what really makes these yeast breads stand out from each other. We put together this guide to types of yeast breads to explain the differences and give tips on how to make (and enjoy!) each one.
For more bread know-how, don’t forget to check out our ultimate guide to bread baking.
What Is Yeast Bread?
As the name suggests, yeast breads are made with yeast (as opposed to quick breads, which are the other main type of bread and don’t contain yeast). Combining warm water and sugar with yeast causes the yeast to multiply and release carbon dioxide, which, when mixed with dry ingredients, creates a soft loaf of bread. We can show you how to proof yeast and how to use yeast the right way.
Breads made with yeast also require kneading. Working the dough helps develop gluten, a protein that gives bread structure and texture and keeps those yeast gas bubbles within the loaf. Since kneading can initially be a bit tough on the gas bubbles that have been built up, yeast breads need one or two rest periods as well.
If your yeast doesn’t work, your yeast bread won’t work, so that’s why you should always test yeast when baking.
Yeast Bread Loaves
Loaf yeast breads are baked in, you guessed it, a loaf pan! These pans are usually 9 x 5 inches, though they can run as small as 5-3/4 x 3-1/3 inches. (Here’s more on loaf pan sizes.) The baked loaves are usually cut into even slices and used for sandwiches, toast or French toast.
White Sandwich Bread
The most basic of the loaf yeast breads, white sandwich bread is easy to make. And because these loaves are made with a standard bread flour or all-purpose flour and no additional flavors, white sandwich bread is incredibly versatile. After learning how to make basic yeast bread, try using the slices to make bread pudding, stuffing, meat loaf and much more. You can also experiment with swapping out some of the all-purpose flour for whole wheat flour to make whole wheat bread.
Thanks to rye flour, rye bread has a rich, almost earthy flavor to it. Rye flour comes in light or dark versions, creating a light tan or deep brown bread, or a marble of the two types. The deeper color will lead to a stronger rye flavor in your bread. While Reubens, pastrami and other sandwiches are among the most popular way to eat rye bread, it can also be enjoyed in a baked strata.
Dense and hardy, potato bread is made by replacing some of the flour of a white loaf with mashed potato or potato flakes. Since these loaves tend to be heavy and moist, they work well served alongside a bowl of creamy soup or toasted with a hefty pad of butter.
Sourdough bread gets its distinctive flavor from the sourdough starter that is used in place of a package of active dry yeast. This starter naturally develops yeast over time, with a sharp sour taste. The strong flavor of sourdough bread lends itself well to a savory bread pudding, bread bowl for dips and breakfast sandwiches. Check out our answers to the most common sourdough questions.
Shaped Yeast Breads
Rather than being placed in a loaf pan, shaped yeast breads are twisted, rolled or pressed onto a baking sheet, allowing for a wide range of shapes and uses. These breads can be almost any flavor and do well with mix-ins like cheese chunks, fresh herbs or dried fruit.
Whether they’re twisted into a ring or are left straight, breaded breads are always a showstopper. Depending on what flavor you go with, braided breads can be sliced and served with a cup of coffee for an easy breakfast, or baked for a special occasion like challah for Shabbat or ricotta Easter bread.
A favorite for appetizers and accompaniments to a big bowl of pasta, breadsticks are long, individually sized breads that can be soft or crunchy. Breadsticks can be baked plain or topped with parmesan and garlic. By the way, here’s how to make copycat Olive Garden breadsticks.
Rolls are also individually sized breads, but their shape and flavor vary much more than breadsticks. They can be spiral, folded, twisted or any of these other ways to shape rolls. While dinner rolls are often plain, they can also be flavored with honey, herbs, butternut squash and many more options.
Hot dog and hamburger buns are fluffy round or oblong pieces of bread that are made specifically for holding a burger or hot dog. Buns are most commonly white bread, but wheat, whole grain and onion are also popular varieties.
Pretzels are a traditional German bread that involves boiling shaped bread in water and baking soda. The twists are then baked to a glossy brown crust and pale fluffy inside. Soft pretzels served with mustard or cheese sauce make a great appetizer, and small, crunchy pretzels are a go-to snack.
From tortillas to pita and naan, flatbreads include a wide range of round, flat breads that are typically cooked on a skillet or grill. Because of their shape, these breads are perfect for turning into a pizza, folding into a taco or gyro or using to sop up tikka masala sauce.
Usually baked round or in a rectangle, focaccia is a thin bread with a tender crumb. Though they can be left plain, most focaccia is topped with bright ingredients like tomatoes, garlic, olives or herbs. Take a look at how one home baker turns her focaccia into a work of art.
Yeasted sweet breads are a wonderful way to treat yourself! Sweetened with ingredients like chocolate, cinnamon, caramel or other goodies, sweet breads can double as dessert and breakfast goodie.