If you grew up in this country, there’s a good chance that the bread at the Thanksgiving Day table was a plain, white roll or a fat, dense biscuit or – god forbid! – even a buttery instant crescent roll from the Pillsbury package. OK, that’s a guilty pleasure. But with so many breads in the world to choose from, why not show you guests your globe-trotting skills on Turkey Day. Here are eight ideas.
1. Pão de Queijo (Brazil)
These adorable little cheese buns can be found all over Brazil and in several other South American countries. Made from cassava (tapioca) or corn flour, they are delightfully gluten-free, making them an ideal bread to serve at a large family gathering where a celiac is almost bound to show up. Eggs help the dough, which doesn’t use yeast or any other leavening agent, fluff up as it bakes. That’s a big-a cheese puff!
2. Pain de Ménage (Quebec)
This plain white loaf is the French-Canadian take on a simple country bread and, in fact, is otherwise known as farmer’s bread (or pain d’habitant). It can be made with just flour, water and yeast, but the best versions are moistened with lard (then again, that statement can be applied to a lot of things). Bake it fresh and slice it warm to soak up excess gravy and sop up whatever’s left on your plate between helpings.
3. Naan (India)
You’ll find this oven-baked flatbread all over Southeast Asia. It’s best enjoyed spread with butter or ghee while still hot enough to melt it. The beauty of naan is that it can be topped, stuffed or infused with just about anything, from herbs to seeds to pumpkin to cheese to spicy mashed potatoes. Lately, we’ve seen a number of naan stuffing recipes cropping up, so don’t limit yourself to serving it as is. And save some of the next day – you’ll want to fold turkey and cranberry sauce into a reheated naan for lunch.
4. Pretzel (Germany)
OK, so you might throw your guests off if you set down a basket of big, soft pretzel-shaped pretzels this Thanksgiving. But pretzel bread is delicious and shouldn’t be avoided simply because we most associate it with big, pretzel-shaped street food. Find a recipe for pretzel dough, then simply shape the breads into rolls or sticks… or little pilgrim hats, if you have the artistic vision and dexterity for it.
5. Basque Pumpkin Bread (Basque country)
This cakey pumpkin loaf isn’t exactly what leaps to mind when you think of French bread. It’s called Méture au Potiron Basquais, a subtly sweet rum-spiked bread from the Pyrenees made with the Native American staples of pumpkin and cornmeal. Apparently, these foods were brought back from the Americas by Christopher Columbus and his gang, and adopted into the cuisine in parts of southwestern France and northern Spain.
6. Challah (Jewish)
This braided egg bread is traditionally served on the Sabbath and holidays to commemorate the manna that fell from heaven to feed the Jews during their exodus from Egypt. It’s gently sweetened and bakes up golden brown. Folding raisins into the dough and/or topping the loaf with sesame or poppy seeds is a common practice. And this is another great one to use for dense, chewy stuffing.
7. Pan de Muertos (Mexico)
Mexico’s Day of the Dead bread is baked to honor the dearly departed on November 1st and 2nd. The sweet egg bread is usually laced with anise or orange flower water and decorated with a skull and crossbones — and is left with other offerings at the graves of loved ones. For Thanksgiving, you might want to omit the scary imagery or swap it out for a turkey or cornucopia instead – it all depends on how good your dough sculpting skills are.
8. Frybread (USA)
We like to picture a big, multicultural feast at Thanksgiving, with Native Americans and pilgrims sharing the harvest’s bounty. So, why no Native American foods on the menu, aside from turkey? Rectify the situation by serving authentic frybread, a staple with a controversial history, given that it was invented when Indians were relocated to reservations and allocated rations of flour, sugar and lard. With these, the fried flatbread was born. Give yours a seasonal twist by adding pureed pumpkin to the dough.
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