What is the Difference Between French Bread and Italian Bread?

If you’re at the grocery store, trying to decide between French and Italian bread, you might find yourself stuck. They both look relatively the same, but are they really? What’s the difference between French bread and Italian bread?

The biggest difference between French bread and Italian bread is the ingredients, shape, texture, and baking method. French bread tends to be sweeter than Italian bread, too, although there are many types of French bread (some of which are sweeter than others).

Hi, there! My name is Michelle, and I am a big bread lover! I eat all kinds of bread in various ways. I eat French bread and Italian bread, although I tend to be a fan of savory Italian bread over the crunchier French styles.

Let’s discuss the difference between French bread and Italian bread.

What’s the Difference Between French Bread and Italian Bread?

When we’re discussing the difference between French bread and Italian bread, there is more than one basic answer. There are actually a few different elements that differentiate the two. Let’s take a closer look.

Ingredients

Before you bake bread, you must mix the ingredients. And that’s where the journey begins.

French bread typically combines a mixture of flour, yeast, water, and salt – and nothing else. In fact, it is against the French law to add any oils or fats to the bread. Italian bread is different. Italian will typically contain olive oil, milk, and sugar (sometimes).

Shape

Looking at a piece of Italian and French bread, you won’t know the difference in ingredients. What you will notice is the subtle difference in shape. While both Italian and French bread tends to be fairly long with a similar appearance, the actual shape differs.

If you place a piece of French and Italian bread side-by-side, you will notice that French bread is a bit longer than Italian loaves. This produces a narrower, straighter look, while Italian bread is more oval-shaped and plumper.

Baking Method

There are no rules or restrictions when it comes to baking French bread. Any oven will do. But when it comes to its Italian counterpart, the rules are strict. Italian bread is only to be cooked in flat stone ovens. This produces the texture and flavor necessary for Italian bread.

Texture

Since the two types of bread utilize different ingredients and baking methods, it’s not shocking to hear that the texture is a defining factor in differentiating French and Italian bread.

  • French bread has a crusty and hard exterior with a light and airy interior
  • Italian bread also has a hard and crusty exterior, but the interior is also dense

Flavor

The flavor isn’t too different between these two types of bread. However, French bread tends to have a noticeably sweeter flavor than Italian bread. This is especially true for the Brioche bread, although this bread is made with some fat, so it is considered a pastry. 

Italian bread, on the other hand, has a smoky and savory flavor. This is mostly due to being baked in a flat stone oven. Some Italian bread, such as focaccia, is also topped with herbs and spices to enhance the savory flavor.

FAQs

Now you know the difference between French bread and Italian bread, congratulations! If you want to learn more, simply keep reading. I have answered some of the most frequently asked questions you might want to check out!

What is special about Italian bread?

Italian bread has a delightfully savory flavor that comes from the ingredients, baking method, and toppings. This savory flavor pairs well with other traditional Italian dishes to create a flavor-packed meal.

What bread is similar to French bread?

There isn’t really any other bread that is similar to French bread to Italian bread. Although they have some differences, they share most of the same qualities so that they can be used interchangeably in most cases.

What is the difference between French bread and English bread?

English bread differs from French bread in many ways, including ingredients, appearance, baking method, and texture. English bread typically contains more yeast and undergoes a quick proof. It’s baked in a loaf pan and has a soft interior and exterior.

What can I substitute for a baguette?

If you need to sub for a baguette specifically, you have many options. Consider using brioche, challah, Pullman, or regular French bread (which is different from a baguette!).

Final Words

Although French and Italian bread have similarities, subtle differences make a big change in taste, shape, and texture. The easiest way to determine is by checking the length – French is long and narrow while Italian is rounder and plumper.

Do you prefer French or Italian bread? Did you know the difference between the two? Do you have anything to add? Share below so we can learn, too!

About Michelle
I have been a lover of sweets since day one. This led me on a self-taught baking journey starting at the age of 13. It's been over 10 years since the start of my baking adventures, and I’ve learned a lot along the way. Now, people rave about my delectable treats, whether it’s a chocolate cake or a strawberry crepe.

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