Global: 12 breads from Central Ohio's ethnic bakeries
Bread is a binding force; a simple sustenance we also can use to learn about cultures different from our own.
In some places, its presence spans back to antiquity. For others, bread arrived via trade or colonization. In East Asian countries, where rice has long reigned supreme as the carbohydrate of choice, wheat flour has made significant inroads. Reflecting our cultural diversity, Central Ohio boasts a broad array of ethnic bakeries serving a wide range of immigrant communities, as well as more traditional American bakeries that have become skilled at crafting credible renditions of breads from around the world. Behold: a dozen excellent specimens and where to find them.
Ambasha and Injera: Injera is the more familiar, tangy and spongy flatbread (made with the ancient grain teff) that is the literal foundation of the Ethiopian meal—other foods are piled atop it. Lesser-known to non-Ethiopians is ambasha, a chewy and slightly sweet celebration bread. Addis Ababa Grocery (157 Fairway Blvd., Whitehall), Addisu Bakery & Carryout (873 S. Hamilton Rd., Whitehall)
Pão de Queijo (or Brazilian Cheese Bread):Soft, chewy and deeply savory, these bread rolls are made with cassava (aka tapioca) flour, a couple of cheeses and milk. Similar to a French gougère, we dare you to eat just one. Estilo Brazil (5818 Columbus Sq., North Side)
Pretzels:No Columbus bread list is complete without a nod to Germany, and the fresh soft pretzel carries the torch. Our city was surprisingly lacking this treat until Brezel debuted their excellent rendition in the North Market. Brezel (59 Spruce St., Arena District)
Baguette:Few things satisfy like the crispy crust and toothsome chew of a well-made baguette. This long, thin French bread is a natural pairing with cheeses and spreads and elevates your basic sandwich into something special. Laughlin'sBakery (15 E. Second Ave., Short North)
Green Tea Marble Bread (or Matcha Bread):Matcha tea is swirled into a traditional white wheat bread loaf to create a subtly sweet, mildly green tea-like flavor. It's a cravable Japanese treat. Belle's Bread (1168 Kenny Centre Mall, Northwest Columbus)
Naan:This staple Indian flatbread is notable for its moderate chew and blistered appearance. Naan is at its best when prepared in the traditional method by baking in a tandoor oven. Apna Bazar (810 Bethel Rd., Northwest Columbus)
Sabaayad:India's culinary influence on Somali cuisine is evident in this chapati-like flatbread. Hoyo's Kitchen (5788 Columbus Sq., North Side)
Concha:The concha is iconic among the wide variety of Mexican pastries known as pan dulce, largely thanks to the pattern of cookie crust atop the white wheat bread roll that provides both crunch and sweetness. Panaderia Guadalupana (1977 E. Dublin-Granville Rd., North Side)
Khubz (or Khubz Arabi):This Arabic flatbread is referred to as pita by some and thought to be distinct by others. It's mildly leavened, chewy in texture and a staple of the Middle Eastern table. Salam Market & Bakery (5676 Emporium Sq., North Side)
Bolillo (or Pan Francés):This Mexican roll, a variation on the baguette, is less crusty and less chewy than the French bread but every bit as flavorful. It's often used in the making of torta sandwiches. Bakery El Rico Pan (3866 Sullivant Ave., West Side)
Challah: This Jewish ceremonial bread loaf is braided before baking to create its distinctive shape, and it features a darkened exterior that belies a soft and yielding texture. Matt's Bakery (inside Kroger, 3675 E. Broad St., Whitehall)
Photographed at Laughlin's Bakery