At one time, sandwich bread in America consisted primarily of soft, white bread, served plain or toasted, according to the “The Fannie Farmer Cookbook.” Today’s sandwich makers have many choices. Breads might be made with flour from barley, buckwheat, corn, gluten, millet, oat, rice, rye, whole-wheat, soy or triticale.
When the Dutch and English settled in what would become the United States, they introduced rye to the region. Bakers combine rye with wheat flour to make rye bread. There are a number of rye bread types available in the grocery store, such as Jewish rye, Russian rye and marbled rye. Not only is rye a classic sandwich bread, specific sandwich recipes call for rye bread, such as the traditional Patty Melt, which is a cheeseburger served with grilled onions, or the Rueben, a hot pastrami sandwich with melted cheese and sauerkraut.
The Frisco Burger, a sandwich with a burger patty filling, earns its name from its sourdough, often associated with San Francisco. Yet, sourdough dates to around 1500 BC. Egyptians reportedly discovered the process for making sourdough bread. Sourdough made its way to San Francisco when master bakers arrived in the area during California’s gold rush era. The key to sourdough is the starter, which comes from a previous batch of bread. Some bakers use starter dough that originated over a century earlier. Unlike white bread, which is fluffy and soft, sourdough is a firm, chewy and crusty bread.
Focaccia is an ancient flatbread. Earlier versions of the bread were unleavened, yet today bakers typically add a leavening ingredient to the dough, such as a bit of yeast. Bakers embellish the bread dough with cheeses and herbs, giving focaccia bread a distinct flavor and texture. Unlike some other breads, such as plain white or wheat bread, the focaccia becomes a dominate taste factor in a sandwich. Focaccia’s initial popularity in the United States was as pizza bread.
Hawaiian Sweet Bread
Portuguese sugarcane workers brought with them to Hawaii a recipe for Portuguese sweet bread, also known as Hawaiian sweet bread. In the 1950s, a company known today as King’s Hawaiian opened its first bakery in Hilo, Hawaii. For many years, visitors to Hawaii enjoyed the sweet, soft, light colored bread, as did island locals. By the late 1970s King’s Hawaiian brought its sweet bread to the mainland. While many people serve Hawaiian sweet bread in much the same way as dinner rolls, it makes delicious, soft sandwich bread and is available in hamburger buns and hot dog rolls.
- "Fannie Farmer Baking Book", Marion Cunningham, 1984
- What’s Cooking America: Sandwich History
- Kitchen Project: History of Sourdough
- Punalu’u Bake Shop: Company History
Ann Johnson has been a freelance writer since 1995. She previously served as the editor of a community magazine in Southern California and was also an active real-estate agent, specializing in commercial and residential properties. She has a Bachelor of Arts in communications from California State University, Fullerton.