Bread is a staple food prepared from a dough of flour and water, usually by baking. Throughout recorded history it has been a prominent food in large parts of the world and is one of the oldest man-made foods, having been of significant importance since the dawn of agriculture.
Bread may be leavened by processes such as reliance on naturally occurring sourdough microbes, chemicals, industrially produced yeast, or high-pressure aeration. Commercial bread commonly contains additives to improve flavor, texture, color, shelf life, nutrition, and ease of manufacturing.
A bread pan, also called a loaf pan, is a kitchen utensil in the form of a container in which bread is baked. Its function is to shape bread while it is rising during baking. The most common shape of the bread pan is the loaf, or narrow rectangle, a convenient form which enables uniform slicing. The bread pan is made from a conductive material such as metal which might be treated with a non-stick coating. It can also be made of heat resistant glass, ceramic, or a special type of paper that sticks to the dough but is easily removed, once cooked. Bread pans are found in a variety of designs and sizes providing the baker with different possibilities not only for baking bread, but also cakes and puddings.
Types of bread typically baked in bread pans include sandwich breads, brioche, challah, and raisin bread.
A crouton, colloquially referred to as a "crout", is a piece of sauteed or rebaked bread, often cubed and seasoned, that is used to add texture and flavor to salads-notably the Caesar salad-as an accompaniment to soups and stews, or eaten as a snack food.
The preparation of croutons is relatively simple. Typically the cubes of bread are lightly coated in oil or butter (which may be seasoned or flavored for variety) and then baked. Some commercial preparations use machinery to sprinkle various seasonings on them. Alternatively, they may be fried lightly in butter or vegetable oil, until crisp and brown, to give them a buttery flavor and crunchy texture. Some croutons are prepared with the addition of cheese.
Dried and cubed bread is commonly sold in large bags in North America to make Thanksgiving holiday stuffing or dressing, although these are generally different from salad croutons, being only dry bread instead of buttered or oiled and with different seasonings, if any.
Bread crumbs or breadcrumbs (regional variants: breading, crispies) are sliced residue of dry bread, used for breading or crumbing foods, topping casseroles, stuffing poultry, thickening stews, adding inexpensive bulk to soups, meatloaves and similar foods, and making a crisp and crunchy covering for fried foods, especially breaded cutlets like tonkatsu and schnitzel. The Japanese variety of bread crumbs is called panko.