Bread – Should it still be our main staple? part one

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Every month we will be looking at different fresh food products and finding out a little more about them – particularly how they fit in to our concept of ‘fresh, locally sourced, nutritious and healthy’. First up, we are going to look at what, until quite recently, was known as the nations’ staple food – BREAD. Who cares about bread? It is a cheap, filling and nutritious staple of our British diet, after all, it has all sorts of good things added to the flour; iron, vitamin C, niacin, calcium, thiamine, to name but a few. All good right? Not to mention the emulsifiers, preservatives and mould inhibitors, enzymes and other flour treatment agents that are added. Interesting stuff, as all bread consists of is flour, water and a raising agent- usually yeast. Since the Second World War, successive governments’ agricultural policy to feed an ever-increasing population has been with the help of plant-breeders, to modify our traditional wheat crops, producing a high-yield, short straw, disease resistant grain without recourse to GM technology-yet. Somewhat amazingly, whilst we – the bread chomping public, think that farming has something to do with feeding people for optimum health, nutritional quality doesn’t get a look in! No one seems to be bothered that the precursors of modern wheat; spelt, einkorn and emmer are all superior in nutritional quality to their commercial successors. The modern bread-making industry (yes there are share-holders) does not concern itself with producing a quality, nutritious, tasty loaf, rather a product which has all manner of ‘healthy’ additives (as most have been taken out during the milling process) a very long shelf-life and the ability to be produced super-quickly. Until the 1950s and 60s, the bread making process was a lengthy affair of mixing, kneading, proving, rising and baking. This could take anything from 6 – 24 hours, and was typically made with either a sourdough starter or ‘sponge’, a mixture of starter and flour and water, left to ferment overnight to allow the natural yeasts to multiply and ferment. The resulting bread was typically dense, chewy and flavourful. By the mid 1960s, however, scientists had developed an awesome breakthrough, – with certain chemicals, additives, modified yeasts and flours, bread could be produced in a fraction of the time, creating a product which could be processed in one plant, baked, and with the help of chemical mould inhibitors, left to stay ‘fresh’ for weeks! Technology is great eh? The bread and baking industry are slow in sharing with us what they have added to our now mass produced, commercially milled flours; in fact they are not required by law to name any of the enzymes they add to flour, some of which are genetically modified, have no benefit to the end product and are proven allergens. Lactic acid is a by-product of the slow process of proving bread, and certain studies in Italy are showing that by leaving the bread dough to prove longer, the proteins (gliadins) which cause problems with gluten–intolerant folk and coeliac sufferers are almost completely broken down over several hours. Indeed it is interesting that gluten allergies and intolerances were virtually unheard of before the 1950s, just before the Chorleywood Bread Process was invented. So what can we do? I challenge you to bake your own loaf! Check out one of the recipes on the Heart Kitchen site, and leave it to SLOWLY SLOWLY SLOWLY prove. Bake it and enjoy, warm from the oven, slathered with butter and jam; make it into a tasty lunchtime sandwich, or eat it toasted 3 days old with beans and cheese! It is amazing what a sense of achievement you will feel having put something of yourself into your bread! *For more information read ‘Bread Matters’, by Andrew Whitley.

Author: Celia

The Rambler, AKA Celia Dulieu
Celia has been sharing food, wine, recipes and friendship with Simon and Sue Gale for more than 15 years.
In a former life she was a mass caterer, working for large companies such as Selfridges, London; but after moving to the countryside with husband, 2 kids and dog, she resurrected her love of food, - particularly by entertaining her large extended family to lunches ,sharing informal get togethers with friends, and developing her small but productive kitchen garden. She is passionate about all things to do with food and wine; from where it is produced to how it arrived on her doorstep.
Celia’s love of meeting people, visiting places and trying different things has culminated in being invited to get involve with writing up the experiences of the Heart Kitchen and sharing her love of food with you through her ramblings.