To celebrate Real Bread Week, Tim Hart would like to highlight the differences between traditional baked bread and factory-made bread.
For many if not most consumers, factory-baked bread is the only bread they know. However, a growing number are tasting the bread made by smaller artisan bakeries using traditional recipes.
But what’s the difference?
The first difference is the ingredients. The industrial loaf needs preservatives to meet the shelf-life demanded by remote supermarkets. To fit the industrial process it will generally contain soya flour, a number of enzymes and other additives to adapt the dough to suit the production machinery.
Artisan bread needs only four ingredients: flour, water, salt and yeast. The best flour comes from the tastiest wheat varieties, grown on organic principles and ground using real millstones. The grinding matters not because the stones are traditional or picturesque but because stone-ground flour retains the minerals and vitamins contained in the wheat germ. These are rejected in the industrial roller milling process. The yeast element is important too.
The second difference is the process. Traditionally, bakers used a homegrown yeast culture, which is what we call “sourdough”. This type of yeast requires long fermentation times – typically 12-24 hours – compared to as little as one hour for industrial bread. We believe that long fermentations produce a loaf that is :
- Easier to digest
- More nutritious
The traditionally made loaf is also quite different in texture and appearance from your average supermarket loaf. Even if your favourite loaf is made using ‘Bakers’ Yeast’ rather than a sourdough starter, a long fermentation (and a small yeast dose) will deliver many of the above benefits.
How can I tell the difference?
The kind of bread I admire responds well to the ‘prod test’. Slice the bread and prod the middle of the slice with your finger. Good bread bounces back. Bad bread remains compressed like dough or chewing gum. Good bread is chewy but not dry, with a strong elastic crumb. The gloopy texture of bad bread encourages swallowing without chewing and chewing is a vital element in the digestion of bread, giving the digestive enzymes in saliva an opportunity to process it before it reaches the stomach.
Lastly, good bread – eaten reverently with cheese, soup, jam or on its own – is sustaining. It leaves you feeling content but not bloated, and full of energy for many hours.
Tim Hart is the owner of Hart’s Hotel & Kitchen and Hambleton Bakery with shops in Exton, Oakham, Stamford, Market Harborough, Oundle and West Bridgford. Hambleton bread is also available from more than 100 wholesalers in the region.