Thursday, June 14, 2012

The rise and fall of bread

The history of bread can be dated back at least 30,000 years – that’s a long, long time before ovens or sandwiches. Before loaves of bread, there were flat breads, round breads, bread cakes and patties – all specific to the geographic region they stemmed from.
Bread quickly became a staple of our ancestors’ diets – hence expressions such as ‘earning your bread and butter’, ‘bread winner’, ‘bread of life’ etc. Bread was on every table, from rich to working class, and those who couldn’t afford it would risk everything for a meagre loaf.

So why then have we fallen so out of love with bread? Why is it the enemy of the health conscious? The guilty pleasure we reluctantly place in the same category as dessert?

Bread in its simple form is NOT bad for you. Fact. But add flour treatment agents, chemical oxidants, emulsifiers, genetically-modified enzymes, hardened fats, refined salt and sugar (the list goes on), and bread is nowhere to be seen. It got lost somewhere in the mass of chemicals, additives, and well… cr*p! On top of this, double up quantities of yeast for faster cooking and throw pre-baked dough into the mix and you have a recipe for absolute disaster.

Real baking requires minimal ingredients and maximum effort. Preparing good quality bread takes time – the ingredients often need to work their magic (read ‘ferment’) overnight, and a true baker could be awake and baking away anywhere from 3am onwards.

When it comes to healthy bread, you really only need 5 ingredients:
1. Flour (pref wholegrain and stoneground)
2. Water (filtered if poss)
3. Yeast or sourdough culture*
The last two are optional…
4. Oil (good quality of course)
5. Salt (make it rock)

*We recommend sourdough if you suffer from bloating, candida or acne.

As with so many of the big food myths, the answer is pretty darn simple: anything can be bad for you if you don’t read the label, and don’t know what to look out for. Bread is NOT the enemy. You just need to choose the right one.

Is it time for the humble loaf to make a comeback?

Felicity Lawrence, ‘Not on the label’, Penguin, London 2004

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