Real and fake bread considers why consumption has dropped dramatically in the last 70 years; by more than 50pc in much of the world. This trend predates the so-called keto diets and even the McGovern guidelines issued in the United States in 1977 that encouraged Americans to eat much less saturated fat and more carbohydrate.
Clearly many people have abandoned bread in favour of other starches. The subject is highly complex, and controversial. What cannot be denied is that many folk simply don't like it any more; neither the bland taste nor what it does to their innards and waistlines. Gastric disturbances ranging from diarrhoea to bloating and frank pain have become the norm for many since baking methods changed.
And this despite the Chorleywood bread process that has dramatically lowered the cost of baking the loaf that we would typically find in a supermarket. Instead it is almost certainly the cause of the abdominal pain so many now experience.
There are typically two definitions of real bread.
The first definition is the gold-standard which the diehards would defend with their lives. However, since 100pc wholemeal is only really available to those with a small mill, it is unrealistic for the general public and so the second definition is the one commonly used.
There is however a proviso; there is a big fat-lie in the industry which enables millers to market their flour as "wholemeal" provided they have not removed more than 40% of the goodies. Most of the germ and bran which is where the vitamins and minerals are located; and the lignans that help prevent breast tumours.
So your real bread by the second definition will not be a whole-grain as advised by the McGovern commission in 1977, but refined to an unknown and not given degree. You can be sure all the wheatgerm oil and vitamin E have been extracted.
In a report to the Council on Foods and Nutrition, Dr Russell M. Wilder, MD writes:
"Although the texture and colour of the refined white flour was a great improvement over the gray, coarse, stone-ground flour, it contained much less of the bran and thus was deficient in vitamins and minerals".
I find this quite odd when looking at our stone-ground flour; it is neither gray nor coarse. Perhaps modern mills are far better. As to whether refined white flour is a great improvement or not, you must be the judge.
The McGovern Select Committee after wide consultation recommended that Americans eat far less cholesterol-rich foods and sugar, and instead turn to whole grains, fruit and vegetables.
In theory these were clearly good guidelines but there were serious unintended consequences. Fat in large measure provides the satiety that we all crave, that sense of fullness; Americans became constantly hungry after taking up this advice. And they simply couldn't reduce their sugar intake; today they on average consume nearly one cup every single day of the year.
And because whole-grains were and are difficult to find, constantly famished they turned to snacking on refined carbohydrates and sugary colas. Within a very short period of time Americans became obese and within 20 years levels of type 2 diabetes soared, and with it the very cardiac disease that McGovern was trying to reduce.
Fake bread is more difficult to define; there a gradation of deceit in the baking-industry.
First obviously the more refined the flour, no matter how much it is "enriched", the more fake it it is, devoid of the nutrients our bodies crave. Calcium and iron, the B-vitamin family and especially the natural anticoagulant E have been removed.
Is it not supremely ironical that in trying to reduce cardiovascular disease, the McGovern committee pushed us in the direction of fake bread from which all the vitamin E has been removed. Cardiologist Wilfred Shute states that heart-attacks were almost unknown prior to the milling and refining of wheat.
And secondly fake bread has a whole bunch of additives that the baking industry refuses to list accurately on the packaging.
For millennia bread was baked the slow way; until in fact about 150 years ago. Natural yeasts found in the bran, and fermenting bacteria, were given time to gently release carbon-dioxide and many other important acids and vitamins; it is also gives the loaf its delicious sourdough flavour.
This fermentation also predigested the protein in the flour, the gluten, that otherwise would cause havoc in the gut of some sensitive people.
Gluten has a very high proportion of an amino-acid called proline that is quite different to all its cousins; it resists digestion with very strong bonds to its nearest neighbours. The result is that without prior fermentation short improperly-fragmented chains of protein reach the intestine where they are viewed as the enemy and provoke a huge immune-response.
In its worst form it is known as Coeliac Disease; and interestingly was first identified only about 70 years ago, just when the bread industry started to mess about and use additives to speed up the process of baking.
Commercially slow-bread ceased to exist. Instead we were offered a tasteless loaf that caused all sorts of tummy troubles, made us fat and consumers voted with their feet. Despite the fact that bread was so cheap, they wouldn't buy it; consumption dropped dramatically.
There are now dozens of these bread-additives that speed up the process of baking, make the crumb softer and preserve the loaf, even for weeks.
There are emulsifiers, preservatives and enzymes; bleach, reducing-agents and many others, making the commercial baker's life much easier, speeding up the process but leaving us with a loaf that is insipid, lacking in nutrition and toxic for the intestinal lining.
From top to bottom we move progressively further from real to fake-bread. If made in a large commercial bakery there will almost certainly be various additives used.
Sourdough bread made the old-fashioned slow way using natural yeasts and various bacteria that ferment the flour is what we recommend.
A purist would not add yeast, but we do to give a lighter loaf; that's your decision. There is no right and wrong way.
The length of time is up to you; I do not have gluten issues so I ferment it only for about five-hours. You might want to leave it overnight, and only add any extra dried yeast in the morning.
If you suffer from Coeliac Disease then you would need to ferment the dough for at least 24-hours; and use some flours with less gluten.
The lactic and acetic acids give the bread the familiar sourdough taste. Just as important they lower the glycemic-index, the rate at which the sugars are released into the blood stream. This has huge implications for the obese and diabetics who absolutely should avoid all commercial bread.
We should keep the glycemic load down by having perhaps only half or one slice, and diabetics should test their blood-glucose to see what the response is. If you have to shoot yourself with extra insulin then you should just give up all bread permanently.
There are many sourdough recipes and dozens of ways of doing it. We use a bread-machine. Including milling the flour, this takes me only five-minutes every morning when I have all the ingredients at hand; it is not a long and laborious business.
Making good bread is not rocket-science, nor is it difficult. Done by hand it would take about thirty-minutes but interspersed over a day or so.
The cost is under R10 (half a dollar) for the finest bread in the world; given the right amount of time, it will not give your tum the collywobbles.
Getting the amount of liquid right is important, and you will have to experiment. Bread dough has a mind of its own, and I still have outright flops for unknown reasons. Temperature and humidity may affect the process.
Salt and yeast are enemies, so I keep them separate for as long as possible, the saline at the bottom, and the latter sprinkled on a little fresh flour just before popping the oven dish into the bread-machine.
Real bread like this tastes so good you'll find yourself reluctant to add jellies and cold-meats or cheese. Having sampled it you'll never go back to the commercial fake.
Real and fake bread are like cheese and chalk.
It is not heavy as you can see but nevertheless a slice weighs nearly double that of commercial bread; one is usually enough at a sitting. Keep the load of all your starches down.
Extra fat and some protein like hummus help to lower the glycemic index of the carbs even further.
Once you become fascinated by the difference in flavour and the nutrition of real and fake bread, you will likely find yourself at the beginning of a journey. There are pitfalls and disappointments but if you hang in you'll find it a source of wonder and deep-satisfaction.
The journey drew me on. Having started with baking fake bread with refined flour, I found it still gave me a deep bellyache, and gave up for several years. Then I heard about making the real loaf with sourdough; that was a huge step forward and no longer did I suffer from the collywobbles, but I could still only stomach half a slice for supper, especially with soup.
The next step of this voyage of discovery was meeting a wheat-farmer. He talked me into buying a mill so that I could enjoy 100% flour with the full complement of ingredients in the kernel; it was just at that time that I discovered the virtues of whole grains verses those that are refined.
Then I had to learn how to preserve and store the wheat berries for a whole year so the weevils wouldn't get into it; yes, the first season was a disaster. This was when the price of my real bread really came down. The very best flour in the supermarket was not a quarter as good as my 100% wholemeal, and cost four times as much.
My wife and I are now in our mid-seventies and are in supremely good health; we take no medication whatsoever, never visit the pharmacy and have a checkup from our doctor every year or two.
I attribute it to four things.
Real and fake bread is a journey; you will never go back to the commercial loaf. It tastes and is awful, and it's fattening.
I'm not quite sure how it happened but I started using kefir to supplement my sourdough starter; perhaps just because I like to fiddle and experiment. I was astonished how it improved the crumb. Whether it's the dairy or the bacteria, I am really not sure.
I first became enamoured with making kefir after it largely cured a 15-year serious helicobacter infection with lots of pain, impervious to antibiotics, in just one week. Now it has helped delineate the distinction between real and fake bread.
Some of the kefir goes into the baking-tin to enhance our real bread and the rest into making a smoothie of one sort or another.
Real and fake bread asks hard questions about our favourite-food.
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