Martin Hickman: Use your loaf to bring bread back to basics
Saturday 13 June 2009
Flour, water, yeast. For centuries we have used just three ingredients to make bread. Examine a supermarket loaf, though, and you will find some other, odd substances.
A Warburtons Farmhouse Soft White, for instance, contains: wheat flour, water, yeast – so far so good – but then... vegetable oil, salt, flavouring soya flour, preservative calcium propionate (added to inhibit mould growth), emulsifiers E471, E481, flour treatment agent, ascorbic acid (vitamin C), E920.
You may wonder what kind of a "farmhouse" produced this bread? As you may have suspected, rather than being the craft operations they evoke, Warburtons, Hovis, and Kingsmill are big corporations making tens of millions of pounds from baking strangely springy loaves with the help of enzymes, flour treatment agents, vegetable oils, preservatives and other additives.
This techno-bread is not as tasty as normal home-baked or "craft" bread. It is deceptively large, less nutritious, and loaded with high levels of salt. It is also seemingly, in the long run, putting people off bread.
In a report in February, Mintel valued the British bread market at £3.9bn, but warned daily consumption had been "steadily declining" in favour of other carbohydrates such as pasta and rice.
Listing market weaknesses, Mintel said: "The most prevalent buyer type is apathetic/habitual, ie they have low interest in the bread offer and choose the same brand every time." Bread should be one of the great, simple joys of life, so how did an industry become so unloved by the public?
The answer can be traced back to the 1960s when scientists at the British Baking Industries Research Association in Chorleywood, Hertforshire, decided to improve the basic loaf. The result? Lower-protein bread, a slew of additives and a super-fast, money-saving baking process.
According to master organic baker Andrew Whitley, around 80 per cent of bread is now produced under the "Chorleywood Bread Process (CBF)".
Hard fats are used to bulk it out and make it longer-lasting. (Palm oil causing deforestation in South-east Asia is used by Warburtons, Hovis and Kingsmill.) Flour treatment agent l-ascorbic acid (E300) helps the dough rise more, giving a false impression of value; soya flour improves the machinability of the dough. Emulsifiers even give out gas bubbles and increase volume. Calcium propionate prolongs shelf life.
Enzymes are used to make bread softer and lighter, but they do not have to be declared on the label because the industry argues they disappear from the end product.
Faced with the unwholesome industrialisation of bread, the food group Sustain has launched a Real Bread Campaign. It wants enzymes to be declared on the label and an end to the man-made additives.
Bread, it says, should be made only of flour, water, yeast, perhaps salt and, if desired, other natural ingredients such as butter, nuts or fruits. You can search for a real baker on the Real Bread Campaign's website (www.realbreadcampaign.org). A visit would be timely this week; National Craft Bakers' Week.
Or you can bake your own. Bread-machines have boomed in recent years, but they often sit unused in a cupboard. Which? gave its best buy award to Morphy Richards' 48245 Compact, which costs £44. You get four 1lb loaves from a £1, 1.5kg bag of flour. Even taking into account yeast, a small amount of sugar and salt, sunflower oil and skimmed milk, a loaf should set you back no more than 80p – cheaper than all but the direst white supermarket loaf.
Delia Smith offers a quicker loaf still. Her Complete Illustrated Cookery Course has the full details but here's the summary:
Add 75ml of warm water to two teaspoons of dried yeast in a jug and leave for 10 minutes until frothy. Tip the mixture into a bowl containing 450g wholemeal flour and two teaspoons of salt. Mix until the dough doesn't stick too much to the sides. Cover with a damp tea towel for 30 minutes so the dough rises. Slap the mixture into a greased bread tin and bake for at least 30 minutes at 200C. Cool on a wire rack.
You'll need just four ingredients: water, flour, yeast, and salt.
Heroes & Villians
Hero: The Co-operative Bank
For winning best financial company at the Which.co.uk awards.
Villain: The Food Standards Agency
Twenty-one months after announcing trials of ratings for restaurant hygiene, the FSA is still discussing how to set up a national 'scores on the doors' scheme.
- 1 I was a Woman Against Feminism too
- 2 Fifty Shades of Grey movie trailer released: First look at Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey
- 3 Is Gideon Levy the most hated man in Israel or just the most heroic?
- 4 Students offered grants if they tweet pro-Israeli propaganda
- 5 The Tory donor whose firm is one of Britain’s biggest tax avoiders - with HMRC's blessing
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Vladimir Putin is given 'one last chance' to end hostilities in Ukraine
The 'scroungers’ fight back: The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering
Arizona execution lasts two hours as killer Joseph Wood left 'snorting and gasping' for air
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Ukrainian military jet was flying close to passenger plane before it was shot down, says Russian officer
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Massive rise in sale of British arms to Russia
iJobs Money & Business
£18000 - £20000 per annum + OTE £25K: SThree: SThree Group has been well estab...
competitive: Progressive Recruitment: This really is a fantastic chance to joi...
£40000 - £60000 per annum + BONUS + BENEFITS: Harrington Starr: CXL, Triple Po...
£60000 - £75000 per annum + BONUS + BENEFITS: Harrington Starr: Business Anal...
Day In a Page
A three-bedroom 16th-century home with an aga kitchen, private gardens and heated outdoor pool, in Hadleigh
A three-bedrom home in sought-after Queen's Gate Mews, with Italian marble-finished bathrooms
Surrounded by glorious countryside in the village of Udimore, sits this impressive four-kiln oast and barn conversion
A five-bedroom house in the picturesque village of Kettlewell, north Yorkshire
An 18th-century former coaching inn with original staircase, open fireplaces and beams throughout
A Grade II-listed Georgian town house with three bedrooms and a south-facing courtyard, near Arundel Castle
Feel on top of the world at this über chic penthouse on the 37th floor of one of Europe’s tallest blocks.
A Grade II-listed Victorian villa with six bedrooms and two further cottages, all with spectacular sea views
A grade II-listed, Georgian cottage with mature 50ft garden, perfect for summer entertaining
A magnificent Georgian pile with turrets, seven bedrooms, a heated pool and four acres of gardens
Fairoak Farm has five bedroom suites, gym, outdoor swimming pool and golf course
Chic two-bedroom river-fronted flat with a private lift that delivers you directly to your home
A spectacular seven-bedroom Tudor pile, once owned by Henry VIII, with 18 acres of land
A seven-bedroom Georgian property previously used as a picturesque wedding venue
A split-level flat in a church conversion with two en suite bedrooms and 1,200sq ft of living space
A three-bedroom bungalow situated behind an impressive stone wall, £645,000
Windsor Castle overlooks this three-bedroom Victorian cottage located on one of Windsor's smartest roads
Chapel House is a former vicarage with nine bedrooms in the beautiful Upper Wye Valley
A five-bedroom B&B and separate owner's accomodation with potential for conversion
Enjoy summer by the Thames in this two double-bedroom converted warehouse in Rotherhithe village
A one-bedroom, luxury apartment with private gym and concierge service in Moorgate
A four-bedroom house in Hermitage Gardens with three reception rooms and landscaped gardens
A seven-bedroom Grade II-listed property with a separate self-contained apartment
A five-bedroom Victorian house with three reception rooms and galleried landing, £695,000
A six-bedroom farmhouse with five acres of land in a former cloth-making village
A secluded seven-bedroom detached house with large private garden, £490,000
A three-bedroom cottage overlooking Sarratt village green with open fires and solid oak floors
A three-bedroom maisonette flat in a Grade I-listed, Georgian townhouse in a sought-after location
A one-bedroom apartment located within a private gated development, north of Turnham Green
Look forward to a brighter future at two-bedroom Sunny Cottages, ideal for Londoners looking to downsize
A three-bedroom red-brick cottage with outbuildings and pretty gardens, £200,000
This three-bedroom flat within a former textile factory spans the corner of the fourth floor and has a balcony
A charming four-bedroom Oxfordshire cottage with oak floors and chunky-beamed ceilings, £465,000
A beautiful one-bed flat in a sought-after portered block, with access to Norland Square communal gardens
A one-bedroom flat within a Sixties school conversion with high-spec design and open-plan kitchen, close to Lambeth North Tube, £435,000
A 17th century four-bedroom house, with open fireplaces, cellar and pool, £600,000
A three-bedroom, coach house with luxury open-plan living space and contemporary breakfast bar