When I was younger, my mom and I would go to a local bakery and select bread fresh from the oven. The bakery smelled incredible and I enjoyed seeing all the different types of bread and the bakers in action. As soon as we walked out the door, we would grab a slice from the bag. Although I loved the bread and the experience, I wondered why we took an extra trip to the bakery instead of buying bread at the supermarket. I stopped wondering when I began food shopping for myself and purchased bread from the grocery store.
The modern bread we find in supermarkets is very different from the bread of ye olde days. The simple recipe of flour, salt, water, wild yeast, and time is now complicated with enzymes, additives, chemicals, and heavy-duty machines. Even the wheat is not the same as it used to be. We are left with bread that does not taste as good, has too long a shelf life, and can be smooshed into little balls. The video by Laura Calder, cookbook author and host of the James Beard Award-winning series French Food at Home talks about the new trendy bread in Paris and how to tell if bread is real: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3L2U7gxNUjQ.
When the food industry got its hands into baking bread, the focus shifted away from nutritious and great tasting bread to convenient and long lasting bread. Why should we care what type of bread we eat and how it is made? In addition to the fact that some people find that the modern bread makes them feel sick and bloated, consider some of the points below.
Wheat has changed over the years due to genetic manipulation. There are conflicting reports whether this has increased allergies, celiac disease, and gluten sensitivity. What is definitely known is that whole wheat is more nutritious than processed wheat. Unfortunately, in the 1800s, the milling process changed our perspective on what qualifies as good tasting bread. Beginning to grind wheat with smooth stones removed the bran and germ (the parts that contain all of the vitamins and minerals) and left the endosperm (made up of carbohydrates and protein). The result was light, soft, sweeter, pretty bread that everyone wanted. However, unknowingly, this milling process resulted in the bread losing its nutritional value. In 1941, the government realized that the bread we were eating was not nutritious. Instead of using whole wheat, they asked the bread industry to add niacin, thiamine, and other vitamins and minerals back into the bread.
In the 1800’s, the Fleischmann brothers manufactured active yeast as an alternative to the wild yeast or starter yeast that bakers and homemakers were using. Active yeast lasts on a shelf longer and increases the reliability and convenience of baking. It also decreases how long it takes for yeast to do its job. However, that time is needed for bread to rise larger and to create flavor and texture. Knowing this, one can understand why the bread industry had to then introduce different chemicals and ingredients to make up for what was missing.
Sugar, Fat, Enzymes, Chemicals, and Preservatives:
In order for bread to taste good, last for a long time, look bright white, large, and soft, and be “nutritious”; sugars, fats, oils, emulsifiers, vitamins, minerals, chemicals, and preservatives are now part of bread’s recipe. Unfortunately, many of the ingredients being added have harmful side affects and some are considered GRAS “generally regarded as safe” by the Food & Drug Administration. For example, calcium propionate and sorbic acid are added to prevent fungi and mold so bread can last as it is shipped across the country, sits on the grocery store shelves, and feeds your family for the week. Calcium propionate may affect your stomach lining including producing ulcers and sorbic acid has been categorized as a GRAS. Additionally, enzymes also known as processing aids can be allergens and may be made from products not typically found in the human diet.
In 1961, the United Kingdom created the Chorleywood bread process (CBP) (80% of the bread in the UK uses this process as well as other countries). Wonder Bread uses the continuous mixing bread process and most of the United States uses the batch making process. These mechanical processes use high-speed mixers to accelerate the time it takes for dough to rise, so in about 3 and a half hours it can go from flour to loaf. The old fashioned way allows the dough many hours, sometimes overnight to rise and that time is needed to create bread with wonderful flavor and texture. The time also allows for proteins, such as gluten, to be broken down and nutrients like vitamin B to be built up. The less time it takes to make bread the less taste and nutrition and the more gluten.
It is not always convenient to make or buy fresh bread, but, it is so worth it. Freezing the bread cuts down on the number of times you need to go to the bakery. However, the smell of fresh baked bread coming out of the oven is such a treat and the best part is that it just tastes great.
Enjoy the video entitled A Brief History of Bread
Photo found on PEXELS