The days of the mass-produced pappy white British supermarket loaf may be numbered. Meet the bread heads revolutionising the way we eat
The article excerpted below is extremely inspiring and worth reading in full at the URL given. It gives a vision of what is certainly the future of our food, given the inherent unsustainability of chemically-doused monocultures and genetically uniform GM crops.
Flour power: Meet the bread heads baking a better loaf
By Wendell Steavenson
The Guardian, 10 Oct 2019
* The days of the mass-produced pappy white British supermarket loaf may be numbered. Meet the bread heads revolutionising the way we eat.
The best thing since sliced bread turns out not to be sliced bread. Our supermarket loaf, which accounts for 80% of all the bread bought in the UK, is sweetish, soft and pappy. The ingredients listed on the plastic sleeve include added E-numbers, enzyme “improvers”, extra gluten, protein powders, fats, emulsifiers and preservatives. It is baked according to the Chorleywood process (named after the location of the lab where it was invented) developed in the 1960s for speed, from grain that has been milled between steel rollers, removing the germ where the oils and nutrients reside, and the bran husk where the fibre is, leaving only the endosperm, a pure starch so nutritionally void that by UK law vitamins must be added back into white flour.
Mechanised food factories demand ingredients that are standard, stable, and easy to transport, and make products that are standard, stable, and easy to transport. New wheats have been bred for high yields and high protein content that require inputs of chemical fertilisers and pesticides. To increase efficiency, hedgerows and copses have been eliminated and farmland agglomerated into increasingly larger tracts of monoculture.
From soil to plastic-packaged loaf, industrialised breads are the end product of 100 years of innovation in agriculture, manufacturing and transport, all of which prioritises efficiency and cost over nutrition and taste. Bread is the most-bought food item in the UK, but the supermarket loaf is just part of a basket of highly processed foods that we are now beginning to understand is making us fat, sick and allergic.
While the big bakeries may market brown loaves under homely monikers such as farmhouse, wholegrain and multiseed, these are often distinctions without much meaning. The basic ingredient of highly processed flour is the same, even if bran or other sources of fibre are added back into the mix. More research is needed, but there is increasing evidence to suggest that gluten intolerance (not to be confused with coeliac disease, which means people cannot process gluten at all) could be caused by the extra gluten that is often added to mass-produced wholewheat products, and that the old-fashioned longer proving time – the resting time that allows yeasts to ferment the dough and make it rise – is a key factor in rendering wholegrains more digestible.
Good bread needs no more than four ingredients: flour, yeast, water and salt. Wheats were once regional and adapted to the land; grain was milled locally and often baked as wholegrain flour into dense loaves. In Britain and the US, most of us have not eaten this kind of bread in so many generations there is no longer even a folk memory of what it tasted like. The desire for lighter and whiter bread is steeped in history: finer, paler, sifted flour was more expensive and the province of the rich, and as such has been a enduring trend, even as flour became a bland and cheap commodity, often bleached to make it even whiter.
But in the past couple of decades, new movements have begun to challenge the prevailing food culture. In the early 2000s, activist and journalist Michael Pollan wrote about how what we eat had lost its link with the land and the farmer. Leading the revolt against processed food, in 2010, Pollan came up with the line that became a catchphrase: “Don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognise as food.” Dan Barber, a chef on a mission to bring back the links between sustainable farming and taste and nutrition, delivered a Ted Talk in 2008 in which he described modern industrial agriculture as “an insult to the basic laws of nature”. He and others have popularised the farm-to-table movement that is changing people’s eating habits, encouraging farmers to grow varieties for deliciousness over yield, efficiency of transport and shelf life.
In 2011, the geneticist Stephen Jones founded the Bread Lab in Washington, bringing farmers, millers, brewers and bakers together to develop new grains that emphasised taste. In 2014, Jones suggested the supermarket loaf should be called “American” or “processed bread”, to distinguish its mass-produced identity and nutritional characteristics. He told me he does not like to be in the same room as white flour. Meanwhile, a sourdough movement bubbled up in San Francisco, championing the resurgence of the traditional method of leavening bread using natural starters that harness a complex web of ambient bacteria and fungi, rather than strong modern yeasts bred to inject air into almost anything.
The great food writer Julia Child once said British white bread tasted “like Kleenex”. Maybe that is why we load our white sliced toast with so much jam and chocolate spread and peanut butter. Wholegrain, sourdough bread is a very different beast; crunchy, crusty, chewy, with a complex taste that is rich, nutty and tangy. Quite often, I find a couple of thick slices, spread with a generous swathe of butter, a satisfying lunch.
The revival of ancient varieties of wheat is inspiring a new movement of agronomists, farmers, millers and bakers in the UK. They are coming together to develop and grow new kinds of wheat that do not need dousing with chemicals, to mill the grain in such a way as to keep taste and nutrition intact, and to bake loaves that are delicious and healthy. In the process, these artisans want to challenge the dominance of chemical agriculture and the supermarket loaf, to establish a new kind of supply chain that links our diet to nature and creates healthy communities.
Bread is a basic foodstuff. It is our land and our kitchen table, family tradition and religious celebration. Our daily bread is our daily life; it is economics – breadwinner, breadbaskets, breadlines; it is politics – upper crust, bread and circuses, grist for the mill. As this group of growers, millers and bakers are demonstrating, bread can be revolution, too. ....
[Read on here https://www.theguardian.com/food/2019/oct/10/flour-power-meet-the-bread-heads-baking-a-better-loaf]https://www.theguardian.com/food/2019/oct/10/flour-power-meet-the-bread-heads-baking-a-better-loaf