The idea for this post was inspired by two pages in Richard Bertinet’s ‘Dough’. The two pictures (found on pages 18 & 19 of the book), juxtaposed, look fairly similar bar the uniform pappiness of the supermarket ‘sliced-white’, and need no further explanation besides two lists of ingredients. One contains four natural constituents: anyone who has made bread at home will know these are flour, yeast, salt and water; the other looks like the contents of a chemist’s cabinet: mono- and diacetyle tartaric acid esters of mono- and diglycerides of fatty acids, to name just one of the many ‘E-numbers’ it comprises.
As well as arousing a glimmer of a self-satisfied smirk as I considered which home-baked, Bertinet influenced loaf I would conjure first; I was also driven to find out more about why these Frankenstein loaves have long been Britain’s favourite – accounting for over a quarter (£920 Million) of the UK baked-goods market, in 2012.
Well, we can blame the ‘bread-scientists’ at the Chorley Wood Flour Milling and Bakery Research Association Laboratories (doesn’t sound like a place I would want to be responsible for something I eat every day!), the work of whom, back in 1961, led to a revolutionary new way of producing bread – The Chorleywood Process. This process uses double the amount of yeast found in a homemade loaf. The higher yeast content, coupled with adding hard fats to stabilise the structure of the dough, (oh, and a plethora of chemicals!) then mixing at high speed produces a dough which is ready to bake in just 3 and a half hours. This short production time meant British bread could be mass-produced and, as a result, Britain is now one of the cheapest places in the world to buy bread.
As well as being chock-a-block with additives and preservatives, Chorleywood bread, (if you can call it bread?) has also been blamed for the increase of people who find bread difficult to digest. Furthermore, the average supermarket loaf is likely to have been deep-frozen and defrosted prior to it reaching your kitchen table; and will no doubt have been made using flour from a variety of far-flung locations across the globe, including Russia, Canada and France.
But who wants bread with a texture like cotton-wool and, quite frankly, as much flavour too? Certainly not me! And I’m not alone. Artisan bread is staging a huge renaissance with sales of luxury and speciality breads rising steadily year on year (according to Waitrose), which are made in comparatively miniscule batches and produced using traditional methods.
According to ‘Paul Hollywood’, the lengthier the proving process, the tastier the loaf. This explains the lack of any character in packaged supermarket bread and the whole world of flavour to be experienced in home-baked and artisan loaves. Not to mention the huge joy and satisfaction of mixing, kneading and shaping your own dough and seeing it rise and bloom in the oven! Priceless!
SO GET BAKING EVERYONE! X
For more on Supermarket vs. Artisan bread see the following articles: