Wed. May 22nd, 2024

Herd About It?
by Ana Grarian

Not a deed would he do,
Not a word would he utter,
Till he’s weighed its relation
To plain bread and butter.

James Russell Lowell, American poet 1819-1891

Baking bread is a spiritual endeavor. Making bread dough takes time and does not respond well to being hurried along. You are actually raising (farming) colonies of yeast. Given the right amounts of flour, water, sugar and heat, the yeast grow, fermentation occurs, enzymes are released which break down the starches into the sugar on which the yeasts feed. A beautiful cycle of life which eventually allows us in. Mmmm. Warm Bread fresh from the oven.
Making bread from scratch is a timely process. The ingredients are mixed together at the right temperature and kneaded until the dough develops the right elastcity and then is left to rise in a warm spot until it doubles in size. Then it is punched down and put into pans (or shaped on a baking sheet) and allowed to raise in a warm spot again before being placed into the hot oven. Methods for a quicker or slower rising bring distinct characteristics to the bread.
Bread is a product and a representation of our culture. For centuries bakers and homemaker’s took pride in making warm loaves of goodness. Holidays called for loaves of a certain shape with special ingredients. Eventually sweet loaves became cakes. The bread we ate indicated our economic status with the poorest eating coarse bread and the gentry having bread from more finely ground flours and other costly ingredients.

But then came the industrial revolution. The currency of bread became a product that could be easily and quickly reproduced. The process became automated and the product needed a long shelf life. The “bottom line” became saving time and cost and thereby maximizing profit. Food scientists and plant breeders worked together to develop a wheat that was affordable and high yielding. It could be refined to a white flour that resisted oxidation and lasted for months. But along with the brown color and chewy texture we lost something more. About 75% of the thiamine, riboflavin, vitamin E, magnesium, potassium and calcium.The introduction of high speed mixing, enzymes and other additives might also be the cause of the spike in wheat allergies seen over the last half century.
Research shows that slow fermentation in the bread dough enhances the nutrition in bread, making the nutrients more available to the body, lowering the glycemic index and neutralizing the portion of the gluten harmful to people with wheat allergies.

Artisan bakers using organic ingredients that bakers and homemakers used for centuries, are making bread that is healthier for us. Isn’t it ironic that today it costs more to eat dark grain rich breads that once were thought beneath us?

By AFarmer

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RS Janes
14 years ago

There is no perfume in the world better than the smell of baking bread. We have a bakery just a few blocks away and, when the wind is right, we can smell the heavenly scent of baking bread early in the morning.

Due to problems with our oven we haven’t been baking bread lately, so we’re trying to buy healthy whole-grain stuff at the store. It’s getting harder and harder to find store-bought bread that doesn’t have high fructose corn syrup or some other nasty additives, even though customers want the natural products. Even some of the Brownberry breads which used to be healthy have HFCS and other additives these days.

Good point about allergies, etc. — the people inventing these food additives and tinkering with crop yields have no medical experience and the agencies that are supposed to oversee the Big Agra businesses that farm these crops, and the corporations that pump out the bread, don’t seem to care much what the long-term health effects these unnatural products may have on the public. All of this, just so some corporation can make a little more profit on a loaf of bread. Incredible.

Ken Carman
14 years ago

Since we’re talking yeast, beer is very comparable. Slow fermentation is preferable with lagers. The best beer is made pretty much by hand. Bud is made from a sludge/slurry-like substance that AB exports to its breweries and they rehydrate. A great beer often still has live yeast in it.

Bakers yeast makes poor beer. Different strain. There have to be a thousand variations on beer yeast, at least. Lagers and Ale yeast is the big division: bottom vs. top fermenting.

I remember my mother making bread and our next door neighbor: my childhood best friend, has told me “She made the best bread ever. We couldn’t wait for her to bring it over..”

RS Janes
14 years ago

Ken, it so happens I once lived about a block away from a small brewing company. Same thing there: about once a week a nice bready, yeasty smell hung in the air, especially on warm summer days. I could almost taste the beer. (Unfortunately, they didn’t have a tour and they didn’t give away free samples.)

Ken Carman
Ken Carman
14 years ago

I’d be curious the name of that brewery. Perhaps I’ve heard of it?

RS Janes
14 years ago

It was the old Peter Hand/Meister Brau brewery. They went out of business in the late ’70s.

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