I had to post this in a hurry as BBC2 have just started a series on Food Revival and Michel Roux has virtually quoted me word for word!!!
What could be more local and great than baking your own bread? They say that the smell of baking bread is the best way to sell your house; good bread can earn you enough to buy your house.
Bread making is one of the forgotten skills, and one of the most satisfying to rediscover. Bread has been a staple of the western diet for thousands of years yet in the last 50 it has been forgotten.
The big change came with the invention of the Chorleywood process in the late 50’s and the introduction of processed bread. led by Mother’s Pride in 1961. Suddenly bread was not made at home or by the local baker but was on the supermarket shelves – soft, fluffy and consistent. The UK and Ireland could not get enough.
The process uses lower-protein wheat, combined with chemical improvers, and uses intense mechanical working of the dough by high-speed mixers, together with solid vegetable fat, high quantities of yeast and water, which produces a loaf of bread from flour to sliced-and-packaged form in about three and a half hours. Several minutes of high energy mixing is used to cut the fermentation period and increase the production speed of each loaf.
But there is a price to pay for high speed, fluffy, consistent bread.
A homemade or artisan loaf contains Flour, Yeast, Salt and Water.
Chorleywood process bread can include Wheat Flour, Water, Yeast, Salt, Sugar, Vinegar, Dextrose, Soya Flour, Vegetable Fat, Emulsifier E472e, Flour Treatment Agent E300, and Preservative.
Which is the more natural food?
There is a school of thought that the rise in Gluten intolerance and Coeliac Disease is a result of changed baking processes and introduction of additives to the basic ingredients. It is not the role of this blog to argue the pros and cons of that particular viewpoint but it is only in the years since the introduction of new methods of baking that these particular diagnoses have exploded.
Anyhow, bread making at home is not hard, and need not take hours. A quick loaf can be ready within 2 hours and involves only a few minutes work.
Take 500 grams of Strong Bread Flour, add 1 ½ teaspoons of Dried Active Yeast, 1 ¼ teaspoons of Salt, 25 grams of Butter and mix together. Add 300millilitres of warm water and pull into a dough. Knead the dough for 10 minutes or so then put into a greased loaf tin, cover with a tea towel and leave in a warm place to rise for an hour. Put into an oven at 230°C for 30 minutes. Remove, tap the base, kit should sound hollow, and cool on a rack. A damp tea towel laid over the bread will give a soft crust.
For rolls, divide the dough, shape into balls and rise as above. Cook for 15 minutes.
I save time on the kneading by putting all the dry ingredients into a Magimix with the dough blade fitted, pulsing to bring the mix to breadcrumb stage, adding the water and mixing for 2 minutes. You could use a Kenwood with the dough hook fitted and knead for 5 minutes on the second lowest speed.
Fresh bread is just so much better than shop bought.
Recently though I have become a convert to the method of Richard Bertinet, a French baker based in Bath. He uses the traditional French method which breaks all the English rules.
10 grams of fresh Yeast is crumbled into the Flour, salt added then cold water!
This is mixed around until it reaches the consistency of Porridge then tipped onto a work surface or board. There is no dusting of flour on the surface as this would change the chemistry of the bread!
The sloppy mix is lifted and folded over on itself and amazingly forms a dough after a few minutes of lifting and folding, then put it into a floured bowl, covered in Clingfilm to rise for an hour – or until doubled. When risen do NOT knock back but turn upside down and fold the edges into the middle and press. Then shape into a loaf and rise again for an hour.
Cook for 30 minutes until golden brown and hollow when tapped.
This bread has a delicious nutty taste and a chewy texture but chewy in a really good way, not hard work chewy. It also makes amazing toast.
Though I have only tried this method a couple of times I am a convert and will be taking a one day baking course at his shop and cookery school in Bath.
More to report when I have done the course.