What makes good bread?
Every corner of the world has its own carb-containing food that is the main component of the region’s diet and its population’s main source of energy. These foods are shaped by the natural resources available locally, as well as technology and culinary know-how. In many Asian countries this staple is rice, in Italy it’s pasta, and in many African countries it’s yam. For Germany, this staple is bread, which can be made from different cereal grains.
People began cultivating cereals over 10,000 years ago, with their original forms – emmer, einkorn and spelt – grown before then. There have always been efforts to maximise harvest yields to satisfy the needs of an ever-growing population, and wheat proved to be the most successful in this respect. Today wheat is even used in industrial food production, being added to foods that you wouldn’t expect to contain it, for instance as a bulking agent in crisps, chocolate and packet sauces.
With the pressure to optimise yields, wheat variations were cultivated, such as wheat with better pest resistance or greater gluten content for better baking. As with raw material production, the manufacturing process for end products was also designed to be more productive. Additives such as enzymes and emulsifiers are used to speed the whole process up, shortening the proving time, which is key to producing good bread.
Gluten has long been blamed for causing various intolerances triggered by eating wheat-containing products, but now scientists have identified other possible culprits. Certain naturally occurring substances, which may cause discomfort when ingested, have been found to almost completely break down after being left alone for several hours, thus eliminating their adverse impact on the body. If the product is not left to rest, then the ‘culprits’ remain in the mixture.
Substances used in raw material production to boost growth have also been found to cause intestinal inflammation and trigger conditions such as headaches and muscle pain.
Scientists still disagree about what ultimately causes wheat intolerance, but it is assumed that different ingredients and production methods are the cause. It’s probably wise, then, to eat breads made in the traditional way using just the basic ingredients of wheat and water with enough time to prove. This, of course, means buying artisanal products or baking the bread yourself. Learning how to make sourdough takes a lot of practice, but the result certainly makes the effort worth it. Equally there are a whole host of simple bread recipes that can be made quickly using good wholemeal flour and a few extra ingredients. Below you’ll find a fantastic quick and easy recipe for delicious apple and nut wholemeal bread.
- 75 g oats
- 300 g wholemeal flour – you can use a different flour or a mix of different ones
- 2 tsp baking soda
- 65 g flaxseed
- 65 g walnuts – you can use different nuts depending on your preference
- 1 tsp salt
- 350 g Greek yoghurt
- 1 egg
- 4 tbsp honey
- 2 small apples or firm pears, chopped into small cubes
- Preheat the oven to 175°C and line a loaf tin with baking paper
- In a bowl, combine all dry ingredients and then mix in the wet ingredients
- Tip the dough out into the tin and bake for 1 hour 20 minutes. Make sure that it is fully baked by testing with a skewer or knife. Stick it in the bread, and if it comes out dry, i.e. there is no dough on it, then the bread is done.
Take the bread out of the oven and leave to cool completely