31/07/2016

Bread Matters: Why and How to Make Your Own

Andrew Whitley
2009

As the title makes clear, this isn't just a book about how to make bread at home, but also why you should consider doing so. A significant part of the book is devoted to explaining what's wrong with the loaf on the supermarket shelf: what extra ingredients go into a mass-produced loaf and why they are there. Most, it turns out, are not there for your benefit as a consumer but for the manufacturers' benefit - to make the bread keep better, look larger, fuller and more attractive and so on. I broadly knew this already but hadn't come across the detail that this book contains, which is all very interesting and in some cases, concerning.

Most interesting is Whitley's assertion (backed up by referenced studies) that much of what manifests as "gluten intolerance" in many people is actually an intolerance for inadequately fermented gluten. Modern bread is made as quickly as possible, of course, but although the manufacturers have found ways to artificially accelerate rising times, what they haven't done is replicate the more complicated fermentation process that breaks down indigestible proteins over several hours of rising and proving. The suggestion is that bread made more naturally - slowly - is better for us because it will have had a chance for the nutrients to develop properly, and in particular better for people who have had problems with mass-produced bread. (Note that he doesn't include coeliacs in this, who are actually allergic to gluten,.)

If you want to make your own bread, avoiding these unnecessary ingredients, it follows that you should use primarily home-grown yeast too, and most of the recipes are broadly "sourdoughs". I'm not a huge fan of sourdough but Whitley's approach to sourdough starters, leavens and so on (there are various names) is slightly different from any others I've read and so it's quite possible that the breads will be different too - I haven't tried to make any yet but I am keen to try.

This book is interesting, comes from a different perspective to any others I have read and is a worthwhile addition to any collection of baking books. I read this on loan from the library but will probably buy my own copy. However, it's not the right book for someone just starting out making their own bread, because it does suffer from two significant problems: first, it's too long, and second, it doesn't have enough pictures. I don't need glossy photos of nice looking loaves particularly, but illustrations of the process are invaluable to anyone starting out.

No comments:

Post a comment