Saturday, 1 October 2016

October 2016: bread


As the Good Lord is slowly disappearing from many lives, so is his bread. For breakfast we have cereals - meaning cornflakes, weetabix or worse [1]. Alternatively there are crackers or crispbread. For lunch it is increasingly common, if you’re working, to pick up a sandwich from a nearby bakery - unless it’s a bap, a brioche, or a plain hot dog. 
And when we buy ‘normal’ sliced brown, in a supermarket, or in that sandwich, this is what we get. 

After World War II, breeders developed wheat strains which delivered higher yields thanks to intensive applications of herbicides and pesticides. At the same time, the amount of minerals and vitamins in the grain went down: modern wheats are 30-40 per cent poorer in iron, zinc and magnesium than the old strains. 
Sulphur and nitrogen were put on the wheat to boost growth. The resulting flour has nearly double the number of omega-gliadins - known to trigger inflammatory reactions in the gut of sensitive people.
In the sixties the Chorleywood Bread Process appeared [2], which is still how most breads are made today. This speeds up baking dramatically, using enormous amounts of energy, additives and yeast.
Before Chorleywood, bakers took time to let their dough rise. The very little yeast they put in multiplied, and reacted with the flour: this produced enough gas to aerate the bread. Time ripened the dough, making it tastier. More importantly: as dough ferments, those parts of the protein which trigger bowel disease and other auto-immune and inflammatory reactions to gluten, are neutralised.
And then there are the additives. To avoid too many frightening chemical names, manufacturers are now allowed to group them under bland headings such as ‘flour treatment agent’ and ‘emulsifier’. These additives are derived from substances that would never normally form part of the human diet.
It was also found that the right mixture of enzymes produces light fluffy bread and stops it from going stale. What’s more: these enzymes don’t have to be declared! A loophole in the regulations classifies most enzymes as ‘processing aids’, not additives. Baking magazines even carry advertisements for ‘clean label’ improvers - cocktails of emulsifiers and enzymes, often genetically modified, which can be used without any mention on the label ….. [3]

So - what to buy instead? 

The ‘Real Bread Finder’ [4] helps you on your way. Although it does not (yet) mention quite a few decent local bakeries that I know of, it’s a start.

If you want to keep it simple, just follow these rules:
  • Bread from a wholefood shop you can normally trust.
  • Small local bakeries are more likely to deliver the goods than supermarkets.
  • If your bread goes stale quickly, this is a good sign. It means fewer preservatives have been used. Mind you, stale bread is easier to digest, and personally I prefer it to fresh. 
  • Most of us know by now that supermarkets pump out the smell of freshly baked bread in the bread aisle, so you think you’re buying freshly-baked loaves. Smell it when you’re home. 
  • Recent studies found that, among commercially baked breads, sourdough is by far best for you and your digestion. They compared three types of bread: the ‘normal’ kind you buy in supermarkets (reconstituted whole wheat flour = white flour plus bran, a typical formulation. Sounds good, doesn’t it!), yeast bread and sourdough bread [5]. The latter came out with flying colours. In sourdough the absorption of iron, zinc, and copper is enhanced, and the content of phytate, which prevents absorption of calcium, is lower [6]. 
  • To bake, yourself, simple, slow and good bread — no kneading! Here's a recipe: [7].
  • If you are using gluten-free bread, beware! Give all supermarket gluten-free products a very wide berth, says Ingrid Eissfeldt in ‘The madness of mainstream gluten-free bread’ [8], sketching horrors which would put anyone off. However, if you follow the above advice, you might not need it anymore! Otherwise, spelt or rye bread from a wholefood shop or a decent baker seems the best idea. 
And, just out of interest, in 2006 the Pesticide Action Network UK published the government's own test results which detected pesticide contamination in 78% of British bread [9].

Veg: celeriac, turnip, beet, broccoli, cabbage, calabrese, carrots, cauliflower, chard, fennel, kohlrabi, runner beans, salsify/scorzonera, spinach, tomatoes, Jerusalem/globe artichokes, brussels', chicory, endive, swede, celery, corn salad, leek, peas/mange tout, courgettes, marrow, pumpkin/squash, (white) radish, rocket, spring onions, watercress, sweetcorn.
Meat: rabbit, goose, grouse, guinea fowl, partridge, pheasant, wood pigeon, duck, venison, squirrel.
Fishcrab, clam, cuttlefish, lobster, mackerel, mussels, scallop, sprats, cockles, black bream, gurnard, winkle, pollack, grey mullet, American signal crayfish.

broad beans, land cress, round seeded peas, chinese leaves, corn salad, winter purslane, winter lettuce.
Plant rhubarb sets; spring cabbage; garlic; autumn onion sets if the weather is good. The garlic should be suited for autumn planting. Don't use your old cloves! Plant out spring cabbage and, in South England, cabbages and winter/spring lettuce.
What else can you still do in the garden? See


1 tblsp olive oil, 2 chopped onions, 2 large diced potatoes, 1 large sliced carrot, 1 head of broccoli, stems trimmed and diced, florets broken into small pieces, 1 tsp curry powder or more, 700ml water/stock, 200ml whole milk, 1 1/2 tsp sea salt, pepper, (grated cheddar for garnish optional).
Sauté the onions until translucent. Add potatoes, carrot, broccoli stems and curry powder: stir. Raise heat and pour in stock/water. Bring to the boil, reduce heat, and cook for 20 mins or until the veg are tender. Stir in milk and heat up again. Remove from heat and purée a portion of the soup with a hand blender — a larger portion if you prefer a creamier soup, or a smaller portion if you prefer it chunky. Season. Add broccoli florets and simmer for 3-4 mins or until they have turned bright green. Serve hot with grated cheddar if desired.

Ab. 650g white fish fillets like coley, pollack, whiting; 2 cooking apples, 1 large chopped onion, 2 tbslp oil, 2 tsp curry powder, 2 tsp ground coriander, 1 tsp cumin, 300ml fish stock/water, chives, 1 tsp salt (lemon juice, coconut milk).
Sauté onion until lightly browned. Core and slice apples and add to pan, together with everything bar the fish. Let cook slowly for 20 mins. Add fish to the sauce and simmer uncovered for 10 mins, until it flakes easily. Taste, season if necessary and add chives. You can also add lemon juice and coconut milk.
Good with rice and peas. 

For more recipes, see the same months in the past few years. Or look at, which still has a selection of 8. 

[1] See also Thought for Food August 2012: click on 2016 on the right hand side of this page. By the way, did you know weetabix contains added sugar? Of the familiar cereals, only shredded wheat (not shreddies!) has not additives whatsoever. 
[9] And in 90% of oranges, 59% of bananas, 78% of apples, 71% of cereal bars, 83% of oily fish! See
NEXT MONTH: Intuitive eating?