As this week (7-13 May) is Real Bread Maker Week, we at the Real Bread
Campaign have penned this open letter to all of Britain’s doughmongers.
Whether making a loaf for yourself and family, baking as a professional, or sharing bread recipes and skills with other people now or later in the year, we have some questions that you might like to ponder:
Is there any need to use fast-acting / instant yeast?
Dried active yeast (usually sold in cylindrical tins) is much cheaper than sachets, widely available, just as convenient – even in bread machines if added with the water, will keep in the fridge for months, and, unlike most brands of the instant stuff, contains no artificial additives. Or you could get your mitts on the fresh stuff.
Do I really need to add sugar?
Flour contains more than enough food to keep yeast thriving. So unless you’re making a sweet bread try leaving out the empty calories of sugar, honey, syrup or whatnot.
Does I really need to add oil or fat?
Delicious, moist Real Bread is not reliant on either, so unless you’re making an enriched bread (such as a buttery milk loaf, or focaccia drizzled with olive oil) then these are just more unnecessary empty calories.
Could a no-knead recipe be what I need?
Homebakers: If you feel kneading is too much work, takes too much of your time or that you’re just not up to it, then try a no-knead Real Bread recipe. These effortless doughs are given more water and more time (theirs, not yours) allowing you to just mix, leave and bake. Professionals: not exactly no-knead, but you might like to experiment with an autolyse method…
Could I use less salt?
Homebakers: when baking Real Bread try using not much more than a teaspoon (6g) per 500g of flour. Professionals: the Food Standards Agency’s target is 1% or less by loaf weight.
If I’m using any artificial additives, do I know exactly why?
Homebakers: before throwing a pinch of ascorbic acid (or flour with it added already) into dough, please ask yourself why and find out how it works. You can only make great loaves of what we call Real Bread without it. Professionals: if using artificial additives they are making you miss an opportunity to offer your customers what the Campaign calls Real Bread. Might ditching them open the doors to you increasing your skills as a baker even further?
Could I slow things down?
Homebakers: the more time dough has to ‘ripen’ the more flavour it develops, but extra dough time is not your time, freeing you to go off and do something else. Rather than rushing dough by putting it somewhere warm to rise, using large amounts of yeast or adding sugar, make it fit in with your schedule by slowing things down instead. Using a recipe with less yeast and letting dough rise somewhere cooler can allow you to leave it unattended for hours – or even overnight in a fridge. Professionals: try retarding your dough. Some bakeries find overnight proving even helps them change shift patterns to more sociable hours…
Could I use locally-milled stoneground flour?
Stoneground flour (wholemeal or sieved to make it lighter) not only tastes great but also contains more of wheat’s natural goodness. And if you’re lucky enough to have a locally-owned mill nearby, you’ll be helping the local economy, too. Even better if it’s locally-grown grain milled by an eco-friendly wind or water mill!
Is sourdough the way forward?
As well as boosting flavour, the ‘friendly bacteria’ (sorry for using such a yuck marketing phrase) in genuine sourdough have a natural preservative effect – without unnecessary additives or extra salt. There is also a growing number of very interesting scientific studies reporting all sorts of health benefits of sourdough bread making – though the Campaign would like to see much, much more being invested into research.
You can find more information on these thoughts and more, as well as recipes, courses, events, competitions, discounts and other offers, places to buy Real Bread, and links to a whole world of bready matters at realbreadcampaign.org
Happy baking from The Real Bread Campaign!
Wonderful. My thanks go out to the team at TRBC and I hope their letter gave you a few new ideas. Don’t forget if you’d like to come on one of my Organic Bread Making courses, take a look at this and drop me a line!