It is a reflection on living standards in much of the Western hemisphere that we should have to go to a speciality store or farmers’ market to buy bread that is honest, well made and unadulterated.Countries with a traditional high regard for their food forbid their flour to be tampered with. This is certainly true of France and largely why the French enjoy such good breads; there is also a relative absence of large baking combines in France so the independent village baker reigns supreme, and just as well since French bread stales within hours of baking.
|Guiness Bread baked by Rita|
Elsewhere, the story is rather different. ‘Scientific’ advances during the last century have changed bread making; notably, in the UK this was due to the development in 1961 of “the Chorleywood Bread Process”. The chemically assisted, fast-rising, sliced white loaf is widely marketed and stimulates a continuing controversy. The essential complaint is that the dough for this product is mixed, risen and baked within one hour. The gradual stretching of gluten and maturing of the dough’s flavour doesn’t happen; the first is achieved by extremely fast, brutal rough beating, the second is forgotten or approximated with additives. The end product (to the scientist who created it) smells right, slices like a dream, does not crumble when spread with butter and keeps well. Then there’s the texture ….. so slight, it scrunches to paste with the slightest application of pressure, even when toasted. Living without decent bread is hardly life at all!