The Benefits of Cooking from Scratch

lgclogoIf you can compare meals served at home today with those prepared by our grandmothers and their mothers, the glaring difference is that at least one dish will have come from a box, a plastic tray, a bag or a pouch!

Think about breakfast, for example. Did you have toast? If you did, did you make the bread? Did you have pancakes or maybe crumpets? Did these come from the supermarket, plastic wrapped? None of these items are difficult to make: they simply need the time to make them. These pre-prepared foods are taking a toll on our health. Have you recently picked up a loaf of sliced bread and read the ingredients? It makes interesting reading. Bread should contain only the following ingredients: flour, water, yeast. To give bread more flavour, salt, oil, butter and/or a little sugar may be added but is not necessary to the success of the bread. Pick up a commercial loaf of sliced, white bread when you’re next in the supermarket and read the list of ingredients. You will very likely find all or some of the following ingredients: Palm Oil (a hydrogenated fat), Emulsifiers (Mono- and Diglycerides of Fatty Acids, Mono- and Diacetyltartaric Acid Esters of Mono-and Diglycerides of Fatty Acids) Flour Treatment Agent, Calcium Propionate, Potassium Sorbate  Ask yourself, why are these are being added?

I guess the consensus would be that we are making unnecessary work for ourselves and that our lives are vastly improved by having the convenience of being able to toss a shiny cellophane bag of bread into shopping trolley instead of taking the time to mix the ingredients, knead the dough, let it rise, knead it some more, then shape it into the desired form.  It actually only takes 10 minutes to make the dough (with a mixer) and less than 5 minutes to knock it back and shape it for the oven. That’s only 15 minutes of actual “making”. The other 2 hours are to allow for the bread to prove and rise and then 30 minutes to bake in the oven. (You can be doing other things whilst the bread is proving.) But just remember – when you toss that bag of bread into the shopping trolley, you are getting undesirable (and unwanted) ingredients – in many cases toxins.

Imagine what you are missing out on – inhaling the delicious aroma emanating from your oven as the bread bakes, the mouth-watering anticipation as you let the loaf rest just long enough for you to slice it, and the satisfaction of having created a freshly baked home-made loaf.  Packaged bread from the supermarket just doesn’t compare.

Unfortunately, by relying on the food industry to provide us with ready prepared meals, we are condemning our future and our health. Most adults today in the UK who troll the supermarket aisles haven’t a clue where the food that they buy comes from, and are incapable of making a simple meal, from basic ingredients, entirely from scratch. According to an article in the Daily Mail (9/10/13), one in six adults has never cooked a meal from scratch, and use packets or jars of ingredients to make evening meals at least four nights a week. Two thirds of people admit they are more likely to reach for ready- made options rather than fresh ingredients according to a survey of 2,000 adults by Co-operative Food. Also, youngsters are being served convenience food such as chicken nuggets, sausages and pizza, according to research by the Department of Health.

With a bit of planning, even the busiest person can cook from scratch without the use of convenience items. What? You can’t cook? If you can read and possess the ability to use weighing scales or a measuring cup – you can cook! By making food from scratch you: – know what’s in it – can make it stretch, making many meals from one food – eat well for less. Need help with learning how to cook from scratch?  Contact me.

Bread – The Sad Story

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!

Extracted from ‘Bread’ by Andrew Whitely

FURTHER READING: Chorleywood: The Bread that Changed Britain The Shocking Truth About Bread

Bread: Do You Know What You’re Eating?

Did you know that an amino acid used as an additive in bread is sometimes manufactured from human hair?  The substance is called L-Cysteine or E920.

Britain’s leading organic baker, Andrew Whitely, warns of what he calls of “baking’s big secret” – the use of enzymes.  Andrew describes the use of these enzymes as secret because they do not appear on the label. Industrial bakers use a loophole to classify them as “processing aids”. These enzymes are one reason modern bread stays so light and soft for so long. Under the UK’s food labelling rules they don’t need to appear on the label because they are broken down in the manufacturing process and therefore they are not considered to be present in the final product. Andrew describes this as: “a deception that allows the food industry to manipulate what we eat without telling us.”

Andrew’s got a whole list of enzymes he’s concerned about but a particularly worrying one is phospholipase. That’s because phospholipase was originally derived from pigs’ pancreas.

And if you were thinking that by buying an organic loaf you might escape these “aids”, think again. Food enzymes are allowed in organic products so long as they are not derived from GM or GM methods have not been used at any stage in their manufacture.

The only way to be sure your bread is pure and unadulterated and only contains the core ingredients needed to make a decent loaf of bread (flour, yeast, salt & water) – is to make it yourself!

Rita’s Basic White Bread Recipe