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!
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!