Thursday, 16 June 2011

In praise of home made bread

This week the Daily Mail ran an article on the quality of bread - in particular, the sort of bread many of us buy in the supermarkets through choice or necessity. Although I knew much of what the article outlined, to see the stark facts in print made me squirm. I make my own bread and have for 30 years now. Not every day and sometimes if life gets in the way, we buy crusty supermarket loaves, usually granary or wholemeal (a nod to the conscience) though G & D prefer white Tiger bread. It's not a religion with me, but I have to say that even the best supermarket loaves (and we do have a soft spot for Organic spelt and pumpkin seed loaves) can't compare with home-made.

With home-made bread, you can choose your flour - for preference, organic (though I'm not hard and fast over this), but it must be stone-ground and if I can get it from a local source, so much the better. I usually use Bacheldre Mill flour. It makes a very good loaf, and is full of flavour and goodness. Try Spelt wheat, which makes a very good loaf and rises easily. I usually use fresh yeast, but always have dried yeast in sachets in the store cupboard and that is perfect to use as well. Sometimes I make Irish Soda Bread, which doesn't have yeast in at all. Sometimes I make Cheese bread, or an Oatmeal Plait, or Pizza base, or milk rolls, or a Sunflower Loaf. Sometimes it is "sweet" bread in the form of Cinnamon cake, or Orange teabread, or Apple Yeastcake or occasionally Malt loaf. With home-made bread, you know when you have eaten a slice as it fills you up in the way that the spongey filled-with-air supermarket loaves never do.

Personally, I don't have a bread-maker, mainly as it would just be another thing to take up space in the kitchen and it only takes a few minutes to get dough mixed and started by hand, although in my dotage I may put a Panasonic (apparently the best) on my Christmas list one year! It's not "cheating" using a bread-maker, and of course they can be programmed to come on in the darkness of the night and give you a fresh loaf for breakfast. My quibble over them would probably be that the size of the loaf is limited and if you have a big (or hungry) family, then you would need to make more than one loaf.

So what goes into a supermarket loaf?

The white flour used has as much as 80% or 90% of the useful vitamins removed - by the speed of the processing I assume. Stone Ground wholemeal flour is slowly ground, ground so it keeps cool, and with the endosperm, bran and wheatgerm left in.

Supermarket loaves have added sugar and plenty of salt (presumably for "flavour"). I just add two teaspoons of salt to my 1 1/2 lbs (675g) of strong bread flour.

They contain hydrogenated fats (NOT good for you as they turn into harmful saturated trans fats - widely used in processed foods). They have emulsifiers, reducing agents, improvers and flour treatment agents to fluff up, soften, pad out and stretch the dough. They contain added enzymes, which have links to gut problems and asthma and the mould inhibitor calcium propionate which is linked to asthma and behavioural problems in children (this gleaned from the Daily Mail article).

Do you really want to give this to your family if you have any choice?

Making bread isn't difficult. The kneading process, which is what deters many people, is shown on the Bacheldre Mill website above. Go to You-tube and type in bread-making and there are many videos to watch - a couple on no-knead bread are brilliant but be warned, as it is a very sloppy mix and seems to have a life of its own after a couple of hours! Makes a wonderful loaf though.

I'll post a couple of recipes over the weekend.


  1. I know how delicious home made bread is, but if I make it, I can`t resist eating too much of it!

    Your loaves look so good BB.Even reading about them makes me hungry.... I`m looking forward to your recipes.
    Do you have a simple pizza base recipe please?

  2. I love home made bread. Like you I hate the stodgy supermarket stuff although we do buy some of the wholemeal seeded types of mass produced stuff - albeit 'high end' varieties. I hate how most bought loaves will collapse when sliced or how pre-sliced stuff will flop in the toaster. You just know there's very little that's good in them.

    Hmmmmn - where's my flour and yeast?


  3. There we are, I'll set the table for High Tea shall I?

    Alistair - bread is SO easy to make and once you get into a routine, well worth the effort.

    DW - Simple Pizza Recipe will be the first then.

  4. I have vivid memories of the bread strike in the early 70's, and my mum baking bread, leaving it to rise by the open fire.

    Howard has finally got the mini oven in place in the kitchen, and has started baking again. We started home baking originally because of my sesame allergy (Tiger Bread being one of the things that is off limits, as are Bourbon Creams for some reason). He made some wonderful savoury muffins, which became lunch with a bowl of soup for most of this week.

    Don't forget - Sodabread is even quicker to prepare.

  5. I'm with you on this one and also make much of our bread. But I still by sliced for the girls' packed lunches. After reading this I'm questioning why as they both say they prefer homemade. It's habit I suppose - I think it's time to make new habits. Thanks for the prod.

    PS: Itsy and I have just been for a run together which was great fun. We're now both a bit puffed. (She's such a sweet pony. Lots of hugs and kisses afterwards.)

  6. I agree with you about store bread, and in England you get a beautiful selection of breads to buy, here in the states we don't. I started making my own bread last year, I use a bread maker and put it up in the cupboard when it's not being used. i've done bread on my own, but truth be told the machine is so easy to use and there is just the 2 of us so a 1 pound loaf is perfect. I make a white-honey bread.

  7. Making bread is one of those things I feel guilty about not doing but I've never got into the habit of doing it. I really should give it a try I know......

  8. Those all look so lovely. All the more impressive as you make them by hand (not in the Panny like I do).