How can a nation be called great if its bread tastes like kleenex? ~ Julia Child
When we first lived in London, our local (insert well known grocery brand name here) shop only stocked chorleywood-process, chemical laden, reconstituted cardboard most of us know as bread. Hey its soft, which is good right? Not so. Sure, its convenient, and we’re used to it. BUT Mike from The Fresh Loaf has this to say about generic, uniform, sliced store type bread,
” The dough conditioners and fungal amalyases are used to make up for the low amount of flour and to hold the batter together as it is whipped until fluffy and risen. Sadly, everything about this process is designed for the profit margin of the big bakers, not to make bread that tastes good, and not to make bread that is good for you.
There is considerable evidence to suggest long rises tend to make gluten less of a problem for people with gluten tolerance issues, especially if the bread is a sourdough bread, and more evidence that the fungal amalyses and additives that are used by some bakeriers convert the gluten to a more reactive variety that causes more trouble for the people who eat it.
Until around the Second World War, England had bread as good as any in the world, as did the United States. In the time leading up to the war, more during and then after the war, bread became a factory made commodity, not something made by artisans and mothers, and its quality deteriorated. That was darn near 70 years ago. Several generations have been raised thinking the white stuff sold in the shops is bread.”
So what we do know is that not only does slow, hand made bread taste better, your tummy may react better to it as well.
I’ve always been absolutely amazed whenever I have proper bread. By proper bread I mean the hand/slow made variety. Artisan bread falls into this super duper yummy category. These days there are plenty of ordinary, chemical free breads out there which have a fabulously low price tag, just check out your local bakery for a start.
I decided to try making some as well. Because there is nothing quite like home baked bread. After my 3rd loaf, I was tired of all the kneading that goes on. With 2 smalls running around, I just don’t have time to knead bread for 15 minutes. I did a little more digging and found out about slow fermented, no knead bread. Essentially sour dough. You can either do sour dough the hard core, specific hydration ratio, needs perfect feeding at the same time EVERY day way. Or you can fit it in around your busy work and family life. Enter Steve the Bread Guy. I call it my lazy bread. To make it, you’ll need a sour dough starter, essentially a mix of flour and water that forms a fabulous ecosystem where a mix of gluten processing, bread rising bacteria and yeasts happily live. If you’re lucky, you know someone with one and you can steal a cup. Otherwise, just create your own:
2 cups of plain (preferably unbleached) flour
2 cups of warm water (you can use the water from boiling potatoes to give your starter a bit of a kick start)
a tablespoon of sugar or honey
a pinch of salt.
Mix all of these together in a largish, non-metal bowl until smooth.
On day zero imediately after mixing:Then leave the bowl somewhere warm and exposed in your kitchen covered with a clean dish towel for a couple of days. The dish towel allows the yeasts you need to float on in but keeps out general dust and bugs. After a few days, you should get some bubbling and liquid and a very dodgy smell.
After 24 hours mine looks like this. Lots of nice little fermenting bubbles and some clear brown liquid on top:If it smells really bad (rather than beery) or grows mould, you should toss it and start again. But once its definitely alive and kicking, transfer to a storage container with a loose fitting lid and stick it in the fridge. You’ll notice it has quite a foamy texture, almost like its had a bit of beaten egg white folded through. That’s when you know its nice and active.
After 48 hours mine starts to get all foamy. Clearly some active yeasts here. It can take a few days to get to this stage:Keeping it in the fridge slows everything down so you only need to feed it once a week rather than daily. To feed, give it a cup each of flour and warm water and mix till smooth. Mine lives in an unsealed clip top glass kilner jar with some cling film wrapped around the top. That way I can keep the nasties out while avoiding any high pressure explosions in my fridge. Don’t forget to give your starter a name!