It’s nearly a year since the Covid19 Pandemic forced us into a series of lockdowns. With many of our normal every day activities taken away, there’s been a surge in home activities. Ranging from gardening, home exercise classes, learning a language to an increase in baking. One of the most prominent ones – certainly on social media – has been bread making.
Lockdown 1.0 in the UK saw a guide to making sourdough bread hit the Amazon best seller list and flour, that previously mundane basic staple, metamorphosize into a precious commodity, it’s location shared in hushed whispers (online of course!) so it didn’t run out before you could get there.
Bread has been a staple food for thousands of years, so in some ways it’s not surprising we turned to it in challenging times. Maybe our deep-set survival instincts kicked in and the need to provide sustenance manifested in artisan sourdough loaves. All beautifully photographed and posted on Instagram of course :). And from what I have seen, that trend has continued through to lockdown 3.0. There must be some expert bakers out there now!
Making bread – whether with yeast or sourdough – takes time. Creating a sourdough starter from scratch requires effort and attention, and can be a most frustrating process as the gloopy mixture can be fussy and fickle. But when it works, and your labours are rewarded with a hot, crusty, deliciously fresh loaf, it’s all worth it.
Of course not everyone can enjoy the pleasure of fresh bread made with wheat and/or yeast – or even with a sourdough starter. Gluten free breads have been popping up too and I know many people who have been experimenting to create their own loaves of free from delight – I’m just about to test a recipe created by a friend who swears she’s created the best gluten free bread recipe ever. I’m excited to see if she’s right!
There is no comparison between bread that’s been made at home and the supermarket variety. Freshly baked always tastes wonderful for a start. But it’s not just flavour that’s important. The key for me is what’s in it. Have a look at the ingredients on the side of a supermarket loaf and you’ll see much more than the simple flour, water, yeast (or sourdough starter) and salt that’s needed to make a loaf. Additives like oils (including palm oil), sugar and emulsifiers feature and gluten free options often have a huge list of added extras that sound like they come from a chemistry book not a bakery. Grabbing a loaf may be convenient – and sometime rediculously cheap – but there’s a real cost hiding here – the effect on our health.
These added extras (as well as chemical pesticides and fertilizers) are contributing to health challenges. Processed chemical concoctions increase inflammation in the gut and stress the metabolism – and make us want to eat more of it. Real bread, especially when made with whole wheat flour, is full of fibre and healthful nutrients plus the long proving time starts to break down the gluten proteins, making it easier for the body to digest (as long as you can tolerate gluten of course).
Here in the UK, we will be emerging from lockdown over the next few months and everyone is hoping that life will get back to normal – or at least as close to normal as possible. There’s no denying that life has changed in many ways; I do hope that the trend in making and eating real bread continues.
This week is Real Bread Week, a campaign that celebrates real bread makers, whether that’s independent bakeries or home bakers. You can find out more about the campaign on their website here. It includes recipes to try at home and even bakery schools you can attend to learn this magic art.
If you’re not into making your own but want to enjoy real bread, and support the bakers who continue the tradition, you can find your nearest real bread bakers using this finder tool here. And if you’ve not yet got into making sourdough but would like to start, you can find my post about making a sourdough starter here or check out this great little guide to making a sourdough loaf here.
For me, well I’ve had to pull back from the sourdough for a while. Having a yeast intolerance makes eating any type of fermented food a challenge sometimes. When I started craving it and the headaches started coming back, I knew there was a problem. So for now I’m back on soda bread. Which fortunately I love. I’ve been experimenting with some ancient grains from Hodemedod’s for my soda bread. Even though they are somewhat ‘rustic’, the flavour is awesome and to say they’re filling would be an understatement! There’s a whole heap of complex fibre in those grains!
You can find my simple soda bread recipe here. I’m also adding in some extra pumpkin and sunflower seeds to boost the nutrient content even more, so few free to add some too if you follow the recipe.
So in Real Bread Week, what’s in your daily loaf? Have you fallen in love with making fresh bread at home so much you’ll continue going forward? I do hope so – I’d love to know what you’ve been making so do comment below.