Tuesday, August 9, 2011

what do we expect of our bread?

last sunday, 8tv's "ho chiak" featured a few bakeries. among them, mardia & mustafa's bakery which i blogged about 2 years ago.

i find it amusing that the 2 hosts introduced martin's bread as "chewy" and unlike the typical off-the-shelf soft sandwich bread. martin also explained that this is the way bread is supposed to be and this is how it's sold in europe.

so why does martin have to explain himself? and why does folks here (malaysians, singaporeans etc) have only one expectation of bread, namely soft and fluffy?

i think it all has to do with our introduction to bread.

now bread is a western thing. it's not asian at all. asians have own versions of baked goods like mantou, pratha, capati etc. bread is different, mainly because the wheat grown in this region isn't the high gluten type so it doesn't lend itself well to the development of bread.

but bread gained a foothold in asia, thanks to the chorleywood bread process.  this method, invented by the british, simplifies the production of bread and instead of high protein flour, it could make bread out of low protein wheat. 

excerpts from the wikipedia page,

The aim of the Chorleywood bread process is to use cheaper, lower-protein wheats and to reduce processing time, the system being able to produce a loaf of bread from flour to sliced-and-packaged form in about three and a half hours. This is achieved through the use of chemical improvers, solid vegetable fat, higher quantities of yeast, and intense mechanical working by high-speed mixers to incorporate air into the dough. The last requirement means that the CBP cannot be reproduced in a domestic kitchen. Solid fat is necessary to prevent the risen loaf from collapsing — in traditional methods, this structure is provided by the gluten produced by higher-protein flour.

see? so instead of the traditional sourdough, or long fermentation, organic, artisanal bread, the chorleywood process reduces bread to a commodity! so there is no difference between different makes of bread. in fact, MOST bread manufacturers use this method to bake bread, including some organic varieties.

note that why does bread, despite being touted as a health food, needs to be enriched with vitamins and minerals?  because there isn't much in low quality flour!

why is it so soft and fluffy? because it packs more air inside than the real stuff. a huge loaf of commercial sandwich bread weighs 300-400gm. a loaf i bake which is 1/3 the size weighs 450gm.

note also all the nonsense ingredient? understand this, to bake a loaf of bread, we need only flour, water, yeast and salt. NOT chemical improver, NOT enrichment by additional vitamins/minerals, and certainly NOT preservative.

i guess because of the industrialization of bread, we the home bakers, now have our own artisanal bread.

if you care about your own health (and your loved ones), bake your own artisanal bread. use organic flour, long fermentation (or sourdough) and incorporate higher whole wheat (wholemeal) rather than white flour.

speaking of which, i better call martin as i haven't called him since he came back from uk a year ago!

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