What’s inside our bread?

Baked Bread

Wanted. Loved. Devoured daily. But messed with on a big scale too. Only a few decades ago in the UK its “particularly interesting” example was so white that it appeared almost luminous. People marveled over its brighter than chalk tint. The astonishing hue was mesmerizing and very few questioned its look. This was a mistake. Chlorine dioxide gas was nothing but a type of bleach used in the UK’s bread till 1999 when the government decided to put a ban on it (Whitley, 2006).

There is no chlorine dioxide in the UK’s bread today but there are still many bleaching agents, additives, preservatives and enzymes that aim to artificially enhance the taste and the look of bread, decrease its mixing and baking time and superficially boost the volume of the bread. In his book Bread Matters, Andrew Whitley gives a very long list of various enzymes (and their effects) that are used in making bread dough: Maltogenic amalyse, Peptidase, Amylase, Xylanase and many more (the names in themselves sound terrifying, don’t they?). Most breads also contain emulsifiers. Their job is to prevent the loaf from going stale too quickly. These and other supplements compromise the nutritional value of many loaves that we eat. No wonder therefore that there are more and more people who are deciding to go back to basics and who are learning to knead the bread again within the corners of their kitchens and who are finding enormous joy in doing so. Maybe it’s because they are creative with making different bread shapes (buns, rolls, loaves and flat breads), with using different flour compositions (wholemeal, white, rye, spelt, malted wheat flakes) and with putting their favourite ‘stuffing’ (sunflower seeds, sun-dried tomatoes, dates, pumpkin seeds, olives) into their breads. We do that too and I must say there is something very satisfying about baking your own bread… perhaps it is its comforting smell or the appealing symbolism that bread-making conveys… that of motherhood and that of life, strength and resilience. (More Images and Recipe Below)

Bread Recipe:


250g Strong White Flour

250g Strong Wholemeal Flour

100g Malthouse Flour also known as Granary or malted wheat grain (it’s optional, but greatly enriches the flavour)

400-500ml Water

1 Teaspoon of Dried Yeast

1 to 2 Teaspoon of Salt

25-50ml Olive Oil

Into a small bowl of lukewarm water put the yeast with 2 spoons of flour. Put it aside for half an hour and let the yeast feed off the flour. When you see small bubbles forming on the surface of the water it means that the yeast mixture is ready. Now, in a large bowl mix all the flours with the salt and slowly stir them adding the water. It’s ok if it feels quite sticky at this point. Knead the dough for at least 10 minutes until it feels fairly soft and elastic  [you can add extra flour or water to ease the process]. Slowly pour the olive oil and again knead it into the bread mix. Form a nice rounded loaf and cover it with a wet tea towel and leave it overnight for the dough to rise. A day after, cover a flat baking tray with grease proof paper and form small (4-5 cm) buns. Add dates, sunflower seeds or nuts to the mixture if you wish. Bake in 180-200°C for around 30-40 minutes. There is no need to preheat the oven. It’s good to allow the buns to grow with the increasing heat. It’s delicious served with butter and mirabelle jam (or stuffed with dates) especially if you are only baking with wholemeal and white flours. The wholemeal can be quite bitter and the sweetness of mirabelle plums or dates just complement those flours so well. Enjoy! Bon appetite!



Salt Flour  yeast mixture Bread doughCoveredBread _Postcard Last but 1Bread PostcardBread wit mirabell jam

Based on:  Andrew Whitley (2006) Bread Matters. Fourth Estate: London.

4 thoughts on “What’s inside our bread?

  1. Love it! You can’t beat the taste and smell of homemade bread. With the added benefit that you know what you’re eating (and maybe more importantly what you’re not eating), it’s a no-brainer!


  2. I agree with your sentiments. Arriving in England in the 1960’s I found “Bread” to be an industrial product distributed by lorries to shops and supermarkets and even homes in a form that differed very little across the country. It was a loaf wrapped in waxed paper and sliced to fit the toaster cult. The texture of each briliantly white thin crusted slice was spongy and the flavour was famously insipid. One of the best features was that no matter how you stored it, it would not go hard or mouldy for some time. It could even be delivered with the daily pinta. I was told that this Bread was good. I believed them! In Italy the bread was cooked in every street in small bakeries twice a day, and went hard a few hours after baking. The smell and flavour was characteristic and really mouth watering. By contrast the English sliced loaf was not. Of course, a lot of this bread ended up feeding the garden birds or the swans on the Serpentine – did the English not like it?


  3. Lovely! I hate supermarket bread, with its sticky texture that sticks to the roof of your mouth! I baked carrot and walnut bread yesterday as an experiment. It wasn’t my best ever attempt, but at least I know exactly what is in it!


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