Yet, between mass-produced bread that occupies more and more space on the shelves, frozen products or injected with chemicals, the truth is that the consumer can no longer distinguish between what’s good and what’s not.
Just think that in the past, before the introduction of technologies for separating the grain from the outer shell, only wholemeal flour was consumed. Then there are the new bakeries that blend traditions with new discoveries to improve the product, but above all to protect a heritage and enhance consumer choice.
Today's bread is different from yesterday's
Digestive disorders and skin reactions are just a few examples of the consequences of modern nutrition. Gluten intolerance is the main cereal-related disease. It seems that part of the explanation for these problems lies in the role man has played in the selection of cereals: varieties that contain more and more gluten have been favoured, because they are easier to cook and process.
The new baker
This phenomenon is part of a society where people no longer eat bread out of necessity, but for the pleasure of healthy eating, and learn to recognise the value and taste of traditional artisan bread.
The first basic ingredient: flour
The process of transforming grain into flour begins with the harvesting (cutting of the plant) and then the separation of the grains from the straw and chaff, the threshing. Wetting, i.e. the addition of water to the wheat, moistens the bran (the shell, rich in fibre, minerals and vitamins) and facilitates the separation of this from the central area, the endosperm (80-85% of the grain, rich in starch). Then the cereals are conveyed to the mill, which begins to strip the grain of the shell, and this is where we see a first important difference: the grinding through cylinder or stone mills.
Flour ground with stone mills ancient technique is therefore to be preferred in the choice of our bread because it is more nutritious and balanced.
The refining process and the different types of flour
In order to obtain flour of different qualities, following the milling of the wheat, the process of refining (or sifting), the sieving and the gradual elimination of bran and germ from the flour, was invented.
In relation to the residue of minerals and bran present in the ground grain, flours have been classified into 5 types: wholemeal (with a 100% sifting rate), Type 2 (at 82%), Type 1 (at 80%), Type 0 (at 72%), and Type 00 (at 50%).
Leavening: this unknown force
The main role, however, is played by the ability of the dough to form the glutinous mesh, that is, the structure that retains the leavening gas and gives bread its swelling; 80% of this process depends from the variety of flour used.
The most powerful flours are wheat flours (Triticum), both hard and soft, and wholemeal (whole-wheat in the US) flours: this means that they will normally be present in the dough for a bread. Wholemeal flour will leaven less than a refined one, but the loaf will be richer in nutrients.
Advice from the new bakery
- Read the list of ingredients: look for the terms "wholemeal", "with germ", "stone-ground" to get as many precious nutrients as possible. Beware instead of the terms like "enriched wheat flour" or "multi-cereal", which do not necessarily indicate that the flour used is wholemeal and has not been refined.
- The crumb already tells us the story of bread. White-ish crumb? Better to avoid it, it rhymes with a total absence of taste. Cream-coloured or darker, it reveals the use of a traditional or semi-integral flour, worked at low speed. Finally, if the alveoli in breadcrumb are regular, it is a bad sign, once again proof of haphazard work.
- The scent: like a good wine, you can feel the aroma of good bread. Rely on your nose then. First, the crust can exalt more or less roasted aromas and hints of liquorice, coffee, wood and others, which are released depending on the method of production and baking. As for the crumb, its scent can be sweet or more acidic, depending on the yeast. A slight fruity scent is a good sign: it indicates the use of sourdough.
- Shape and volume: volume is also an essential point. The more gluten there is, the more swollen, airy and therefore tasteless the bread is. We therefore prefer thicker breads, synonymous with slower production and less refined flours.
- Let's not forget the taste: a bread made with quality flour, slowly kneaded and long seasoned has an inimitable flavour. A taste linked to the choice of ingredients, and in particular the sourdough, one of the signatures of an excellent baker, which gives slightly acidic or milky aromas.
- The crust: Its formation is linked to the ingredients but also to the cooking process, which causes the browning of the sugars and therefore the colouring. Dense, dark, fragrant, crisp, four guarantees of taste and, above all, good conservation.