In March I wrote about the benefits of long fermentation on the taste and digestibility of bread:
Since that time I am pleased to report on some welcome new developments.
Traditional Dried Yeast more widely available
Firstly, in addition to Allinsons, there is now another producer of Traditional Dried Yeast – Doves Farm. As Doves Farm seems to have captured the market for dried yeast with their fast acting type, designed originally for bread-making machines, I hope that more outlets will now be persuaded to stock both types so that those who are looking for a slower rise in hand made loaves are equally well catered for.
A new logo to look for when buying bread
Their survey of 1300 people found that more than 70% found it unacceptable that food additives known as “processing aids” don’t have to appear on an ingredients lists and that further more unwrapped loaves do not even have to display a list of ingredients. Whilst continuing to campaign for greater transparency in labelling so that consumers can make an informed choice about what they buy, The Real Bread Campaign has developed their own logo which bakers can apply to use. This will require the baker to sign an annual declaration that no processing aids or other artificial additives have been used.
Having taken an interest in this campaign from the outset, and knowing of the considerable resistance from some bakers to declaring these additives, I congratulate them on this important step forward. Because slower fermentation, without additives, reduces the number of loaves that can be produced in any given space and time, is not uncommon for bakers to include both “Real” and “artificially enhanced” loaves within their range. Campaign co-ordinator, Chris Young assures me that the usage agreement each baker/retailer has to sign makes it very clear that the mark must only be used in a way that makes it totally unambiguous as to which loaves it applies. Only a bakery that bakes solely Real Bread will be able to use the mark in reference to the whole business, otherwise the mark will be loaf specific.
New website for purchasing baking equipment
The third welcome development I have discovered recently is a new website for artisan bakers http://bakerybits.co.uk/ . They sell everything that an artisan baker, including the enthusiastic home baker, might need – from full blown wood-fired ovens to individual baking domes that you can use in a domestic oven to replicate the action of a wood-fired oven. Critically what these do is give you loaves that have risen evenly, because however good your oven, none apply the heat as uniformly as the dome shape of a wood-fired oven. You will also get a much crisper crust. I will certainly be adding one of these to the “wish-list” section of the website for when anyone asks what I want for Christmas!
The benefits of wild yeast (sourdough) starters
For my bread recipes this month I am stepping up a gear. The recipes that I have given for slowly fermented breads up until now have all used the “Sponge and Dough” method. Now I would like to focus on another method – the use of wild yeast.
Wild yeast works more slowly than modern commercial yeasts. During this long fermentation the wild yeasts and lactobacilli bacteria (the same friendly bacteria that are found in yoghurt) pre-digest the flour so that it becomes far more digestible when you eat it, allowing your body to access more of the nutrients and avoiding the bloating and other problems that can be experienced with yeasted breads. During the long fermentation process the nutritional properties of the bread change dramatically.
For a start, the glycaemic index of sourdough bread is 68 compared to 100 for yeasted bread. This helps keep your blood glucose levels steady. The lacto-fermentation process actually uses carbohydrates, converting them to lactic acid so the carbohydrate content is also lower in than in yeasted breads.
The lactobacillus that are cultivated in a wild yeast fermentation produce lactic, formic and acetic acids, which in addition to being beneficial to your gastro-intestinal health also help the bread keep much longer by inhibiting the growth of other organisms.
However, despite keeping a wild yeast starter on the go, and usually baking with it once a week, I will also continue to use small quantities of commercial yeast and the “sponge and dough” method on occasions. A bread made with wild yeasts will be dense and chewy in texture, which is lovely, but less suited to more delicate sandwiches for example.