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extra hustle \ on baking bread

This time around, we'll take a break from all that philosophical stuff, meanings of life and nothingness. Well, sort of, as there is value and virtue even in such, it would seem, a bread-and-butter issue like preparing your very own loaf.

Let us begin with politics. Communism respective capitalism deliver lousy bread. The former because of supply shortcomings, hence the use of alternative stuffing for the loaf to weigh its weight. The latter because of the incentive to increase market share/sales through cutting corners, thus the use of alternative stuffing for the loaf to weigh its weight...

But hey ho, aren't artisan bakeries out there?! Sure there are - in big(ger), more fashionable cities, I presume. What about smaller localities, you know, the strongholds of tradition, the guardians of the past's mythical quality? Nope, not in a month of Sundays...

Big grocery chains and factory bakeries have penetrated the countryside far and wide. Whitish loafs devoid of taste and nutrients, wrapped in plastic 'naturally,' are happily waiting for the passive consumer to grab them and let 'em turn into a fungi Petri dish overnight... Alternatively, the "healthier" option - those rye precursors of Dwarf Bread...

Contrary to the ongoing beer revolution, there hasn't been any analogue of it in the bread world. If you wanted a good ale in the past, you had to brew it yourself. Want a tasty, wholesome loaf that will last several days without rotting away or turning into a brick? Roll up your sleeves!

There is, however, one stumbling block, hoping over which is necessary to proceed. Buying ready-made bread is easy (read: lazy). The handicraft version isn't automatically more expensive - even with all that current inflation-mud-blowing, flour, yeast, a drop of oil, a wee bit of sugar, and a sprinkling of salt won't cost you the earth.

There are some upfront buys one needs to make, like a loaf tin (better two or three), but these aren't from the 'an arm and a leg' ballpark. Mine pans were, in addition, made by people with mental impairment. I mean, praise the company that goes the extra mile to help those men & women find their place in society!

Bread-making machines are also lazy-ish, and loaf vs loaf, the one made using hands has, well, the upper hand.

Anyhoo, it will eat up your time. Kneading that dough takes longer than reaching for that bun so conveniently placed on a market shelf; the bun that was made God-knows-when, deep-frozen for warehousing, and underbaked in the store by, I guess, wonderful people (who just happen to don't give a flying nun what you ingest).

Here is the bigger picture (like with fossil fuels): there are hidden costs of paying less for low-quality bread. It is your health. Quality bread = happy gut. It ain't rocket science.

There are other gains, too (#breadswithbenefits). Present somebody with a loaf of homemade bread - and you'll wag their tail. The 'downside' is that they'll now look at market bread with damnation, asking you more frequently than not when you'll make them another loaf. Sharing is caring.

There are gazillion bread recipes out there; that's one thing to play with to get great results. My favourite tweaks include exchanging some of the water for tomato juice as well as adding spices and herbs (curry and Herbes de Provence absolutely nail it!).

The other is preparing your loaf with leaven made of sourdough. It takes your bread from being tasty & healthy to the level of, in Nietzsche's terms, Überbread. It requires extra hustle. To begin with, you need to obtain sourdough (I was fortunate to get my flour-covered hands on one that's one and a half decades old). Second, making leaven out of it takes half a day (up to one and a half if you need to feed the sourdough beforehand). All of a sudden, baking bread turns into a two-day venture. "Good timber does not grow with ease."

It turns out that baking good bread requires effort, patience, determination, and skill-building. Who would guess there's so much depth in a banal thing like "our daily bread?" It is another facet of the "you are what you eat" wisdom. And blissful ignorance is the bliss point of all the producers of highly refined foods (check the Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us by Michael Moss, including the story of the tobacco industry making its way into your belly...).

PS. My gut is privileged to get along with gluten just fine - and I put a wholegrain wheat loaf above other bakings. That said, the Internet is rich with gluten-free recipes (such as these). I'm decently sure they will yield better results than those utterly sad-looking chunks from the store ('naturally,' packed in plastic).

Two loafs of kick-ass homemade bread (with leaven made of sourdough)

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