Bread

Bread can be found in different forms and all round the world and it's been this way for thousands of years. Did you know that it's one of the oldest foods prepared by man, going all the way back in time to the Neolithic era!

It can be eaten hot or cold sweet or savoury. You can get flat loaves, risen loaves loaves made from wheat or with no wheat at all. There's chapattis, rotis & naans from India that many of us are familiar with. There's Banana Nut Bread (my favourite - see our recipe), pitta from the Middle East, Mexican tortilla, Scottish Oatcakes and banana loaf a favourite with many children. By the way, if you can't get your children to eat enough vegetables you can even add some zucchini, pumpkin, onion or a little pureed vegetable to your loaf!

Many people love the whole process of baking their own loaves. They find it therapeutic and nurturing and feel proud of their own home-baked loaf with that fresh out-of-the-oven smell and taste.

It's interesting to see trends and eating habits changing back full circle. In the West fifty years ago refined white loaves were the fashionable thing and showed your sophistication and that you were prosperous. The ready-sliced packets were the in-thing hence the expression - it's as good as sliced bread. Then the trend turned round completely and less refined wholegrain brown loaves became the mark of the prosperous and those interested in their health. And the white loaf was associated more with it being cheap and for those who did not have so much money. Although some people just love their white slices and jam sandwiches whatever the cost or fashion!

Basically, to make any type of Bread you need 4 things:

Flour, liquid, fat and (usually) leavening.

A very common example is wheat flour, water, olive oil and yeast.

The percentage of liquid to flour is probably the most important thing in a recipe because it affects the texture and how it crumbles in your mouth.

Leavening:

This is how air is put into the dough to make your loaf become lighter and easier to chew. The different ways of doing it can give a different flavour and texture when you bite into your loaf.

The four basic methods are using:

Yeast
Sourdough
Baking soda
Steam

Making a loaf with baking soda is quicker, and probably easier, than using yeast. Each cook will have their favourite method.

Leavened loaves are very common in the West. However in other cultures you may find unleavened loaves are often popular. Eating the unleavened loaves may also have spiritual significance for example the Jewish tradition of eating Matzo during Passover time.

Flour:

Flour is grain that has been ground into a powder. The most commonly used flour is wheat, but there is also rye & oats. Some interesting ancient varieties of wheat have been recently re-discovered and become popular like spelt & Kamut.

For those avoiding too much gluten there's also flour made from maize, rice, buckwheat, Soya, even chestnut and lupin.

Liquids:

This is usually water but may sometimes be fruit juice (e.g. apple juice), beer, dairy products (e.g. buttermilk, yoghurt). The liquid is needed to make the flour into a paste or dough. To give you a rough guide; if you're making a yeasted loaf you probably need about 1 part liquid to 3 parts flour. If you're steaming your loaf then you need much more liquid e.g. half liquid, half flour. Of course the amount of liquid varies with different recipes and makes a crucial difference so follow your recipe carefully.

Fats or Shortenings:

For example butter, vegetable oils (e.g. olive oil), lard, or the fat contained in eggs. Fats are needed for the process of making the dough rise. They also create a softer texture and act as a preservative, helping the loaf to stay fresh longer after baking.

Do look at our recipes for Banana Loaf and Bread with no yeast and do send us any recipes that you?re proud of or good tips you're excited about and would like to share or discuss.

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