Good Food Blog
Our daily breadPosted at 11:45AM, 13 August 2010 by Carol Wilson - Food writer
When the French Poilâne loaf hit the UK a few years ago, it was the seemingly astronomical price of £10. Fortunately I discovered that I could buy a half or just a quarter of a loaf and I was duly impressed by its wonderful flavour and texture.
Made with top quality flour, Guérande sea salt and a sourdough starter, (a portion of dough from the previous day's batch that has begun the fermentation process instigated by airborne yeasts) the bread is baked in a wood-fired oven. Breads made in this way are denser than those made with added yeast and also take longer to rise, during which time complex flavours develop, plus the distinctive sour tang. It quickly became a talking point at all the best dinner parties.
Now Poilâne has a British rival - the even more expensive Shepherds Loaf, which, like the Poilâne loaf, weighs a hefty 2kg and takes two days to make by hand. Made in the Cotswolds with organic Somerset spelt flour, Cotswolds spring water and Cornish sea salt to an old family recipe (which involves a complicated double rising) it's also baked in a wood-fired oven.
They have much more flavour and far better texture than your average supermarket loaf
Are these pricey loaves worth the cost? I would say so - for a special occasion. They have much more flavour and far better texture than your average supermarket loaf - and are streets ahead of the standard white sliced, which pales into insignificance alongside these traditional breads.
Of course it's possible to buy terrific rustic sourdough bread for much less, due to the current revival of genuinely artisan breads. I buy a much smaller loaf from a local baker for around £3 and it's delicious. This is bread made with skill, love and care, shaped by hand and given time to ferment.
The Real Bread Campaign is a lobbying group aiming to steer us away from industrially produced bread, which is not fermented, nor made from wholly natural ingredients and weirdly is completely untouched by human hand during the whole process! What's more, a loophole in labelling laws means not all additives and processing agents need to be listed on the packaging.
'Real' bread is made using just flour, salt, water and leavening agent. There are no additives such as emulslifiers and sugars, hardened fat or mould-delaying chemicals. Don't be fooled by the 'just baked' aroma that wafts temptingly through many supermarkets; The Real Bread Campaign alerted us to the fact that the bread might not be as natural as it smells. The report pointed the finger at supermarkets for baking loaves at low temperatures, chilling or freezing them and then baking them again to soften the crumb and make the crusts crisper.
Would you pay more for 'real' bread?