Where do we currently stand on bread? Is it ok to eat it? Occasionally? Or is it still a Carb Bogeyman, solely responsible for our post-lockdown surplus pounds on the bathroom scales (all that sourdough!)? Is it still the Demon Gluten even for those who are decidedly not intolerant?
A recent CNN feature suggests bread hate is over which I welcome with relief. Yes of course: too much bread will result in weight gain, but it’s not to say cutting out bread altogether is healthy.
Balance and moderation is my mantra and I rejoice to see dietitians and nutritionists like the ones from the CNN article saying bread, especially wholemeal, is an important source of fibre. Plus, at the end of the day, unless you’re knee deep in keto diet (not recommended anyway), you need carbohydrates for brain food. And it will be much better for you to get your energy from a couple of slices of bread than from a bag of Maltesers.
Balance means variety – which in turn means no restrictions (class A substances aside, haha). Anything you enjoy but restrict in your diet is bound to make you feel unhappy and to crave that food much more. A little bread goes a long way in the overall scale of things, especially that, if added to a meal, it makes it complete, hence will keep you full for longer. A heel of bread with a salad or soup will certainly serve you better (keep you skinnier and healthier) than a plate of refined, creamy pasta.
Moderation is one principle: half a loaf of bread with your lunch is slightly de trop, obviously. Another principle is quality: if you buy your bread, look for the smallest number of ingredients on the label. Flour, water, salt and yeast – or not even the last in the case of sourdough – is perfectly enough, all the rest is more or less harmful additives, extra sugar and extra salt.
Which is of course why the best thing to do is to bake your own.
If you’re only starting out, here are a couple of simple ideas, from no knead through extremely easy and reliable malthouse loaf, to cheat’s sourdough which is decently near in taste to the real article.
With the addition of rye flour, deli style rye bread is excellent for sandwiches and for your gut; and seeded light rye even better in that latter respect.
Porridge bread has seeds as well as oats and is fabulous toasted.
White bread is generally perceived less healthy than brown but it doesn’t have to be. If there are not additives and the bread is made from stoneground, not excessively refined flour, it’s almost as nutritious as wholemeal. Plus it can be better for the gut if it’s leavened with sourdough.
Crusty Italian loaf by Ottolenghi is white, but with biga (firm starter) fermented overnight. A better option than supermarket’s (so called) wholemeal! And focaccia is just too gorgeous to think whether it’s white or brown.
I’ll throw some sourdough ideas for the fans: German souls bread, Seelen, on spelt flour or maybe light rye sourdough on yoghurt? And don’t forget sweet jammy or honey buns – remember, don't restrict yourself in your diets. A gorgous sweet bun every now and then can make you happy.
You could also make a batch of bagels, or Chinese flower rolls, Yemeni kubaneh or Japanese tangzhong, and marvel at people who will consciously renounce those wonderful foodstuffs from their lives. Happy kneading!