Artisan bakers tend to be proud to bake beautiful white bread, but is white bread good for you if it’s artisan bread?
An elite baker will happily talk about the quality of ingredients and the lengthy fermentation that goes into making their bread. Following modern-day food processes, white bread has much of its natural goodness removed at the mill. Then enzymes and additives are added to the bowl and the dough is rapidly mixed, proved, baked and sliced. This type of sliced white bread is what many of the population buy from the supermarkets. There’s not really any positives in eating white sliced bread, it’s pretty common knowledge so I won’t discuss it here. The low price is really the only thing going for it!
But is artisan white bread better for our bodies in comparison?
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How white bread flour is made
White bread is made from white flour, this is miller wheat where the germ and bran are removed.
This happens during the milling process.
By losing these components that much of the healthy complex carbohydrates and fibre are lost. Wholemeal flour has more colour, vitamins, and fibre because of this. It’s these things that give the depth of flavour we associate with wholemeal bread. With all the good things removed, white flour is formed of less complex starches compared to wholemeal.
Simple starches offer less goodness and quickly convert into sugars during fermentation.
This is what makes white bread taste sweeter than wholemeal.
In the modern-day, it is easy to fall into the routine of eating a processed diet containing ready meals, takeaways and not eating many fresh vegetables.
Wholemeal products tend to have an overpowering flavour that is not pleasant to those that follow a processed diet.
Those that eat in this way typically find sweeter white bread more appealing than wholemeal.
For this question, I’m talking about the comparison between artisan bread and sliced sandwich bread that we buy in the supermarkets.
Bread sold in the supermarkets is made using low-quality flour and following the Chorley-wood process.
The Chorley-wood process
This is a factory in England where the process was first perfected. In order to use traditionally inferior British wheat for bread, scientists at Chorleywood developed a radical method to speed up dough fermentation.
And it changed bread production forever. They discovered ascorbic acid when included to a bread mix rapidly forms a strong gluten structure. The process speeds up the dough fermentation time by removing the need for a rest period.
A stretch and fold period of fermentation was not required either.
There were a few hurdles they had to overcome to get the product sellable. Due to the rapid development of the structure of the dough, the bread quality suffered.
The dough didn’t develop much flavour or anti-staling properties in the short fermentation time.
To create a product suitable for the supermarket shelves additional ingredients were added to the dough mix.
Ingredients and enzymes are added to retain moisture, keep fresh and stop mould developing. Other emulsifiers can be included to improve texture, gas retention and give a particular bread or bakery its unique flavour.
The extra ingredients are the difference between artisan and Chorleywood style bread.
How the Chorleywood technique is used to bake white bread
Usually, the ascorbic acid is added to the flour sack at the mill, it becomes active once added to the dough ingredients. The bread improvers (enzymes & emulsifiers) are contained in a sachet, often with the salt in the form of a pre-mix.
The pre-mix sachets usually work out as a one/two bag per 16kg bag of flour ratio. The same improver mix can be used in all bread mixes with the addition of extra ingredients or changing the type of flour used. This gives bakeries the ability to have bread with different characteristics whilst still using the same methods.
Another approach is to have a different pre-mix for each type of bread. The work carried out by the scientists at Chorleywood in 1964 allowed large scale bakeries to mass-produce bread at a rapid speed.
Another massive gain was that the process could be done without highly skilled bakers. This drove the cost down and the consistency of the product up making for a better profit margin for the bakeries.
What is artisan bread really all about?
Artisan bakers don’t use pre-mixes or artificial ingredients to create their bread. They learn proper techniques to manipulate the dough and create quality bread products. The use of time to develop flavour and a gluten network is key to artisan baking. As is adapting temperature. Changing the ingredients, levain, recipe ratios, mix or development times are how artisan bakers craft different loaves of bread.
Artisan French bread uses a lot of white flour in its recipes.
How is Chorleywood’s white bread bad for us?
Where white bread is made using the Chorley-wood process the flour is not fermented correctly. This is arguably the reason why many people have developed poor digestive systems or gluten allergies. But when sufferers eat artisan bread that has been correctly fermented, many don’t show any signs of illness. It’s also the amount of added ingredients that are artificially added to the bread that gives white bread a bad reputation.
They are not required in the process of baking bread but are included to improve it.
Is artisan bread better for our body?
I believe so. In comparison to supermarket bread, there are no ingredients that will buzz around your body like eating a packet of sweets. In white bread, we are missing the complex carbohydrates that our body prefers.
Artisan bakers tend to use flour that is less damaged and of higher quality.
The long fermentation periods used in artisan baking will break the protein and starch found in the wheat down. This means more goodness is provided and the bread is easier to digest.
So overall when asked if white artisan bread is good for you….
My answer is, No.
White bread is not great for us.
Artisan crafted white bread is superior to mass-produced white bread. I in terms of digestion and eating a natural diet perspective, it’s much better.
But it’s not great for our body.
It does give us carbohydrates and some minerals to give us energy. White bread is relatively cheap and has been a staple to feed low-income households.
For a healthy alternative, try baking wholemeal bread. Combined with a healthy diet, eating artisan white bread is not really bad, just leave room for plenty of healthy bits like fruit and veg too.