I’ll admit it, I love bread. The paleos, the banters and the super clean eaters might hate me but I simply cannot resist a soft, warm, slightly buttered slice of ciabatta. And I am not the only one. Bread is the world’s most popular processed food and is considered the major staple food on all continents except in Asia where it is rice.
Baked, steamed or fried, bread is a universal food popular right around the world. The French have their baguettes, the Italian’s their breadsticks and the the Polish love a good bagel. In India they eat naan, in Mexico it’s tortillas, in Sweden they devour knackebrod and tell me, who doesn’t love croutons? It’s the best thing since sliced bread! Outside of its cultural value, bread has deep religious meanings, including being a very important element of the Christian Eucharist or Holy Communion. Bread has become a modern metaphor for money and basic necessities, such as making the dough, being a bread-winner and putting bread on the table. Even the word companion stems from the Latin phrase with bread and if that doesn’t say it all, I don’t know what will.
Some believe bread is the very first artificial food ever made and that the first bread was baked in Europe more than 30 000 years ago. Shortly after, the ancient Egyptians were baking their own flatbread and by 10 000 BC the cultivation of grains was fast growing in popularity and therefore paved the way for bread baking the way we know it today.
Traditionally, the only ingredients required to bake a bread is flour, salt, water and yeast, but modern breads may include baking soda, eggs, milk as well as specialty ingredients such as seeds, nuts, spices and fruits. Gluten-free bread is also becoming more popular by the day, catering for those who are wheat and gluten intolerant by using flour made from almonds, rice, corn or beans.
According to nabim, commercial bread is a shopping list item for 99% of British households who are all together gobbling up more than 12 million loaves each day. Commercial bread, however, contains preservatives against mould as well as other chemicals that fasten the fermentation process. To avoid these chemicals, I attended a bread baking course where I learned so much about bread, including how to bake my own. Having the knowledge to prepare your own food is such a privilege and can be great for your general health. Knowing what goes into food tells you a lot about what you can get out of eating it.
Thanks to my wonderful bread-baking master Anita, I and now you can bake a delicious ciabatta loaf by following this simple recipe:
- 400g cake flour
- 7.5ml instant yeast
- 10-15ml salt (depending on how salty you want your bread)
- 320ml water (room temperature)
- Mix all the dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl
- Add the water and mix until all the dry ingredients are incorporated into the dough
- Cover the mixing bowl and let the dough rest and rise for at least 20 minutes
- On a well oiled surface, hold the dough with one hand and with the other, stretch the other side out as far as possible without tearing the dough, and fold it back to the middle
- Turn the dough 90 degrees and continue until all four sides have been stretched and folded
- Allow the dough to rest and rise for at least 20 minutes
- Repeat the stretch, fold and rest process 3 times until the dough holds its shape
- Spread the dough out on a tray covered in flour and allow it to rise until it is double its original size
- Bake the bread for 30 minutes at 230 °C, turning the loaves after 15 minutes for an even bake
- After removing it from the oven, allow to loaf to rest and cool for 45 minutes and then…