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The bakers listed under "Breads; to seek out" are part of a larger revolution which is taking place - rivalling the return of the free-range egg. Many of these bakeries use organic flour and bake with traditional wood-fired ovens. It should be remembered that sour-doughbread has a much longer shelf-life than bread made with yeast.
Inevitably, supermarkets are scrambling to keep up with this new fashion; but in their wild attempts to offer what the customer wants, they can't resist adding "improvers" such as mono and di-acetyltartaric acid and the esters of mono and di-glyerides of fatty acids - all this, perhaps, in a supposedly Italian-style focaccia - these are items unheard of to a housewife or baker in Tuscany, where even the addition of salt is illegal! The end result is often a loaf containing a little olive oil, vaguely resembling foraccia in appearance, but tasting more like plastic-wrapped sliced bread!
By and large, we have become accustomed to pre-packed sliced bread (hence the expression - but who made it up we don"t know). This is made by the Chorley Wood Method - a system of aerating the bread quickly, saving 60% on production time,and producing a bulky-looking loaf that is very light for its size,giving a false sense of value!
The standard of the British "French baguette" has improved enormously over the last few years; not so often now standard white bread produced in a different shape.
The French have traditionally made their breadfrom soft wheat (which is grown in France) and this produces bread that is only at its best for a few hours. The French housewife has always been happy to buy bread more than once a day. To produce French bread of an quality in this country, the minimum requirement is the use of French soft flour! Unfortunately, even in France large bakers are taking over the market, and selling part-baked bread of inferior quality tovast areas, too often putting traditional bakers out of business.
The British use hard flour for bread-making, a certain amount is grown here, but the majority is imported from North America. Bread made from this type of flour has a longer keeping quality.
Don't necessarily think that brown bread is better for you than white; for unless it is labelled wholemeal, it is very likely made from white flour coloured brown with caramel; and if is not labelled stone-ground it could have had many of its vitamins destroyed by the heat of steel rollers. Basic white bread, has by law to have many of these vitamins replaced - to make up for this processing loss - so more than likely has more nourishment than bread simple labelled brown. Likewise, bread smartly packaged and sold as premium 'granary' bread could very likely be made from unfortified dyed white flour (check the ingredients for caramel)!