Back in Real Bread Week 2021, I thought I’d sit down to share some thoughts on what Real Bread means to me...
Once upon a time, everyone ate Real Bread. Before the invention of compressed yeast in the mid-1800s, bakers in Britain mainly used barm or yeast from brewers. Doughs took many hours – often overnight - to prove.
Before that, the only way to enjoy a light, fluffy loaf was thanks to the yeasts naturally present in the environment. Bakers nurtured these to multiply, ferment and respire, bringing their doughs to life. Because of the time the sourdough process takes, a baker had to be in it for the right reasons. The process is too slow to ever allow someone to get rich doing it.
Community vs. commodity
Eventually, baker’s yeast paved the way for mass production, even in many countries with long traditions of sourdough baking. Much like vinyl records, celluloid film and other proven ways of doing things, longer fermentation methods were all but retired for the sake of convenience. But as any vinyl enthusiast or film projectionist could tell you, the price of the abundance of a commodity is usually quality. At the end of the day, a few people become super rich, while the rest of us get more of an inferior product.
By their very nature, local bakeries existed for the community, to fulfil that ancient human need of having good bread to enjoy. The Chorleywood Process was launched in July 1961 and in the last decades of the 20th century, supermarkets prospered. Local bakeries struggled. Communities suffered. We all turned to eating nutritionally-bereft loaves of ultra-refined flour inflated by fast-acting yeast.
Quality and commitment
That’s why making Real Bread is so important to me. It’s not just an approach to baking; it’s an approach to life. Real Bread means quality over quantity. It means taking care of those around you, rather than reaching out to everyone because you stand to earn more. It’s a commitment to doing what’s right, even if that means you’ll never be as rich as the owner of W*rburtons.
During the pandemic, we’ve all experienced how important it is to look after other people in our local communities. I certainly have. That’s why you’ll always be able to find me at my little Lo.So.Do. stall in Radcliffe Market, up at 4am making Real Bread for anyone close enough to stop by.
Originally published in True Loaf magazine issue 46, April 2021