Well what IS good bread?

JohnD's picture

The first criteria of good bread is the simplest…it must be digestible . And its on this stumbling block that most
bread falls. For a variety of reasons, most regular bread does not pass this
test. I've been listening to complaints about bread for years professionally.
They are legendary. I've heard factory white bread commonly called “white death”
apart from “white tiles”…and that people get bloat and other digestive symptoms
from bread is common.

Even if you haven't noticed it, or habitually ignore body
signals, I'd be surprised if people did not have a reaction to some of the bread
available. And I gained many customers this way.But 
there are so many alternatives thriving outside what is regarded as the
conventional bakery industry.

Most of this used to be called “Health
Bread”. Its now more commonly regarded as an approximation of good bread.
Theres been a shift in perceptions. That the category of a “health bread” even
exists is telling in its seeming opposition to “un-health(y) bread".

A major difference between these two
types of bread….and we haven't even got to sourdough yet… is the use of gluten
flour.Most conventional bakers and especially the chains,all use modified
flours and premixes containing gluten increased to at least 13% and in some
cases 20%…or 20g per 100g flour. There is also a long list of additives which
are in the schedule for “bakers flour” which do not have to be declared on the

The new types of bread are made in the
old way, using actual flour, with nothing added, and not premixes. In most
cases, in these breads the yeast is as high, but none of the chemical equations
one reads on bread labels are to be seen. Sometimes the  new bread is not ideal, but it is better both
organoleptically and nutritionally than nearly all bread in the conventional
bread market.

Nutritionally, because its more digestible,
and doesn’t cause some of the common symptoms, which are exacerbated when the
bread is high in residual(unfermented) gluten, as most regular breads are.

The rise of coeliac disease,an allergy to
wheat gluten,has soared in the last 20 years…either from better diagnosis or
more likely, an increased incidence ,and the rise and rise of irritable bowel
disease is observable…and a symptom of this is getting “bloat” from eating
regular bread.

Organoleptically, because most of the
bread that is commonly available, and even top-line conventional bread has no
organoleptic profile. There are no flavours aromas or tastes, and textures are
really poor. It is really rare to find a noteworthy conventional,”regular”

The best of the new breads are the
sourdough breads. Largely because sourdough bread is the most digestible of all
bread…if it is properly made. There are lots of fake sourdoughs, and variants
of the theme, so you have to seek out a genuine one .Sourdough hasn’t really
mainlined as a “health bread” Its largely because of lots of personal
experience that it has become so popular…and re-acquired a therapeutic
reputation. Its digestible, no symptoms but often a desire to eat heaps at a
sitting,and to reject regular (even fancy,or mod ) food, in order to eat
good,especially woodfired sourdough.

And it’s a 5000yr old trend if you think its
“Trendy”  Like I said,modern yeast bread
is actually the “trendy” stuff. My experience has been that even some who have
coeliac can eat sourdough, IF it has been made properly and long-fermented
almost to dropping point. This level of fermentation is usually only sustained
as light bread in a woodfired brick baking chamber with its “solid heat”. Hence
its charm and utility. It’s the topline of sourdough…IF properly made.

Gluten is never added in a genuine sourdough,
in fact, the gluten is actually digested by a proper sourdough, and will  turn to a liquid if left to ferment because
the gluten will have been completely broken down. That’s what I meant by the
level of fermentation.

This elevates proper woodfired sourdough
bread…..IF the fermentation is suitable. It is very non-allergenic.

Genuine sourdough has NO additives..its
flour and water and salt…and skill to do it correctly and get the coalescence
of flavours/nutrition/texture which hallmark a good sourdough. Some sourdough
bakers add vitamin C to their bread. It’s a virus that one.  A sourdough baker who uses it said to me that
it metabolises away to nothing, was met by my stare…yes so u can actually
destroy matter? It is simpleminded to think vitamin C just goes away, and even if
it’s the best brand from Germany
or the republic of deludedstan…it is a chemical additive to make lighter
bread…it’s a deception. I just don’t get it? Ive never used it and am now
wondering if it’s the unnerving undertone flavour I detected in some of the
“best’ bread  which I tasted in Melbourne recently.

Coincidentally, I came away from Melbourne thinking the
wood fired baker, who doesn’t use vitamin C made the best bread...Ian Banfield
at Fruition. This was before I even knew some 
sourdough bakers were using vitamin C. So it was an experience-based

Still its nothing like the additives in a
supermarket loaf.

There are changes in the public mood
about bread. Some think bread should be a tasteles plate. Others treasure
the  goodness and flavours of a well made
sourdough,or the very rare long fermented yeast bread…especially from woodfired

And I know there are some of you who
don’t agree, but the weight of empirical evidence is with me and other makers
of the

“new/old bread”,  both organoleptically and in a
nutritional/digestive sense. This is without going into the fact that sourdough,
IF properly made, increases the nutrition of the bread with vitamins… and
minerals are made more bioavailable.

This cannot be said of bread which is
just inflated and not fermented…especially on a population who have a large
degree of digestive hypo acidity…and cant therefore break down many food
complexes….which then cause their “allergies” . Bottom Line: Good Bread has to
be good for us in a nutritional and digestive sense.John DownesThe Natural Tucker Bread Bookby John DownesHyland House Melb. 1983.Consultation inquiries: Artisan Baker Association (ABA)Email. [email protected]Web. www.artisanbaker.com.au


Graham's picture
Graham 2008 January 27

Hi John. I was wondering if you could further define the term 'Organoleptic', with relevance to the characteristics of bread. Thank you. Graham

JohnD's picture
JohnD 2008 February 18

Sorry about this term,its a wierd word,but its used widely,and applies to the sensory aspect of food,its evaluation with respect to how it looks/tastes/smells/feels/emotes....we could use "sensory" instead, but as i said,its a currently used understood term in wine/olive oil analysis.I dont know if its been used directly with reference to bread by others,it just seemed reasonable to me.

Its a long subject about how this relates to bread! In that blog on judging sourdoughs,i talk about that,but i have a map of this drawn,and what to look for,and how,but i havent fully written it out yet.There are of course parallels with wine/oil evaluation,but bread has such different organoleptic qualities than wine,ive just applied what i experience,although in a similar vein. The characteristics of wheat and grain, especially when toasted,and the similarity with roasted nuts/coffee/caramelisation, and the characteristics of the fermentation,organic acids and other acidity/fruit flavours/wine comparisons/beer comparison/yeast aroma and associations, etc,any associations directly percieved are valid. Its in these associations that organoleptics exists,and reveals the links within food. Its that there is need of a structure in which to put it all with reference to bread. Bread was never tasted in Australian bread shows,so this is new for here,and relevant because it allows us to correspond and discern quality... The same style of analysis applies to the look,"architecture" of the piece. If you allow this experience,its easy...they are all there.

TeckPoh's picture
TeckPoh 2008 February 18
Graham must put together a class with you, John, on the finer oganoleptic (not sure if I can say that without blushing) points of bread-tasting if nothing else. Jeremy will surely travel across the 7 seas (thankfully, for me, less) for this.

Eh, Jeremy?
Jeremy's picture
Jeremy 2008 February 18
Yes ladies and gentlemen,
I am announcing my plans to head off to Van Diemans land for a meeting with some of the friendliest and most engaging personalities of said land probably next year!
As for organoleptic, I had a tasting once with an owner of a fabulous olive oil company from Provençe my mothers land, he offered bread on the table with little samples, I instantly picked it up and and swallowed the peppery and heady oil, it's bouquet was that of artichokes and pepper at first taste! He was amazed and asked how I knew to not dunk the bread, rather taste it like a liquid, I explained my culinary background, my sensory and cultural upbringing and he invited me to visit! This last summer I was about to ride my bike from Lyon to where he is located near Aix en Provençe when my notorious back gave out after a torturous ride to visit a flour mill!
Needless to say I like the word, I suppose the mouth is an organ amongst the other appendages.
(Couldn't resist Graham!)

CaperAsh 2011 May 26

I don't use C although I did try it with 100% WW because I baker I respect recommended it. At first I used fresh lemon juice, then when I saw a little bottle of Ascorbic Acid for $5.95 per 100g, I tried it for a while. I don't see any difference so I stopped since I really prefer organic everything as far as possible.


That said, in response to your remark that it doesn't go away: surely it is possible that it is chemically transformed during fermentation to the point where it no longer exists as such in the same way as sugars are transformed into alcohol? I mean: if you had some malt sugar into the mix there isn't any malt sugar left at the end, is there? There are definitely after-effects, and no doubt these are there in the flavour, but the sugar (or the ascorbic acid ) may very well not be there any more. As such. At least that is my guess.


Small point.

Post Reply

Already a member? Login

This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.