Eating bread is a millennial old habit, so old in fact, that its origins are almost lost in the mists of time.
Even today, bread is more than simple food stuff. It's a heritage to be protected. A food that accompanies each meal from breakfast to dinner, in many countries. So much so, that we must respect biodiversity, the environment and the raw material.
But how easy is it to recognize and choose really good bread?
We asked the advice of Pasquale Polito, a graduate in geography and expert in ancient cereals, who, together with Davide Sarti, founded the Forno Brisa in Bologna, Italy. A "collective of young bakers" aged between 25 and 35 years old with a shared passion for breadmaking. Here are his tips for how to choose good bread.
1. Fragrant Aroma and Great Aspect
The senses are the first things to be satisfied when we eat good bread: it can be recognized by its aromas and the richness of its flavors, best preserved in large loaves that maintain the right degree of humidity and favour long (natural) conservation.
2. Crispy Crust
A good bread can be recognized by biting into the crust: "It's better to avoid bread with a rubbery crust - explain the Breaders of Forno Brisa - it might not also be very digestible because it's made with a flour with very strong gluten. Bread made from ancient grains is lighter and more digestible thanks to the weak glutinous mesh." The crust must be crispy, thick and dark, with an accentuated Maillard reaction.
3. The Colour of the Crumb
Beware of bread with whole wheat flour: they were not all created equal. Many wholemeal loaves contain visible bran leaves, a sign that a recomposed industrial flour was used, made with starch 00 and bran. Too brown a bread too could also be made with malt. "To obtain an intact flour, grinding is essential. The stone mill slowly squeezes the grain and mixes the elements. Nutrients are not eliminated, only the non-digestible soluble fibres, through a sieve."
4. Slightly Acidic
Quality bread can be recognized by the acidic hint: the fermentation of the mother yeast, characterized by a lower PH compared to brewer's yeast. The result? A tasty, nutritious bread, that's much more digestible and able to last several days.
5. Few Ingredients
Making good bread doesn't take many ingredients: "If you buy bread at the supermarket, check the label: it should only contain water, flour, mother yeast and salt. You don't need anything else. If, however, you buy bread directly from the baker, ask if the flour is organic and if it's an ancient grain. If possible, it's better to choose ancient and indigenous wheat varieties, produced with sustainable agricultural practices: it will have weak gluten and as a consequence, the final loaf will be more digestible."
6. Rest after Cooking
To all the above ingredients mentioned, there is another important one to add: time. To obtain a uniform result, bread must be cooked in an oven with humidity control and then left to rest for at least six hours after cooking. "The wait is a fundamental value in the whole life cycle of bread" - concludes Polito - sowing and waiting; the wheat is collected and it's expected to dry and stabilize; it's milled and awaits; it's kneaded, it's awaited, it's fired, it's still waiting, and finally it's eaten. "