The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Why make your own bread?

hornedfox's picture

Why make your own bread?

I wondered why we go to the efforts we do to bake our own bread. In todays society we want everything quicker, faster, NOW!

Of course we want it cheaper to and "can you do a deal?"

On another post I asked with others about bread making courses in the East of England and have spent a delightful hour touring different real bakers web sites seeing this on the Barfoot Bakery Website I thought I would remind us why our own baked bread is best

What's wrong with modern bread?

The concept of "modern" bread changed in 1961, when the standard loaf was effectively redesigned.  The British Baking Industries Research Association in Chorleywood, devised a breadmaking method using lower protein wheat, an assortment of additives and enzymes and high speed mixing and fermentation, which allowed producers to produce a loaf in record times.  This method now accounts for over 80% of bread production in theUK.. High speed mixing, high levels of yeast and perhaps a lacing of enzymes are employed to force the dough to rise quickly, rather than allowing the bread to ferment and ripen in its own good time. These products may well then be sprayed with chemicals such as calcium propionate to prevent the growth of mould.  Instead of the four standard bread ingredients - flour, water, salt and yeast - the following are now common in mass produced breads, and are often not listed in the ingredients:



What does it do?



Flour treatment agent

L-ascorbic acid acts as an oxidant and retains gas in the dough

No nutritional benefit - increased loaf volume gives false impression of value



Chlorine dioxide used to make flour whiter

Chlorine is a potent biocide and greenhouse gas


Reducing agent

Creates stretchier doughs

May be derived from animal hair and feathers



The "improvers" include diacetylated tartaric acid esters of mono and diglycerides of fatty acids; glycerol mono stereates and lecithins. They are used to give the impression of volume and softness

No nutritional benefit, and give misleading impression of value.  Chemically produced softness intended to be confused with freshness



Calcium propionate widely used to extend shelf life

May be a carcinogen



These include Amalyse, oxydase, protease, peptidase, lipase, phospholipase, hemicellulase, xylanase and transglutaminase. Used to make dough more "machineable" and increase dough tolereance to industrial processing.  Increases dough strength and elasticity and give impression of volume and softness

No legal requirement to be included on ingredient declarations.  Often produced through genetic engineering. Some enzymes are potential allergens and can act upon gliadin proteins in dough to produce the epitope associated with celiac disease

fminparis's picture

It's better than store bought and it's fun. A great hobby, except for my belly fat.

G-man's picture

This ties in to my own beliefs about food.

I don't like additives. When it comes to food,  adulteration is so common that I can't count the number of people I know who will pass up real homemade <insert dish here> for stuff out of a box. Bread is far from the exception; it leads the pack from so far ahead that some people don't even have access to real bread.  Maybe chemists are happy eating butylated hydroxyanisole, propyl gallate, potassium bromate, etc. Unless I know exactly what it is, exactly what it does, and how thoroughly it's been tested by what organizations, I'm going to avoid it. If I'm very curious I might even look all that up...before buying products that contain it. I won't play fast and loose with things I know nothing about.

Homemade food is probably healthier. It was in its original form longer than processed food and has nearly all its original nutrition. It isn't "enriched" because it doesn't have to be. Even if all this hadn't been studied over and over again by food and nutritional scientists, at the very least it puts a barrier between me and something I want. That really helps maintain discipline when all I want is a cheeseburger and french fries. Forcing myself to cut potatoes in the mandolin (French for fingertip remover), cube and grind chuck and sirloin, then shape, season, and cook patties...suddenly it sounds like more trouble than it's worth unless I really want a cheeseburger and fries. 

I want to know how it's done. Seriously. I started cooking because I wanted to see how to create all that wonderful stuff.  I started making sausage for the same reason, and I've started making beer for the same reason.

I want my food my way. I like a lot of different kinds of bread. I'll regularly buy loaves from local bakeries because  I really like the way they do a certain type of bread. That said, some breads I make best because I know exactly what I am looking for. Most often this is sourdough (the weekly bread) or yeasted rolls of some kind. For holidays, I make a better pannetone than I can find anywhere else. If the other three points weren't true this one would still be enough to motivate me. I want it all, and it turns out I can have it as long as I'm willing to work for it. Yay me.


thihal123's picture

The nutritional aspect for baking our own bread is a possible reason for why some people bake their own breads. For me, that's a bit of a secondary reason. My main reasons are:

1. It gives me something physical to do. My own work is very much intellectual heady stuff, so it can be god awfully tiring being in my head all day long.

2. I just LOVE form dough and mixing it using the French method. Just love it! The more typical way of kneading bread that we know in the Anglo world doesn't give the the same kick that the more involved French method does.

3. Because my own work is so intellectually oriented, it's often hard to see the products that come out of it. They can take years! While bread making takes time, it doesn't take THAT much time. It's great to have a product (the bread) come out in a matter of days, if not several hours.

dabrownman's picture

It is fun, creative, innovative, delicious, and rewarding.  Plus I can't buy most of the the bread we bake anywhere else in the world - not anywhere.  Plus I know what is in it and where it has been.  A delightful hobby that is totally legal for the most part :-)

fermento's picture
fermento your family, your friends and neighbours, to yourself.

Yes, it's an escape from mind-bending stuff too (agreeing with thihal123).

It's much cheaper than buying it from specialist bakeries, and once you are good at it, just as good.

It's great to experiment with different flours, methods and proportions.

Sure, all those other things, healthy, delicious, aromatic...

It's very practical, down to earth, connected too. It's nice to do something which hasn't changed so much from a millenium ago and more.

You can get excellent results whether you just do the basics, or really go into it 200%.


AnnaInMD's picture

days in Germany.  In the earlier years it was a big chunk of bread which might have been lucky to be scraped with a bit of margarine and jelly.  But it wasn't the topping, it was the taste of that delicious moist bread with the thick crunchy crust.



Sean McFarlane's picture
Sean McFarlane

This ingredient does do what your post says, but while not providing a huge benefit since such small amounts are used, it is still vitamin c...and that is a nutrient?

mwilson's picture

Real vitamin c is actually an anti-oxidant. It is very sensitive and is destroyed easily by light, heat and oxygen.

The form used is synthetic. Exposure to oxygen causes it to become an oxidant and has no nutritional benefit.

Ascorbic acid makes dough rise up rather than sideways.

It's not unusual for this to be added to french flour at the mill.


Sean McFarlane's picture
Sean McFarlane

I think one of us is partially misinformed.  I will have to check again but i do believe if i remember anything from high school, ascorbic acid is naturally occurring...that is not to say all that is used is natural, only than it can be natural.

And to add, i see nothing wrong with using this to increase the volume of a loaf, in fact added to some WW recipes that most people find not good at all, it will give the dough more strenght thus making it less dense, and more palatable.

Don't get me wrong i still like to make my own bread at home, but people demand certain things of these compaies that mass produce bread, they simply comply.  Those of us who bake at home are the few.



nhtom's picture

In essense, it's a calling.   My last name is "Baker."

'Nuff said.


mwilson's picture

Nominative determinism.