The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Why PdC?

agres's picture
agres

Why PdC?

As bakers, we spend a lot of time on the "How" and very little time on the "Why". When we do bring up why, it tends to be why we do things in a particular way (e.g., which temperature to proof a particular dough) rather than why we choose to make a particular style of bread. 

I do not see thoughtful discussions of why people decide to learn to make baguettes.   Home bakers seem bake them because commercial bakers bake them, and people are in the habit of eating them, and so people like baguettes. Then, home bakers, bake what people like.

For the baker, baguettes have virtues. They are easy to make, and use inexpensive ingredients that are easy to store and handle.  And, baguettes are cheap, go with a wide variety of modern French foods, so people are in the habit of eating baguettes all the time, and there is a large demand for baguettes. Together, these points make baguette and similar attractive to  commercial bakers.  However, the home baker can consider the costs of medical conditions associated with eating white bread such as baguettes, and suddenly baguettes are not cheap.

I understand the large demand for baguettes. People often ask me to make baguettes.  Those people are coming down with diet related diseases.  For them, the “Pain de Campaign” that is only ~20% whole grain flour is not an answer. It is still 80% “ultra-processed-stuff". And that ultra-processed-stuff will still do a job on their bodies. The virtues of baguettes for bakers do not help the eaters.  Why do home bakers continue to bake and feed such stuff to their friends and family? (HABIT)

We are not greedy commercial bakers - we do not need to sell air to make a living. We can “sell” cake! We can use the whole grains to make breads with the kind of crumb that whole grain makes, and it will be just as good as baguettes or the stuff sold as Pain de Campaign.  It will be different, but it will be just as good. Yes, we need to present our bread with a flourish (e.g., sell) that tells people that it is better than the junk bakers make from ultra-processed-stuff and sell as bread.

Whole grain excels at fine, moist, tender, "crumb" - that is pretty much the definition of cake.  Let them eat "cake"!   It is healthy. The classic American whole wheat bread recipe calls for milk and honey.  Together, whole wheat flour, milk and honey tend to produce a texture that is more like what we think of as "cake" than the baguette texture that we think of as bread.  Or, whole wheat flour with a bit of rye, handled as sourdough produces a fine moist, tender product that does not look like many of the things that modern bakers call "bread", but which is very pleasant to eat. These are the breads that I routinely bake. Some of my favorite whole grain flour mixes contain 10 different ingredients including soy beans or garbanzo beans. And, there are a whole range of sourdough breads that are mostly rye with just a bit of wheat in them - that are moist, tender, and cake like. Perhaps the extreme is Borodinsky bread.  

I have been asked to bring the “bread” to a reunion gathering in a few weeks. There will of course be baguettes, and other nutritional nothings made from mostly white flour. However, there will also be Borodinsky bread, and a variety of whole grain breads that contain no white flour.  We are old friends, and these are the breads that we will eat together.  

 

Comments

alfanso's picture
alfanso

I almost exclusively bake baguettes.  I do so ...

  • for the challenge
  • the skill (for amateur bakers it isn't all as easy as you state, ask/look around)
  • the beauty
  • the scoring I get
  • I can make multiple breads from the same weight dough as one can from ex. a boule
  • more crust to crumb than batards or boules, I like crust
  • I'll make just about any formula into a baguette, so the idea that it must be white flour just isn't so.
  • I have made pretty much any formula on TFL and elsewhere into baguettes.  Look around.
  • I've been eating white flour bread for 68 years and have yet to see a medical professional because of anything in my diet.

Probably another half dozen reasons that don't instantly come to mind.

Your supposition that "Home bakers seem bake them because commercial bakers bake them, and people are in the habit of eating them, and so people like baguettes. Then, home bakers, bake what people like." is just not true - at least in my house.

 

pintolaranja's picture
pintolaranja

And I don't see any reason why baguettes need to be purely made of white dough either.

Isn't it just a shape?

gavinc's picture
gavinc

I'm in my late 60's and eaten bread of all sorts my entire life.  I'm fit as a fiddle. I love making all sorts of bread and make baguettes each week to enjoy with a nice cheese and a glass of wine.  If it kills me in the next 20 years, I reckon I've enjoyed life.

 

Elsie_iu's picture
Elsie_iu

White bread and whole grain bread are different, I assume we would agree on this. I do bake 100% whole grain most of the time. To me, experimenting with various alternative grains keeps boredom at bay. Whole grains, especially sprouted ones, contribute great flavor and it is unique for each grain. The health factor is a bonus but I don't like to make it the highlight. I believe promoting whole grain bread as health food isn't the smartest strategy to get people to embrace it. It seems to me that the general public views whole grain bread as a healthier but less enjoyable alternative to white bread. That might be partly attributed to the low quality, stale flour used in the production of commercial bread. Yet, the root of the problem probably lies in the distorted mindset. If you ask me, the focus should be placed on flavor, not health. After all, eating is one of life's greatest pleasure and there's simply no point eating something you don't enjoy.

 

White bread might be less nutritious but it isn't at all evil. There're many factors leading to diseases. It's simply impossible to isolate them and conclude which one is the cause. I wouldn't call well-made white baguettes "junk". Fermentation not only produces gas but also enhances the bioavailability of nutrients. Not to mention, there're far worse "ultra-processed" foods out there. That's just me but I much prefer the texture of "bread" to "cake". The high gluten content of white flour makes for chewy and springy bread, which is favored by many including myself. There'll always be a place for white bread in my heart. 

 

Whole grain bread is great as standalone. It doesn't need anything to complement as it's flavorful enough to eat plain. However, I reach for white bread when making sandwiches, grilled cheese, french toasts etc. Moreover, white flour is essential for achieving the characteristic texture of bagels, ciabatta, baguettes along with many other breads. No one is forcing us to pick one between the two: we can have our cake and eat it too :)

David R's picture
David R

The health differences claimed for whole-grain flour vs white flour are vastly exaggerated. Wheat is indeed remarkable, but it does not possess a "magic health synergy" that is suddenly ruined (or turned to poison) by removing some or all of the bran.

There's nothing wrong or bad about whole wheat either - but there is something wrong with wild claims of superiority that won't stand up to objective examination.

Certainly many people (myself included) would be healthier with less bread of every kind. But bread is traditional and popular and convenient, and people are not going to just stop eating it. Whole wheat bread is healthier for me for just one reason - I like it less, so I don't go back for more bread quite so often.