I have reached another level of bread-baking obsession. I have started receiving sacks of flour as gifts. The word is getting out: get this man some gluten! Shower him with sacks of stoneground flour and he’ll thank you with thick-crusted cobs and tin loafs aplenty.
One such bag was of “Campagrain” flour, bought from a mill in Derbyshire. A mixture of four flours and five seeds. “Yum!” thought I, but what to do with it? Being unfamiliar with the name, I asked the baking twitterati if they had any recipes or advice. I used the hashtag #realbread. My only reply was from the Real Bread Campaign, who asked about the ingredients, and if there were any additives. I looked. There were. Two E numbers and an anonymous enzyme. This excluded the flour, I was told, from being used to make real bread, by their definition.
I confess that, until that point, I had not read the details of the real bread campaign. I had assumed it meant bread baked by hand, not using mass manufacturing methods etc… It’s that, but more so. Simply put, “Don’t go putting no additives in our bread, thank you please”. A fine and noble aim. One that I instinctively support. But it did leave me with questions.
Are all additives bad? Or just all artificial additives? How artificial is too artificial? I am unfamiliar with the science of all of this, and I hadn’t ever questioned the wisdom of avoiding them where possible. Yet I am quite happy to take artificially created medicines, with a variety of clearly stated possible side effects. Is this any better? Dan Lepard recommends using a crushed vitamin C tablet in wholemeal loaves, and from my brief research, one of the additives in the Campagrain flour is essentially artificially created vitamin C. Is the tablet just a shortcut to that additive, and if so, if it seems reasonable to take a vitamin, why is it not acceptable to have that in bread?
I don’t know the answer.
Also, why add stuff to flour?! It seems daft to make the decision for the baker. Presumably it is designed to give better results, and hence encourage people to go back for more. But is that unreasonable? To want your flour to make better bread?
If you have any thoughts on the matter, or any recommended reading on the subject, leave a comment.
Apologies for the serious, and contemplative tone of this post. Normal levels of whimsy and jocundity will return soon, I assure you.