01.What's in your bread?
Bread is still a diet staple for most Australians, but these days it contains a lot more ingredients than it used to.
We take a look at:
* How your bread is made
* Is your bread really baked fresh?
* Preservatives in bread
* Labelling and health concerns
* Choosing the right bread
* Who owns your bakery products?
* The shelf life of bread
Once upon a time, bread was made with flour,
water, salt and yeast and
took between eight and 20
hours to produce. In the early 20th century, bakers experimented
with various mechanised techniques to
speed up breadmaking, but in 1961 the Chorleywood
bread process changed everything.
Invented by UK scientists, the Chorleywood method
allows a loaf to go from flour to sliced and
packaged in about 3.5 hours using high-speed
mixers and the addition of extra
yeast and dough-improving chemicals.
This method has changed little in the
years since, because it produces cheaper
loaves of a consistent size that are soft,
springy and don’t go stale as quickly.
Look at the ingredients on a bread label and
alongside the more recognisable substances, you’ll often see a list of mysterious numbers. Some
of these additives are what are known
as bread and dough “improvers” or
“conditioners”. They often have more than
one function, but generally they’re designed
to dramatically increase the rate at which
the dough rises (help breadmakers increase production speeds and lower costs), improve bread texture and taste, and
extend shelf life.
Processing ingredients you'll commonly see are mineral
salt 170 (calcium carbonate) and ascorbic
acid (food acid 300 or treatment agent 300),
otherwise known as vitamin C. Emulsifiers (427e, 481, 471), vegetable
gums (412, 461) and amino acid 920 speed
up dough handling, help sliced bread retain its
shape and extend shelf life by reducing the crystallisation of starch that makes the bread go hard.
(If you put bread in the fridge, the cold temperature increases the rate of crystallisation and the bread goes hard faster.)
Only small amounts of these
additives are required – usually
up to three per cent of the
bread – and bakers
often buy them in a ready-made premix,
to which they add water and yeast. Most
breads, whether from a factory or a small
baker, are made from similar premixes – differences generally stem from baking techniques.
Since 2009, it’s been mandatory for breads
(except organic ones) to add iodine using
iodised salt (for thyroid health), as well
as folic acid, a form of the B vitamin folate
that helps reduce the rate of neural tube
defects in infants.