Recipe of the Week: “Real” Bread

Since our Food Goddess, TaMara, is travelling this week — and since there’s been much discussion of gluten in various comment threads — here’s a substitute from Tom Philpott at Mother Jones. “Could This Baker Solve the Gluten Mystery?

… [Jonathan] McDowell is the staff baker here at the Bread Lab, the brainchild of Washington State wheat breeder Stephen Jones, who’s also the director of the Mount Vernon research outpost. Jones believes fervently that grain breeding—the art and science of creating new varieties—has been hijacked by large seed, milling, and baking interests, giving rise to high-yielding but boring varieties geared to the mass production of crappy, and mostly white, bread.

For the last half-century or so, says Jones, wheat has been bred for industrial mills, where it is ground and separated into its three components: flour, germ, and bran. Usually, the flour gets turned into white bread, while the germ and bran—which contain all of wheat’s healthy fats and fiber, and much of the vitamins—go to other uses, including supplements and livestock feed. In most of what we now know as “whole wheat” bread, some—but not all—of the bran and germ are mixed back in.

For Jones, these are inferior products—both in nutrition and taste terms. So he has been working with farmers in the Pacific Northwest to develop wheat varieties that can be milled into flour that’s suitable for being baked directly into bread. And it falls to McDowell—who took over the role of the lab’s baker from Jones himself last year—to show the world that 100 percent whole-wheat bread isn’t just edible, but delicious.

According to Jones and McDowell, low-quality industrial white flours and fast-rising commercial yeasts, along with additives like vital wheat gluten—a wheat product added to give bread structure despite superfast rises—have generated a backlash against bread in the form of the “gluten-free” craze. While people with celiac disease genuinely can’t process the gluten in wheat, they argue, most people actually can. The problem is that most industrial bakeries only allow bread to rise for a matter of minutes—not nearly long enough to let the yeast and bacteria digest all the gluten in the flour, let alone the extra dose in the additives. The result can lead to all kinds of problems in our gut…

Recipe and full instructions at the link. Well outside my area of competence, but I’m curious as to what you more culinarily-skilled commentors think of Jones’ reasoning/recipe.






56 replies
  1. 1

    I made naan last week from 50% unbleached flour and 50% chapati flour (100% durum wheat flour). They were delicious.

  2. 2
    jl says:

    Thanks for this post. Reading it inspired me to begin to contemplate to consider even thinking about trying to bake bread again. i can tolerate gluten fine, and if it is poison, I seem immune, so I don’t care.

    Not sure it is true that all 100 percent whole wheat bread you buy is white flour with germ and bran mixed back in, but maybe it is true of major brands.

    I do know that freshly milled whole wheat is much tastier than any 100 percent whole wheat products I remember buying in a store.

  3. 3

    @jl: 100% store brought whole wheat tastes like what I think a mix of wood chips and cardboard would taste like.

    ETA: I also sometimes make skillet flat bread with millet.

  4. 4
    jl says:

    @schrodinger’s cat: For awhile, my AK family would grow a field of wheat every year, and they had a little grinder in the barn. So I could go out and throw a few cups into the grinder and about ten minutes later that flour would be in pancakes cooking on a wood fired stove, soon to be ready for grass fed sour butter and birch bark syrup. They were fantastic.

  5. 5
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    Interesting ideas and concepts, it does seem that industrial processes, designed to, first and foremost, maximize profit, tend to toss quality and nutrition out the window, often times without even realizing it, as if realizing would make an MBA pause.

  6. 6
    The Dangerman says:

    I understand teff bread is gluten free and pretty good (maybe not so coincidentally, there’s a lot of it starting to be grown in the Pacific Northwest). No personal experience with it that I can recall, so definitely YMMV.

  7. 7
  8. 8
    danielx says:

    It’s worth a try. I’ve used the NYT no-knead bread recipe done in a dutch oven and it rose adequately and all that, but it seemed to lack….something. The sourdough addition might make the difference, particularly as I was using your usual all-purpose flour as opposed to whole wheat. NOTE: the King Arthur whole wheat flour mentioned in the Mother Jones article is available damn near anyplace – they’ve got it at Walmart, among other places. Not something for which you have to go to Fresh Market or Whole Foods, although I’d bet that local organic/health foods retailers would have better alternatives.

  9. 9
    NotMax says:

    Of course, this being America, people would waste no time piling bologna and American ‘cheese product’ between slices of the most healthful bread.

  10. 10
    opiejeanne says:

    My older daughter is allergic to gluten but not just in bread; she is not celiac, at least not yet. If only letting it rise longer solved the problem I’d be ecstatic; just a tiny bit of wheat flour in anything gives her a rash and starts some of the other unpleasant digestive reactions. There are good gluten-free breads out there as well as some nice flour substitutes, but no one thing works every time, and mostly the substitutes produce a strange texture.

  11. 11
    NotMax says:

    If you want to nosh on a hunk of good-tasting bread that is almost ridiculously easy to prepare, little beats the ease of preparing Irish Soda Bread.

    Thousands of slightly variant recipes on the ‘net, fer sure.

  12. 12
    danielx says:

    @NotMax:

    Nonsense. Any right-thinking redblooded American knows that bologna and American cheese slices can only be served on Wonder Bread, accompanied by either Miracle Whip or (for elitist scum) French’s yellow mustard.

  13. 13
    Jane2 says:

    Interesting article, and certainly dovetails with the processes recommended by Paul Hollywood (Brit star baker). I’m going to try the recipes.

  14. 14
    Roger Moore says:

    The problem is that most industrial bakeries only allow bread to rise for a matter of minutes—not nearly long enough to let the yeast and bacteria digest all the gluten in the flour, let alone the extra dose in the additives.

    There’s so much wrong with that statement. Even long fermented sourdough made with relatively low gluten flour doesn’t have anything like all the gluten digested, and you wouldn’t want that anyway. Gluten is what gives the bread its structure, so dough that’s had all its gluten digested would turn into bubbly glop. My gut feeling is that the problem with most commercial bread is that they pump it full of crap so it can sit on the shelf in a plastic bag for a week or two without turning stale or moldy. Any bread that’s baked with just decent flour, water, salt, and some kind of leavening (I use sourdough, but yeast is fine) will be fine.

  15. 15
    Stella B. says:

    When I bake bread, I use my own starter and an overnight rise. Sourdough tastes better and keeps better. OTOH, I’m fat and don’t need to have delicious, delicious bread sitting on my counter.

    Bread may have sustained people in the past, but that was when they had limited access to other types of food. Bread used to be a meal, but now it’s something that we eat idly while witing for the real food to appear. It doesn’t offer much nutritional value for it’s calorie load.

    I wish that giving up gluten would have all the magic effects that are claimed for it. I’d give it up in a heartbeat, but I’ve tried it a couple of times with no change at all.

  16. 16
    KG says:

    @Villago Delenda Est: nah, an MBA would pause and figure that in the short term, mass production of crap is the way to go, then once you’ve cornered the market you introduce a secondary brand that is designed to appeal to people who want natural/artesian/craft alternatives

  17. 17
    Peter says:

    My mom taught me to bake bread, and I’m passing that knowledge down to my kid. I buy 00 flour organically grown in my region (Hudson Valley) and milled with 100% of the grain intact so it’s a nice light brown. I use a wild sourdough starter (going on 6 years old now) and always do a long (16-18 hour) overnight ferment so if I make the dough in the evening I can bake it the following morning. Sometimes I mix some rye or other grains in for variety, or change it up in other ways (olives, raisins, seeds, etc.) but it’s always the same basic recipe. It makes wicked pizza crusts, bagels, rolls, and incredible pita.

    Baking is not for everyone—it takes a commitment, especially with a starter, and some time to develop a feel for the process—but homemade bread made with good flour and wild yeast is quite simply a different food from most of what one finds in stores. Nutritionally superior, sure, but the real magic is the smell that fills your house, the crackling crust, and then the first still-warm slice slathered with butter. It will also stay fresh and mold-free for days if left out on the counter cut side down.

  18. 18
    Violet says:

    According to Jones and McDowell, low-quality industrial white flours and fast-rising commercial yeasts, along with additives like vital wheat gluten—a wheat product added to give bread structure despite superfast rises—have generated a backlash against bread in the form of the “gluten-free” craze. While people with celiac disease genuinely can’t process the gluten in wheat, they argue, most people actually can. The problem is that most industrial bakeries only allow bread to rise for a matter of minutes—not nearly long enough to let the yeast and bacteria digest all the gluten in the flour, let alone the extra dose in the additives. The result can lead to all kinds of problems in our gut…

    Don’t know about this. I first figured out I had a problem with wheat through the cereal I eating in the morning. Wheat-based cereals like caused me problems but when I’d eat some other type of cereal, like Rice Krispies or oat flakes then I didn’t have the problems. I never noticed any problems with bread or pasta at that time. The bread rising time doesn’t affect cereal.

  19. 19
    2liberal says:

    cheese bread:
    8 oz shredded cheddar cheese
    .5 cup butter
    1.5 cup flour
    .25 cup parsley
    .5 tsp salt
    .25 tsp cayenne pepper

    mix all ingredients together. divide dough in half. roll into (2) 7 inch logs. Chill logs for one hour. cut into .25 inch slices. place on cookie sheet. bake at 450 degrees for 15 minutes.

  20. 20
    BethanyAnne says:

    A couple of months ago I read Michael Pollan’s “Cooked”. The quoted bit above squares with what he writes in the bread section. The whole book was really good. It made me want to cook more and get back to food instead of processed junk.

  21. 21
    bago says:

    Liquor in the front… Balloin juice in the rear?

    #funwithtypos

  22. 22
    Roger Moore says:

    @KG:

    nah, an MBA would pause and figure that in the short term, mass production of crap is the way to go, then once you’ve cornered the market you introduce a secondary brand that is designed to appeal to people who want natural/artesian/craft alternatives

    Maybe a theoretical MBA who had actually been taught how to run a business for the long-term benefit of shareholders. An actual MBA would think about the short term and only the short term, because boosting profitability in the short term is what maximizes the value of his stock options.

  23. 23
    fleeting expletive says:

    This is a lovely thread and I will read it, but I have something I want to say.

    I think Maggie Hart is implicated in “True Detective”. That line in the preview for next week, “I have always known Cohle to be a good man”. She certainly could’ve arranged the dolls, decorated the bedroom with the spiral on the wall, and she could’ve drawn the pictures in the notebook. Whoa.

  24. 24
    luc says:

    There is a recent study showing that modern wheat is more of a problem than its ancestors:
    http://freetheanimal.com/2014/.....belly.html

  25. 25
    Violet says:

    @Stella B.:

    I wish that giving up gluten would have all the magic effects that are claimed for it. I’d give it up in a heartbeat, but I’ve tried it a couple of times with no change at all.

    Don’t know what problems you might have that you hope giving up gluten might positively affect, but nightshades cause a lot of people problems too.

  26. 26
    FreeAtLast says:

    Does anyone here have experience with a kid having unexplained anemia and falling further and further behind in growth charts due to gluten sensitivity that produces no digestive symptoms?

  27. 27
    Mnemosyne says:

    @opiejeanne:

    If she gets a skin rash from touching gluten, she’s not sensitive or intolerant, she’s allergic. She probably won’t develop celiac disease because it’s an autoimmune disease like lupus.

    @FreeAtLast:

    I don’t, but if the symptoms are unexplained and cutting gluten out isn’t helping, my instinct is that gluten is not the problem. Have you consulted a registered dietician (not a nutritionist, an actual RD)?

  28. 28
    Mnemosyne says:

    @fleeting expletive:

    My thought after last week’s episode is that Cohle is experienced in being an undercover detective. Deep undercover. But we’ll see.

  29. 29
    Steeplejack says:

    @fleeting expletive:

    Hey, how about a “spoiler alert” for people who haven’t caught up yet?

  30. 30
    Violet says:

    @FreeAtLast: Are you certain it’s gluten sensitivity? Could there be other issues going on as well? A friend’s daughter (three years old) was diagnosed as celiac but also had additional food allergies, such as red dye. They even had to make sure she had no farmed salmon because whatever they use to make them pink caused her problems. Perhaps there are other food sensitivities?

  31. 31
    Violet says:

    @Steeplejack: Yeah, this isn’t an open thread, so at least if someone is going off topic with spoilers for a TV show, it would be courteous to let people know.

  32. 32
    FreeAtLast says:

    @Mnemosyne: @Violet:

    Thanks. Good to know that an RD is the one to see.

  33. 33
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Steeplejack:

    Do moments that are shown as part of the “in next week’s episode” trailer count as spoilers if the actual episode hasn’t aired yet?

    If so, these spoiler rules are getting too complicated for me.

  34. 34
    Steeplejack says:

    @Violet:

    I’d say even on an open thread, since there are DVR/on-demand binge-watchers who might be a few episodes behind at any time.

  35. 35
    Mnemosyne says:

    @FreeAtLast:

    You’ll probably also need to see an allergist at some point, but the RD should be able to tailor an elimination diet so your child will at least stop losing weight.

  36. 36
    Steeplejack says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    Do moments that are shown as part of the “in next week’s episode” trailer count as spoilers if the actual episode hasn’t aired yet?

    I would say yes, e.g., “Golly, now we’ve got to regroup after that huge explosion at the end of this week’s episode!” If someone is a few episodes back, that is going to come as a spoiler to them.

    And, besides, fleeting expletive then launched into the real spoilerage I was referring to:

    She certainly could’ve arranged the dolls, decorated the bedroom with the spiral on the wall, and she could’ve drawn the pictures in the notebook.

  37. 37
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Steeplejack:

    I would say yes, e.g., “Golly, now we’ve got to regroup after that huge explosion at the end of this week’s episode!” If someone is a few episodes back, that is going to come as a spoiler to them.

    Well, no, because that’s talking about episode events. The comment was more like, Wow, they showed a huge explosion happening in the trailer for next week, I wonder if events X, Y and Z from the previous 5 episodes could have led to that.

    I mean, if someone says, Wow, Kermit has an evil twin in the trailer for “Muppets Most Wanted, do you complain that they didn’t give you a spoiler alert for a trailer?

    Also, having watched all 5 episodes so far, the information provided is a lot less spoileriffic than you’d think since it all appears in episodes 1 and 2.

    ETA: Also, too, I think fleeting expletive is completely wrong in his/her theory, so again not an actual spoiler.

  38. 38
    pseudonymous in nc says:

    American bread is mostly horrific. And yes, I know that bread is intensely local and dependent upon wheat and water, even when made at industrial scale, but still: even $5 loaves can be pretty mediocre.

    Down our way, there’s a farm-to-mill flour company that’s been up and running for a couple of years. It sells very good flour, and the bakers who use it bake good bread.

  39. 39
    sempronia says:

    Anne Laurie, could we pleasepleaseplease have a Sunday garden thread this week? With lush pictures of green growing things? Cabin fever is setting in, here in the frozen Northeast.

  40. 40
    Steeplejack says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    You misunderstood me. What I meant with the explosion example was something like this: An explosion occurs in this week’s episode. Then, in the promo for next week, they show a scene with one character telling another, “They were killed in the explosion [last week], Jim. Get hold of yourself. We’ve got to regroup.” If you reference that, even though it is a moment “shown as part of the ‘in next week’s episode’ trailer,” you have spoiled this week’s episode for someone who has not seen it by revealing the explosion.

    Also, having watched all 5 episodes so far, the information provided is a lot less spoileriffic than you’d think since it all appears in episodes 1 and 2.

    Still a spoiler for someone who hasn’t seen episodes 1 and 2.

    I think fleeting expletive is completely wrong in his/her theory, so again not an actual spoiler.

    So spoilers have to be based on what turns out to be true? “I was wrong when I said Jim-Bob murdered Suzi, so the fact that I revealed that Suzi was murdered is totally not a spoiler.”

    All of this is overkill for the relatively minor spoilage in fleeting expletive’s comment, but would it kill somebody to mention potential spoilers ahead? Err on the side of safety, I say.

  41. 41
    Yatsuno says:

    I don’t bake, as I’ve said several times over. I might get up the nerve to try Irish soda bread since that doesn’t involve microscopic fungi that I somehow end up killing every. single. damn. time. Plus at least with cooking you can make whatever adjustments are necessary to make sure the final product turns out well. So it’s just a patience issue with me.

  42. 42
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Steeplejack:

    Still a spoiler for someone who hasn’t seen episodes 1 and 2.

    I’m sorry, but I’m starting to think we need a statute of limitations on complaints about “spoilers.” The first episode aired on January 12th. Do we really need to hold back all discussion of the show until everyone is caught up on episodes that aired a month ago? Are we not allowed to discuss it casually until the entire season is over?

    So spoilers have to be based on what turns out to be true? “I was wrong when I said Jim-Bob murdered Suzi, so the fact that I revealed that Suzi was murdered is totally not a spoiler.”

    Sorry, but I can’t discuss in what way(s) I think fleeting expletive is wrong without major spoilers. ;-)

    I suppose theoretically one could spoil a plot point while incorrectly speculating about upcoming plot points based on the trailer for the next (unaired) episode, but we’re getting pretty far into the weeds here.

  43. 43
    Roger Moore says:

    @Yatsuno:
    Try one of the no-knead bread recipes, which are about the simplest and hardest to screw up. Use instant yeast- which can be mixed with the flour before adding the liquid- and room temperature bottled water to eliminate the possibility that heat or chlorine in the water is killing the yeast. Given where you live, you might want to try finding proper bread flour, since all-purpose flour in the South and Pacific Northwest is too soft to make satisfactory bread. If you do that and follow the recipe carefully, you should be able to bake bread successfully. The biggest drawback is that it takes some planning.

  44. 44
    fleeting expletive says:

    Dudes, it was just my crazy ass theory about Maggie being implicated. I think everyone who has HBO access has seen however much of True Detective as they want to, right? It’s not a spoiler if I speculate about MartyHart’s wife being in on the cult? “I have always known Detective Ryan to be a good man”. Heretofore she hasn’t been a suspect.

  45. 45
    WereBear says:

    I just wish to state for the record that I don’t see how gluten-free is a “craze” or a “fad.”

    Because those are fun.

    It’s no fun at all avoiding gluten, and don’t I wish I could eat cupcakes and Reubens and pizza without a second thought.

    And I didn’t have digestive issues — I had arthritis in my hands that would hurt so much it would wake me at 3 AM to take more OTC painkillers. It was AMAZING that I could do something to fix that.

    So for me, avoiding gluten is worth it. But it sure ain’t fun.

  46. 46
    currants says:

    @jl: Ah! Friend gave me birch bark syrup last summer and I wasn’t really sure what to do with it (much darker flavor than maple, even than blackstrap molasses, I think).

  47. 47
    Betsy says:

    @jl: OH

  48. 48
    Sister Rail Gun of Warm Humanitarianism says:

    @WereBear:

    I just wish to state for the record that I don’t see how gluten-free is a “craze” or a “fad.”

    Because those are fun.

    Not necessarily, especially with diets.

    The Beverly Hills Diet. The Caveman Diet. Fit for Life. The Rotation Diet. Scarsdale. The Cabbage Soup Diet. Atkins. Sugar Busters. Eat Right for your Blood Type. The Coconut Diet. The Maple Syrup Diet. The Baby Food Diet. The pH balance diet. Bill Clinton’s diet. Wheat Belly.

    I know a bare handfull of people, none in RL, who have eliminated gluten because of the results from an elimination trial, who have an honest gluten sensitivity/allergy. But I know quite a few people in RL who have been through every diet on that list (plus probably more than I’ve forgotten) and will abandon gluten-free as soon as the fashion changes.

    You say “Wheat Belly” and I hear “Atkins” and “Caveman” and “pH balance” because I’ve heard the exact same claims from adherents to all of them.

    I’ve been told that if I would just eliminate gluten, my existing allergies to potatoes and soy and honey would clear up, because gluten is causing them. By an MD.

    Magical thinking == fad diet.

  49. 49
    Lurking Canadian says:

    @Sister Rail Gun of Warm Humanitarianism: we took our son off gluten because of some evidence that it can lead to hyperactivity in some kids. I was deeply skeptical when my wife suggested it, but there are some (apparently) reputable articles that have documented this effect, an brain chemistry is weird shit, so who knows.

    I’m still skeptical, and it might be confirmation bias, but it sure seems that every time he sneaks gluten-rich snacks on Saturday, he’s a holy terror from Sunday evening to Tuesday morning. So, what the hell. It probably isn’t doing him any harm, and it seems to be doing some good, so we’re sticking with it for now.

  50. 50
    Talentless Hack says:

    @danielx: They also sell King Arthur in ordinary supermarkets. No need to visit the Walmart Nation.

  51. 51
    Talentless Hack says:

    @Sister Rail Gun of Warm Humanitarianism: When I hear “caveman diet” I think “anything I can find that won’t kill me if I happen to swallow it.” I seriously doubt people ate better in the Stone Age than we do today.

  52. 52
    Paul T says:

    Like Godwin’s Law, I consider any recipe comment thread to be over after the first comment about “gluten” is included.

    Food is not medicine.

    I started bread making with the No Knead NY Times recipe 7 years ago, and enjoyed it so much I now can whip up several enjoyable bread recipes from scratch. Cakes, cookies and pies, too.

    Just average, normal, boring, white bread, with sometimes a small percentage of whole wheat flour. Like anything else, I found practice and patience went a long way. And, keep it simple, stupid.

  53. 53
    Violet says:

    @Paul T:

    Food is not medicine.

    That’s an interesting take. According to Wikipedia medicine is:

    the field of applied science related to the art of healing by diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of disease. It encompasses a variety of health care practices evolved to maintain and restore health by the prevention and treatment of illness in human beings.

    So food could be part of that. An early example would be eating citrus for the Vitamin C to avoid scurvy. Or you could just take Vitamin C tablets or get it from other sources. But the body needs it and the easiest way to get it is through food. How’s that not food as medicine? There are a lot of other examples.

    If food isn’t medicine, what is medicine your estimation? Pills? MRIs and CT scans? Bloodwork results?

  54. 54
    Comrade Mary says:

    @danielx:

    I’ve used the NYT no-knead bread recipe done in a dutch oven and it rose adequately and all that, but it seemed to lack….something.

    Certainly try out sourdough — I’m trying to figure out a kefir bread myself — but the Cooks Illustrated variation on no knead is pretty good. I use drained whey from my yogurt in place of the water + lager mixture they use, but I still add the vinegar and the honey (the latter for whole wheat only).

  55. 55
    E. says:

    I’ve been baking bread with essentially this recipe for several years now. Sourdough is really not that hard to keep alive — in fact it’s practically impossible to kill it once you have it going. It did take me about two weeks to get it really going from scratch. Others report success in a week.

    I usually bake white bread with cheap-ass corporate flour from Costco and my gluten-obsessed friends think I am nuts, but the bread is damn good and costs about 40 cents a loaf. I give a lot away. Baking in the dutch oven is absolutely key — can’t get the right crust without it. I use the Tartine book.

  56. 56
    CatHairEverywhere says:

    @opiejeanne: I am non-celiac gluten intolerant. I have had very good luck with the recipes from Gluten Free on a Shoestring. She has tons of recipes on her blog as well as three books, the newest of which is a bread book. Hope this helps!

    I am very interested in this research, as it could really help people like me!

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