The Simplicity of Bread
The beauty of bread is its simplicity. The main ingredients are flour and liquid along with yeast, and salt. These basic ingredients provide a product that is both tasty and nourishing. Bread is head in complex carbohydrates, protein, and B Vitamins. The varieties are endless as additional ingredients are added. Pumpernickel, pita, bagels, baguettes, crumpets, chapattis, tortillas, matzo, rye, sourdough, and whole wheat are but a few examples of breads from around the world.
There are two basic categories that all breads fall into—unleavened and leavened or raised. Unleavened breads were the first breads. They were made from grain and water and cooked on hot stones to form flat bread. Types of unleavened breads popular today are matzo, tortillas, and chapattis. The early Egyptians discovered raised bread by chance. Wheat dough became contaminated with airborne yeasts that caused it to expand. Popular raised breads today include bagels, croissants, English muffins, French, Italian, pita, rye and sourdough. Quick breads are leavened with baking powder or baking soda rather than yeast. They are called quick breads because no rising time is required. At baking temperatures, the leavening reacts with water and acid in the batter or dough to cause it to rise. Like yeast breads, quick breads are mad from flour, liquid, and sometimes salt. They usually also contain eggs, sugar, and fat as well.
When purchasing bread, buy the freshest possible. Commercially packaged breads are usually marked with an expiration date—they will be fresh on that date and a few days after. Check the ingredient list for primary type of flour used and for additional fat, sweeteners, and other ingredients. Breads made with whole grain flours will provide more Vitamins, minerals, and fiber than enriched flour. Be sure to pick breads labeled with whole wheat as the first ingredient. Most commercial breads contain additives that cause staling. Dough conditioners and emulsifiers may also be added.
To prevent bread from becoming stale and moldy, keep at room temperature. Refrigerating bread helps keep it from becoming moldy but the bread becomes stale quickly. Be sure to keep the bread tightly wrapped to protect it from drying air. Keep soft breads in plastic bags and use paper bas for crispy breads. If the bread has turned stale, it can be freshened by reheating quickly in a hot oven. Stale bread is also fine for toast, croutons, or breadcrumbs. Bread can be frozen in an air tight plastic bag. Thaw before using.