What Baking “Real Bread” Has Meant to Me

No matter what endeavor I take on in life, there has to be some meaning attached to it. As a career software engineer, I didn’t want to code just for coding’s sake, I wanted to build cool stuff that had affected people in a positive way; either by automating monotonous, manual tasks, or providing impactful information to help impact the world around them.

So when I started seriously considering opening a micro-bakery out of my home, I didn’t want to just make any old bread. And quite honestly, I didn’t want my bread to be about me as a baker; rather, I wanted my bread to be a statement of nutritiousness and, of course, tradition. The rebel in me wanted to break the chains of the conveniences in our society to which we’re all accustomed. My thought was that while I’m all for progress, in some cases, older is better, and with bread, older is also better for you.

So when I started putting my micro-bakery together, I made a conscious effort to seek out communities and organizations of like-minded individuals. I met plenty of enthusiasts such as myself, but it was difficult to find organizations whose ethos and narrative aligned with my own with respect to bread. Then I stumbled upon The Real Bread Campaign.

Established in 2008 in the UK, Real Bread has a very simple ethos:

Real Bread has nothing to hide. It is made with simple, natural ingredients and NO additives. Simple, eh?

from Real Bread – About

Once I read the About page, I knew this was an organization I wanted to support and after a few months of lurking, I finally recently joined as a paying member to literally put my money where my mouth is. And I can also add the Real Bread Loaf Mark to my marketing materials which is totally cool.

The concept of baking “real bread” is easy. No additives. Period. This means no chemical dough conditioners such as ascorbic acid. Ingredients must all be natural. Here’s an excerpt:

What is Real Bread?

Everyone has his or her own idea of what Real Bread is. Here’s the Real Bread Campaign’s basic definition:

Made without the use of so-called processing aids or any other additives*

In fact, we believe this should be a key criterion in the legal definition of bread full stop.

Why should bakers who make bread in a time-honoured, natural way have to qualify it with ‘real’, ‘artisan’, ‘craft’ and the like? We say let’s reclaim the name bread and leave it to the industrial loaf fabricators to come up with a new name for their additive-laden products.

Amongst the additives not used in Real Bread making are: Baking powder and other chemical leavening; ascorbic acid; xanthan gum; added enzymes or any other so-called ‘processing aids’ – that exclusion applies to any addtives in the flour or mix you use.

…and by bread, we mean any additive-free crusty bap, bagel, bialy, injera, wrap, khobez, baguette, chleb, naan, chapatti, roti, stottie cake, lavash, ruisleipä, ciabatta, bara brith, Staffordshire oatcake,  tortilla, paratha, porotta, pitta, pida… the list goes on.

NB All genuine sourdough is Real Bread but not all Real Bread has to be sourdough.

*The only exceptions we make are the four so-called ‘fortificants‘ added to most UK milled flour by law.

The phrase, “All genuine sourdough is Real Bread but not all Real Bread has to be sourdough” is an important one because handmade bread risen with commercial yeast counts, so long as you don’t add stuff to it.

So what has this meant to me?

Though the guidelines are fairly simple and straightforward, this has meant so much to me beyond the guidelines because it helps reaffirm my own particular ethos of creating delicious and nutritious bread that’s simply flour, water, salt, and yeast.

But the whole concept of “real bread” also keeps me mindful of the wholesomeness of the ingredients I use, especially flour. I only use certified organic flour or use flour from producers who responsibly source their grain – read no-GMOs and sustainably farmed wheat. The flour I use is NEVER bleached or bromated. I will even source directly from the mills!

And in going to the source, I do my best to support the small, independent farms and mills. Yes, the flour’s a bit more expensive, but the quality is top-notch and I’m going around all the middlemen and the huge agribusiness conglomerates.

And I know that this may sound a little New Age, airy-fairy, but in baking bread in traditional ways, there’s a certain Zen to it all. Zen isn’t dogmatic nor religious. It’s the direct experience of the natural order of things – at least from a fairly simplistic perspective. “Real Bread” provides a framework for the Zen of breadmaking as we follow the natural order of how dough is risen. Yeah, like I said, it’s a little airy-fairy, but at least for me, it’s a real experience.

I may actually write a piece on the Zen of breadmaking. I’ve been mulling that concept for a few days now… Stay tuned…

Finally, making “real bread” has helped me be patient with the process – any process. Where I used to be very reactive, I’m much more measured and observant first and that allows me to respond to situations in a much more relaxed manner. Since I’ve been baking, my stress level has really dropped!

Whether or not you join the organization, I recommend reading through the website. There’s lots of useful information there to help anyone wishing to bake real bread.


The Real Bread Campaign

The Real Bread Campaign is a UK organization dedicated to promoting the production of real bread, that is, bread that is free of additives such as baking powder, xantham gum, addd enzymes, or any other artificial processing aid. The thinking is that “Real Bread has nothing to hide. It is made with simple, natural ingredients and NO additives.” I’m a proud supporter of the Real Bread Campaign and though there is no US-based arm, I firmly believe that what they’re doing in the UK to promote naturally produced bread is absolutely important.

Though I’ve freely admitted that my foray into artisan bread making was the result of trying to find something worthwhile to do during the pandemic lockdown last year, a big reason for making bread myself was for nutritiononal reasons. From the get-go, I wanted to use ingredients that were wholesome; that didn’t contain a bunch of added chemicals. My ingredients didn’t necessarily have to be organic, but I wanted them to be free of chemical additives. As the primary cook in my family, I believe it is important to be as nutritionally sound as possible with the things I cook.

But let’s face it: Homemade bread is WAY better than the stuff you get at the store. So why not kill two birds with one stone? Make great-tasting bread that’s also nutritious and free of chemical additives!

Months into my quest for creating natural bread, I started searching for organizations that aligned with my own sensitivities and I ran across the Real Bread Campaign. Their simple ethos of “real bread has nothing to hide” resonated with me. So I joined the movement and recently became a paying subscriber. Though they’re based in the UK, they’re doing great work promoting producers of natural bread. I guess it boils down to the fact that I don’t care where they’re located in the world. I believe in what they’re doing and I want to support them.

A benefit of membership is that I can use the Real Bread Campaign logos on the packages of bread I sell or donate. Also, for the formulas I provide here, they’ll have one of the logos attached to them. So if you see one of these logos, it means the recipe follows a certain set of criteria:

Real Bread

When you see this logo, it means that the bread is made without the use of any processing aid. It may be leavened by baker’s yeast or a sourdough starter. Other natural ingredients may be used in addition to the flour, water and salt, but excludes the following:

  • Flour containing any additive, other than any added as so-called ‘fortificants’ if their addition is mandatory where you make and sell your loaves.
  • Chemical leavening e.g. baking powder / soda.
  • Ingredients that have been produced with the use of any additive or processing aid.

Sourdough is “Real Bread” but is leavened only by a starter cultured from natural yeasts and lactic acid bacteria naturally present in flour and without the use of:

  • Any souring agent or sourdough flavoring such as vinegar, yogurt, lactic or acetic acid, or dried sourdough powder.
  • Commercial yeast.

If you yourself want to use these logos – whether you sell your bread or not – I encourage you to go to the Real Bread Campaign website and become a member. You don’t have to make a donation, but as a member, you can put your “bakery” on the the Real Bread map!