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.