The bread

The bread
(Reading time: 8 - 16 minutes)

The cereal that best of all manages to swell and ferment (from the Latin "fervere", to boil, commonly called "bump up") is wheat.

Other cereals can make bread too, but only wheat has the gluten in quantities that allow the dough to rise and become fragrant. Of all the soft wheat varieties, some are not suitable for bread making.  
Usually the flour used to make bread is a mixture of some varieties of grains, to have a good and fragrant success. 

Wheat is divided into two categories: soft wheat and durum wheat. Soft wheat is the most used for bread making and all bakery products, while durum wheat is used in particular for making pasta. The "hard" type wheat bread cannot rise, it remains more compact, "heavier" this does not prevent it from being very tasty.
As we said, the leavening capacity of the bakery products depends on a component of wheat, gluten, made up of two proteins: glutenin and gliadin. The soft wheat bread, of the suitable varieties, can "rise" because it has a consistent gluten, in such proportions (10-15%) as to make the whole dough rise. All other cereals that contain gluten have this component in a smaller quantity, so they give more compact loaves less leavened (this does not mean that they are less good). The most striking example is rye bread, very heavy, but besides being tasty it is very digestible and nutritious.

There are two types of fermentation, commonly called "leavening": leavening at "sour dough", and leavening with the“brewer's yeast".  

Since bread has existed, "leavening" has always been done with "sour dough" also known as "sourdough". This traditional bread was made only with wholemeal flour and not with refined flour. How is "sourdough" obtained? You take a dozen glass bowls in which you put flour and water and knead to create a soft dough. They are placed on a table and left there. In the air there are enzymes (bacteria exactly) and having a little patience, one settles and begins to ferment a dough, which swells and begins to smell of a little acid. Subsequently, this mixture must be worked frequently for at least three days, in order to have a sourdough to use. It's not a very simple thing but it works.

Given the difficulty in preparing sourdough, to start making bread at home again, it is an excellent opportunity to meet and meet other people and make new friends, for a simple reason: to have sourdough from those who already make bread. . Giving sourdough is a reason to give birth to new acquaintances and friendships and becomes an opportunity for an exchange of information to improve bread making. (in this regard, follow the Corvelva meeting calendars https://www.corvelva.it/eventi.html: at the venue we make at least one baking course per month, an opportunity to meet, exchange, during which the sourdough is also given to the participants!)

Bread has a very ancient history: the Egyptians already knew it 3500 years ago, and from historical research it seems they prepared about fifty types. Even in the Hellenic civilization in the fifth century BC bread was used, indeed it was a common food, much appreciated also for the variety of the seventy types on the market. In Italy the bread arrived late, after millennia of spelled and barley polente, the famous "puls". The Romans learned of this food when they conquered Greece, and brought it to Rome, around 200 BC. Success was remarkable, so much so that it became a common everyday food. The fact of being a food that can be transported easily and just as easily lends itself to being seasoned to become a meal is decisive for the considerable spread of bread. In this way, in fact, it supplanted the traditional and popular polenta.

At that time, the daily consumption of bread per person was on average 900 g. At that time, in Rome, their own real bakeries were born, including home delivery of bread. The use of bread nowadays has dropped dramatically, with consumption of 100-150 grams per day, including wasted and unsold bread. We will find out why later.

What was the bread of the past and how can it be recreated? It was a mixture of flour and water with the addition of salt and "sourdough", cooked in a wood oven at a decreasing temperature. It would seem a simple thing, but in reality it is a real art. Art that until a few years ago all women knew and created, in order to have a genuine and nutritious food for them and the whole family. Now we have arrived at the bread industry that has nothing of art, we have forgotten this very important tradition and with it our roots. Whoever forgets traditions and roots also loses contact with the subtle knowledge of "everything". 

The "sourdough" also called "sourdough" or "biga", what is it? As I have already written, bacteria can "fall" into the dough and let it ferment. These suitably "processed" bacteria perform very important functions, feed on the starches (carbohydrates) contained in the flour, split the starches into simple sugars and do a part of the work that we should do in our intestines.

This work allows gluten, which is made up of two hydratable proteins, to form the "castle": these proteins operate as a network covered with starch granules that form a roof under which the gases (which are the waste of the processing by of these bacteria in the transformation of starches into simple sugars), trapped they swell the dough. The gas that is formed by this process is carbon dioxide. Not only is carbon dioxide found but acetic acid is also formed, which is why the dough has that characteristic acidulous scent. However, when the bread is too acid, and you can smell it, it means that the transformation has gone too far, so other less useful strains of bacteria have intervened. This fermentation is called "lactic acid".

Another interesting observation is that there are several strains of bacteria that work for the breakdown of starches, and we cannot have a single map of these, because in every place there are strains that are not found in other locations. With a very nice result we have many types of bread fermented by different strains, but the result is always the same. Let's see what name some of these bacteria have: bacterium lactic acids, bacterium acidificans, fermented bacterium panis, bacterium casai, bacterium plautorum, etc., they are all bacteria that are in symbiosis with us, that is, they are useful to us.

In any case, yeasts also participate in fermentation and, in the flour, there are enzymes: they also participate in fermentation. Our intestine is colonized by bacteria that allow good digestion and absorption of food. The bread we eat has undergone a transformation thanks above all to bacteria, so this bread stimulates our intestinal bacterial flora to remain healthy and vigorous and to ensure good digestion. To be clearer: the bacteria in the "sourdough" that break down and transform carbohydrates operate in the same way our body works, so we have a continuity that we can define as "digestive". Furthermore, the "sourdough" eliminates much of the phytin problem. This substance contained in cereals for us can represent a problem for the assimilation of calcium, iron, magnesium. The "sourdough" transforms these compounds and makes them harmless, furthermore the final cooking helps even more to eliminate the problem.

Finally, I transcribe what official science also says: from G. Quaglia - science and technology of bread-making - "the use of natural yeast in bakery products has undoubted advantages compared to industrial (brewer's) yeast ... .. longer duration of the process with natural yeast allows a more prolonged action of the protolytic enzymes which therefore make the product richer in nitrogenous compounds simpler than proteins such as amino acids ....... the higher content of amino acids and simplified sugars, in the product obtained with yeast natural, compared to that obtained with industrial yeast (beer), determines the fragrance of the product ......... greater digestibility and assimilability of naturally leavened bakery products than those with artificial leavening (brewer's yeast) and even more than those with chemical leavening, as the enzymatic action of biological leavening and the longer duration of the process with yeast n atural, it causes the substances making up the dough to transform processes into simpler molecules; transformations similar to those that occur with the digestion of foods which therefore, if already occurred previously, facilitate the work of the digestive system ".

Leavening with brewer's yeast, on the other hand, is a very recent practice, this method of making bread has been in use for about a hundred years: since Pasteur in 1854 studied the "micro-organisms" that "raise" the liquid with gas formation (carbon dioxide). Subsequently, these micro-organisms were classified and it was discovered that they are fungi. They were also called "yeasts", a term still in use today. Term already known in the Middle Ages and which indicated the ability to "inflate". Currently, on the market there is almost exclusively leavened bread with "brewer's yeast", ie mushrooms of the selected strain "saccharomyces cerevisiae" (cervisiae means beer). mother ", a few years passed, this immediate and sensational success was determined by the fact that while to make bread with sourdough you need to know the art of baking, with yeast you are never wrong, you don't need art. I am not saying that bakers are dishonest people, who do not know their work: far from it, they are very attentive to the laws and observe them.The problem is another, it is in who made the laws!  

I remember a curious anecdote: when at first they presented the yeast to make bread, many bakers refused it because they said they didn't want to make bread with "medicine".

There is a notable difference between the two fermentations. The yeast ferments the dough, it also breaks down the starches into simple sugars. The difference between the two leavening lies in the metabolites that are formed. Brewer's yeast produces carbon dioxide and ethyl alcohol as a result: this is an alcoholic fermentation. There is no alcohol left in the bread because cooking makes it evaporate. Alcohol in our body is not a food of considerable importance, most of the time it can also cause damage.

Here we find the substantial knot of the difference between the two "leavenings": while in the "sourdough" the fermentation is made by bacteria that operate like our digestive system, the yeast operates in a different way. Consequence: different messages arrive at our organism.
Now, if this happens once in a while, there is no problem, but if a person eats bread three times a day for three hundred and sixty-five days a year, it is not indifferent. 
With sourdough we energetically stimulate the intestinal bacterial flora essential for proper digestion (remember that the main seat of our immune system is in the intestine, also called the second brain, when there are health problems the first thing to do is to tidy up the system digestive). Unlike bread made with sourdough, bread made with brewer's yeast stimulates intestinal fungi.
Another serious problem: the large consumption of refined sugar, another "poison" in which mushrooms are at ease and thrive. In our intestine there are mushrooms, they are important and they must be there. These must be in balance with all the bacterial flora, while it becomes pathological when they colonize the intestine, when they are in surplus. The stimulus for mushrooms to multiply excessively, most of the time, is given by bread leavened with brewer's yeast. The well known consequence is the famous "candida" (and many women know something about the vaginal problems it causes). Candida and other strains of fungi colonize the intestinal tract, preventing proper assimilation of nutrients, causing a general intoxication of the organism, resulting in a general debilitation, due to the malfunctioning of the immune system.
Many diseases can only be cured if the intestine, which is the main seat of our immune system, is put back in order. Not replacing the cause of the malaise (for example white bread with yeast), it becomes difficult to get out of many problems.

Fortunately, today we can find excellent quality bread prepared with "sourdough". The tradition has not been lost, some baker who loves the art of true bread making has always continued to do so. This bread has been rediscovered by those seeking to feed themselves in a more balanced natural way and among these there are those who have learned the art of baking. Bread with "sourdough" is more difficult to explain than to do, personally I learned more by watching and collaborating with those who taught me the art than in all the theoretical lessons I attended.

The ingredients of the bread: stone ground wholemeal flour, sourdough, salt, water.

Flour: the wheat must be exclusively of organic origin, because pesticides are usually deposited in the bran. For a good balanced bread you need to use wholemeal flour where there is the "bran", so you must use only organic wheat. Look for the most suitable soft wheat varieties for baking. There are these flours on the market and they are also stone-ground. To have 100% wholemeal flour you have to grind it yourself, because by law you have to remove 5% of "ashes" (I do not comment on this law!).

The sourdough: ask someone who is already making bread.

Acqua: this is another sore point. The purer water, the better. Whoever is in the vicinity of a good source is very lucky. You can use the water from the aqueduct with the foresight to put it in a container a couple of days before, so the chlorine goes away. Even adding a couple of drops of lemon the water regains more vigor.

Whole sea salt 10 grams per kilogram of dough, then it depends on the tastes.

At this point I can only describe how I make bread: I take the sourdough, which I kept in the middle of some flour, crumble it into a bowl, add water and flour, and dough. The dough will be soft, like yogurt. I let it rest overnight, and in the morning I find my dough well fermented. I add water with salt and flour, knead, beat it, and let it rest for a while, about 30 minutes. Then I take a little bit of sourdough and put it aside for the next time, I make the form and after two and a half hours I put it in the oven to cook. Simple!

The best way to preserve the sourdough is to have it mixed with flour. The more flour you can get, the sooner it "dries". This ball is placed in the middle of some flour in a bowl or paper bag. The sourdough in this way dehydrates, it can be said that it is almost freeze-dried, that is, deprived of water, and so all the activity slows down. The sourdough remains quiescent for a week or more. When we take it back to make bread again these ferments need a few hours to recover. I remember one of my aunts, she told me that her mother, when she made bread, put the piece of sourdough on the wood above the fireplace, but it dried up, but as soon as it was kneaded it always began its work again brilliantly.

Now, I enter the heart of the indications for making a loaf of one kilogram.
You take the 80 gr. of sourdough, (the weight is very important) that was "asleep", crumbles well in a bowl, being dry it is easy, and knead by adding 240 gr. between flour and water (important: warm in winter, cold in summer): 150 gr. flour 90 gr. water - attention these weights are indicative because if the day is dry the flour calls for more water, if it is humid it wants less water, and then it also depends on the type of grain.
Now we are left with a total of 320 gr. of dough that must be covered with a cloth (remember that the dough must be soft). This dough must awaken the sourdough, it usually needs at least 10 hours to recover (this is also indicative). A simple system: in the evening before going to bed the dough is prepared and in the morning it is ready to continue working. I remember that fermentation does not tolerate drafts, sudden changes in temperature, loves humid heat and tranquility.
We arrived in the morning and the dough has risen well. You can continue from the 320 gr that we made, now add 960 gr between flour and salt water (about 610 gr. Of flour and 350 gr of water) mix well, if necessary you can add or a little bit of flour or water. 
After mixing everything well, the dough is homogeneous: now you have to beat it, lift it and drop it on a surface three times and leave it to rest for 30 minutes, covered with a cloth.
Now we have 1.280 gr. of dough and, after the rest time, take 80 gr. of pasta and put it away for the next time.
With the remainder it gives the desired shape and is left to ferment.
After about two and a half hours it is ready to be baked. 
The oven must be around 250 °. Important: put a saucepan with water in the oven, so that the bread is cooked in a steam bath.
After about ten minutes the temperature is lowered by 10 degrees, and in a total of 30 minutes the bread is baked. After cooking you have to wait at least 3 - 4 hours before eating it, if you wait longer it is better so the humidity comes out well. 
This type of bread lasts a week. 

This process is indicated for the "modern wheat" that which has undergone radiation.
If, on the other hand, you use varieties of ancient non-radiated "wheat" (they are found with a certain ease), the processing must be much more delicate, you must not beat the dough, but mix it with "love", the result is fabulous.

Good bread at all

Ferdinando Donolato