How to bake your own bread is something worth learning, because then you don’t have to worry, if you can’t find good bread in the shops, nor live near a good baker. Join the real bread campaign, to support the local bakers that are left. Store your bread in a breathable bread bag.
If making your own bread, keep bread dough away from pets. Many bread ingredients (salt, dried fruits, onions, chives, chocolate) are toxic to pets.
See how to help garden birds on why it’s not good to feed too much leftover bread to birds. Never give them stale, mouldy, crusty bread nor anything with fat (grease, buttered sandwiches) as it clogs feathers, affecting waterproofing/insulation.
Join the real bread campaign, to bring back proper bread to our tables. In France, the boulangerie is so loved, that bakers are banned from all going on holiday at the same time, each year. Most commercial loaves in supermarkets contain palm oil, milk and improvers.
The ‘freshly baked’ bread in supermarkets is usually half-baked loaves that are shipped from central distribution houses, and then just baked up in store. Real bread lasts longer, if you store it in a breathable bread bag. Find local bakers by entering your postcode at Real Bread Campaign.
Good bread is made with wheat, water, salt and (usually) yeast. Plus add-ons like herbs, spices, dried tomatoes, olives etc. Wheat is a popular crop in England, so switching to organic goes a long way to support local artisans and mills. Although it’s obviously not suitable for allergies, some people tolerate organic wheat better. Read Amber Waves, a book that traces wheat’s history from Middle Eastern foothills to today’s chemical mega-crop.
Choose Good Flours
There are quite a few good organic flour brands in England, though you may have to visit the health store, farm shop or order online.
- Dove’s Farm is a good organic brand (use plain flour for most bread), though it also sells self-raising and bicarb of soda and baking powder. Baking soda needs an acid (like lemon juice) but baking powder already has the raising agent.
- Shipton Mill Organic Flours (Gloucestershire) has made flour since the Domesday Book. The range includes seeded white flour, three malts & sunflower brown flour (and a cake/pastry flour).
- Spelt is not gluten-free but an ancient relative of wheat, that people find gentler on the stomach. Sharpham Park is also in wholegrain.
- If you are gluten-free, Dove’s Free Gluten-Free Flour makes a flour made with potato, maize and buckwheat to use with xantham gum (to improve crumb texture). Or use oat flour.
Good Bread Mixes
- Amisa Seeded Bread Mix makes a crusty loaf of bread (free from gluten, wheat, yeast at time of writing). Sunflower, sesame and linseeds.
- Superfood Bakery Lemon & Poppyseed Loaf is made with gluten-free organic flours.
- Amisa Multi-Seeded Bread Mix is organic and brimming with rolled oats, linseed, sesame, sunflower, millet and chia seeds.
- Superfood Bakery Rise & Shine Banana Loaf Mix is good for breakfast or an afternoon snack, made from high-fibre flours sourced from British millers.
Books to Bake Your Own Bread
Whole Grain Sourdough at Home shows how to bake a beautiful bread loaf, using a master recipe. With one bowl, a few simple ingredients, minimal kneading and less than 24 hours, you have sourdough bread on the table. Includes 60 recipes including sandwich loaves and focaccia. A few recipes contain milk, egg or honey but most don’t (the sandwich loaf is made with almond milk).
Bread of the Resistance is a book on how to make sourdough, you don’t even need exact measurements. The book is simple and straightforward, with wonderful clear illustrations. Find a nationwide list of sourdough courses. If you bake a lot of bread, a small bread machine is a good investment (can also make pizza base).
Living Bread by pioneering baker Daniel Leader shows how to make Curry Tomato Ciabatta, Vegan Brioche and Chocolate Sourdough Babka, plus more traditional recipes.
The Best Shop-Bought Breads
So you have no choice but to shop in local supermarkets? What are the most ethical bread brands? Here are a few choices (most supermarket recycling bins take plastic packaging (not clingfilm). These may be made in factories with dairy or allergic ingredients.
Often people are put off buying ‘proper bread’ because it’s not sliced. So invest in a good bread knife (safely stored away), as it will make it much easier to slice bread, without spraying crumbs everywhere (not a good idea when pets are nearby either). Put a damp tea towel under your chopping board, to stop it sliding around on the counter.
- Cranks Whole Lotta Organic is made with organic flour, sea salt, yeast and organic sunflower oil. This is lovingly crafted by passionate bakers, and left to rise slowly over 3 hours.
- Biona Organic makes several organic rye breads. This is made by a family bakery in Germany using traditional artisan skills.