Almost every household buys bread regularly. But the daily breakfast ingredient has come under fire recently from consumer watchdog Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) that says it contains residues of the carcinogenics potassium bromate, potassium iodate or both. So why compromise on quality when you can bake healthy bread at your own convenience?
A traditional loaf only needs flour, yeast, water and salt, says Poonam Maria Prem, a baker. “Eat the bread which will go bad in two days. That’s why either start making your own bread and see how heavenly your home smells, or get bread sourced from those who make it without additives and preservatives. It is a simple procedure of letting the yeast be the hero. Additives are for prolonged shelf life and higher volume. L-cysteine is a softening agent often added to bread and other baked goods in order to speed up industrial processing. Potassium bromate lessens baking time and strengthens the dough. But it’s not so great when it comes to eating it — it’s been linked to thyroid and kidney cancer,” she says.
As simple as roti
Another entrepreneur, Sabina Xavier, who has been baking her own bread for a year now, says, “I first did it for fun, later realised it gets spoilt in two days because of no preservatives. The store-bought variety lasts for a week, which is worrying. I started my own baking as it’s fresh, healthy and tastes really good. The kids, too, love to make different shapes and sizes. Baking bread is simple and easy, just like making rotis at home once you get the hang of it. Brands that are stocked in stores need to last long, which is why they need the preservatives. You can also experiment with ragi, oats and edible seeds and a variety of flavours which makes good old bread a bit different but very tasty nonetheless.”
As the saying goes everything we do is for bread and butter then why not bake your own bread? Says celebrity chef and Mrs South Asia International 2014, Ruchika Sharma, “Too much is said about chemicals used in breads. In fact not just breads — anything you buy from outside has preservatives so it’s always better to learn to make it yourself.”
“Few simple ingredients go into bread making — flour, yeast, salt and sugar. I have seen lots of people buying even Indian breads. That makes me feel sad as cooking is so simple if we plan our weekend groceries well. We can buy fully automatic bread makers in which we need to add all the raw ingredients and the bread gets freshly baked. Making bread is as simple as making parathas. I make different varieties of bread to impress my tricky kid with different shapes and sizes.
“The first time when I tried it, at the age of 14, it was a disaster. Eventually I learned the secret and as the saying goes, practice makes us perfect. It a great feeling when your neighbour knocks on the door and asks ‘what are you baking? It smells so good’.”
What started just as baking bread at home only for the family has now turned into a passion with Light Green Oven, Shipra Chenji’s online bakery. Baking your own bread means you have numerous options for the flours you bake with. With all organic ingredients, natural kraft paper packaging.
There are 15 kinds of breads — spicy, loaded with mozzarella and cheddar cheese special, filled with herbs and spices like oregano, chilli flakes, ground pepper, jeera and ajwain to name a few. “I started baking when I was in my 20s. I used to bake bread for my family. I use only whole-grain organic flour for my bread. The ingredients are all basic — flour, salt, oil, yeast and water. Also herbs if you want. Baking your own bread is always the best option as you can have it fresh whenever you want. But if one doesn’t have time, skill and patience, then buying it from someone you know is genuine is the best. You will know as soon as you bite into it,” says Shipra Chenji.
Whatever the consumer watchdog has to say, the truth remains that people are not going to stop consuming bread. It’s still the most preferred food item in the country. “Potassium bromate is an unnecessary additive that speeds up the proofing process and helps in achieving a soft, pillowy bread. Even though the quantities are very minute, if the bread is not baked at a high enough temperature, it could lead to formation of crystals, which might be harmful to health. To avoid consumption of the same, check the ingredients listed or use more of rye and whole wheat breads, which are free of potassium bromate. We bake organic bread which is free from all such chemicals,” says Arun D’Souza, executive sous chef at Olive Bistro, known for their yummy breads.
“Bread made by us at our own bakery is just like bread made at home. We bake the bread every day and it is free from any harmful preservative intake (usually used to increase shelf life in stores) with a wide variety ranging from whole wheat, brown bread, multigrain, gluten free etc,” says chef Sikandar Reddy, Deli9.
What’s potassium bromate?
- It’s very well to say that the bread you buy has potassium bromate. But what is it?
- Potassium bromate bleaches dough, and enhances its elasticity by strengthening its network of molecular bridges, which makes for the formation of tiny, thin-walled bubbles as the bread rises. The end product is fluffy, soft and unnaturally white bread.
- Potassium bromate lessens baking time and strengthens dough, which big companies love because they can save money.
- Even though the quantities are very minute, if the bread is not baked at a high enough temperature, it could lead to formation of crystals, which might be harmful to health.
- Check the list of ingredients before your buy your bread. It’s best if you buy from a local bakery, as chances of them using potassium bromate is less.
250 gm basic flour
5 gm compressed yeast (fresh)
10 gm oil/butter
10 gm sugar
125 ml water
5 gm salt
10 gm milk powder
Dissolve yeast, sugar and a little water in a bowl and let it stand for 10 minutes. Knead the flour by mixing all other ingredients, remaining water and the yeast mixture, to form a soft dough. Ferment the dough for 30 to 40 minutes by covering it with a wet muslin cloth. Then, put it in a greased bread mould and let it raise for another half hour. Finally bake it in a preheated oven for 1800C for about 20 to 30 minutes or until done. Use as required for making different types of breads
Note: Vanilla powder/essence Can be added to kill yeast smell.
— Ruchika Sharma