I don’t know who first took a load of grains from a field, ground them to a powder, added a little water and salt and then let them ferment for a while using the natural yeasts from the atmosphere. Whoever it was, we owe them a lot. From such simple beginnings our love of bread grew.
It’s not all about wheat and rye though. Other grains are used to make bread too. We use two main types in our bread: spelt and barley. Because they don’t have as much gluten as modern wheat, they both need a little extra help to make a decent loaf.
Lots of rubbish has been written about spelt as one diet or another tries to make a case for eating spelt bread over normal wheat bread. Here’s the thing: spelt can be considered an ancient style of grain, it has a less complex structure then modern wheat, for some people it is easier to digest but it still contains gluten. Quite a bit of it. If you have coeliac disease you need to avoid it. We tend to make it as tin loaves because the smaller amount of gluten makes it less stable. Always check with supermarket spelt bread that it is made only from spelt flour and doesn’t have amounts of bread wheat flour or soya flour in it. The spelt we use (from The Watermill at Little Salkeld) produces a wonderful tasting bread that we make for special order.
Barley can be grown in Cumbria and quite a lot of our bread in the past would have contained barley in some form. Along with rye, bread made with barley was often seen as the peasants‘ food. The toffs kept on eating wheat bread. Barley, again, contains gluten. We tend to make it into a loaf alongside wheat. We use 20% barley which gives the loaf a really unique taste. Again, it’s a bread we can make for special order.
There are many other grains that can produce bread, quite a few contain no gluten at all. They need help to form a decent loaf that looks good and tastes good. We’ll talk more about that another time…