I'm Head Baker and CEO of Powell Artisan Bakery, a cottage micro-bakery in Powell Ohio specializing in Artisan Sourdough bread. I'm starting this blog to share the journey and challenges of bringing 'real bread', without shortcuts, to our community. Along the way, I'm hoping to share some of the information I've learned in my never-ending study of the 'staff of life'. (A note that we are currently in 'stealth mode' while testing suppliers, recipes, and equipment and only producing at a small scale.)
What is real bread?
There is a 'real bread' movement composed of bakeries who are striving to increase the quality of the products they sell. Some of the traits of 'real bread' include:
Longer, slower fermentation.
Being fermented using a live sourdough starter culture.
Made using wholemeal or stoneground flour
Made using local flour, preferably produced by a traditional mill, using locally-grown grain.
Made from certified organic ingredients.
Made from a variety of flavorful grains.
Why does it matter?
Bread has been a primary source of nutrition since the dawn of human civilization. Prior to industrialization, all bread was 'real bread'. One by one, each pillar of 'real bread' was knocked down to increase production yields.
Shortened fermentation time speeds up an assembly line, but yields less flavorful and digestible bread. Many people with self-reported gluten intolerance are able to enjoy long-fermented bread without issue.
Lab-isolated yeast cultures enable consistency in an industrial product, but wild lactic acid bacteria and wild yeasts improve flavor and extend shelf-life of bread without additives or preservatives.
White flour can be stored for years and shipped across the world, but the perishable germ has most of the flavor and nutrition in the wheat kernel. The wheat bran is also an important source of dietary fiber.
Out-of-state, industrially grown wheat is cheap, but takes business away from our communities. When bakers are able to communicate with millers and family farmers, grain products can be tailored for their purpose.
Chemically-treated wheat increases yield, but raises potential health concerns. The majority of wheat growers in the US spray crops with glyphosate before harvesting to make them easier to thresh, but this can leave measurable traces of the chemical in the flour.
Industrial wheat strains were designed to maximize yield and pest resistance, but lack the flavor and nutrition found when using a variety of grains. There are many ancient, heirloom, and modern artificially selected variants of wheat that elevate bread.
Is technology bad for bread?
No. I don't believe that using modern technology and techniques for wheat, flour and bread production is inherently bad. It is the choices we make on how we use the technology that can determine the flavor and health of the final product.
It is the mission of Powell Artisan Bakery to make good choices on when and how to use technology to maximize flavor and nutrition, while closing the circle of production (grower, miller, baker, community). I am working to develop the best practices, supplier relationships, baking techniques and recipes at a small scale, with an eye for responsibly scaling up production later.
I hope to do dedicated posts on each of these topics and how I'm attempting to tackle the challenges.