The Wood-Fired Blog

Why Supermarket Bread is Awful

I was doing research into gliadin and gluten, the two proteins that make up the wheat gluten that give bread its structure, and I came across a really interesting academic article on the science of bread from the British Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC). Really interesting stuff. I think I will refer back to the later with regard to the chemistry of gluten development, but their matter of fact description of how supermarket bread came to be so awful and so bad for you is really worth noting.

It really isn’t fermented bread; it’s whipped flour. Blah.

The traditional breadmaking process has a serious drawback. After mixing, the dough must be left to prove for at least three hours for the bubble expansion to develop the gluten. The dough is then ‘knocked back’ to remove most of the CO2 - a process usually combined with scaling (ie getting the dough into the right size chunks) and moulding to fit the tin – before being allowed to prove a second time before it goes into the oven. Although this long fermentation develops flavour, it is costly in time, with bakers having to rise early in the morning to produce fresh bread for the day. In addition, the mounds of fermenting dough take up expensive floor space and present hygiene problems. Research efforts were therefore directed to developing a ‘no time’ dough: by increasing the amount of yeast; by mixing vigorously to increase the rate of bubble formation; and by adding oxidising agents to promote disulfide bond formation. 

You should read the entire article. Lots of good stuff. Here is the graphic on gluten development.

DId you know that process of carbon dioxide expanding the dough is considered part of the “mechanical” gluten development process. But for your local supermarket, it’s just too slow and too expensive. You know what they say—time is money.