On the Table

On the Table: Make your own European-style bread

CorrespondentMay 13, 2014 

Bread lovers, you made yourselves known.

After last week’s column on European-style bread, you confirmed your interest in gritty, coarse, crusty bread with character. One reader confided that he makes his own in a bread machine, but the supermarket mixes he uses are made with refined, white flour.

How, he wondered, can he make bread using more whole grains instead?

From a nutritional standpoint, the most interesting breads, of course, are the whole-grain, fiber-filled kind. And while some delicious, traditional European varieties are made with white, refined flour, whole grain varieties arguably have more flavor and texture.

They’re more complex, like great wine. Their rustic looks and imperfect shapes give them character.

To learn how to make European-style bread, look for inspiration online, in a class or experiment at home.

But it’s easy to incorporate more whole grains into any bread recipe you follow. For starters, try some of these ideas:

• In bread recipes, you can usually replace up to half of the white flour with a whole grain substitute.

• All-purpose whole wheat flour isn’t the only grain in town. Try ancient whole grains for a change of pace. Natural food stores carry kamut, amaranth, spelt and quinoa. Rye, oats, millet, rice are other good choices.

• Add the unexpected. Toss in a handful of sunflower or pumpkin seeds, chopped walnuts, almonds, dates, raisins, cranberries or dried apricots.

If you don’t want to bake your own, buy it. In the Triangle, try such outlets as Weaver Street Market, Neomonde, Guglhupf, and Boulted Bread Company, among others. In Charlotte, try Nova’s Bakery.

If you find yourself looking for good, whole grain bread in the supermarket, remember a few rules for identifying quality:

• Scrutinize the ingredient list. Ingredients are listed in order of predominance in products. The first ingredient usually makes up at least 50 percent of the product.

• Look for the word “whole.” You want “whole wheat,” not “wheat flour,” which is just refined white flour.

•  Don’t be fooled by the color. Molasses and caramel coloring make refined products look like they are made with whole grain flour.

If you’re used to eating processed, white breads, you may have to adjust to whole grain. Once you do, you’ll prefer it.

And you’ll wonder why you didn’t do it sooner.

Suzanne Havala Hobbs is a registered dietitian and clinical associate professor of health policy and management at UNC-Chapel Hill. Reach her at suzanne@onthetable.net; follow her on Twitter, @suzannehobbs.

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