You can toast it, roast it, crumb it, soak it, fry it or roll it. A versatile ingredient like bread has served as a staple for both rich and poor households. At the core of it, it is nothing but a simple mixture of flour and water. Yet, the diversity and multifold usage of this simple ingredient has made it famous across the globe. Particularly revered in the European and middle eastern cuisines, the cultural significance of bread is immense. For instance, Lavash, a bread associated with Armenian cuisine, has been accorded the status of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Moreover, every region is associated with its traditional bread. Pita bread in the Mediterranean, Shaobing, a Chinese flatbread, Tandoori bread in India, Dampdnudel, a German sweet bread, is testament to the cultural value of bread.
What Actually Is A Bread
Defining bread is a simple task. It is a mixture of flour and water, called a dough which is then baked. It may also involve an additional step of fermentation. This simple process can be twisted and tweaked to suit various palettes. Thus, the shape, taste, texture, and color can all be varied to produce various bread.
The art of making bread is special and unique. Thus, every baker would have a unique affinity to the process of making their loaves of bread. The choice of different ingredients, which could be as varied as using stone-ground wheat (or atta) by the Indian artisan baker or corn flour by the American baker, all contribute to a unique taste.
The Italian bakers would prefer preparing the bread with olive oil and lots of herbs too. The preparation of the dough, the kneading process, the shaping of bread into a long baguette (as in the French culture) or flat versions as in the Indian kitchens All echo the uniqueness of each process. Some would also prefer using egg and milk to provide additional fluffiness to their dough. Others could make their loaves of bread unleavened, that is, without the usage of any rising agent (for example, roti from the Indian cuisine).
The baking of the bread is a skillful process. The right amount of heat and the penetration of the same, the time of baking, the contact of bread with fire all produce bread of various textures: The chewy one, the soft one, the crumbly one, or the caramelized one.
Overview Of Standard Bread Ingredients
However, while some ingredients could be easily identified (e.g., honey, milk, cheese, etc.), some not so commonly known ingredients make it difficult to assess the product. Thus, many vegans have started questioning even essential products like ketchup or bread.
The most humble version of bread is likely to include the following essential ingredients: flour, water, and salt. Most commercially processed products will also use yeast. Specific emulsifiers like diglycerides and lecithin are majorly used to maintain the softness of the bread. The tricky point is that such emulsifiers can be either plant sourced or animal-sourced, and there is no way to assess the same unless and until the bread has been certified vegan.
Moreover, there are additional ingredients that can make bread "non-vegan." Ingredients like honey, milk, sugar, eggs, butter, cream, whey could make certain kinds challenging to meet the vegan diet standard. There are a few more hidden ingredients like gelatin and casein.
Identifying Bread Types: Which Ones Are Vegan-Friendly?
Certain types of bread are, by their very nature and process vegan. Baguettes are long and crusty bread of French origin. Traditional baguette recipes have wheat flour, salt, water, and yeast. Rye bread, made with rye flour, is also generally qualified for vegan folks. Sourdough bread, in general, are vegan.
Ezekiel bread is another popular choice for vegan bread seekers.
This protein-rich sported bread is made with sprouted grains and legumes. Focaccia bread from Italy is a flatbread that is a flavourful blend of olive oil and rosemary.
Pita bread from the Mediterranean ovens is yet another example of traditionally vegan bread. It is essential to consider that most of the bread is now being commercially processed. Thus, one cannot negate that certain manufacturers put some additional ingredients or have processes that use animal derivatives. It is mainly done to amplify the flavor profile of these bread and increase their shelf life.
Certain kinds of traditional bread are not vegan-friendly. For example, traditional Challah bread associated with the Jewish culinary space is made with a blend of eggs and other ingredients, making them unsuitable for vegans. (Though there are vegan recipes that have been coming up). It is also true for naan bread that also uses egg to acquire fluffiness.
Making Your Own Vegan Bread
There is nothing more comforting and therapeutic than baking your bread with all the crackling goodness. Moreover, as you embark on the vegan journey, making your vegan versions can be satisfying and reduce your pain of identifying products that meet your demands.
The key steps that need to be kept in mind are the following:
- Balancing the ingredients
In making bread, the first crucial step is to get the ratio of ingredients right. It will ensure that you don't end up with either a gluggy dough or a rock-solid one.
Mixing ensures that all ingredients can integrate evenly, and there aren't any unmixed regions.
After mixing and kneading your dough, you should allow your dough to rest. The smoothes of the dough make it easier to work with. This time is crucial for the dough to relax and rise (with the activation of yeast or otherwise), creating the necessary pockets to help the bread be fluffy. It also enables the dough to develop flavor. Moreover, cover the dough with a cotton or muslin cloth to prevent it from drying out. Additionally, oiling your resting dough will prevent it from sticking to the container. Finally, keep the dough resting at room temperature is ideal. Thus, it should neither be too cold or hot to hamper or accelerate yeast activity.
Working your dough is extremely important as it warms up your dough and creates the necessary strands of protein or gluten. This element is responsible for making the bread stretchable or elastic, thus providing the essential structure. It also helps distribute the ingredients and air pockets that create space for expansion and make the bread chewy. However, be careful not to overwork the dough as it could remove all air pockets resulting in dense bread.
- Second Rising
Bread artisans will agree that making bread is a process that requires patience. While many will opt For a single rise For their Bread, letting your Bread rest before and after kneading Will make sure that the air pockets that the yeast creates are evenly distributed, thus getting you a good texture.
Finally, a preheated oven and keeping a water tray to create steam are essential steps to get the right, soft texture.
Is Making Your Own Vegan Bread Difficult?
Popular vegan bread recipes could involve wholesome and straightforward ingredients. But, unfortunately, it is a myth that making things vegan is a costly affair. Instead, you can opt for vegan options that are nourishing as well as economically viable.
Most recipes involve mixing some whole wheat flour, dry yeast, and salt. For a sweet taste, one could consider putting maple syrup or raisins. For a Savory note, mix in some fresh herbs like rosemary and thyme. Flavor enhancers like garlic or ginger are also preferred. Vegan bakers also suggest using an alternative to other common ingredients found in bread, such as egg and milk. Instead of egg, one could use aquafaba (canned chickpea liquid). Soy milk or other plant-based milk like almond milk are good alternatives to cow milk. Some bread recipes also suggest using dairy-free butter for the additional butteriness.
Adding warm water in portions while mixing the ingredients evenly, make the mixture into a thick paste. After kneading and resting it two times (before and after), transfer the mixture into a greased oven container and bake it in a preheated oven. Depending on whether you want to make brioche buns, a classic English loaf, or flatbreads, shape your bread accordingly.
There are also some no-knead sourdough bread recipes. However, there is nothing more perfect than paying homage to all the artisan steps in baking your bread.
Be it the challah, the sourdough, the baguette, or the naan; you would agree that bread has become an indelible part of our lives. It is a staple food and also one that suits best when it is strapped for cash. As for the vegan folks, bread serves as an essential source of nutrition. It is rich in carbohydrates that improve one's energy levels and contributes to good immunity.
In addition, most traditional bread recipes are dairy-free. However, increasing commercialization and growing use of preservatives, emulsifiers, and other ingredients have made it challenging to assess bread for its "vegan-ness." Thus, it is best to look for certified vegan brands, low processed bread, or make one's loaves of bread at home.