Bread Crumbs

Let’s start with health. What’s so healthy about your bread?

Well, first of all we use the most basic ingredients: flour, water, salt, yeast and malt. No baking enhancers, additives, or cheap substitutes. And there’s also the quality of the ingredients. The flour, which is a source of carbohydrates, fats, protein, fiber, minerals, and vitamins, comes from “Hatachanot Hagdolot” flour mill in Haifa. Established in 1921 it’s renowned for its sophisticated milling and high-quality flour. The mill is committed to producing an unvarying level of flour year-round, so that the flavor of the bread remains the same from season to season. To achieve this, wheat is ordered from different sources, including the US, Canada, Turkey, southern Europe, Russia, and Israel. Our breads are either wheat breads, or wheat and rye breads. For most we use whole wheat flour, the exceptions being our white baguettes, white ciabattas, white challa breads, and a few others, that are traditionally made with white flour.

Is white flour really as bad as they say?

Absolutely not. Although it is less nutritious. White flour is ground from the inner part of a kernel of wheat, which comprises most of the grain. It is mainly starch. In the past it was actually whitened with bleach (!), which gave it a bad name, but that isn’t the case anymore.

Is there any white flour in your whole wheat bread?

Not a speck. We never mix whole wheat flour with white flour, despite the fact that the official Israeli standard for whole wheat bread is 51% whole wheat flour and 49% white flour. There are those who mix white flour into their whole wheat breads because it’s cheaper and the white flour provides more volume. White flour also grants the bread a lighter texture. Our healthier alternative to baking light-textured breads is to combine two types of whole wheat flour of different refinement levels.

And what about whole wheat flour, why does everyone recommend it?

Whole wheat flour is ground from the whole grain of wheat, so that it contains maximum vitamins, proteins, and nutritional fibers. That makes it healthier, more nutritious, and less fattening.

Now I understand about the flour. But tell me, what’s so healthy about salt and water?

We don’t use processed salt, but natural salt from the Red Sea. When salt is processed it loses some of its mineral value. When it is natural it is a source of minerals, especially sodium. The amount of salt in a half-kilo loaf of bread, which is our average loaf, is about eight grams. As for the water, we use only filtered water to make our bread.

Apart from the flour, the water and the salt, you mentioned malt and yeast. What is malt anyway?

Malt is spouted barley which is dried and then ground. The malt contains sugars. These sugars nourish the yeast as it rises, and they are what give the bread its brown color.

Is there a connection between that tempting brown color and the taste of the bread?

Yes, because both the color and the flavor are the result of the slow preparation process. The color is related to the caramelization, which is the outcome of the baking process. Each bread that emerges from our ovens starts out as dough that was kneaded forty eight hours before it was placed there. After the slow kneading process, which prevents oxidation of the dough and influences the flavor, color, texture, and shelf life of the bread, the dough is allowed to rise in a refrigerator at four degrees for 24 hours. This period is as important for the bread as it is for wine or cheese. All our efforts are focused on bringing out the full flavor of the wheat, allowing the enzymes to do their work so that its original taste can emerge. Next the dough is separated into loaves, rested for 20 minutes, molded into its final shape on a cloth or a tray and returned to the refrigerator for another 24 hours. The bread is baked for 30 to 40 minutes on stone surfaces that maintain a temperature of 220 degrees Celsius. Once baked, the loaves are cooled on wire racks and allowed to conclude the baking process in peace.

Is that why you don’t cut the loaves when they’re fresh out of the oven?

Precisely. The internal temperature of bread straight from the oven is about 95 degrees Celsius. The dough hasn’t stabilized yet and if you slice it at this point, when the baking process is essentially still underway, the knife tears through the dough. You have to give it time. It takes at least four hours for a loaf to reach room temperature and that’s when you can slice it. When it’s too hot, you can’t taste the bread’s full flavor.

Like all good things, bread needs patience…

Yes. You have to allow the flavors to unfold. Inferior bread should be eaten fresh from the oven, but good bread is best six to twelve hours later.

For how long can you really keep a loaf of bread? And what’s the best way to store it?

Our breads can be kept at room temperature for up to two days, in the bags we provide, that are designed especially for bread. Once they reach room temperature and the baking process is complete, we recommend closing the bag and storing the bread in a cupboard or a bread box. Another option is to store it in a linen bag but to prevent the bread drying out it shouldn’t be sliced in advance. If you prefer to freeze the bread and defrost a few slices at a time, you should slice it carefully with a serrated knife that has rounded teeth. The sliced bread should be kept in the freezer in a well-sealed plastic bag.

Is it true that while bread keeps at room temperature for about two days, baguettes dry out much faster?

The time it takes a bread to dry out depends on the shape of the bread and the type of flour. A baguette, which is long and narrow, has a lot of crust and less crumb, so it dries out quickly. Loaves of bread which are shorter and thicker dry out more slowly and round loaves last the longest at room temperature because they have a large amount of crumb relative to their crust. The type of flour also plays a part. Baguettes are made with white flour that dries out faster. Rye flour and whole wheat flour allow the bread to retain its moisture longer.

But it’s hard to cut equal slices from a round loaf…

True. And that’s why I always recommend using the big slices to make sandwiches for big kids, and the small ones for the small children. Actually, the round loaves are the traditional loaves that were baked in Europe. To be more economical, they operated the neighborhood or village oven only once a week and everyone baked round breads that lasted for several days. Today, the shelf life is less-relevant, because we can freeze our bread or buy a fresh loaf every day. However, the round shape has remained and there’s something romantic about it.

That’s right. And apart from romance, what’s the difference between your breads and the health breads you can get from a large bakery?

The difference is immense as far as the ingredients are concerned. Industrial so-called health breads contain corn flour, soy and all sorts of baking enhancers and additives that increase the volume of the bread, extend its shelf life and improve the color. Our bread is made of flour alone, and mainly whole wheat flour. And with respect to process, we do everything by hand. Each and every loaf receives individual attention and human contact, and is allowed to come into being at the pace that suits it best. All our employees understand and are involved in the entire process. Bread that is created in such an environment is completely different from that produced by machines, which is never touched by a human hand. And the significance is not merely romantic. Machines can only work with a dry type of dough, of a certain texture, and in fact the ingredients used and the method of production are dictated by these. Quantities also make a difference. When producing relatively small quantities, the bread maker is not worn out, and it’s possible to achieve the ideal that we aspire to – bread that is nutritious, healthy and delicious.

So there must be a price difference, right?

Hard to believe, but no! The average price of a health bread produced by a large or industrial bakery is about the same as ours.

We started with health, moved on to taste and color, and finished up with romance and price. As far as I'm concerned we've covered it all.

Almost. There are a few other things I wanted to tell you, but we’ll save them for next time.