NATIONAL BAKING TRADITIONS

To the honour of the bread – a Ukrainian point of view

 

It is fair to say, in the Ukraine we love bread, slowly fermented according to traditions, where the smells and tastes of the Motherland have accumulated over centuries. Slavonic people living abroad miss their chunk of traditional sourdough White and Rye bread the most.
Statistics show that in 2011 consumption of bread products in the Ukraine was more than 110 kg per person: 50% of this amount being Wheat white bread, 30% Rye bread, and 20% other bread products such as sweet rolls and biscuits. By comparison, UK bread product consumption was less than 50 kg per head, 75% of which is Wheat white bread (ref: http://thebakerymoments.weebly.com).
In the Ukraine bread is treated with respect and has a special place and meaning. It is a country symbol representing well-being and prosperity, and we believe it is a sin to throw away a slice of bread. I remember, every year on the very first day of school we always had a lesson to the “Honour of Bread”, talking about tired baker’s hands and the long hard working journey from sowing wheat seeds to the ready loaf on your table.
We have a tradition where special rich celebration bread “Karavay”, accompanied by salt, is given by parents as a blessing to newly wedded couples. It symbolizes that they are giving their children bread and salt, the most important luxury gifts for a happy life together.
Bread in the Ukraine and Russia (former USSR states) is and always has been the main product for many families and is known as the “head of the table”. Due to the status of bread, production is still under strong state control.

Mass Production in the Ukraine:

Most bread, approximately 90%, is produced using traditional techniques of long fermentation based on starters – here in the UK the process is associated with Artisan bread making.
To achieve better quality of texture, porosity and flavour, leavens are used to prepare a “starter”. Leavens are different: for wheat bread they contain predominately live yeast, for rye bread it is a combination of yeast and lacto bacteria. Lactic acid fermentation is essential for rye bread; it creates a specific acidic environment required by rye proteins to create a nice soft sponge texture.
Large scale bakeries are working 24 hours, baking sourdough bread and preparing starters for the next shift – from 100 kg portions for batch production to 600 kg per section for continuous line production. The main characteristics of the starter and sourdough (temperature, acidity and humidity) are controlled by the shift technologist to ensure that a consistent quality of bread will be achieved.
It is not allowed to use any artificial additives in mass production and therefore bread is produced using flour, water, yeast and salt. Some natural additives are used such as rye and barley malt, wheat bran, sugar, treacle, margarine, sunflower oil, dry milk powder, milk whey and seeds for special types of bread and rolls.
Bread shelf life is stated under regulations to be 24-48 hours which creates a big pressure for bakers to produce, distribute and sell; however it is also a national habit to have fresh loaves every day.

Why do we love long fermentation?

Firstly, sourdough bread is part of the traditional Slavonic culture. In cold snowy Russia rye bread used to be a source of vitamins and micro-nutrient. Some rye bread recipes such as “Borodinskiy”, nation’s favourite, came from the 14th & 15th centuries and are still produced according to original techniques!
Secondly, traditional techniques due to the processes of lactic acid, and alcoholic fermentation give the loaf unforgettable aromas, unique flavours, and a wonderful spongy light texture. Although State regulations dictate 1-2 days shelf life on packaging, sourdough bread products stay fresh longer due to accumulated natural preservatives. Moreover, the biochemistry of bread shows that through the long 6-12 hours multistage fermentation process decompose wheat proteins (glutenins) and turn it to harmless easy to digest forms of amino acids.

It is a fact that traditional bread is the source of all eight essential amino acids. Essential amino acids cannot be synthesized in the human body and must be supplied with food, making sourdough bread an important part of a daily diet.

People and serious health problems eating gluten! – an observation!

It is a shame to hear so often that bread could be dangerous (gluten, of course). Why after thousands of years of history (the Egyptians started to use fermentation for baking bread 5-6 thousand years ago!) bread has suddenly become an enemy?
New fast bread production methods were introduced in the 1960’s and for the last 30 years the numbers of gluten intolerant cases have increased: “ Studies show that in Europe, USA and elsewhere Coeliac disease has increased as much as 4 times in the last 30 years.(source; http://www.glutenfreehelp.co.uk/medical-research.html). Since 1979 dry gluten as an additive has been widely used in the food industry… has this compounded the problem?

We should not blame naturally produced real bread!

Tatiana Shrimpton, BSc.(Hons.) in Bread Production and Fermentation Processes, National University of Food Technologies, Kiev, Ukraine
Special thanks to Ron Shrimpton, MSc. HRM

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