Preparing and Making Bread

To prepare and make bread

Buying Bread


Look for: Fresh bread. Check the date on closed packages of commercial bread.


Storing Bread


Store bread at room temperature, in a tightly closed plastic bag (the best protection) or in a breadbox. How long bread stays fresh depends to a great extent on how much fat it contains. Bread made with some butter or other fat will keep for about three days at room temperature. Bread made without Eat (Italian bread, French bread) will dry out in just a few hours; for longer storage, wrap it in foil, put it inside a plastic bag, and freeze it. When you are ready to serve the French or Italian bread, you can remove it from the plastic bag and put the foil-wrapped loaf directly into the oven.


Throw away moldy bread. The molds that grow on bread may produce carcinogenic toxins.


Do not store fresh bread in the refrigerator; bread stales most quickly at temperatures just above freezing. The one exception: In warm, humid weather, refrigerating bread slows the growth of molds.


When You Are Ready to Serve Bread


Use a serrated knife to cut bread easily.


What Happens When You Bake Bread


Toasting is a chemical process that caramelizes sugars and amino acids (proteins) on the surface of the bread, turning the bread a golden brown. This chemical reaction, known both as the browning reaction and the Maillard reaction (after the French chemist who first identified it), alters the structure of the surface sugars, starches, and amino acids. The sugars become indigestible food fiber; the amino acids break into smaller fragments that are no longer nutritionally useful. Thus toast has more fiber and less protein than plain bread. However, the role of heat-generated fibers in the human diet is poorly understood. Some experts consider them inert and harmless; others believe they may be hazardous.


How Other Kinds of Processing Affect Bread


Freezing. Frozen bread releases moisture that collects inside the paper, foil, or plastic bag in which it is wrapped. If you unwrap the bread before defrosting it, the moisture will be lost and the bread will be dry. Always defrost bread in its wrappings so that it can reabsorb the moisture that keeps it tasting fresh.


Drying. Since molds require moisture, the less moisture a food contains, the less likely it is support mold growth. That is why breadcrumbs and Melba toast, which are relatively moisture-free, keep better than fresh bread. Both can be ground fine and used as a toasty-flavored thickener in place of flour or cornstarch.


Medical Uses and/or Benefits of Bread


A lower risk of some kinds of cancer. In 1998, scientists at Wayne State University in Detroit conducted a meta-analysis of data from more than 30 well-designed animal studies measuring the anti-cancer effects of wheat bran, the part of grain with highest amount of the insoluble dietary fibers cellulose and lignin. They found a 32 percent reduction in the risk of colon cancer among animals fed wheat bran; now they plan to conduct a similar meta-analysis of human studies. Breads made with whole grain wheat are a good source of wheat bran. NOTE: The amount of fiber per serving listed on a food package label shows the total amount of fiber (insoluble and soluble).


Early in 1999, however, new data from the long-running Nurses Health Study at Brigham Women's Hospital/Harvard University School of Public Health showed that women who ate a high-fiber diet had a risk of colon cancer similar to that of women who ate a low fiber diet. Because this study contradicts literally hundreds of others conducted over the past 30 years, researchers are awaiting confirming evidence before changing dietary recommendations.


Calming effect. Mood is affected by naturally occurring chemicals called neurotransmitters that facilitate transmission of impulses between brain cells. The amino acid tryptophan amino acid is the most important constituent of serotonin, a "calming" neurotransmitter. Foods such as bread, which are high in complex carbohydrates, help move tryptophan into your brain, increasing the availability of serotonin.


Adverse Effects Associated with Bread


Allergic reactions and/or gastric distress. Bread contains several ingredients that may trigger allergic reactions, aggravate digestive problems, or upset a specific diet, among them gluten (prohibited on gluten-free diets); milk (prohibited on a lactose- and galactose-free diet or for people who are sensitive to milk proteins); sugar (prohibited on a sucrose-free diet); salt (controlled on a sodium-restricted diet); and fats (restricted or prohibited on a controlled-fat, low-cholesterol diet).

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