Reinventing bread to make it tasty and nutritious


The GLP aggregated and excerpted this blog/article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion and analysis.

Before the advent of industrial agriculture, Americans enjoyed a wide range of regional flours milled from diverse wheats, which made flavorful and nutritious breads. For nearly a century, however, America has grown wheat tailored to an industrial system. For the sake of profit and expediency, we forfeited pleasure. Stephen Jones’s Bread Lab’s mission is to make regional grain farming viable, by creating new kinds of wheat that unite the taste and wholesomeness of their ancestors with the robustness of their modern counterparts.

The Industrial Revolution fundamentally altered the process of turning grain into flour. The steel roller mill was a radical departure, because it separated the wheat kernel into bran, germ and endosperm. Before roller mills, all three parts were processed together. As a result, flour was pungent and speckled, because of fragrant oils released from the germ and bits of hardy bran. But those oils turned it rancid in a few weeks. The rise of bread factories also put pressure on plant breeders to make more uniform wheat flour with longer shelf-life.

Jones started his wheat project by digging through seed banks, collecting both heirloom and modern varieties and crossbreeding them. Jones bred for ‘‘flavor, nutrition, funkiness.’’ Each year, Jones and his staff grow between 5,000 and 10,000 kinds of wheat. They have produced wheat with higher  levels of micronutrients; grains that are blue and purple; and wheats that imbue bread with spice and  caramel.

‘‘Much as grapes acquire a sense of place, we are finding so does wheat,’’ Jones says. This fall, he plans to release two varieties that make excellent, nutty, bread. Once released, the cultivars will either be freely distributed or sold affordably to farmers.

Read full, original post: Bread Is Broken

  • Farmer with a Dell

    Activists simply cannot resist falsifying history to suit their agendas. A perfect example is this brainless assertion: “Before the advent of industrial agriculture, Americans enjoyed a wide range of regional flours milled from diverse wheats, which made flavorful and nutritious breads.”

    This wishfully imaginative reminiscence is, of course, entirely incorrect. Seldom did any one family enjoy any particular variety in diet. The single grain on hand might be one cultivar of wheat but more likely corn, rye or oats. Bread (or Johnny cake or biscuit or corn meal mush – whichever was the standby ration) was prepared, day after day, year after year from the same old grain, imperfectly ground at the same old primitive mill. The best of it was inferior and monotonous. The worst of it was barely edible without “sopping” it in one fashion or another. Never did pre-industrial families enjoy anything like the selection of wheat breads we take for granted in modern grocery stores and snooty bodegas.

    In short, “modern” bread was eagerly adopted for it’s uniformity, its consistent quality and its convenience – imagine fine, moist, gluten textured, pre-sliced white bread! Our contemporary sentimentalists wouldn’t fare well at all with the monotonously mediocre table fare of the pre-industrial age. Their cluelessness is a mortal embarrassment to us all and to all of our sainted ancestors.

    So yeah, sure, ‘before the age of industrial agriculture people dined upon an endless variety of magic sponge cakes and flew about effortlessly from place to place on winged unicorns’…I am really quite sick of hearing activists’ asinine revisionist histories.

    • WeGotta

      Says who? You?

      You know what all Americans were eating throughout history?
      How could it not have been varied and regional?
      What you call “imperfectly ground” could also be called “not having everything nutritional stripped out”.

      You know what I am sick of?
      People who defend all the ridiculously stupid things that are actually happening right now which could be (and should be) done better.

      I don’t need to make up anything about history. I just look around at the crap called food (especially industrial pre-sliced white bread) and all the medical problems we have from eating this stuff called food.

      What’s so wrong about some dude doing experiments with different varieties of wheat in order to create different types of bread????
      What’s wrong with this guy discovering different types of food and new ways to eat things?
      What’s more nutritious do you think; wonderbread or this guys bread?

      “Activists”???………….what a crock.

      • Rickinreallife

        Actually, I think you are both right. I’m not sure that dismissing this as an activist fairy tale was necessary, but farmer with a dell makes a valid point. I’m not certain that I agree with the authors description of a utopian past for the ordinary household’s experience with wheat and bread. I don’t disagree with the author’s historical account of the progression of how wheat milling changed a d how wheat itself coalesced toward utility for uniform mass flour and bread production.

        Farmer is probably right that most families did not indulge in a rich diversity of textures and flavors and culinary delights, some Martha Stewart nirvanna. They took what grain they had on hand and had it milled and it had to be used relatively quickly because of the tendency to go rancid and bread making was a utilitarian undertaking. As the aythor points out, today’s fours, though relatively bland, have the advantage of shelf life. The taste a d quality of bread would have declined as thee flour aged. I agree with Farmer that the author is projecting our modern affluent lifestyles and food preservation capabilities to suggest a more utopian view than probably existed.

        But, i bet there was some tasty bread with local and regional variation

        • WeGotta

          What a well reasoned and thoughtful response.

        • Rickinreallife

          I tried to delete my partial post above. It was getting way too long. In the middle of deleting everything, i must have accidentally hit post.

          In short, I somewhat disagree with the author’s implication that the evolution of wheat and bread toward an industrial model is explained by greed. I think the reasons are much more complex and intertwined with changes throughout society. I also question whether the culinary experience for the average joe was as idyllic as the author describes.

          I do very much agree however with the authors theme of tradeoffs that have accompanied technology and industrial organization of bread and flour making. We’ve gained utility, convenience, and food safety at the expense of flavor, diversity and some nutritional aspects. I very much welcome the effort to reintroduce nutritional and cultural elements to bread, starting with the wheat.. I see a parallel with the Renaissance of the craft brewery over the past couple decades. Overall, a good article and I hope the project is succesful.

          • WeGotta

            I agree.
            To me, this is a great thing.
            It creates jobs, diversity, interest, better quality food, strengthens community and is completely 100% science in action.

      • Shadeburst

        Thank you @WeGotta:disqus for choosing your distinctive avatar. Whatever article I’m reading at GLP, as soon as I see your avatar I know to scroll right past it.

        • WeGotta

          My pleasure.
          Glad I can help, even in that way.