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Handmade, Slow Rise

Allergy Advice

Sadly, some people have problems digesting bread and other wheat products.


Mild wheat intolerance


Sometimes this is a result of insufficient fermentation in modern doughs, ending up in a practically raw, doughy bread that is harder work for our stomachs to break down. If you suffer a mild intolerance when eating bread, but not when eating other wheat-based products such as pasta, this may well be your problem. The good news is that slowly made breads such as ours will probably cause you no problems at all. As with all food allergies, it is best to proceed with caution, starting off with a spelt bread (made with an ancient variety of wheat that our tummies are used to), and then progressing slice by slice to other slow-rise loaves such as our multigrain or bordelais.


If you find that you cannot eat any kind of wheat, including pasta, cakes and biscuits, it is worth trying a bread made with another grain, such as rye. Rye is not wheat, it is a different plant altogether, and is therefore suitable for many people with wheat allergies. Check that the loaf is 100% rye, and remember that it is a very different, but equally delicious, product to a wheat loaf. I prefer to keep mine in the fridge, which I would never do with a wheat loaf. Rye bread is not suitable for coeliacs as it contains gluten.


Yeast allergies


Many people experiencing discomfort after eating bread assume they have a yeast allergy, but this is actually very rare.


Usually the problem is that modern bread is made far too quickly, giving the flour no time to ferment and become more easily digestible. It is a little like making a white sauce but not cooking the flour, so it is stodgy and makes you feel heavy and uncomfortable. Commercial white breads are typically mixed, moulded, baked and cooled in 35-40 minutes, whereas our bread takes 3 days!


Breads that are made quickly need improvers, flour treatment agents, and a lot more yeast to give the fast rise, hence the confusion over yeast allergies. It is not the added yeast that is making your stomach turn, but why it is being added, ie. To speed up (and mostly eliminate) fermentation, making the flour less edible.


Coeliac sufferers


Coeliac disease is a serious allergy to gluten, which can be life threatening. Gluten is a protein found in all wheat grains (including spelt) and rye.


When mixed with water, the gluten in wheat flour becomes long and stringy, and with further mixing these strands develop into a flexible and resilient network that supports the dough, allowing it to rise and giving bread its airy consistency. Gluten is essential for bread production, and all breads contain it. Rye breads contain less gluten, and are more dense as a result, but they are still not suitable for coeliacs.


None of our products at Vicky’s bread are totally gluten free. It is possible to make doughs with flours made from potatoes or rice that contain no gluten, but in our small bakery we could never guarantee that a stray wheat grain had not jumped into our gluten-free mix, so I regret that we cannot make a gluten-free product for coeliacs.


The range of gluten-free products available in health food shops and even the supermarkets has improved hugely in recent years, and of course the internet is a fantastic source of information on decent tasting gluten-free products and recipes. I am not an expert on gluten-free baking (let’s face it, gluten is our thing!), but in the brief experiments I have tinkered with, I find Doves Farm gluten free flour fairly good to work with, adding a teaspoon of xanthan gum for every 300g of flour I use. The gum helps the dough to stick together a bit better, and adding a bit of ground pepper and maybe some mixed herbs as well as salt adds a bit of flavour. Although gluten-free breads are never going to imitate wheat-bases loaves, I find gluten-free doughs make fairly passable pizza bases, even for people who are used to eating wheat breads, and there are also some pretty good pancake mixes out there using rice flour, which I would eat with enthusiasm, and I’m a die-hard wheat fanatic!


Good luck and happy baking!