Saturday, July 25, 2009


Bread is a loosely used expression to describe a variety of preparations from wheat and some other grains using yeast or baking powder or without any raising agents. Wheat bead has its origin in the neolithic era and there are flat breads like roti, chapathi, parota and naan in India, lavashs, taboons and sangaks from Iran, tortilla from Mexico made from corn, Scottish oat cake, pita bread of middle east, injera of Ethiopia based on Teff cereal etc. The name pound bread derives its name from the approximate weight of a loaf of bread made by yeast leavening though variables in the recipe and making method may give less than a pound or 16 oz. There are of course 1 1/2 pound and 2 pound breads also made by few bakeries. Generally recipe for a loaf is considered on the basis of 100% flour and other ingredients are incorporated as a percentage of the flour. A typical white bread recipe will have 100 parts of flour, 65 parts water, 0.25-0.50 part yeast, 0.5 part malt, 2 parts salt, 6 parts sugar, 6 parts skim milk solids and 4 parts shortening. There is also a 'pound cake' which is based on equal proportion of four ingredients (1:1:1:1), wheat flour, butter, eggs and sugar.

Original process called straight dough method took several hours, especially for optimum yeast fermentation but advent of Chorleywood bread process in 1961 cut down the time dramatically and made it possible to make bread manufacture continuously instead of earlier batch type. Use of intensive mixing through mechanical equipment and bread improvers like L-cysteine, potassium bromate, ascorbic, phosphates, amylase, protease give bread with excellent sponginess and elasticity. Wheat with 11% to 18% gluten content decides the quality of the bread and higher the protein better will be the quality of the end product. Quick breads and soda breads are made using baking powder and usually muffins, pancakes, sweet breads and banana breads are prepared using this process.

With India switching over to metric system, unlike Americans, pound bread became '400 gm bread', chopping off a neat 53 gm from the loaf. Progressively the loaf started becoming leaner and leaner and thousands of small bakeries to day offer to the consumer loaves weighing 250-280 gm per piece while in the organized sector packed breads still make 300 gm and 400 gm loaves with label declaration. Most of the consumers take it for granted that they are getting a pound loaf without realizing that they are short changed in the process. As there are no strict regulations to force the industry to make a 16 oz bread to be eligible to be called a pound loaf, the concept of pound bread has become a part of history. It is funny that most small bakeries do not pack their product in the strict sense though paper and polythene wrapping is common in front of the buyer, thus obviating the need for any label declaration or transparency.

Bread making machines are usually designed to give a pound loaf as determined by the recipe and volume of the bread making chamber. Home baking is practically non-existent in India and therefore many people have no idea about a pound loaf, satisfied with what they are getting from the street corner bakery. If consumer interest is to be protected, there must be some standardization regarding the weight of bread and unorganized sector needs to be disciplined with regard to their obligation to deliver a definite quantity of bread for the price charged by them. If organized bakery industry can sell 400 gm of bread at Rs 11-14 why should the small baker should charge same price or more for less than 70% of what the former is offering? A vexing question in a country which has got into the 'free market' band wagon in search of growth and development and price control by force is an anathema. Probably in the interest of the consumer, government can at least make it mandatory for the small bakers to declare the weight and the price on each loaf of bread before delivey or make them declare the same boldly through bill boards at a prominent place inside their shops.


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