FASHION IN bread runs in about the same hyperbolic swing as fashion in suntans.
During the Middle Ages the nobs demanded their bread be white as a reflection of their pure, refined taste.Their skins were white too. Only laborers got brown bread or skins. According to Mariana Honig, author of "breads of the World," "this in turn led some millers to mix anything from chalk dust or alum to ground ivory into their flour. Small wonder that they developed reputations as scoundrels and thieves.
Even later in America, finding an honest miller was considered noteworthy, and so it was that Abraham Lincoln became known as 'honest Abe' when working as a youth in a small Illinois flour mill."
Even later -- after sociologists discovered leisure time as a result of the division of labor -- when tanned skins became a symbol of desirable sloth and wheat bread was hip, millers were still trying to rip people off.
In 1978 there was the hot-selling, mail order No-Hunger Bread -- a whole wheat bread that claimed to miraculously stop appetite and hunger, prevent colon disorders, cancer, heart attacks, constipation, appendicitis, vericose veins, phlebitis, hemorrhoids and obesity. The Food and Drug Administration didn't agree, so they seized the remaining supply.
And there was the Fresh Horizon's/Schmidt's Blue Ribbon High Fiber Bread which shocked American housewives by containing "powdered cellulose" as a high-fiber filler. Powdered cellulose turned out to be wood pulp. Nutritionists felt people should get their fiber from whole grains, not sawdust.
Although the Wonderbread commercials claim that their "enriched" white bread has just as many nutrients as 100 perecent whole wheat bread, consumers are being led astray. White bread contains neither the fiber nor the innate nutrients of whole wheat -- just acquired added nutrients. A Q-T versus Caribbean tan.
Which, of course, leads up to the reason why we have listed below some Washington bakers who make 100 percent whole wheat bread. Out of the 50 or so bakeries in the area only a small portion bother to make whole wheat bread because, in the opinion of Han's Pastry Shoppe of Gaithersburg: "they sell them by the millions in the supermarket. It don't pay me to make any."
Unlike store-bought bread that has an ingredient label you can check, bakery breads usually do not -- only 10 of the bakery breads we tasted had ingredients listed. One baker told us his bread was "100 percent whole wheat bread." However, the ingredient label listed white flour. The baker wasn't actually lying. The portion of wheat flour in the bread was 100 percent whole wheat, but there was white flour added. Watch out for this if you really want bread made entirely of whole wheat flour. BREADS YOU CAN GET A RISE OUT OF
What's in the Oven, Connecticut Connection, 1101 Conn. Ave. NW: Soft, sweet, delicate with a thin grispy crust. Too soft for a sandwich loaf but delicious for cheese, sweet butter or jam(99 cents).
Heidelberg Bakery, 4500 Lee Highway, Arlington: Unsliced, glazed loaf topped with sesame seeds, soft but dense, sweet, doughy, excellent flavor, unanimous approval all around ($1.25). PART-TIME STAFF OF LIFE
Tiffany Bakery, Iverson Mall, Branch Ave. 79 cents: Unsliced, soft, sandwich loaf, closest to white bread. (99cents).
Posin's 5756 Georgia Ave. N W: Presliced bread. Dense, grainy, a good sandwich loaf. Slightly bitter-nutty flavor. ($1).
Heller's Bakery, 3221 Mt Pleasant St. NW: Presliced, small (3 1/2 inches in diameter), sweet molasses flavor, fresh smell, dark stiff crust, best of the sandwich loaves (80 cents).
Woman's Community Bakery, 737 7th St. SE: Have you read a good loaf of bread lately: locally milled organic whole wheat flour, water unrefined safflower oil, wildflower honey, barley-corn malt, yeast vinegar, sea salt. Very fresh, healthy smell, dense texture obviously a good-for-you-bread, but not heavy on flavor, allowing whatever is in the sandwich to come through (70cents).
Shuman's Bakery, 430 S. Washington St., Alexandria: (Unsliced), dry, dusty, slightly sweet, thin rubbery crust, but good texture (89 cents).
Forest Pastry Shop, 4825 First St. North, Arlington: Sliced, sandwich-type loaf, not very wheaty, sweet (78 cents).
The French Bread Factory, 3222 N St. NW: Round loaf, unsliced, whole wheat berries on top, average flavor. However, best crust, very yeasty fresh smell. Lingering salty aftertaste ($1.25). GOES AGAINST THE GRAIN
Shabazz Bakery, 3215 Martin Luther King Ave. SE: Thickly sliced, dense, sweet taste of palm oil.Not enough air holes, too filling, but not offensive (76 cents).
Plaza Bakery, 4112 Wilson Blvd., Arlington: Heavy, bitter, doughy.
More like a sour dough bread than whole wheat.
In January we ran the Arlington County Fair champion bread recipe developed by Betty Rae Stevick. It has been one of the most requested bread recipes this year, and for this reason repeated below.
It is not coarsely textured wheat bread, but delicate and spongy with a thin, crisp crust. It can be made from start to finish in less than 3 hours. WHOLE WHEAT SHOW-OFF BREAD (Makes 3 loaves) 3 cups lukewarm water 2 tablespoons dry yeast 1/2 cup corn oil or unrefined olive oil 1/2 cup honey 2 teaspoons salt 1 egg, beaten 9 to 10 cups whole wheat flour from hard spring or winter wheat
Sprinkle yeast into water in large bowl and let stand until foamy, 5 to 10 minutes. Stir to mix. Add oil, honey, salt and egg. Mix. Stir in 4 cups flour. Beat about 100 times with a wooden spoon until smooth. Let stand for 15 to 45 minutes until bubbly and starting to rise.
Add 5 more cups flour, stirring in one direction. When well mixed, place dough on lightly floured board and knead about 10 minutes, adding up to 1 cup more flour if needed. Place dough in large oiled bowl, smooth side down. Invert so oiled side is up. Cover and let rise in warm place for 1/2 hour or until double in bulk.
Punch down and let rise another hour or until double. Punch down. Divide dough into three portions, Knead each portion 6 or 7 times until smooth.Roll into a log-shaped loaf, firmly pressing on the dough to eliminate bubbles in the center and other parts of the loaf. Turn right-side up with the seam on the bottom and press firmly into the shape of the pan.
Let rise until double, about 1/2 hour.
Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes for a loaf size of (or approximate size) 10 1/4-by-3 5/8 -by-2 5/8 inches, 25 minutes for loaves 8-by-4 1/2-by-2 1/2 inches and 9 1/4-by-5 1/8-by 2 7/8 inches.
Remove from pans and cool on rack.
Hints: It is important to have all ingredients and utensils at least at room temperature, preferably luke warm, before using.
Corn oil allows the bread to slip out of the pan easily after baking when it is used as an ingredient and for oiling the pan. Olive oil is almost as good as corn oil for this purpose. When other oils such as safflower are used, bread tends to stick to the pan.
When working with whole wheat dough remember that the outside may feel dry and the inside sticky. This does not mean you add more flour. If you force more flour into the dough the bread will be heavy.