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Brown bread is one of the most popular varieties of bread, enjoyed by people the world over. Each country has its own recipe and specialties when it comes to making brown bread. Brown bread is made with significant amounts of whole grain flour like wheat or rye, and may use ingredients like molasses, coffee and caramel for colouring. It retains the bran and germ of the wheat flour, and hence all the essential nutrients and fibre remain intact — making it the preferred choice of the health conscious. It is available in many forms, such as bread rolls, bread buns and loaves.
Brown bread usually contains five main ingredients: wheat or rye flour, salt, sugar, water and yeast. To make bread, ensure that you scale and weigh the ingredients properly. Once that is done, you can start preparing the dough. The dough should be fermented for the proper length of time to yield properly aerated dough. During fermentation, the yeast cells act on the sugars and produce carbon dioxide and alcohol. Once fermented, the dough will rise in volume because of gas retention. This risen dough is punched to release the gases and covered under a wet muslin cloth. The dough will rise once again and needs to be punched again to remove the gases. It is then rolled into desired shapes and baked.
Bread dough can be shaped into various sizes and designs. Bakers might also use various additives, collectively known as Bread Improvers to produce loaves with better keeping properties, finer texture, softer crumbs, added bloom or enhanced flavour. Bread additives include mineral additives, enriching agents or yeast foods like malt sugar, Demerara sugar, etc.
When brown bread is a little old, it can be dried in the oven or toasted on an open flame and then ground into bread crumbs. Alternatively, bread can be cubed and deep-fried to make croutons, which can be stored for a longer time.
Staleness in bread is the dryness and crumbliness felt by the palate. The flavour gets insipid as the bread gets stale. Staling happens because of changes in the starch. Thus, staling is a shift of moisture within the loaf rather than its loss. Thus, bread makers use anti-staling agents like lecithin, soya flour, GMS etc. to improve texture and increase volume.
How to select
• Always buy fresh brown bread; you can check the freshness using the crust texture and aroma of the bread.
• Never buy without checking the manufacturing date, expiry date and packaging.
• A brown bread loaf can be thinly or thickly sliced as per recipe requirement. Maintain or discard the crust during slicing.
• Sliced brown bread loaves are most commonly used to make sandwiches with various fillings like vegetables, shredded chicken, salami, cheese, jam, etc. They can also be made in various styles: toasted or grilled, open toasts, hot dog rolls, submarines, etc.
• Brown bread is a good accompaniment for soups. These breads are usually in the form of bread rolls, Grissini sticks etc.
• Brown bread, when baked into buns, acts as a base for burgers. Burger buns are usually sprinkled with poppy seeds or sesame seeds.
• Butter a few slices of brown bread and rub some garlic on each slice. Cut into cubes and bake in the oven till crisp. Use as croutons for soups. These can also be flavoured with herbs, cheese etc.
• Bread dough can be stuffed with a creamy sauce cooked with vegetables like sweet corn, mushrooms, herbs and cheese, and then baked – to make a great mid-day snack.
• You can roll bread dough thinly and then top with poppy seeds, sesame seeds etc. Cut into thin strips or into triangles and then bake till golden brown and crisp. These strips can be used as crackers or as a garnish for salads.
How to store
• It is better to consume brown bread fresh. However, if you wish to store it for longer, cover in plastic film, place in a bread box and store under refrigerated conditions. Try and use as soon as possible.
• Alternatively, grind into bread crumbs or cube and deep-fry to make bread croutons, which can be stored in an airtight container for few days.
• Bread that is kept in warm or moist conditions is prone to mould. So avoid such environments.
• Those who are aiming for weight loss or are otherwise health conscious should prefer brown bread, since it has much less calories than the white one and also keeps you feeling full for a longer time (owing to the fibre content).
• Brown Breads are high in fibre and other nutrients as compared to white bread since the flour is not processed much.
• The fibre present in brown bread can help reduce the risk of some chronic diseases like constipation etc. It also helps keep the blood sugar at lower levels, thus helping one to manage diabetes better.
• Since fibre help lowers LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol) and the total cholesterol, whole wheat brown bread has been associated with reducing the risk of heart disease.
• They can add healthy vitamins, minerals and fats to the body.
• Eating as a slice of brown bread before bedtime is known to reduce anxiety and promote sleep.