VEGA News Item

Beer or Bread: Ingredients or Processing Aids? - 11/08/2009

Froth and Fermentation in Real Foods

1. Recording results of a survey of 1000 adults for the Campaign for Real Ale (Camra), Mike Benner, Chief Executive of Camra, said that the findings “show the increasing consumer demand for wider choice, top quality, and generally for local produce.”  This is not unalloyed good news. He added: “Such good news comes when pubs continue to close at a rate of over 7 a day, which has a huge impact on community life.  It must not be forgotten that real ale can generally only be bought in pubs, therefore with greater popularity for Britain’s national drink comes further much-needed publicity for community pubs.”  He was speaking just before Camra’s Great British Beer Festival, which opened in London on Tuesday, 4th August 2009, with more than 450 beers on sale from some of the country’s 670 brewers – more than at any time since WW2.

2. Real Bread (Camreb) followed Camra and Real Meat succeeded both in its commercial sales and standards.  Bread and beer being essentially fermentation products derived from carbohydrates in cereals the processes have attracted new attention in terms of the environment, carbon footprinting, sociology and their original expressions in agronomics, nutrition, and animal welfare.  The significance of by-products and co-products, climate change and emissions count in assessing the types of substrates (feedstocks) and utilization of by-products and even of upgrading, eg of volatiles as possible fuels.  Nothing new in that:  oats served as food for the plowman and feed for this horse, which functioned as the powerful tractor.  With fermentation with yeasts the grists and worts yield nutritious beverages and sources (in ethanol, left in the liquor or distilled off, for fuel); in bread-making this fuel is lost, with most of the carbon dioxide, into the atmosphere.

3. In brewing the added “live” yeast reproduces, so there’s more at the end of the process, when the rising content of alcohol ends the fermentation (addition of sugar might keep it going a little longer, up to barley-wine strengths).  Yeasts are similar in many ways to animal organisms and so may be applied in the 3Rs approach – Refinement, Reduction, and Replacement – to alternatives to experimentation and testing on live animals.  However, the final yeasts are surplus to requirements for further beer-making batches and can be treated as proteinaceous by-products – the food-yeasts, such as Marmite.  Or special fermentations may be set up in order to produce alcohols of the longer-chain butyl series or the feedstocks may be of the C3 botanical type (with materials
from plants grown in a temperature climate or the C4 sub-type, such as sugar cane, a tropical plant, or maize, a crop of temperature and sub-tropical farming –  and a late and mucky harvest sometimes in the UK if wet weather ensues upon  already sodden experiences.  Weather, climate change, and harvesting – together  with farm-to-fork collaboration in the marketing and promotion (and attention  by cookery-writers and caterers) – will decide the future of home-grown soya in  Britain.  The results of last year’s crop are working their pioneering way into the  market, thanks to possibilities seen, Green Plan-style, by Bird’s Eye and the  supermarkets.  Soya and linseed flours are popular components in choices  among Real Breads.

4. Food-yeasts and further research into them languished as developments in the production of the cheap, oven-ready broiler captured an enormous market for a convenient proteinaceous food.  It had the further advantage of harvesting and “crop” replacement 5 or 6 times a year, so farmers received fairly steady periods during a single year of income; the dairy/beef/veal system has similar commercial attributes, whereas most cereal growers manage only one harvest a year:  most of the farmers will be at the mercy of a chancey demand, subject to all sorts of financial and climatic interferences, and for which most of the year passes with only one payment to be received (on the assumption that at least some of the crop can be recovered after “Acts of God”).  Further, the vast areas in continents spanning wide ranges of latitudes below 50° allow contractors 4 or 5 months of use of costly harvesting gear as they progress up the latitudes, whereas contractors in Northern Europe will be using the equipment for only a couple of months as the combines work their way starting from about now, to clearing the fields of the crop and trash, killing off stubbles, breaking cycles of pesticides, and sowing winter-cereals before the beginning of October and the harvest festivals, succeeded, with luck, in good order for a crop that will be already showing its face to the sun by the end of the year and budgeted on prices on international trade controlled by markets in Chicago.

5. Further, British cereal farmers will incur serious costs, losses, and delays if the crop comes in wet and needs expensive drying and use of fuels and power.  Late crops, eg maize, raise the risks of heavy machinery bogged down and damaging the soil and drainage; and a lot of slippery mess on roads.

Culture and Custom
6. Almost every religion and language contains references, allusions, and fables to the results of negligence and failure in harvesting, preparation, reward, and metaphor associated with bread, dough, wine, storage, fermentation, and festivals.  Some celebrations have been fitted into religious rituals from pagan practices.  Risen loaves and cereals suitable for such developments are examples of recent, inevolutionary terms, food technology.  Populations with allergies or intolerances are likely to increase and survive by careful choice of their diets, as well as resort to results of research in the food industry.  Supermarkets are now  selling oats that consumers with some common gluten enteropathies (such as  celiac disease) can enjoy in their diets.  This advance has been achieved by  dedicating mills and farms to production and processing of cereal crops  uncontaminated by wheat, barley, rye, triticale etc and where batch-to-batch  carryover and cleaning out have been rigorously controlled.
7. The Camra Festival was one of the biggest yet.  It was a truly international affair, but with many of the small local breweries representing fiscal benefits awarded to such artisanal activities by George Brown, when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer.  Such favors from the Treasury might be extended to local bakeries; however, the cereals imported for bread-making are likely to include hard, hi-protein varieties for making an acceptable wholemeal loaf.  It could happen, however, that a French wheat named Highbury would make bread suitable especially for Arsenal fans.

8. Some misunderstandings need to be cleared up that are common to beer and bread.  The fermentations depend on enzymes produced, for better or worse, design or accident, by microorganisms such as fungi and bacteria, some of which may be added for special purposes, eg working with special grists and at special temperatures.  Like, say, a ruminant with a fermentative forestomach (the rumen for chewing the cud, and the 4th stomach for digestive purposes like a human’s) and a human with a fermentative hind-gut (the colon) the processes of beer-or-bread-making and of malting depend on fermentations and enzymes and trapping a release of volatiles such as CO2 and ethanol, which audits of carbon footprinting and greenhouse gases must take into account.  Disposals of stale bread, as in sandwiches, may require mechanical processes and fermentations to run carbon-neutral operations with a minimum of emissions and loss of power.

9. Some of the processing aids, such as yeasts, may count in the original tally of ingredients in making bread or brewing beer and not be identifiable in the final products, as in bread, or notable as augmented components, as in beer-making.  Labelling and descriptions of final products may ignore yeast on the one hand or include it among the other ingredients and nutrients and profiling in the other.  Chemical and physical processes and even the composition and additives in the water used at the start of heat-treatments will causes losses and other changes during the baking and heating involved in making bread and beer, changes of color, texture, and weight, as well as smells, accompanying the changes and evaporations.  Although added water may be lost by evaporation, involatile components, such as minerals (which could include fluoride) are not and become trapped.  Likewise, the results of chemical reactions, such as acrylamide, may linger.

10. The composition of a final loaf or cake may not weigh in as a sum of the original parts of the mixture for the dough or wort.  Such uncertainties accompany other processed foods and have to be accepted in the data provided in our Portfolio of Eating Plans.  Analysis of all the final products would cost a lot for each one.  Advances in  computerized analyses may simplify many of the challenges, with the help of  flame photometry, mass spectrometry and various forms of chromatography and  isotope identifications, in bench-top equipment that yields authentication of  provenance and terroir and even of proteins and other components derived from plants or from animals.   Moreover, such methods are being applied in non-invasive measurements on  human hair, finger and toe-nails and bodily fluids and excretions.  Advances in  nutrigenomics bid far to cater more ably for individual needs and tastes.   Evolution hasn’t stopped.

11. What happens to that “disappearing” yeast remains a mystery.  The breakdown products may no longer leaven bred, but they may have other biological functions; they may even be immunogenic or environmental contaminants.  Similar doubts overhang the bits and pieces circulating in the blood or excreted after an infection and the residues and metabolites of drugs used in cures.

Conditioning and Chill Proofing – or Not
12. Filtering agents to clarify fruit drinks and beers or wines may be counted as processing aids that are not left in the final product as eaten or drunk.  However, they may offend the principles of some consumers, because they are gelatinous materials obtained from fish (eg isinglass), other animal gelatines and albumens, polysaccharides obtained by mariculture (eg alginates), or mineral earths (such as fullers’ earths), eg bentonite.  Beers need not be so chill–proofed or fining, but left as in conditioning to settle slowly and be sold cloudy, depositing a sediment.  Conditioning in the cask usually involves fining; most bottled beers are sold fined or pasteurized in the bottle.  The cloudiness represents residual ferments still working, so pressure can build up, as with champagne, in the bottle.  Camra’s Beer Week would have illustrated such matters, but the supermarkets did well with impressive arrays of unfiltered continental wheat beers that illustrate these points.  These beers may be light in color (therefore “white” or weiss”, which may cause confusion because the German word for wheat is Weizen).  They need treatment with respect at 5 to 6% alcohol by volume.

Mechanized Bread Making
13. Mechanization can reduce the drudgery of harvesting cereal crops can similar artifices remove some of the labor in home-baking, with all the rituals of kneading replaced by machines in the kitchen that will do a variety of jobs.  It appears that versatile machines now satisfy Martyn Hocking, Editor of Which; who says that “a stylish breadmaker packed full of programs and features can be bought for around £100, but you don’t have to pay all that to get your hands on a decent machine.  Good models are available for between £40 and £80, and supermarket own-brand ones are even cheaper” (and we mustn’t forget that VAT is due to rise to pre-recession levels or higher at the end of the year.  It’s not too soon for a leavening of pre-Christmas hints).

14. Martyn Hocking continues: “You can save money by making your own bread, but the big benefit is that you can choose exactly what ingredients you use, which means you can limit your intake of salt or sugar….Baking your own bread can also be more satisfying than buying it, and there’s nothing like the smell of freshly-baked bread in the morning.”  Breadmakers can produce white, brown, wholemeal, and granary loaves and some can produce a variety of speciality breads as well.  They usually offer a variety of baking programs and you can select different loaf sizes or crust finishes.  Alternatively, if you want to make bread rolls, buns, or croissants you can use a breadmaker to do all the labor-intensive kneading and then remove the dough, leave it to rise and bake it in the oven.  Nearly all breadmakers can also bake cakes and come with a selection of recipes to get you started.  Most machines don’t mix the ingredients, though, so you’ll have to do any stirring, beating, and folding yourself, with the breadmaker only taking care of the baking cycle.  You can also use them to make jam and knead pasta dough.  Here’s another choice for consumers adding to their interest in carefully-made bread.  The day is dawning for a Camreb event to match Camra's.  For further details and comparisons try www.whichcompare.co.uk



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