A study in old-school bread baking at home
Ever hear of transglutaminase? Do you know what BHT stands for and what it does?
Here's a hint: both could have been in the whole-grain wheat bread you had this morning with breakfast.
For meat processors, transglutaminase is called "meat glue" since a meat processor can use it to assemble pieces of meat and due to transglutaminase's properties, glue them together.
In his new book "The Plant Paradox" Dr. Steven Gundry wrote: "Since 1950, commercial bakers in the United States have replaced the rising agent of yeast with transglutaminase ..."
If you're a label reader, don't look on a bread label for the word "transglutaminase" since you won't find it. Why?
Here's what Gundry wrote: " ... transglutaminase is FDA approved and does not need to appear on product labels." Really? Yup.
I headed over to my supermarket and read some bread and bagel labels. If the label didn't list yeast as an ingredient, I assumed that bread baker's using transglutaminase. Potentially, in yeast-free bread, transglutaminase was being used. Why may that be an issue? Whole grain bread contains lectins (gluten's a lectin; wheat germ's WGA is another) and yeast, as it ferments in a fresh bread dough, consumes those lectins and reduces them.
In his book, Gundry states that when he goes to France, he has no issues with the white bread produced there. Gundry speculates there may be two reasons: white flour versus whole-grain flour and yeast.
BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene) is a human-made antioxidant preservative sometimes used in whole-grain bread and cereals to keep the natural oils from becoming rancid. There are some who believe BHT has issues.
I love bread and have been eating whole-grain, whole wheat bread all my life. Once I learned about transglutaminase, BHT and whole wheat's lectins, I decided that I was going to have to give it up. Just writing that I'd have to give up bread sent a shudder down my spice. Or I could figure out how to make it at home so I could guarantee what's in it.
The website seriouseats.com supplied me with what I believed would turn out to be a delicious sandwich-style bread using only white flour (reducing the whole-grain lectin issue). It's made with yeast (which would go after those yummy lectins while it ferments) and would not require any antioxidant preservative (so long BHT) if I refrigerated it.
That seriouseats.com recipe originated with Rose Levy Beranbaum, the author of "The Bread Bible." Beranbaum used two tablespoons of butter; I went with one tablespoon butter and one tablespoon cold-pressed, organic sesame oil for the added flavor bump. I also used organic white bread flour and fresh yeast. My food processor brought it all together quickly. I spent the most time waiting for my bread to rise (it does that twice). Unlike Beranbaum, I brushed an egg wash on my bread's top to glue on the sesame seeds.
Once my bread went in the oven, I went out to do some yardwork close enough by that I could hear my timer. My partner, Nan, continued working in the kitchen and when cleaning off the stovetop about 10 minutes before my bread was done accidentally bumped the oven temperature up to 500 degrees.
When the timer went off, I came in and opened the oven door and some smoke wafted out. My bread was umm well done. It did turn out to be edible, if somewhat dry. The oven toasting of the sesame seeds didn't hurt the flavor. It wasn't as good as French bread, but it was very good. Give it a try.
• Don Mauer welcomes questions, comments and recipe makeover requests. Write to him at email@example.com.