To Wheat, or Not to Wheat

I have the best childhood memories of bread… the smell of glorious fresh baked bread, straight from
the oven.

Actually, that’s a total lie. My mother was not one for cooking or baking, but I am sure that’s a familiar memory for some of you. No, my memories consist of the charred crusts of cheesy jaffles bubbling and spitting on our camp fire. The warm, crispy brown rolls topped with tooth-chipping stampkoring from the local bakery. Those were strictly for crayfishing days in Kommetijie.

Rolls filled with middlecut fish salad and sand. I have to be honest here, not all my bread related memories are remembered fondly. One that sticks in my mind was the terror of standing in front of the bread slicer at Grand Bazaars supermarket in Mowbray, watching that loaf of fresh bread chugging its way through the razor sharp blades with precision. It’s the stuff nightmares are made of. The delicious pillowy slices, with peanut butter and jam made up for it though. I’ve been cooking professionally for the last sixteen years. In that time, I feel there’s been an unprecedented increase in dietary intolerances. The one that crops up most frequently is gluten intolerance, and I have to ask myself, why that is. Have people taken celiac disease and turned it into a dietary trend…a lifestyle choice, like paleo or veganism?

Please don’t get me wrong, millions of people suffer daily with diagnosed and undiagnosed celiac disease. They suffer from a myriad of symptoms, ranging from gastric discomfort and IBS, to joint pain and fatigue. The problem here is that with the advent of “doctor Google”, everyone is able to self-diagnose, and seeing as “gluten-free” has become a household expression, it is my belief that it occasionally ends up being the scapegoat for other problems.

For those suffering every time they indulge in a braai toastie, consider this. Do you have the same reaction when you eat mac ‘n cheese, or couscous? If the answer is no, I might have some insight on the subject. There is another possible culprit. One that results in identical symptoms, and one that, although not widely known, is statistically more likely to affect the masses.

That would be yeast! According to studies in USA, United Kingdom, and India, gluten effected less than 3% of the test groups, as opposed to yeast effecting 14%. I don’t intend on going to heavily into the science, but here’s a summary of the causes and effects. A simple Google search will give you a full explanation and all the statistics on these studies.

Yeast is essential in the production of bread. The leavening agent needs a significant amount of time to ferment. During the fermentation, the yeast serves to destroy the harmful elements in the dough and make the important nutrients available to the human body. Industrially manufactured breads are more often than not, manufactured using enormous amounts of yeast and additives (don’t get me started) that allow the bread to be made in record time, to be incredibly light, and have an extended shelf life. The amount of yeast renders it toxic to some people.

Fortunately, for those suffering with yeast intolerance, there is a simple solution. You don’t have to suffer with bread envy any longer. You can have your toastie and eat it too. Sourdough is a simple possible solution. It’s in the name. The yeast has had chance ferment, usually over night, so that the toxins have been eliminated. Another option is the decadent, delicious and not-so- humble croissant. Authentic croissants have a minimum production time of 36 hours. As a side note, the straight ones are supposed to be laminated with butter, while the crescent shaped ones are done with margarine (but that’s a blog for another time). So in conclusion, gluten-intolerance, although a prevalent dietary problem, has had a pretty bad rap these last few years. More and more supermarkets and bakeries have included sourdough to their bread selection. Bread is just so good, so why would you deprive yourself unnecessarily. Just eat it.


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