How Local Can You Get for Bread?
Despite their unavoidable convenience factor, commercially baked breads often fall short when it comes to flavor and nutrition. Now that I’ve been sourcing local baked goods, I’ve all but given up on the grocery store bread aisle. Here are some tips to bring more local breads into your kitchen; you’ll support local businesses and get more nutritious options at the same time.
Making your own bread isn’t really as difficult as it is time consuming. Budgeting time for the dough to rise (and then rise a second time) does take some getting used to, but the payoff is having complete control over the ingredients. A homemade recipe gives you the ability to lower the sodium and sugar content, while increasing the whole grains.
From whole wheat to rye, sourdough to gluten-free breads — bakers’ catalogs offer a wide variety of ingredients and equipment to help bring out your inner baker. Instead of relying on only traditional yeast-leavened breads, add recipes for quick breads and pizza dough to your repertoire as well.
Recipes to Try:
If you’re looking to purchase locally sourced bread, find a local bakery and become a regular. Talk to the baker to learn about his or her style and philosophy. Visit a local farmers market and see the one-of-a-kind creations the bakers in your town are making.
Most local bakeries will feature a wide variety of whole grains and styles of bread, so you can experiment and see what you like. Buy a loaf or two for the week and ask them to slice loaves for you if possible to ensure even slices for easier storage (more on that below).
On a recent trip to the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture in Pocantico Hills, N.Y., I found it truly enlightening to watch bakers mill grains into flours, then bake them into breads right on the premises. You don’t get much more local than that.
Storage and Preservation
Fresh bread certainly doesn’t have the same seemingly endless shelf life as what you’ll find in the bread aisle, but there are ways to get more mileage out of those loaves. Freshly made bread is obviously at its best the day it is made, but many varieties will keep well on the countertop for a day or two — even three or four if you toast before eating.
For extended use, store sliced bread in the freezer in a tightly sealed bag. This is preferable to the refrigerator, where the extra moisture promotes mold growth. When you’re ready to use frozen bread, place it right in the toaster, or let it stand on the countertop for about 15 minutes until it reaches room temperature. Previously frozen bread is best prepared in a skillet or sandwich press.
Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC, is a registered dietitian, certified athletic trainer and owner of Dana White Nutrition, Inc., which specializes in culinary and sports nutrition.