How to eat bread and not get bloated PICTURE: Syed Ahmed

Whether it's eaten hot from the toaster and slathered with butter, cooked on hot stone and used to wrap haloumi cheese and salad, or torn up to mop up spicy curry sauce, bread has been a staple of the human diet for millennia. 

But thanks to our aversion to starchy foods in recent years, it has fallen out of favour.

The Grocer consumer magazine linked this to shoppers dodging carbs on spurious health grounds. And with the so-called clean-eating trend, which shuns processed foods including bread and those containing gluten, global sales of gluten-free products have spiked. 

That's despite the fact that studies show those who unnecessarily cut out gluten are missing out on vital nutrients.

We can thank The Great British Bake Off for breathing new life into home baking and causing a rise in the sale of bread ingredients. 

Now, a team of chefs and scientists at the US-based The Cooking Lab are trying to transform attitudes with their soon to be published series of books: Modernist Bread. 

The five volumes take into account four years of research. The books document the history of bread, as well as recipes, techniques, equipment and ingredients. 

“Bread is one of those things that has been hand in hand with mankind since mankind has been mankind,” award-winning pastry chef and co-author Francisco Migoya tells The Independent. “It didn't look like it does now but there have always been forms of bread that man has used to sustain himself.” 

Migoya goes on that gluten is likely not the cause of discomfort for people who have ditched bread on the grounds of an assumed intolerance. 

He stresses that coeliac disease, where the small intestine becomes inflamed when it comes in contact with gluten, is a serious health condition. So, those who are coeliac or have a gluten intolerance diagnosed by a doctor are right to entirely cut out bread and gluten products from their diets. 

“Other people will eat bread and not feel so great. That could be for a variety of reasons, but it's likely not the gluten. What matters here is that flour has different proteins; two of those when you mix water into the flour – gliadin and glutenin – will bind and form gluten chains. That is what is responsible for the structure of the dough.”

Studies have linked the wheat proteins amylase-trypsin inhibitors and agglutinin with inflammatory molecules that affect the immune system. 

Those who are sensitive to bread generally find that sour dough bread is more digestible, adds Migoya, as the dough is fermented over several days. 

“It's about how your body breaks it down. White bread that utilises commercial yeast is fermented very quickly so your body takes a lot longer to digest it. You body can digest sour dough fast and easily,” he explains.

“If you are buying bread from a grocery store, read the label. If you have an artisan bread from a bakery, it will say what's in it, and that's generally salt, water, flour and yeast. If it says ‘wild yeast’ that means it's sour dough. If it's commercial yeast it won't be sour dough because that's a different form of fermenting.”

Yet Migoya insists that he doesn't want to vilify certain types of bread like the classic sandwich loaf. “There are a lot of people who don't want you to eat supermarket bread because of what they put into it, but our position is not to take the moral ground and to eat some breads and not others. 

"White sandwich bread has its time and place. It's the best for a grilled cheese. It's just not the same with a brioche bun or sour dough. We have a recipe for white sandwich bread with four ingredients in our book.”

The decline in Google searches for gluten intolerance between 2013 and 2017 is welcomed by Migoya, however.

“We're not sure what happened but after that it started to go down. I think people are starting to embrace bread more than they used to five years ago. I think that people are understanding that gluten isn't the enemy and they miss good, well-made bread. It's such a staple, and people are looking to it again.” He now hopes that people will treat bread with the same reverence that they do artisan coffee and chocolate. 

“People see bread as something cheap and disposable. It's not seen as this precious thing that it really is.” 

The Independent