7 Aug 2008

Breadmaker, Wholewheat flour

I live in Japan and they have a different approach to bread. They like it so white it has slightly less nutrition than a piece of damp cardboard, they like it so soft and bouncy it is impossible to spread margarine on, and they like their slices so thick that each is really a mini-loaf. Oh, and they don't like the crusts: they are cut off and thrown away at the bread shop.

It seemed that whenever I found a nearby supermarket stocking (relatively) healthy bread they would discontinue that line within two weeks. The local co-op had a multi-grain bread that had 10 slices to the packet, and so could be used for sandwiches. That lasted a number of months, though was frequently sold out, but then, while they kept that bread type, they switched to 6 slices to a packet. This was never sold out, but was much less useful.

Obviously the supermarkets are run by morons.

A minor rant but it explains why I finally decided enough is enough and got a breadmaker. I wanted one that can handle wholemeal flour; my wife wanted one that can use tennen-koubo (natural yeast?). These two conditions eliminate some models, but it turns out you still have plenty of choice. We went for a 1.5 loaf model in the end, as it was only slightly more expensive and some reviews mentioned the 1.5 loaf model was quiet, while some reviews mentioned the 1 loaf model was noisy.

The one we went for was the National SD-BM151. But as far as models go, this is my first and only breadmaker, so I cannot compare them.

We have had this almost six months now and it has been wonderful. We have simply stopped buying bread! I've been baking about two of the 1.5 loaves each week, freezing some of the bread each time. It takes about 10 minutes effort to grab the ingredients from the cupboard, measure them and put them in the bread maker, and start it. Let's call it 15 minutes if we include the time spent on the washing up afterwards, and the slicing.

Some downsides.
  • There is a little indentation in the bottom, which depending on where the rotor finally ends up can affect from 1 to 4 slices.
  • You have to slice the bread yourself. It can be quite soft and so it is tricky to get all the slices beautiful. So we often end up with at least one slice that is wedge-shaped.

Some upsides
  • No preservatives or chemicals.
  • I am typically using 50% organic wholewheat flour, 25% organic white flour and 25% cheap white (bread) flour. So almost organic (I'm not using 100% organic simply as it costs more). I also use whole milk, and brown sugar. This makes a loaf that is not just tasty but also so much healthier than anything we can possibly buy.
  • A gorgeous smell for the last hour of the baking.
  • Something satisfying about baking your own bread.
  • Our most common recipe is to add raisons and walnuts. A delicious and healthy combination (the raisons also give a bit of moisture for people who find 50% wholewheat too heavy). And, again, you simply cannot buy this in the shops.
  • It makes pizza dough! Pizza with 30% or so wholewheat flour is a real delight; white-bread pizza just seems so bland now.

Where to get wholewheat flour in Japan? First there is FBC: http://www.fbcusa.com/
They are resellers for Alishan, but if you are buying over 10,000 yen's worth anyway then delivery is free. Or you can go direct to Alishan here: http://www.alishan-organic-center.com/en/index.html
Here is a direct link to their flours.
They have a great-value 5kg wholewheat flour there, but be careful: it is not organic (I didn't realize until it arrived, so I am working through that at the moment, and will then go back to ordering the organic 2kg bags).