Is there any difference?
Germany is well-known for its bakery culture and the variety of wholewheat and sourdough bread you can buy all over the country. Switzerland and Austria have this special and famous food culture, too.
Although, even in these countries the market for baked goods is highly segmented. These days we can buy our bread and rolls made from scratch from traditional, artisanal bakeries. But there are more and more bakery chains, in-store bakeries that bake their goods on the premises as well as supermarkets selling their prepackaged, industrially produced bread.
Indeed, it is very comfortable to buy your bread in the same market where you can buy anything else. In-store bakeries crisp up the bread and rolls daily, you don’t have to make a detour to the next traditional bakery who, probably, already is sold out in the afternoon… But is it really good to eat industrially made bread? Is handmade bread from a small bakery really better?
Did you ever notice that bread bought in the supermarket is fresh for days? Sometimes, I think that it would survive 10 days looking exactly the same as the day I’ve bought it. People who have already baked their own bread know: This is not normal at all! Otherwise you wouldn’t be able to get that much information and tips online on how to make your bread last longer.
Keep it natural
Bread being baked or – better – „crisped“ has a lot of genetically engineered enzymes to make your bread more crispy, nonperishable, and easier to freeze. Additionally, bread and buns are often darker colored to suggest a long baking time and the use of wholemeal flour. In contrast, traditional, artisanal bakeries who want to live up to their names abstain from using these additives and keep it natural. These additives often used by chains and supermarkets can be bakery improvers, dyestuffs, emulsifiers, mold inhibitors, dough conditioners, and other oxidizing agents. What impact these additives may have will be discussed on my blog soon.
Those who want to play it safe: In Germany, there are several seals to make it easier to find bakeries and products in general without all these additives, e.g. „Bioland“ and „Demeter“ (more on that coming soon, too).
You could even say that it shows quality if the bread isn’t as fresh the next day!
Quality over quantity
In-store bakeries are often part of the big companies in the food industry. Barely, they make use of regional sources, and they buy their „raw materials“ from other countries far away. Nobody seems to know from where they even get their flour.
To be able to offer bargains for their goods they have to use cheap ingredients. In Berlin, there is a chain-bakery selling their rolls for – hold on – 7 cents!
For me, going to the „real“ bakery is always something special. The first bite is with the eye but my nose also wants to be pleased! I love the flavorsome scent of freshly baked bread when I enter a bakery – it reminds me of my mom baking her own bread when I was a child and the whole flat smelled like a bakehouse. I really enjoy going to the bakery, have a look at what’s new. And get some advice from the bakery shop assistant. Often, you get proudly cherished regional specialties according to an old family recipe you wouldn’t get in any supermarket. Many small bakeries get their ingredients from local mills out of regional grains. And buying your rolls at a traditional bakery means supporting the middle class as well as the baker’s craft. Support your local dealers!
It is a pity that „real“ bakeries have been threatened by extinction because they cannot stand the price war with the big players.
My brother is journeyman baker in a small traditional bakery in upper Bavaria and I really have to admit that I am proud of him for waking up in the middle of the night and going to work. But that’s part of the business and an important reason why hardly any teenager wants to become a baker.
The decision is ours
We all have to be aware of that we decide to whom we give our money. With every purchase we make. Therefore, it is very important to support all the small and middle businesses in our villages, towns, and cities. With each purchase we decide which shop is going to persist and which not. Of course, buying your rolls at a real bakery is more expensive than the prepackaged bread at the supermarket. But are these pennies really worth it to support big companies? Do we want to support a middle-class firm whose owner wants to pay the bills for the ballet-class of his daughter or do we want to support a company that wants to earn 15 million dollars instead of 10 million a year? Sometimes, you don’t realize what you have until it’s gone.
Think about it – you decide and buy local! 🙂
What’s your opinion? Do you bake your own bread or which is your favorite bakery? Have you already tried my recipe for wholemeal spelt bread?
Here are the sources used for this blogpost
Jezewska-Zychowicz, M. 2016: Impact of health and nutrition risks perception on the interest in pro-healthy food on the example of bread, in: Roczniki Panstwowego Zakladu Higieny, Vol. 67, 2016, No. 1, pp. 81-87.
Tenbergen, K. 1999: Dough and bread conditioners, in: Food Product Design Magazine, Vol. 21, 1999, No. 6, p. 16.