Use your loaf and give us this week our proper artisan bread

Illustrates growing popularity of home baking and specialist artisan food products

Real Bread Week puts the focus on a well-made loaf, rather than cheaper, mass-produced bread often sold in supermarkets - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Given that I am by trade a PR man, you won’t be surprised to learn that I love an awareness campaign.

These days (or weeks, or even months) are randomly designated by people like me in an attempt to create a slightly false news hook which will persuade copy-hungry journalists to write about their particular product.

It sounds cynical, but they have a good success rate.

I can claim to have invented one or two myself, the most enduring of which was National Kissing Day (July 6th, should you be interested), which I came up with on behalf of a dental insurance company - the premise being that given that research shows that bad breath is the number one turn-off when it comes to kissing, those seeking to up their success rate in the snogging stakes should visit the dentist regularly.

Inevitably, given that I am such a foodie, the campaign centred on dinner; specifically, a ‘recipe for kissing’ created by celebrity chef and all-round heart-throb Raymond Blanc, which was designed to leave both diners’ breath as fresh as a daisy so that they could indulge in a spot of post-dinner smooching.

That all happened more than two decades ago, when awareness days were still relatively thin on the ground; nowadays, there simply aren’t enough dates in the calendar to accommodate the many and varied PR assaults on our consciousness.

Already in February we have had World Nutella Day (Feb 5), National Pizza Day (Feb 9), National Tortellini Day (Feb 13), and, to prove the world really is going nuts, National Almond Day (Feb 16).

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Quite apart from Pancake Day and one which I didn’t need much persuasion to join in with, National Drink Wine Day (Feb 18).

Sometimes the confluence of these campaigns raises the eyebrows: While you could argue that National Butchers Week and World Salt Awareness Week (both March 8-14) make reasonably good bedfellows, it is hard to see how Spam Appreciation Week should be sharing the same seven days as a campaign to persuade us to eat proper meat from proper butchers – or perhaps this one is designed to make us appreciate those whose job it is to pump our inboxes full of unwanted adverts.

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Anyway, this week plays host to one such campaign that I think we can all get behind: Real Bread Week, which runs until Sunday.

If the constant queues outside my local artisan bakery are anything to go by, lockdown has done wonders for our appreciation of the humble loaf.

Maybe we are finally learning that soft, pappy and generally flavour-free supermarket bread is a poor substitute for a real, long-fermented, lovingly-made loaf.

Yes, you will pay for the privilege, but we can’t spend our money in the pub at the moment, so we might as well improve what we consume at home.

I’m sad to say that the UK is responsible for the worst abomination in bread anywhere in the world. In 1961, the British Baking Industries Research Association based at Chorleywood in Hertfordshire came up with the truly awful Chorleywood method of making bread.

The process allows the use of lower protein wheats, and critically it also drastically shortens the production time – it takes just three-and-a-half hours from flour to packaged loaf. By 2009 it was used to make 80% of the United Kingdom's bread.

That’s great news for the bread companies, but because the dough doesn’t have time to ferment properly, the glutens don’t develop either.

The Chorleywood process is probably the biggest reason for the explosion in gluten intolerance in this country – you just don’t see it in places where the majority of bread is made properly by the traditional method.

Lockdown briefly turned us all into home bread-bakers, but I suspect many found that the time-consuming process required more patience than they possessed, especially for those juggling home-schooling and working from home alongside feeding the family.

My hope is that those initial forays into baking proper bread will have demonstrated how good the humble loaf can be.

Let’s now use Real Bread Week as an occasion to decide to stick with proper bread, and ditch the cheap processed loaf for good.

Let’s support our wonderful independent artisan bakeries, and ensure they thrive into the future.

And then next week we can reward ourselves for these good intentions by indulging in a pastry-fest, for Monday sees the start of British Pie Week.