Flour

Flour is not just flour. In particular how the flour is milled is fundamental to its final quality, nutritional value, flavour profile and the characteristics of the loaf.

Most importantly, I believe, flour should be stoneground. This retains vitamins and minerals stripped out in modern roller mills. The white and wholemeal flours I use are all stoneground and organic. french flour and 00 Italian flour is organic when I can get it, but is not stoneground - yet!

I am buying excellent flour from Whissendine Windmill near Melton and Shipton Mill in The Cotswolds.

Water

Arguably water is just water, albeit some has more in the way of chlorine purification. Spring water is tap water and it is this I will be using. The most important factor in relation to water and bread, is how much of it you use. Most of my recipes will be of the super-hydrated variety. Generally higher water levels mean doughs are harder to work with, but a more open crumb structure is the desired result. Think Ciabatta and Focaccia.

Yeast

Yeast basically comes in three varieties, commercially processed, brewer's yeast and wild yeast.

Commercially produced yeast comes in solid or dried form. It is made in large scale commercial factories, using chemicals and lots of water. It also of course has to then be transported long distances. I will be aiming to use as little of this type of yeast as possible. In particular, using pre-ferments, a tiny amount can be used and multiplied over time. This is in stark contrast to most bread available which uses lots of yeast and a fast process.

Brewer's yeast is the ongoing strain of yeast that a brewer uses to ferment the beer. There is a long history of brewers and bakers working alongside each other. I am hoping to link up with a local brewer and use brewers yeast in my bread.

Wild yeast is that present in the atmosphere all around us. Used to make a sourdough culture or levain (in France), it is closely akin to the brewers ongoing yeast fermentation. Over time the culture develops a complex profile of lacto-bacilli and acidity that contributes many things to bread. Flavour, keeping quality and digestability to name but a few. I am making a 100% sourdough loaf using wild yeast; in addition several other loaves contain some sourdough, as well as a little commercial yeast.

Salt

Salt is a vital ingredient in bread. There are different thoughts on which is best. I aim to use good quality sea salt, rather than that obtained by blasting water underground to dissolve deposits. 

Salt is partly responsible for dough structure, keeping quality and most importantly flavour. There are breads without salt, but most is pretty unpalatable without it. 

The Food Standards Agency recommends a salt level of 1%. This is due to general concerns about the level of salt in the modern diet. However, the amount of salt most people would obtain through eating bread, should be set against the context of processed foods. In a nutshell if you eat too many processed foods your salt level may be too high. In my opinion you should reduce your consumption of processed foods. If your diet is not high in processed food, then it is unlikely you are getting too much salt and a pizza dough recipe with 1.8% salt in it is not really a problem! Most of my bread will adhere pretty well to the FSA guideline.