NOT all loaves are created equal and a new baking book including a recipe for a ‘real’ sourdough from one of the region’s most passionate artisan bakers illustrates how farmers can back a growing movement for proper bread.

Alex Gooch, an award-winning artisan baker based in Hay-on-Wye, describes commercial white sliced bread as “poison for the body” and in fact not real bread at all.

Slow Dough: Real Bread, which contains recipes from the bakers of the Real Bread Campaign, says real bread is made without the use of any processing aids or artificial additives.

Alex agrees and from field to flour he’d like to see a pure product, with crops grown chemical free and nothing added to the mix.

And he’d also like to see farmers growing milling grain not just for yield and protein content but for nutritional value too.

He makes his point by including a 100 per cent rye sourdough recipe in the because he says rye is a nutritious grain, that’s underused and easy to grow.

“Rye is a brilliant grain. It grows really well in poor soil and not the best weather conditions. It’s what fuelled the Russian army. It grows well in this climate and in poor, acidic soils. It is a very good, sustaining grain and it is miles lower in gluten than some grains. If you have a mild gluten intolerance, 100 per cent rye is a good idea.”

Like other loaves, it’s spoilt by adding extras, even in the field, where some exponents of the campaign believe pesticides lower the nutritional value of grain.

Alex, who believes in organic and producing the healthiest and most environmentally sustainable loaves, said: “I was brought up on a farm where there was masses of spraying. I know it is supposed to be ok but there have been post mortems on bodies with a massive residue of pesticides found.

“In a broad sense I think that certain parts of the country and certain soils could be suitable for growing certain crops (without spraying).”

He has used flour from Gilchester Organics in Northumberland where a specially developed grain has been grown for milling the “most amazing organic heritage flour.”

“It’s finding things that are naturally more resistant to disease and pests. A lot of these low yielding old varieties are more nutritious and have a better flavour,” said Alex.

He also names Einkorn, the first wheat grown by man 5,000 years ago, which is low in gluten and more easily digested. It also contains higher levels of protein, essential fatty acids, phosphorous, potassium, vitamin B6 and beta-carotene, which gives it an orange colour.

Alex also likes heritage variety, April Bearded, which produces a soft flour with a full wheaty flavour.

And he chooses organic flour because, he said: “I believe you need to work with the soil and the climate and roll with the punches.”

Author of Slow Dough, Chris Young, who is the coordinator of the Real Bread Campaign, is leading the fight for better bread, and “encourages farmers, millers and bakers to work together.”

“You could make a good loaf from supermarket flour but baking goes back to the farmer and the miller and there’s a great opportunity there,” said Chris.

At the time of writing he was due to attend Crop to Crust, an event in Peterborough, which he said brings together cereal farmers, millers and bakers to look at how they can work well together.

He said the process for good, real bread begins with the raw ingredient, grain, which can be grown in ways that’s better for the environment and human health.

“I read an article this morning on growing ancient grains which are supposed to be better for your heart.

“Cereal growing is hell-bent on yield and having high protein content. Farmers are not incentivized to grow something for better flavour that is more nutritious,” he said.

He is encouraged that the demand for ‘white sliced’ is now falling through the floor and people are turning towards small, independent artisan bakers like Alex Gooch.

However there are some that try to “fake it” he said, with some loaves misleadingly labelled that have too many added extras to make them ‘real’ bread.

“There’s a good opportunity for us to give reasons why people should eat real bread, made by genuine artisan bakers and made with flour from heritage wheats,” said Chris.

He would like to see more bread produced for taste, nutrition and digestibility and says more research is needed from farming, agri businesses and millers.

He added: “Slow Dough is part of the campaign. Nourish books has given us a fantastic opportunity to take the message out to people’s kitchens and coffee tables.”

The interest in real bread baking and artisan loaves has seen businesses like Alex’s enjoy their own rise on the back of loaves made using flour from nutritious grains.

His business now supplies loaves to Waitrose.

“A loaf I am keen to put in is 100 per cent spelt,” said Alex.

Slow Dough: Real Bread was published by Nourish in September.