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the science behind our bread

THE BASICS

What is sourdough? Mother Nature's recipe
Sourdough, or natural leaven, is a "starter" in which flour and water are fermented over several days with regular addition of flour and water to allow the growth of naturally present wild yeast and bacteria. This starter is then added to the baker's dough to begin the rising process. Moreover, sourdough also breaks down starches and gluten and unlocks the nutrient rich grains into healthy, more easily digestible food. Finally, sourdough is also the secret behind delicious bread full of holes, with a firm springy crust and a tangy flavor.

What is artisan bread? Well it depends on who you ask
Maggie Glezer, the author of “Artisan Baking” asked a few well-respected bakers about their definition of artisan bread. Although she got a variety of answers, they all agreed on one thing: at least one part of the production must be performed by hand for a bread to be considered “artisan”. 

At Prager Brothers' we do everything by hand, except for the first mixing. The whole process starts the day before baking, with preparing the leaven which ferments for a day. This natural sourdough is then mixed with the dough and allowed to sit for a long fermentation. The next step is to scale and shape the loaves and let them proof, while fermentation continues, the dough starts rising. The loaves are then ready to bake on the stone surface of our European made oven. Lastly, the golden brown loaves cool down on our racks.  Baking artisan bread is a long and labor intensive process which demands extensive knowledge and attention to detail. You can taste the difference! 

Why we use mainly organic ingredients
We believe in the benefits of organic farming - for the environment, animals, and humans - and use mainly organic ingredients in our bakery. Organic agriculture uses methods that preserve natural resources and biodiversity, support animal health and welfare and uses only approved materials. Irradiation, sewage sludge, synthetic fertilizers, prohibited pesticides, and genetically modified organisms are not used.

Our breads and your health
We are sometimes asked which of our bread is "more healthy" or "easy to digest". Well, that's a hard one to answer. First everyone is different, and the digestibility of a certain food can vary from person to person. Those looking for breads that  contain whole grains–which have less negative effect on blood sugar and contain a lot of healthy fibers–would most likely prefer any member of our whole grain family, such as: farm bread, walnut whole grain, spelt and rye breads. 

From a nutritionist point of view "easy to digest" means it is more convenient for your body; from this point of view white breads such as the baguette, classic country sourdough or flat breads are easier to digest for some people because the body doesn't have to break down long chains of complex carbohydrates. However these breads don't offer as many nutritional benefits as wholegrain breads. In the end your body will tell you what's best for you!

 

CARBOHYDRATES, dietary fibers and sugars

What are carbohydrates: fuel for mankind
Carbohydrates represent the main energy source for humans and should make up 45 to 65 percent of our energy (caloric) intake. Glucose, a simple carbohydrate, is essential for the brain function, as it is the only energy source the human brain can metabolize.

The good and the bad: length matters
Carbohydrates are chains of saccharides; from simple carbohydrates such as sugar to complex, long-chained carbohydrates such as starch. The longer the chain, the more complex the carbohydrate. In the human diet, a more complex carbohydrate takes longer to digest and subsequently, one feels satisfied for a longer period of time, and the blood sugar is not rising out of control. The darker the bread, the more complex carbohydrates it contains.

Dietary fibers: sometimes, not digestible means healthy
For human indigestible, complex carbohydrates are called dietary fibers. Although they are not digested, they have a profound impact on health: they heighten the feeling of satiety, lower the cholesterol level, keep your intestine working smooth and feed the friendly bacteria in your gut. The recommendations suggest a minimum of 30 grams per day, but with 12-18 grams, the average intake in the US is far from that. Our whole grain breads are full of healthy fibers!

Glycemic index: sugar rush
The glycemic index (GI) represents the rise of your blood insulin level following the consumption of food. Pure glucose is the standard and has a GI of 100, all other foods are being compared to that. The GI is affected by many factors, such as food composition, processing, or the testing method. As a general rule, it can be said the darker the bread, the lower the GI. Although a low GI diet is a healthier option for everyone, diabetic patients especially benefit from a lower insulin response in the body.

The big picture: carbohydrates and our planet
Our food choices have a profound impact not only on our health, but also on the environment. Switching to a more plant based diet is the single most important move you can make to help the environment. The production of animal based food consumes huge amounts of natural resources such as farming land, water or fossil fuels. By-products of animal food production include high greenhouse gas emission, toxic manure lagoons, deforestation and pollution of groundwater, rivers and oceans. A carbohydrate focused diet rather than a protein based diet helps keep our planet healthy. And yourself!

GLUTEN

What is gluten? A naturally occurring protein
Gluten is the main storage protein in flowering plants to nourish the seeds during development and germination. It became part of the human diet about 10’000 years ago, when the transition from hunting and gathering to settled agriculture took place. As a natural compound of wheat, spelt, barley or rye, gluten gives elasticity to bread dough, and helps it to rise and keep its shape.

Gluten sensitivity
We often get feedback from our customers, that even though they consider themselves “gluten sensitive” they do well when eating our breads. In the sourdough fermentation process gluten is broken down by enzymes and rendered virtually harmless, which is why many people digest sourdough leavened breads much more easily. Also, since we only use organic grains, the absence of any herbicides, pesticides or other leftovers from conventional farming, makes our bread more healthy and digestible.

Gluten-free diet, celiac
Nutritional scientists do not recommend a gluten-free diet, unless you are a celiac patient or have a gluten intolerance.Gluten free products are often highly processed, industrially produced foods. They tend to have a low nutritional value, are high in sugar, low in fibers, and are often expensive. On a gluten free diet, you miss all of the healthy minerals, vitamins and fibers present in our breads, and of course their unique taste and texture.

GRAINS AND PLANTS

The grains and seeds used in Prager Brothers’ breads are grown in the U.S.A. including ancient grains like spelt, rye, buckwheat, teff, and millet. In using these specialty grains a variety of flavors, textures, and nutritional benefits are available. By supporting farmers who grow a diversity of grains, we are able to help lessen our demand on the earth's soil. 

Spelt, in the good old days
Spelt is an ancient subspecies of modern bread wheat. Until the beginning of the 20th century, spelt was the predominant grain for bread production in large parts of Germany, Switzerland and Austria. Compared to wheat, spelt is more resistant to disease, and does better under harsh growing conditions, such as wet, cold soils and high altitudes. Eating spelt helps create more biodiversity in our fields and adds more variety to our tables!

Rye
Rye is another member of the wheat family and is primarily grown in Eastern, Central and Northern Europe. It is often planted in the fall to provide a ground cover for the winter. Compared to wheat, rye has a much lower gluten content, which leads to the typical, dense, German-style bread, also called pumpernickel. At the bakery, we mix rye with wheat and spelt flour for our wholegrain breads, to add taste. And of course, we also bake our famous 100% rye bread with sunflower seeds. 

Nuts and seeds
Nuts and seeds are loaded with vitamins, minerals, healthy oils, fibers and proteins. They boost your healthy fat intake because they contain a lot of omega-3 fatty acid, which helps maintain healthy brain function, protects against cardiovascular diseases, and fights excess inflammation. Studies have shown that people who regularly consume nuts tend to weigh less and even have a lower risk for weight gain in the future. Our walnut wholegrain and multigrain loaves, as well as our housemade granola are full of these healthy tasty bits.