The Quest for Organic Artisan Bread

Don Harris | October 2009

I have been doing some research about the production of traditional bread in Spain as I am interested in importing some absolutely authentic Gallego bread such as I enjoyed in Santiago de Compostela. Some of you know exactly what I am talking about — whether you are pilgrims, tourists or natives of Galicia. The closest I have found in the States is a slightly sourdough version (which is not the same thing.)

So I asked a traditional baker in Aragón about his experience in bread making, and whether the starter they used was sweet or sour. I think you might enjoy his reply which I have posted verbatim.

Dear Don,

I’m Spanish baker, working from wheat to bread, recuperating old varieties of wheats; using stone-milling, sourdough fermentation and a wood-firing oven.

All these characteristics of bread preparation were everywhere in Spain in use until a hundred years ago. In the twentieth century, progressively appeared “manufactured” white flour, commercial yeast, modern wheat varieties that replaced the natural and ancestral bread.

From mid of the century, these change accelerates, and the “residuals” of these old methods were near extinction, when democracy arrived in mid 70’s. By then, in “conscious,” organic, health-worried “circles”, it was a rebirthing of organic, whole-flour and sourdough bread.

Now situation is that there is a minority of artisan and “small-industrial” working on it. And the organic market tends to emphasize the spelt bread (a type of wheat still grown in Asturias), due to an “ancient grain fashion”.

That’s my opinion. I hope it’s useful for you. Anyway, bread made from a natural yeast flour, especially from stone flour, results in a better nutrition than yeasted “white” bread.