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Whole grains or refined grains? When cereal grains such as wheat are harvested they are surrounded by a tough protective coating called a husk. Before you can eat the grains the husk has to be removed. This is done by threshing (beating the grains) and winnowing (blowing away the chaff ie the broken off bits of husk). The grain without its husk is called a groat. It consists of three main parts: the endosperm germ and bran. The endosperm is the main tissue inside the grain and provides nutrition in the form of starch protein and oils. The germ is the embryo the reproductive part that germinates and grows into a plant. It is surrounded by the endosperm. The germ contains several essential nutrients. Wheat germ for example is a concentrated source of vitamin E folate phosphorus thiamine zinc and magnesium essential fatty acids and fatty alcohols. Bran is the hard outer layer of grain. It is rich in dietary fibre and essential fatty acids and contains starch protein vitamins and minerals.
Improvers are additives used to quicken the rising time increase volume and enhance texture. Salt is one of the most common improvers; it is used to enhance flavour and the crumb (the inside of the bread) by strengthening the gluten. Improvers may include ascorbic acid and ammonium chloride. Certain fats such as butter vegetable oils lard and egg fat are solid at room temperature. These shortenings as they are known are used to keep the structure together during the development of the gluten. A fat content of about 3% by weight is considered best to enhance leavening. Fats also help tenderise bread and preserve its freshness. Cooking is usually by baking in an oven. But bread can be made by frying in oil (eg Indian puri) baking on a dry frying pan (eg Mexican tortillas) and by steaming (eg Chinese mantou).
Bread and the glycemic index The glycemic index rates foods on a scale of 1 to 100 based on how the foods affect your blood glucose levels. A rating of less than 55 is considered low 56 to 69 medium and 70 plus high. Bread ranges from 34 to 73 or more depending on the kind of grains used to make it. Bread with a low rating will be broken down more slowly in your gut giving you a steady increase in your blood sugar level. Bread with a GI value of 70 or more will cause your blood glucose to spike ie to surge and then drop suddenly. Labels for bread do not usually show whether bread has a low GI value. However you can usually estimate whether the GI value is low or not by checking the ingredients. These are usually listed in descending order by weight.