Here’s a loaf of Merton simple from this morning’s baking.
You can see where the ear of the crust is a jagged edge and because it is so thin it has caught in the heat of the oven. I took a loaf to my nephew Finn recently and he said, “It’s burned”. Finn was joking but was he right? Most bread in the UK is a pale brown colour and we have become accustomed to that colour as meaning cooked bread.
The reason I bake the bread this dark is because it adds depth and richness to the bread’s flavour. The chemistry of this browning process is a series of reactions called the Maillard Reactions.
The Maillard (pronounced my-YAR) reactions happen with foods that are not primarily sugar (i.e. unlike the caramelization of sugar) and are responsible for the beautiful colour and complex, umami-like intense flavour of the crust in bread. The result is the amazing contrast between the flavour and texture of the crust with the flavour and texture of the crumb. Give it a go and I think you will start to enjoy the intensity of the flavour.
I could even cook the loaves a few minutes longer ;-).