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breads_cPeople eat bread for centuries. Some years ago white bread was considered the most expensive and health-giving, but today we know that it is not so good for us. White bread is rather nutritious and is not good for people who's on diet. Wholemeal, brown and wheatgerm bread is much better for our health. But what kind of bread is it?

Today British people are eating much more brown bread than 20 or 30 years ago. The reasons for its rise in popularity are twofold. Firstly, it's now widely accepted that fibre is essential in a healthy diet; British are more health-conscious and they know that brown bread has a much higher fibre content than white. Secondly, they're putting a greater premium on taste, and good brown bread is rich in flavour. As a result they've come to believe that brown is beautiful.

Demand has spawned bewildering variety. In a recent survey, British counted more than 60 different types of brown loaf on offer (and that total doesn't include a piebald confection made by a Somerset baker, which is brown at one end and white at the other!)

Acknowledging that the wide choice of loaves presently available could easily be a recipe for confusion, the government has introduced three specific categories. Look out for these terms in the shops; don't be taken in by how brown the bread is - unfortunately, caramel colouring is perfectly legal.

Wholemeal If a loaf has 'wholemeal' in its name, the flour used must be made of wholewheat grain, with nothing removed. Wholemeal bread is the one that's naturally highest in fibre, containing around 8 1/2 %.

Brown Under the new regulations, 'brown' isn't just a generic term, it defines a loaf which may be made of a mixture of flours but which must contain around 5% of wheat fibre (sometimes known as bran), which is the brown covering of the grain, underneath the shell.

Wheatgerm Again, whatever the flour used, the baker must add a specific amount of nutritious wheatgerm, the vitamin-rich part of the grain. The fibre content of this loaf is around 4 1/2 %.

Although brown has become established as the most fashionable colour in the bakery, that's only part of the story. The more significant underlying trend is towards widely available, nutritious, freshly baked bread, brown or white, in a mouth-watering range of shapes, textures and flavours. Hot Bread counters in supermarkets and shops are now commonplace, and the small bakery is enjoying a remarkable revival.

Whether it's brown or white, good bread can be very versatile. Take that much underrated snack, the sandwich, for instance. You'd never know it to judge by the average British Rail buffet, but there's an infinity of fillings and toppings which can transform a loaf into a really different, tasty, cheap and wholesome family meal. And for connoisseurs of bread and butter pudding, we reveal the secrets of Anton Mosimann's definitive version, as served at the Dorchester.