Bake Off’s Holly Bell on why out-of-fashion bread needs a good PR campaign

With more people giving up bread, former Bake Off finalist Holly says a campaign for luxury loaves might just make it cool again.

It seems everyone wants to get back to basics when it comes to their diet.

You’ve heard the idea that in order to stay healthy you should only consume food and drink that your great grandmother would have recognised?

Well pretty much all of the trendiest, most Instagrammable diets fit into this ethos. Paleo, GAPS, eating ‘clean’ – it’s all about chowing down on ingredients you’d see at a wholesome harvest festival. Apart from the bread.

Holly Bell
Photo credit: Scott Choucino

Bread consumption is on the wane. Bread is avoided so much these days we’re seeing bunless burgers and breadless sandwiches (surely an oxymoron?) in restaurants and delis up and down the land.

Even the great British fry-up is no longer always served with fried bread or a floppy barely toasted sliced white, spread with never-to-melt margarine. Bread is ‘naughty’ - it’s a treat to many. A treat? Do me a favour!

Bread has had a hard time ever since Dr Atkins told us the key to slipping into skinny jeans was to consume vast quantities of protein and fat in lieu of bread, rice and pasta.

I recall sitting in a meeting in the early noughties and watching a glamourous French colleague scrape the filling from a sandwich with a teaspoon before slipping it into her dainty mouth. I enquired what was wrong with the bread, fully expecting an answer about reducing carbohydrates.

Instead she replied "I don’t waste my calories on bad bread" and there - in a very short, very Gallic retort - is the solution.

If the bread we bought were delicious, if it were the kind of bread our great, great grandmother might recognise, then maybe bread wouldn’t need a PR campaign.

So what can bread do? How can it resurrect itself from a naughty treat suitable for hangover days and ‘nothing else left in the house’ moments to a pleasure and a delicacy?

It needs to up its game, that’s what. We need better bread, bread to be proud of. Baked or sourced, it matters not, but spending time or money on the staff of life would drag it from cheap, tasteless, fill-a-gap food to something to look forward to.

Lemon and almond breakfast rolls

Something worthy of being called a treat. Less cheap sliced white and more crusty, holey baguettes.

I think I’d call the campaign #basicbread. Everyone’s obsessed with eating food without additives, colourings and preservatives, so let’s tell the story of real, honest bread – just basic flour, water, yeast and salt. Any other ingredients, however delicious they are, are simply gilding.

And then I’d set to work making it pretty, because in the year 2017, food simply isn’t worth eating unless it’s beautiful or quirky enough to photograph. I’d mould it into flowers, lions, bowls, beds...

I’d fill bread mugs with thick, boozy hot chocolate. I’d send bouquets of bready lilies. I’d conjure a playhouse from bread (not the ginger variety) and let fondue spill from the bread stick taps.

I’d create tall, Russian style hats from plaited dough to keep ears warm and tummies full in the winter.

Forget Lady GaGa’s steak dress, I reckon the future is in a bagel bikini, though maybe hold on the swimming.

More from BT