A little history about Bread

January 25, 2012 at 12:55 PM | Posted in baking, Food | Leave a comment
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Bread is a staple food prepared by cooking a dough of flour and water and often additional ingredients. Doughs are usually baked, but

Various leavened breads

in some cuisines breads are steamed (e.g., mantou), fried (e.g., puri), or baked on an unoiled frying pan (e.g., tortillas). It may be leavened or unleavened (e.g. matzo). Salt, fat and leavening agents such as yeast and baking soda are common ingredients, though bread may contain other ingredients, such as milk, egg, sugar, spice, fruit (such as raisins), vegetables (such as onion), nuts (such as walnuts) or seeds (such as poppy). Referred to colloquially as the “staff of life“, bread has been prepared for at least 30,000 years. The development of leavened bread can probably also be traced to prehistoric times. Sometimes, the word bread refers to a sweetened loaf cake, often containing appealing ingredients like dried fruit, chocolate chips, nuts or spices, such as pumpkin bread, banana bread or gingerbread.

Fresh bread is prized for its taste, aroma, quality, appearance and texture. Retaining its freshness is important to keep it appetizing. Bread that has stiffened or dried past its prime is said to be stale. Modern bread is sometimes wrapped in paper or plastic film or stored in a container such as a breadbox to reduce drying. Bread that is kept in warm, moist environments is prone to the growth of mold. Bread kept at low temperatures, in a refrigerator for example, will develop mold growth more slowly than bread kept at room temperature, but will turn stale quickly due to retrogradation.

The soft, inner part of bread is known to bakers and other culinary professionals as the crumb, which is not to be confused with small bits of bread that often fall off, called crumbs. The outer hard portion of bread is called the crust.

Bread is one of the oldest prepared foods. Evidence from 30,000 years ago in Europe revealed starch residue on rocks used for pounding plants. It is possible that during this time, starch extract from the roots of plants, such as cattails and ferns, was spread on a flat rock, placed over a fire and cooked into a primitive form of flatbread. Around 10,000 BC, with the dawn of the Neolithic age and the spread of agriculture, grains became the mainstay of making bread. Yeast spores are ubiquitous, including the surface of cereal grains, so any dough left to rest will become naturally leavened. There were multiple sources of leavening available for early bread. Airborne yeasts could be harnessed by leaving uncooked dough exposed to air for some time before cooking. Pliny the Elder reported that the Gauls and Iberians used the foam skimmed from beer to produce “a lighter kind of bread than other peoples.” Parts of the ancient world that drank wine instead of beer used a paste composed of grape juice and flour that was allowed to begin fermenting, or

White bread (left) and brown bread.

wheat bran steeped in wine, as a source for yeast. The most common source of leavening was to retain a piece of dough from the previous day to use as a form of sourdough starter.

A major advance happened in 1961 with the development of the Chorleywood bread process, which used the intense mechanical working of dough to dramatically reduce the fermentation period and the time taken to produce a loaf. The process, whose high-energy mixing allows for the use of lower protein grain, is now widely used around the world in large factories. As a result, bread can be produced very quickly and at low costs to the manufacturer and the consumer.

Recently, domestic bread machines that automate the process of making bread have become popular.

Bread is the staple food in Europe, European-derived cultures such as the Americas, and the Middle East and North Africa, as opposed to East Asia whose staple is rice. Bread is usually made from a wheat-flour dough that is cultured with yeast, allowed to rise, and finally baked in an oven. Owing to its high levels of gluten (which give the dough sponginess and elasticity), common wheat (also known as bread wheat) is the most common grain used for the preparation of bread, but bread is also made from the flour of other wheat species (including durum, spelt and emmer), rye, barley, maize (corn), and oats, usually, but not always, in combination with wheat flour. Spelt bread (Dinkelbrot) continues to be widely consumed in Germany, and emmer bread was a staple food in ancient Egypt. Canadian bread is known for its heartier consistency due to high protein levels in Canadian flour.

White bread is made from flour containing only the central core of the grain (endosperm).

Brown bread is made with endosperm and 10% bran. It can also refer to white bread with added colouring (often caramel colouring) to make it brown; this is commonly labeled in America as wheat bread (as opposed to whole-wheat bread).

Wholemeal bread contains the whole of the wheat grain (endosperm and bran). It is also referred to as “whole-grain” or “whole-wheat bread”, especially in North America.

Wheat germ bread has added wheat germ for flavoring.

Whole-grain bread can refer to the same as wholemeal bread, or to white bread with added whole grains to increase its fibre content, as in “60% whole-grain bread”.

Roti is a whole-wheat-based bread eaten in South Asia. Chapatti is a larger variant of roti. Naan is a leavened equivalent to these.

Granary bread is made from flaked wheat grains and white or brown flour. The standard malting process is modified to maximise the maltose or sugar content but minimise residual alpha amylase content. Other flavour components are imparted from partial fermentation due to the particular malting process used and to Maillard reactions on flaking and toasting.

Rye bread is made with flour from rye grain of varying levels. It is higher in fiber than many common types of bread and is often darker in color and stronger in flavor. It is popular in Scandinavia, Germany, Finland, the Baltic States, and Russia.

Breads and bread rolls at a bakery

Unleavened bread or matzo, used for the Jewish feast of Passover, does not include yeast, so it does not rise.

Sourdough bread is made with a starter.

Flatbread is often simple, made with flour, water, and salt, and then formed into flattened dough; most are unleavened, made without yeast or sourdough culture, though some are made with yeast.

Hempbread Hemp seeds do not mill into flour because of their high oil content (~30%). Hemp flour is the by-product after pressing the oil and milling the residue. Hemp flour doesn’t rise, and is best mixed with other flours. A 3:1 ratio produces a hearty, heavy, nutritious loaf high in protein and essential fatty acids.

The term quick bread usually refers to a bread chemically leavened, usually with both baking powder and baking soda, and a balance of acidic ingredients and alkaline ingredients. Examples include pancakes and waffles, muffins and carrot cake, Boston brown bread, and zucchini and banana bread.

The proportion of water to flour is the most important measurement in a bread recipe, as it affects texture and crumb the most. Professional bakers use a system of percentages known as baker’s percentage in their recipe formulations. They measure ingredients by weight instead of by volume, because measurement by weight is much more accurate and consistent than measurement by volume, especially for the dry ingredients.

The amount of flour is always stated as 100%, and the amounts of the rest of the ingredients are expressed as a percent of that amount by weight. Common table bread in the U.S. uses about 50% water, resulting in a finely textured, light bread. Most artisan bread formulas contain anywhere from 60 to 75% water. In yeast breads, the higher water percentages result in more CO2 bubbles and a coarser bread crumb. One pound (450 g) of flour will yield a standard loaf of bread or two French loaves.

Calcium propionate is commonly added by commercial bakeries to retard the growth of molds.

Traditional breads in the United States include cornbreads and various quick breads, such as biscuits. Cornbread is made from cornmeal and can differ significantly in taste and texture from region to region. In general, the South prefers white cornmeal with little to no wheat flour or sweeteners added. It is traditionally baked in a cast-iron skillet and ideally has a crunchy outside and moist inside. The North usually prefers yellow cornmeal with sometimes as much as half wheat flour in its composition, as well as sugar, honey, or maple syrup. This results in a bread that is softer and sweeter than its southern counterpart. Homemade wheat breads are made in a rectangular tin similar to those in the United Kingdom. Rolls, made from wheat flour and yeast, are another popular and traditional bread, eaten with the dinner meal. Sourdough biscuits are traditional “cowboy food” in the West. The San Francisco Bay Area is known for its crusty sourdough. Spoon bread, also called batter bread or egg bread, is made of cornmeal with or without added rice and hominy, and is mixed with milk, eggs, shortening and leavening to such a consistency that it must be served from the baking dish with a spoon. This is popular chiefly in the South. Up until the 20th century (and even later in certain regions), any flour other than cornmeal was considered a luxury; this would explain the greater variety in cornbread types compared to that of wheat breads. In terms of commercial manufacture, the most popular bread has been a soft-textured type with a thin crust that is usually made with milk and is slightly sweet; this is the type that is generally sold ready-sliced in packages. It is usually eaten with the crust, but some eaters or preparers may remove the crust due to a personal preference or style of serving, as with finger sandwiches served with afternoon tea. Some of the softest bread, including Wonder Bread, is referred to as “balloon bread”. Though white “sandwich bread” is the most popular, Americans are trending toward more artisanal breads. Different regions of the country feature certain ethnic bread varieties including the French baguette, the Ashkenazi Jewish bagel, scali (an Italian-style bread made in New England), Native American frybread (a product of hardship, developed during the Indian resettlements of the 19th century), and Jewish rye, a bread commonly associated with delicatessen cuisine.

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