The story behind a loaf of bread


E.Botham and Sons

We deal now with the baker, white capped and overalled. What are the ingredients required for bread-making? Flour, water, salt (to give it flavour) and yeast. If flour was made into dough with water and salt only, and the dough baked, the result would be a flat, solid and hard loaf that nobody would like.

First, the baker mixes his dough-just the right amount of flour, water (which must be of the right temperature), salt and yeast. The mixture is left to stand in a warm place in its container or 'trough', and so to ferment and rise. When it has well risen, it is 'knocked back'. This means that it is thoroughly re-kneaded. The extra mixing helps to give it just the right degree of firmness, and also makes the yeast cells work harder and better. Then the knocked-back dough is left to stand, ferment and rise once more. When the dough has risen, it is divided into pieces of the right weight either by hand or machine. Another method of making bread dough, is the 'no time' method. This is achieved by mixing the flour, water, salt and yeast together with a bread improver that accelerates the dough development and does not need the dough to be 'knocked back'. After dividing into pieces, and given a rest period the pieces of dough are moulded into the loaf shape required. This can be done by hand or by a special machine. Next, the moulded pieces of dough are put into tins almost, but not quite, ready for the oven. The dough must be given its last chance to rise before it reaches the oven, and here usually a pause of three-quarters of an hour is necessary.

Baker cartoon

How attractive the loaves look now!

Then the loaves go into the oven for about three-quarters of an hour of baking. The dough soon becomes warm; the tiny gas bubbles expand until their 'walls' become firm, and so the loaf rises into its finished shape. The heat of the oven steams the inside and bakes the outside into a hard crisp crust. How attractive do the loaves look now, and what a lovely smell of new baked bread! Before the loaves can be sold, they must first be cooled slowly; to do so quickly would spoil the bread. After cooling, they are often sliced and wrapped before being sent to the Dispatch department and loaded into the baker's van.

Many of the tasks in the bakery are now done by machine-mixing the dough, dividing, and moulding it into loaf shapes. Some of the larger plant bakeries have huge 'travelling' ovens, where the moulded loaves in tins are carried on a moving belt very slowly into and through the oven-dough as they enter, baked loaves as they emerge the other end. We should remember, however, that the baker is a craftsman, with or without his machines, and has always been so.