The story behind a loaf of bread


E.Botham and Sons

Although it is a very long way back to the first loaves baked amid hot ashes by primitive man, or later, in rough, clay-brick ovens, it is somewhat surprising that machinery has only comparatively recently been introduced on a large scale into the bakehouse. For many hundreds of years the brick ovens of the bakers remained unaltered basically. The dough, too, has for centuries been kneaded by hand (in ancient Egypt, it was kneaded by foot, the bakers trampling it into its correct condition). There are one or two bakeries in the country districts which still use brick ovens; some have installed steam-pipe ovens. You may have seen the words 'Steam Bakery' on a baker's van. It takes its name from the method used to heat the oven. Steel tubes containing water are heated by either gas, coal or coke, or by oil until the steam rises to a temperature of 500 F. This heat is more than sufficient to bake the bread to a lovely golden-brown colour. In the big plant bakeries all over the country, machines are used at every stage of bread-making, in fact, it can be said the bread is quite untouched by hand. It is mixed, kneaded, moulded, divided, 'proved' in automatic cabinets, and baked in travelling ovens through which the loaves ride on an endless band; often, after being taken from their tins to cool, they enter another machine, are sliced, wrapped and ready for the delivery man to take them out to the customer.

Bakery of old
The scene, as it was in an old Viennese bakery about 1785. The baker is setting a batch of bread in the oven with his long shovel. or peel, while his companion is kneading a tub of dough.

In craft bakeries, it is more likely that bakers ovens are one of three types.

These are heated by Gas, Oil or electricity. They are very efficient and give a very controlled bake. Look at this website for information on Baker's Ovens.