The story behind a loaf of bread

The History of Bread

The History of Bread 1

Bread, in one form or another, has been one of the principal forms of food for man from earliest times. The trade of the baker, then, is one of the oldest crafts in the world. Loaves and rolls have been found in ancient Egyptian tombs. In the British Museum's Egyptian galleries you can see actual loaves which were made and baked over 5,000 years ago. Also on display are grains of wheat which ripened in those ancient summers under the Pharaohs. Wheat has been found in pits where human settlements flourished 8,000 years ago. Bread, both leavened and unleavened, is mentioned in the Bible many times. The ancient Greeks and Romans knew bread for a staple food even in those days people argued whether white or brown bread was best.

Further back, in the Stone Age, people made solid cakes from stone-crushed barley and wheat. A millstone used for grinding corn has been found, that is thought to be 7,500 years old. The ability to sow and reap cereals may be one of the chief causes which led man to dwell in communities, rather than to live a wandering life hunting and herding cattle.

According to botanists, wheat, oats, barley and other grains belong to the order of Grasses; nobody has yet found the wild form of grass from which wheat, as we know it, has developed. Like most of the wild grasses, cereal blossoms bear both male and female elements. The young plants are provided with a store of food to ensure their support during the period of germination, and it is in this store of reserve substance that man finds an abundant supply of food. Above: Harvesting grain in Ancient Egypt. From a bas-relief, about 2650 B.C.

Harvesting grain in Ancient Egypt. From a bas-relief, about 2650 B.C.
Above: Harvesting grain in Ancient Egypt. From a bas-relief, about 2650 B.C.

Below: Ancient Egyptian word-pictures, or hieroglyphs, concerning bread:
Ancient Egyptian word-pictures, or hieroglyphs, concerning bread

Various symbols for bread

Ancient Egyptian word-pictures, or hieroglyphs, concerning bread

Two symbols for grain

Ancient Egyptian word-pictures, or hieroglyphs, concerning bread

'loaves large'

Ancient Egyptian word-pictures, or hieroglyphs, concerning bread

'let me live upon bread and barley of white my ale made of grain red'

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The History of Bread 2

When ancient man discovered a food which would keep through the winter months, and could be multiplied in the summer, it could be said that civilization began. He might have a reasonably safe store of food to carry him over, which would give him time to develop other useful skills besides hunting, fishing and cattle-herding.

In Old Testament times, all the evidence points to the fact that bread-making, preparing the grain, making the bread and baking it, was the women's work, but in the palaces of kings and princes and in large households, the bakers' duties would be specialised. Bread was leavened, that is, an agent in the form of a 'barm' was added to the dough which caused the mixture to rise in the shape of our familiar loaf. The hurried departure of the Israelites from Egypt, described in the Book of Exodus in the Bible, prevented their bread being leavened as usual; the Jews today commemorate this event by eating unleavened bread on special occasions. The ruins of Pompeii and other buried cities have revealed the kind of bakeries existing in those historic times. There were public bakeries where the poorer people brought their bread to be baked, or from which they could buy ready-baked bread.

A Bakers' Guild was formed in Rome round about the year 168 B.C. From then on the industry began as a separate profession. The Guild or College, called Collegium Pistorum,* did not allow the bakers or their children to withdraw from it and take up other trades. The bakers in Rome at this period enjoyed special privileges: they were the only craftsmen who were freemen of the city, all other trades being conducted by slaves.

The members of the Guild were forbidden to mix with 'comedians and gladiators' and from attending performances at the amphitheatre, so that they might not be contaminated by the vices of the ordinary people. We suppose that the bakers, instead of being honoured by the strict regulations, must have felt deprived by them.

Woman grinding corn, Limestone, about 2500B.C.
Woman grinding corn, Limestone, about 2500B.C.

The Guild of Master Bakers is still here today. For more information about the Ancient Guild of Master Bakers and other guilds in the City of London, follow this link The Worshipful Company of Bakers.

The Arms of The Worshipful Company of Bakers
The Arms of The Worshipful Company of Bakers

The Greeks and Romans liked their bread white; colour was one of the main tests for quality at the time of Pliny (A.D. 70). Those who think the craze for white bread is a modern fad should note this.

Pliny wrote: 'The wheat of Cyprus is swarthy and produces a dark bread, for which reason it is generally mixed with the white wheat of Alexandria'.

Plato (c. 400 B.C.) pictured the ideal state where men lived to a healthy old age on wholemeal bread ground from a local wheat. Socrates, however, suggested that this proposal meant the whole population would be living on pig-food. In those days, there were certain mean bakers who kneaded the meal with sea-water to save the price of salt. Pliny did not approve of this.

The Romans enjoyed several kinds of bread, with interesting names. There was oyster bread (to be eaten with oysters); 'artolaganus' or cakebread; 'speusticus' or 'hurry bread'. There was oven bread, tin bread, Parthian bread. There were rich breads made with milk, eggs and butter, but these of course, were only for the wealthy and privileged people. The Egyptian grammarian and philosopher Athenaeus, who lived in the third century A.D., has handed down to us considerable knowledge about bread and baking in those days. He wrote that the best bakers were from Phoenicia or Lydia, and the best bread-makers from Cappadocia. He gives us a list of the sorts of bread common in his time-leavened and unleavened loaves; loaves made from the best wheat flour; loaves made from groats, or rye, and some from acorns and millet. There were lovely crusty loaves too, and loaves baked on a hearth. Bakers made a bread mixed with cheese, but the favourite of the rich was always white bread made from wheat. In ancient Greece, keen rivalry existed between cities as to which produced the best bread. Athens claimed the laurel wreath, and the name of its greatest baker, Thearion, has been handed down through the ages in the writings of various authors. During the friendly rivalry between the towns, Lynceus sings the praises of Rhodian rolls. 'The Athenians', he says,

'talk a great deal about their bread, which can be got in the market, but the Rhodians put loaves on the table which are not inferior to all of them. When our guests are given over to eating and are satisfied, a most agreeable dish is produced called the "hearth loaf", which is made of sweet things and compounded so as to be very soft, and it is made up with such an admirable harmony of all the ingredients as to have a most excellent effect, so that often a man who is drunk becomes sober again, and in the same way, a man who has just eaten is made hungry by eating of it.'

The island of Cyprus had a reputation for good bread. Another old writer, Eubulus, says:

"Tis a hard thing, beholding Cyprian loaves, to ride carelessly by, for like a magnet, they do attract the hungry passengers.' All through the ancient days, bread and bakers were held in the highest respect; this respect lives on to our times, for what would we do without our bakers?

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The History of Bread 3

In early English historical times, there were constantly recurring periods of famine, due to not enough, or too much rain, or frosts, and other natural causes.

The ruling classes, knowing that rebellion often followed famine, did their utmost to keep the price of bread from rising too high. Laws regulating its price were passed during the reign of King John (1202). Not only did the law fix the price, but it strictly allocated that price between cost of material and an allowance for necessary charges to the baker.

In 1266, the law allowed the baker twelve pence for each quarter of wheat he made into bread, split as follows:

For three servants, 4½d *

The reason for the ¼d. for sieving was, that in those days, the baker - not the miller as now - separated out the wheat flour into its white and brown categories. This does not add up to twelve pence - apparently the baker was allowed a quantity of bread and bran to make up the difference. The amounts seem tiny, but this is due to the greater value of money in those days.

For two boys 1d
For salt ½d
For yeast ½d
For candle ¼d
For wood 2d
For sieving, ½d
* 12d (old pennies), or one shilling is worth 5p

For instance, a master carpenter would be paid only 2d. per day, ordinary woodworkers receiving only 1 ¼d. Bakers earned less than this, but they were not dependent on the weather and could always be at work, unlike the carpenters. All through English history, great efforts were made to keep the price of bread low, to maintain good quality, and to prevent corruption and dishonesty.

The bakers liked to keep the 'mystery' of the trade to themselves and to prevent unlicensed people from starting up. If a young man wanted to become a baker, he had to serve an apprenticeship of seven years. The law supported the bakers in preserving their craft to themselves, and there were statutes published with various penalties for infringement. In those days there were certain dishonest persons in the trade. We read that in 1298 heavy fines were inflicted on bakers for selling short weight bread. There are the most stringent regulations about the weight of bread today. No baker would wittingly sell underweight. Bakers are sometimes, it is true, prosecuted for so doing but this is invariably due to mischance in machinery or sometimes lack of proper supervision. The fines are pretty stiff. Bakers at their work during the Middle Ages in England. Until Modern mechanisation, the tools of the baker changed but little over the centuries. (From an old print.)

The Mysterie and Trade of Baking
The Mysterie and Trade of Baking
The Mysterie and Trade of Baking

The Mysterie and Trade of Baking
(From a woodcut by John Penkethman, published in 1638.)

In 1310, a number of female bakers at Stratford were arrested for sending short weight bread to London in their long carts. As the bread was stale, however, they were let off with a reprimand, but were forced to sell their stale ½d. loaves at three for 1d. In 1327 a fraud was discovered at a public bakehouse where the citizens used to take their dough to have it baked. The bakers who ran the place had secret openings made in the moulding boards, and when the people's dough was placed on the boards, one of the bakers would secretly pinch off piece after piece from the uncooked loaves for their own benefit.

The Rascally Bakers in the Pillory

The Rascally Bakers in the Pillory

They were exposed and caught, the men placed in the pillory with slabs of dough round their necks, while the women were sent to the Newgate prison. You can imagine that the angry populace took full advantage of the pilloried thieves, and pelted them with any foul thing that came to hand. In the time of James the First, there are records of bakers slicing their stale bread into fingers, soaking it well in water, and mixing it with the new dough, 'to the great abuse and scandall of their Mysterie, and the wrong of his Majesties' subjects'.

Some used tricks to deceive the Bread Examiner about weight by inserting copper coins into light-weight bread, or by having correct weight loaves in the shop, and keeping light-weight goods in an inner room. But it must be said, in fairness, that the majority of bakers were, and always had been honest, and proud of their products.

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The History of Bread 4

The invention of the steam-engine changed the industries and the lives of the people in Britain, except, strangely enough, the milling of flour. One miller in London who used a steam-engine to drive his machinery, found the mill destroyed by fire one day; this apparently discouraged him from attempting to use the new steam machinery again.

Millers everywhere continued to use the ancient methods of wind and watermills, except for a few progressive men who strove to free themselves from the restraints of waiting on the wind and water to drive the mill machinery. In the middle of the nineteenth century, a Swiss engineer invented a new type of mill; abandoning the use of the stone mill-wheels, he designed rollers made of steel which operated one above the other. It was called the reduction roller-milling system, and these machines soon became accepted all over Europe and in Britain. They were driven by steam-engines, which had by now much improved, and the new method proved a great success. So popular did they become, that within about thirty years from their introduction into Britain in 1880, more than three-quarters of the windmills and watermills which had served so faithfully (if sometimes erratically) for hundreds of years, were demolished, or left to rot. Meanwhile, the development of the North American prairies, ideally suited to grow wheat, provided ample grain for the fast-growing population of Great Britain at the time of the Industrial Revolution (which in turn reduced the farm acreage here). This, together with the invention of the roller-milling system, meant that for the first time in history, whiter flour (and therefore bread) could be produced at a price which brought it within the reach of everyone - not just the rich.

As we have noted, during periods of famine or other calamities during history, the governments of the time were quick to protect the people's bread. For instance, in the First World War, many regulations were passed controlling the bread trade. Experiments began to solve problems, like keeping bread fresh for troops in the trenches, the conservation of supplies and the stoppage of waste. Substitutes for wheat, such as mixtures of peas, arrowroot, parsnips, beans, lentils, maize, rice, barley and oats were used in bread experiments. By 1917 food-ships were being sunk by submarines to such an extent that the nation was in dire peril of starvation. As well as using some of the substitutes mentioned, the government fixed a maximum price for bread and issued rules for reducing waste. Bakers were forbidden to sell bread until it was twelve hours old; no stale bread could be exchanged; only 'regulation' flour could be used, the millers preparing flour from such grains as the authorities provided, and under their control. Even the shape of loaves was controlled, and all fancy pastries were forbidden. Another order was made in 1918, that bakers should use a proportion of up to 20 per cent of potatoes in their bread. In the Second World War, regulations were again imposed on the baking industry. The 'standard' loaf was then a grey colour, not very appetising to look at, but not at all unpleasant to eat. When you see the beautiful loaves on sale today in all their variety of shape, texture, and flavour, still at a comparative low price, and available to all, think for a moment of the days, a few hundred years ago, when it was thought that 'poor and common people should eat poor and common bread', and only the rich should be able to enjoy the real white wheaten loaf.

The Mysterie and Trade of Baking

An old bakers' oven

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A Grain of Wheat

A grain of wheat A grain of wheat


The wheat grain as a seed is fitted for reproducing the plant from which it came. The germ is an embryo plant, with a radicle which can grow into a root system and a plumule which can develop into stems, leaves and ears. The pericarp is a tough skin which protects the inner seed from soil organisms which may attack it. The inner seed coats control the intake of water by the seed. The endosperm is the food reserve on which the young plant lives until it has developed a root system.


The purpose of milling is to reduce the wheat grain to a. fine powdery flour. A single grain makes about 20,000 particles of flour. In wholemeal flour all parts of the grain are included, but in producing white flour the seed coats and the embryo are not used. Instead, they are flattened and removed as small flakes, by sifting over nylon or silk mesh. These flakes are referred to collectively as wheatfeed.

If you look at wheat grains they appear as seeds, but a closer examination shows them to be true fruits. Each grain consists of a fruit-leaf with its edges rolled over and grown together, the furrow which runs the length of the grain being the line of joint.

We show a diagram of a wheat grain that has been cut in half length-wise through the furrow. The drawing shows the grain magnified over 200 times.

World Wheat


The flour which comes from the grain of wheat is used in making bread and biscuits, cakes and confectionery, puddings and pies. This wheaten flour is rich in carbohydrates (for energy), protein (for growth and development), the essential B vitamins (for good health, good nerves and good digestion) and important minerals like iron (for healthy blood) and calcium (for strong bones and teeth). Flour gives us dishes that are good to eat-and the nourishment essential to good health. What is more, the seedcoats, or wheatfeed, not used in making white flour are valuable food for livestock, and so help to provide us with eggs, bacon, meat and milk.

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The Character Of Wheat

World Wheat

World Wheat

Today wheat is grown all over the world, with different varieties sown according to the various climates. In Canada, the harsh winters require a fast growing grain, with wheat sown and matured in about 90 days. By comparison, UK wheat is harvested in August, having been planted the previous September. Different varieties again are required to cope with the dry sun-baked lands of northern India. The forecast for total world wheat production in 1990 is 570 million tonnes, with Western Europe contributing about 90 million tonnes. This world crop would cover an area nine times the size of the UK, with each hectare cultivated producing an average of 2.3 tonnes. In the UK, the average yield is over six tonnes per hectare, indicating the efficiency of our farmers.

British Wheat

Wheat is sown on two-fifths of Britain's arable land, resulting in a total harvest of 12-15 million tonnes per year. About four per cent of the crop is used for seed the following year. Wheat is grown nationwide but predominantly in East Anglia, where summer temperatures are highest and rainfall is low. The British grower will sow winter wheat between September and February and spring wheat in March or April. The seedling develops a number of branches or tillers, following which ears will emerge and flower soon afterwards with the grain ripening six weeks later. Harvesting commences in August and finishes in September. The crop is cut and threshed by combine harvester. English wheat is often too damp to store without drying, so hot air machines are used. Great care is required not to damage the protein content in the wheat intended for seed or milling by overheating.

British Wheat

New Varieties Cut Imports

Historically wheat grown in Britain was often weak or soft, and low in protein compared with grains grown in North America. This is not a derogatory description, it simply means British wheat was not particularly suitable for making the well risen bread most people prefer. Only recently have varieties more suitable for breadmaking been produced, allowing millers to use more home-grown wheat in place of imported North American strong, hard wheats. These new varieties, combined with advances in baking technology, in particular the use of added vital wheat gluten, have helped cut imports from 2.5 million tonnes in the 1960s to less than half a million tonnes today, with consequent savings to the balance of payments.

Wheat growing areas of the world

Wheat growing areas of the world

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Old and New Methods Of Milling 1

The stone-age man's method of pounding wheat between two stones was not basically very different from the, method of grinding by millstones in a wind or watermill. In either case the bottom stone was fixed, and a grinding movement by the top stone was the required action to produce ground meal. The stones were round, the bottom one fixed as we have said, and the top stone, or runner, was balanced on a spindle which could be raised or lowered, making the space between it and the bottom stone as narrow or as wide as the miller wanted. Both stones were corrugated, so that when the top stone was running, the wheat between it and the bed was scraped rather than bruised. The wheat to be ground entered the mill by a hole in the top stone, and was carried out towards the edge, leaving in the form of a meal by holes round the outside of the bed. By raising or lowering the top stone, the meal could be made as fine or as coarse as required.

The millstones are encased in their wooden covers

The millstones are encased in their wooden covers

To obtain white flour from this meal, it was sifted through sieves of different mesh, the finest sieve made of very strong silk. Nowadays in Britain stone mills are of course not used much for flour-making; only a few are still used for wholemeal flour and speciality millers.

An attractive-looking old windmill

An attractive-looking old windmill. Watermills and windmills were in universal use for over seven hundred years. Afew have been preserved as historic monuments.

Watermills for grinding flour were of two varieties; in the first kind the wheel turned horizontally in the stream, its shaft turning the millstone directly, without any gears. The second type had its wheel standing upright (most of you have probably seen one of these watermills), and the shaft at right-angles to the stones, moving them by means of a system of cogs.

The windmill made its appearance at the end of the twelfth century; as it depended for its working on the amount of wind available, it was not by any means an efficient machine. For over 700 years these attractive buildings with their long sails were used for grinding corn for people and for cattle-feed. There are still one or two of them preserved in various parts of our country.

The plant of a modern flour mill has four main functions:

1. To store a reserve of wheat.
2. To remove all the impurities from the wheat and prepare it for milling.
3. To mill the wheat and separate flour from the bran and skins of the wheat.
4. To store the milled products before dispatch.

You have no doubt seen the wheat stores or silos at a flourmill. They are tall buildings housing a number of large cylindrical bins. They are 60 to 90 feet high and may each hold 1,000 tonnes of grain. The silo is equipped with mechanical elevators for dealing with wheat wich invariably arrives by road to the mill. It is also equipped to weigh the wheat, to clean it, in part, of impurities to a safe moisture-content before storage

The cleaning section or screen room draws wheat from the silo. Here wheat is first cleaned on sieves which removes all the impurities different in size from the wheat grain. Magnets next remove any fragments of iron or steel. Further equipment then take out impurities similar in size but different in shape from the wheat grain, such as foreign cereals or round seeds.

An attractive-looking old windmill

An old-fashioned watermill. The shaft of the wheel is at right-angles to the millstones,. they are turned by means of a system of cogs.

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Old and New Methods Of Milling 2

In the mill, the grain passes through more than forty processes before it emerges as flour and bran.

At the first stage of the milling process, the clean blended wheat passes between chilled iron rolls which revolve rapidly, one roll faster than the other. These first sets of rolls (known as the break rolls) have ridges or 'flutes' on them. The slower moving roll tends to hold the wheat while the faster one strikes the grain as it passes between them. They are set very delicately, so that as the wheat passes between them, they do not crush it, but shear it open in order to make the inner white floury portions of the wheat come away from their brown outer skins. If the wheat was merely crushed, the brown skins would break up into countless tiny fragments, and would mix with the white portions so thoroughly, and so finely, that they could never be separated properly. These skins would then discolour the flour badly and also spoil its baking qualities. Some of the white floury portions will have broken away cleanly from their brown outer skins, but other white portions will still have pieces of skin fastened firmly to them. Therefore the materials from the break rolls must be sorted out. The pieces of brown skin must be separated from the white portions, and some of the material must be sent back to the fluted rolls for further separation. This sorting out is done mainly by sifting the mixture of particles from the 'break' rolls; the mixture is first moved by elevators to the top of the mill.

Roller Floor

Roller Floor

There are several different types of sieving machine but usually only two kinds are used at this stage: first the 'plansifter' and then the 'purifier'. This is how they work.

Plansifters on Sifter Floor

Plansifters on Sifter Floor

The plansifter is an arrangement of about a dozen large sieves, one below the other-just like the floors of a tall building. The top sieve has the coarsest mesh, the next not quite so coarse, and so on. These sieves are all made to swing briskly by machinery - in fact they swing continuously with a motion very like that of the ordinary sieve at home. The broken wheat comes first onto the top sieve, and then through the others in turn, each sieve helping to separate the material. The first sieves remove the bran skins, which, because they still have flour particles adhering to them, are returned to another milling machine for re-treatment. The finest sieves are of silk, and these separate flour, which then starts on its way to the flour-packing spout. The majority of particles are not of bran, of course, but are at present too large for grinding down into flour. They are known as semolina at this stage. They are taken to the next sieving machines - the purifier.

The purifier is an ingenious machine that not only separates the broken parts of the wheat by sieving, that is, according to size, but it also separates those parts which are of the same size but of different weight. This is done by using currents of air. The skins are much lighter in weight than the inner white floury parts, and a current of air is drawn upwards through the mixture on the sieve, lifting up and 'floating' the skins, but allowing the heavier white parts to remain on the sieve and be separated by the sieving motion.

Purifier Floor

Purifier Floor

Sieving on the plansifters and purifiers will eventually have removed most of the brown skins. Now the inner floury portions of the broken wheat grains are brought together for final milling between the 'reduction' rolls. These are smooth rolls which mill down very gradually and accurately the inner white portions of the wheat (the endosperm or semolina) into a smooth, powdery, 'lively' flour. Thus flour, clean bran and wheatfeed are collected, each in its own channel, from a large number of different machines and are finally brought either to bulk storage bins or to a packing floor where they are filled into sacks and weighed.

Mill Control Room

Mill Control Room

Lastly, the packed products are sent to the mill warehouse and stacked ready for dispatch. However, around 70% of the flour is dispatched in bulk. Some idea of the need for this section of the mill may be gathered when it is remembered that a large modern flour mill may produce around 750 tonnes per day. The whole process of cleaning, and milling, etc., is done by machine, with the material passing automatically from machine to machine, and from one stage to the next. No hand touches the wheat from the moment it arrives, throughout its long journey in the mill, until the flour leaves the mill on lorries for the baker, biscuit-maker and other users.

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Today the range of flours available is wider than ever before. Each type of flour has been milled with specific uses in mind.


Flours vary in their composition and, broadly speaking, are defined by their rate of extraction. This refers to the percentage of whole cleaned wheat grain that is present in the flour.

The three basic flour categories are:


100 percent extraction, made from the whole wheatgrain with nothing added or taken away.


usually contains about 85 per cent of the original grain, some bran and germ have been removed. This flour is frequently labelled as "85 per cent flour" rather than brown.


usually 75 per cent of the wheatgrain. Most of the bran and wheatgerm have been removed during milling.

Other varieties of flour:


white or brown flour with at least 10% added wheatgerm.

Malted wheatgrain

brown or wholemeal flour with added malted grains.


wholemeal flour ground in traditional way between two stones.


flour milled from a wheat grown and processed naturally without the use of chemicals.

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What is yeast? We know that bakers use it to make the dough 'rise'; without it, our bread would be like flat, hard cakes. In the days when people made their own bread, they would go to a brewer and get a jug of brewer's yeast. It was fluid and yellow. Nowadays, yeast is made commercially on a large scale. The yeast you buy at your market, the yellow lumps done up in paper, has been compressed for convenient handling.

Commercial yeast is a by-product of the whisky distillers. If you are a yeast producer your by-product will be methylated spirits. Yeast is a plant, according to the biologists, and is capable of reproducing itself. A piece of yeast consists of minute cells, with walls composed of cellulose, and an interior of living matter called protoplasm. You can feed it with a solution of sugar to make it grow, or it can be 'killed' by 'starvation' or heat. The ancients did not use yeast as we know it today; they prepared a leaven or 'barm' (which has the same action) from ground millet kneaded with 'must' out of wine-tubs. Wheat bran was also used, kneaded with a three-days-old must, dried in the sun, then made into little cakes. When required for making bread, the cakes were soaked in water, then boiled with the finest flour, after which the whole was mixed in with the meal. Another old method for making barm was to prepare cakes of barley meal and water; these were baked on a hot hearth, or else in an earthen dish upon hot ashes and left until they turned reddish-brown. Afterwards, the cakes were kept shut up in a vessel until they turned quite sour. When wanted for leaven, they were first steeped in water. Eight ounces of this was enough to make a quantity of bread of about 14 lb. or 6.3kg to rise. The primary function of yeast is to supply carbon dioxide gas which inflates the dough during proof and the early stages of baking (oven spring).

Carbon dioxide cannot form a gas bubble on its own it requires a 'nucleating site' (i.e. somewhere it can gather to form a bubble). In fizzy drinks microscopic projections on the side of the bottle provide those sites which is why when you release the pressure as you open the bottle you see 'streams' of gas running from the sides. In bread dough the nucleating sites are provided by the nitrogen gas bubbles trapped in the dough during mixing. The oxygen from the air having been used up by the yeast.

During proof stages the carbon dioxide goes into solution until the solution is saturated and then any more which is generated makes its way into the nitrogen gas bubbles which grow in size and the dough expands. The more yeast and the warmer the temperature the faster the expansion - we get oven spring because the maximum gassing rate occurs at 40-45C.

In bulk fermentation stages we also get dough expansion from carbon dioxide generation but most of that is lost when the dough is knocked back and divided, so the yeast has to start over again.

Yeast also contributes to dough maturity/development. Though its role is minor compared to improvers in no-time doughs, it is more significant in bulk fermentation where the enzymes, especially the proteolytic ones (they modify the gluten proteins), play a significant role.

To sum up, then, the dough is aerated by the action of the yeast. The little cells we mentioned ferment the dough, and produce tiny bubbles of gas inside it. As a result, the dough gets fatter and bigger, and rises, of course. Thus when the dough is baked, you have a 'bold' loaf, light and airy; when you cut it you can see all the tiny holes formed by the gas, so that it looks like a sponge.

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The Baker

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.

The Baker
The Baker

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.

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Bakers Ovens

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 500º 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.

Viennese bakery

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.

  • Deck Ovens
  • Rack Ovens
  • Reel Ovens
  • 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.

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    Bread in this country has to everybody's benefit reached a high standard of purity and hygiene. Bread is perhaps the most important item in our diet; it has often been called the staff of life. To give you an idea of the benefit we get from flour and bread, a Government survey showed that flour and bread provided us with more energy value, more protein, more iron, more nicotinic acid and more vitamin B1 than any other basic food. Bread comes to us in many interesting shapes and flavours.

    From the time-honoured 'cottage' loaf, to some of the delicious Vienna rolls. Nowadays, the sliced and wrapped loaf is the most popular loaf of all. It is ideal for making sandwiches for picnics, and for workers' lunches; there is, however, an important drawback. If you like your bread with a beautiful rich golden crust on it, do not buy the ready-wrapped variety. One of the nicest things in life is to come home hungry from school or work, and have set before one the fresh, buttered crust from a well-done cottage or coburg loaf.

    Bread Bread Bread Bread Bread Bread Bread Bread Bread Bread Bread Bread Bread Bread

    Bread is such an important part of our lives that it ought to be taken more seriously, and enjoyed to the full. In your town, there are probably a number of bakers. Find the one whose bread you usually enjoy. Besides the ordinary white, wholemeal and wheatmeal loaves, many other kinds are on sale which the baker calls 'fancies'. There are the 'malt' breads, bread with currants, milk loaves (containing milk powder), and various tea breads. Then there is spiced bread, in the form of ginger-bread, but this really comes under the heading of cake, although in Holland it always features on the breakfast table.

    Time is marching on in many fields of industry; total mechanisation is the order of the day, and as you have seen, the baking industry is rapidly becoming mechanised. An ordinary loaf needs about three-quarters of an hour in the oven at present. But already, electronic devices are being developed that can bake a loaf, by means of high-frequency heat, in three minutes. A loaf baked so quickly, though, has no time to form a crust-the product is not an attractive one. It would have a great use, though, in international emergencies, such as great earthquakes, floods, etc., when perhaps thousands of people would be in dire need of food. A neighbouring country could make and send huge batches of bread to the stricken area in a very short time. Have you ever thought how much bread you eat in a year? As well as the meat, potatoes, vegetables, etc., you probably eat more than 100kg or nearly twice your own weight.

    One thing you can be sure of - bread is one of the finest foods it is possible to get; in fact, it would not be an exaggeration to say that we cannot do without it. There are many items of food and luxuries, such as ice-cream or sweets which we could well do without, and be far healthier for it. A balanced diet to keep you strong and well in mind and body must always contain that staff of life -good bread.

    Pictures of: Vienna, Milk loaf, Fancy Rumpy, Belgian, Baton, Cottage, Brick, Split tin, Farmhouse, Danish, Cottage, Tin, Twist, Collas or Cholla, Fruit loaf, Wheatsheaf.

    Wheatsheaf Loaf
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    For thousands of years, bread has been such a vital thing to man that it is no wonder that it has gathered around itself a folklore of its own. In many countries it is thought that a loaf baked on Good Friday morning and kept until the following year is an effective medicine against stomach disorders. The patient grates a little of the stale loaf into water, drinks it, and hopes for the best. Another special virtue attributed to bread baked on Good Friday is that it does not go mouldy like ordinary bread. Among the deep-sea fishermen on the Grand Banks, many superstitions still live on; one concerning bread is that when a member of the crew is lost overboard, a slice of bread with a lighted candle on it is put over the side and floated away to comfort the spirit of the drowned man.

    Many a housewife who made and baked her bread at home made the sign of the cross upon each loaf, perhaps to bring good luck, or to guard against bad luck.

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