Bread

Photo: Michel Marcon
Breads are a group of staple food-products prepared by baking, steaming, or frying a dough consisting primarily of flour, water and optionally a leavening agent.

The word itself, Old English bread, is common in various forms to many Teutonic languages; cf. German Brot, Dutch brood, and Swedish and Danish bröd; it has been derived from the root of brew, but more probably is connected with the root of break, for its early uses are confined to broken pieces, or bits of bread, the Latin frustum, and it was not till the 12th century that it took the place as the generic name of bread, of hlaf, loaf, which appears to be the oldest Teutonic name, cf. Old High German hleib, and modern German Laib, or Finnish leipä.

Bread is a popular food in Western society. It is often made from wheaten flour that is allowed to ferment by the addition of liquids and yeast, and then baked in an oven.

Adding yeast, which is the process of leavening bread, gives it lightness and improves digestibility. But there is also unleavened bread which has important symbolic use in Judaism and is used by some Christian churches.

An alternate technique for leavening bread is the use of baking powder, which typically consists of bicarbonate of soda and rising agents. These are called quick breads and soda breads. Some wheat flours are sold with baking powder mixed in; this is known as self-rising flour. These are also used for cakes and biscuits.

A third technique for preparing leavening bread is known as sourdough. Instead of leavening directly from cultivated baker's yeast, sourdough bread is leavened with a starter. The starter is made of flour, water and wild or cultivated yeasts that is kept in an active state. Only part of the starter is used each time the bread is made and fresh flour and water is added to the starter to keep it active for future use. Similar to the solera system for sherry, this ensures that some of the starter used has fermented for a very long time. The dough is allowed to ferment for a longer period. The starter imparts a slightly sour flavor to the dough (hence the name) and the extended fermentation serves to partly break down the complex carbohydrates in the flour, making the bread more digestible. Sourdough breads have a slightly different texture than conventional yeast breads and are said to keep their freshness longer.

Owing to its high levels of gluten (which give the dough sponginess and elasticity), wheat is the most common grain used for the preparation of bread, but bread is also made from the flour of rye, barley, maize (or corn), and oats, usually, but not always, in combination with wheat flour.

There are many variations on the basic recipe of bread, including pizza, chapatis, tortillas, baguettes, pitas, lavash, biscuits, pretzels, naan, bagels, puris and many other variations. See Wikipedia Cookbook.

Table of contents
1 History
2 Recipes

History

Bread is one of the oldest prepared foods, dating back to the Neolithic era when cereal grains and water were mixed into a paste and cooked. In ancient Egypt bread-making became one of the most significant areas of food preparation, along with the making of beer; both had religious significance as well. It is thought that the Egyptians invented the first closed oven for use in baking. Bread was a primary staple of diet in much of European history, from at least 1000 BCE into modern times.

Otto Frederick Rohwedder is considered to be the father of sliced bread. In 1912 Rohwedder started work on inventing a machine that sliced bread, but bakeries were reluctant to use it since they were concerned the sliced bread would go stale. It wasn't until 1928, when Rohwedder invented a machine that both sliced and wrapped the bread, that sliced bread caught on. A bakery in Battle Creek, Michigan was the first to use this machine to produce sliced bread.

Recipes

The following instructions to make bread were taken from the Household Cyclopedia of 1881:

"Place in a large pan twenty-eight pounds of flour; make a hole with the hand in the centre of it like a large basin, into which strain a. pint of brewers, yeast; this must be tested, and if too bitter a little flour sprinkled into it, and then strained directly, then pour in two quarts of water of the temperature of 100¡, or blood heat, and stir the flour round from the bottom of the hole formed by the hand till that part of the flour is quite thick and well mixed, though all the rest must remain unwetted; then sprinkle a little flour over the moist part and cover it with a cloth; this is called sponge, and must be left to rise. Some leave it only half an hour, others all night.

"When the sponge is light, however, add four quarts of water the same temperature as above, and well knead the whole mass into a smooth dough. This is hard work if done well. Then cover the dough and leave it for au hour. In cold weather both sponge and dough must be placed on the kitchen hearth, or in some room not too cold, or it will not rise well. Before the last water is put in two tablespoonful of salt must be sprinkled over the flour. Sometimes the flour will absorb another pint of water.

"After the dough has risen it should be made quickly into loaves; if much handled then the bread will be heavy. It will require an hour and a half to bake, if made into fourpound loaves. The oven should be well heated before the dough is put into it. To try its heat, throw a little flour into it; if it brown directly, it will do. "

French bread recipe

Put a pint of milk into three quarts of water. In winter let it be scalding hot, but in summer little more than milk warm. Put in salt sufficient. Take a pint and a half of good ale yeast, free from bitterness, and lay it in a gallon of water the night before. Pour off the yeast into the milk and water, and then break in rather more than a quarter of' a pound of butter. Work it well till it is dissolved; then beat up two eggs in a basin, and stir them in. Mix about a peck and a half of flour with the liquor, and in winter make the dough pretty stiff, but more slack in! summer; mix it well, and the less it is worked the better. Stir the liquor into flour, as for pie-crust, and after the dough is made cover it with a cloth, and let it lie to rise while the oven is heating. When the loaves have lain in a quick oven about a quarter of an hour, turn them on the other side for about a quarter of an hour longer. Then take them out, and chip them with a knife, which will make them look spongy, and of a fine yellow. whereas rasping takes off this fine color, and renders their look less inviting.


Bread is mentioned in the Lord's Prayer, where it may mean necessities in general.

Similarly, bread is now a common word in Britain for money from the rhyming slang 'Bread and honey'.


For the 1970s rock and roll band see Bread (band).




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