The History of Bread – Antiquity of Bread

People have been making bread for thousand of years, its exact origin is unknown. Back in the Stone Age, nomadic tribes made thick gruel from stone crushed wild grains of barley and wheat and  then baked them into flat cakes on hot stones over open fire. About 10,000 years ago, nomadic tribes settled and began cultivating grains. Later, Swiss lake dwellers improved on the wild grain-gruel recipe by crushing grains to make flat bread. Archeological evidence proved that the Egyptians produced the first risen loaves using yeast as far back as 5,000 years ago. The Egyptians were also believed to be the first to grind wheat flour in a process similar to modern milling.


About 10000 BC – Iron Age

People in the iron age did not use yeast and instead mixed potash from their sour milk. They placed the dough over fire to rise and they used hand sized millstones called querns to improve the quality of flour by turning it simultaneously, people in the iron age used iron griddles instead of oven because it could conduct heat well and provide more even heat.



Baking Process in Ancient Egypt:

1. The process begin with the crushing grains & the shaking of husk.

2. Then the grain would be sent to be measured and the quality recorded.

3. Later the Egyptians used a grinding stone to grind finer grain.

4. Triangular-shaped bread would be formed by hand and the bread dough baked on its convex part, while turn upside-down.

5. Then, the bread would be brought to storage area.

6. Later, the bread would be distributed to workers who built the pyramid.


About 150 BC – Romans

The ancient Greeks and Romans knew bread for a staple food, even in those days people argued whether white or brown was best. The Romans enjoyed several kinds of bread, with interesting names. There were 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, they were only for wealthy and privileged people. Also during this time the first Baker’s guild was formed. The Romans insisted on the more exclusive and expensive breads, they distributed free bread to the poor in times of need.


Bread was very important food for the Romans and they needed to be able to produce in large quantities. The Romans used large brick ovens that could produce bread for 25,000 people daily and they made great improvements to the quality of the bread, they grew better grain and they replaced millstone-like querns with mills. Powered by animals, so they could turn more grain into finer flour, they also used large brick ovens and three legged put-ovens which were placed over a fire. The bakers also made different types of seasoned breads and cakes flavored with honey, cheese, fruits and pepper.


1000 AD – 1500 AD – The Mid Age

The Norman Castle had large ovens, where bread was baked for the whole community, to improve the processing of grains, windmills and watermills were build close to where the wheat was grown. Also in that time, the growth of towns and cities brought bakers to set up businesses as bread making became a thriving trade. The upper level of the windmill which then makes the brake wheel go round, then the runner stone turns against the bottom bed stone which does not move, and this grinds the grain through the bottom section where the grain goes into the meal bin.


About 700 BC – 100 AD – Vikings

After the Romans left, people went back to old ways of milling grain with querns and baking bread. When the Vikings arrived, they made rye bread by mixing flour with water and some old dough, then it was kneaded well and the loaf was left to rise. Rye bread was hard, the unleavened (no yeast) bread was baked in large moulds with a hole in the middle and threaded on to tent poles so that it could be served easily.


1700 AD – 1830 AD – The Georgians

During Georgian times, better farming methods were introduced which produced higher quality grains. The introduction of sieves made of Chinese silk helped to produce finer and whiter flour. Baking tins were also invented to produce as loaves with straight sides, so that the bread could easily be sliced and toasted. The sandwich was believed to have been invented during this time by adding a second slice on the top served with meats and sauces. Sandwiches were named after the Earl of Sandwich who was too busy to eat proper meals. During this century, wheat began to over-take rye and barley as the main bread grain.


19th Century – 20th Century – The Victorians

In the middle of the 19th 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 others, it was called the reduction roller-milling system. Also, during this time, new machines were invented which led to mills with steam power, stone mills that improved the quality of the grains. The flours from these mills were very fine which made bread a lot lighter. Bread also began to be advertised and promoted for healthy eating.


Industrial Revolution

The Industrial Revolution reduced farm acreage. 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. Gas ovens replaced the wood and coal burning brick ovens, producing much more even results. Later automated baking units significantly increased productivity; military bakeries were the first to mass-produce bread. A new yeast was used which was faster acting and more reliable. Bread making had now become computerized and factories were able to produce bread on large scale, improved transport meant that bread could be delivered more quickly.


Source: High 5 Bread Town.

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