Bread has been the essential food for most people for a more significant part of history. However, the original bread differed from the bread that we see today. People ate sprouted bread which was rather rough-looking than the modern white bread. In the fertile crescent, one of the earliest cradles of civilization, bread and beer was seen as the staple diet of the people. Even in ancient Egyptian culture, this diet is supposed to have supported many people. Since this was their staple diet, it had to be quite nutritious owing to all the manual labour that the people of those times were subjected to.
By 10,000BC, many people had transitioned to a settled life from their hunting predecessors. Breaking bread became more common than cracking skulls as people started sowing and experimenting with different seeds, a whole new variety of food products propped up. Wheat gave way to bread, and barley gave way to beer. The preparation of bread at this time was unique. A slurry of seed water was baked on rocks in the sun.
Ancient Egypt was considered the granary of the world. A fine quality of wheat was cultivated there for the first time. A direct consequence of this production was the birth of bread in Egypt. It was the staple food of the Egyptians. Herodotus exclaims that bread first acquired economic and social status in Egypt since it was also used as currency. A kneaded dough was baked on a hot plate and became a type of pie. Later on, the dough was placed into a clay pot and cooked on embers. Excavation of various grave sites has revealed that the heavy goods contained different bread sizes to accompany their afterlives.
Soon enough, yeast was discovered, and this greatly improved upon the quality of the bread. The first organized bakeries started propping up, which earned profit from bread. Other cereals and seeds began to be used along with wheat to bake bread—even fruits and herbs such as dates and coriander. The Egyptians handed down this bakery technique to the Jews, Greeks and Romans. Cultivation of the common wheat was introduced by trading to these various other cultures. The quality of the bread was gradually enriched, and the development of bread was very rapid. The construction of ovens as we know them today with a door and the capacity for preheating has been attributed to the Greeks. Hippocrates refers to different types of bread, sweets and biscuits. The first mention of a baked pizza is also found in Greek society, where it was called ‘Plakounta’, which was made by placing vegetables, cheese, and oil on dough before baking it.
When the Romans completely routed Greece, they began the art of baking themselves. Emperor Trajan’s reign saw the emergence of more than 300 organized bakeries in Rome. It even had a baker’s guild. This bread industry was relatively simple and had five parts: the grinding mill, the oven, the storeroom, the sales area and the baker’s home. Romans also discovered the use of beer yeast in breadmaking which they found during conquering countries that produced beer. The Byzantines took over this art and introduced the making of pastries.
Breadmaking remained quite the same for many years until 1881, when electricity decisively changed bread’s whole production and distribution ambit, making it a much more commercial product.
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