Search This Blog

Sunday, 26 May 2013



Evidence that humans were grinding wild barley and grass seeds to make dough at least 22,000 years ago has been found on the shore of the Sea of Galilee.

The first bread was made from acorns or beechnuts, or seeds of wild grains crushed, they were ground between stones, mixed with water, and cooked on flat hot stones heated directly in a fire.

Later in Europe bread was made from spelt, a type of primitive, tough grain with a tight-fitting husk that protected against pests & diseases but was hard to grind. Pounding stones were used to crush the grain, which was then moistened, compacted and cooked on a hot stone.

By 5000 BC hot stones were being covered with an inverted pot to contain the heat. Bread was being baked by this method in several areas including Bulgaria, Egypt and Mesopotamia.

The earliest form of leavening is a type of yeast, or breadmash, discovered accidentally approx 2600 BC by an Egyptian when a piece of dough had become sour. With dough made by mixing a type of flour made from ground nuts, salt, water and leaven the Egyptians were able to make over 50 types of a raised and coarse bread. They varied the shape and use such flavouring materials as poppyseed and sesame.

Moldy bread has been used to disinfect cuts as far back as ancient Egypt.

The Greeks and Romans both liked their bread white; and color was one of the main tests for quality. 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”.

Freed Roman slave Marcus Virgilius Euryasaces invented the first bread-maker in the first century AD. Powered by a donkey or horse walking in circles, it kneaded dough in a basin.

The Romans often flavoured their bread with cumin, parsley or poppy. There were certain miserly bakers who knead the meal with sea-water to save the price of salt. Pliny did not approve of this.

In medieval Western Europe, each citizen ate over 600 grams (just over 20 ounces) of bread each day, but the type of bread eaten by individuals depended on their income. The upper and middle classes preferred white wheaten bread. The poor for whom bread represented three-quarters of their budget had to be content with black or brown bread, made from bran, oats, rye, or barley.

In the 1500s bread was divided according to status.. Workers got the burnt bottom of the loaf, the family got the middle, and guests got the top, or the upper crust.

Bread did not exist in Japan until 1543, when it was brought to the archipelago by Portuguese missionaries. The new food was initially popular, but disappeared once the country cut ties with the west. It would not be eaten again until the 19th century.

Bread has been used since the 17th century to clean the frescoes on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican.

It was Napoleon who gave the baguette its long shape. His soldiers found it easier to carry their bread around on the battlefield in this shape and kept it down their trousers for ease when moving about, as they were short on backpack space.

The Ancient Egyptians used to pay workers in bread and beer but the use of “dough” in English as slang for “money” dates back only to 1851.

The year round availability of wheat bread in Britain only happened around 1850 after the repeal of the corn laws.

For the first time the cost of white bread in England dropped below brown bread in the mid 1860s. A contributing factor was white bread was frequently diluted with meal made from other cereals or vegetable seeds.

Hovis bread takes its name from the Latin phrase 'Hominis vis" literally translating as 'Strength of man.' The name was coined in 1890 by London student Herbert Grime in a national competition set by S. Fitton & Sons Ltd to find a trading name for their patent flour which was rich in wheat germ. The company became the Hovis Bread Flour Company Limited in 1898.

In 1928 Otto Frederick Rohwedder, a retired jeweller from Missouri came up with a machine that both wrapped and sliced bread. He had worked for many years on developing a bread slicer, starting 16 years previously. At first Rohwedder came up with the idea of a device that held the slices together with hat pins but bakers warned him that the sliced bread would quickly go stale. Eventually, Rohwedder designed a slicer that would also wrap the bread.

The photograph below depicts a "new electrical bread slicing machine" in use by an unnamed bakery in St. Louis in 1930.

Frank Bench, a personal friend of Rohwedder's, installed the bread slicing machine at the Chillicothe Baking Company in Missouri. The first ever pre-sliced loaf of bread using Rohwedder’s machine was sold to a customer on July 7, 1928. The pre-sliced bread was labeled “Sliced Kleen Maid Bread”.

By 1933 80% of all bread sold in the US was sliced and wrapped and the phrase “the greatest forward step in the baking industry since bread was wrapped” was coined. This led to the popular phrase “the best thing since sliced bread."

Not only did sales of sliced bread take off in the early 1930s, but also toasters became a popular vehicle for toasting sliced bread.

During World War II, bakers in the United States were ordered to stop selling sliced bread for the duration of the war on January 18, 1943. Only whole loaves were made available to the public. It was never explained how this action helped the war effort.

The first documented reference to the phrase, "best thing since sliced bread " is thought to be in a 1952 interview where the famous comedian Red Skelton “advised” the Salisbury Times to “not worry about television. It’s the greatest thing since sliced bread.”

Astronauts are not allowed to take bread into space. This is due to astronaut John Young smuggling a corned beef sandwich on Gemini III  in 1965. The sandwich crumbled apart and launched crumbs in all directions, creating a potential safety and equipment hazard.

Ciabatta bread was invented in 1982.

The record for the longest loaf of bread is 3,975 feet  0.7 inches set in Portugal in 2005.

In 2008, British chef Paul Hollywood created an almond and roquefort sourdough recipe that was said to be the most expensive bread in Britain, being sold for £15 per loaf at Harrods The roquefort was supplied from a specialist in France at £15 per kilo, while the flour for the bread was made by a miller in Wiltshire. Hollywood described it as a "Rolls-Royce of loafs".


There are more than 200 varieties of bread available in the UK today.

Bread is bought by 99% of British households.

The equivalent of over 12 million loaves are sold each day in the UK.

Approximately 75% of the bread eaten in the UK is white and sandwiches are thought to account for 50% of overall bread consumption.

It takes around 350 ears of wheat to make enough flour for one 800g loaf of bread.

A wheat crop will produce on average 7.5 tonnes of grain per hectare - that's enough to make 11,500 loaves of bread.

One acre of wheat can produce enough bread to feed a family of four people for about ten years.

Much of the bread marketed in the U.S. as "wheat" is actually white bread dyed brown with caramel food coloring.

Germany has the most diverse selection and production of bread in the world with 200 types of bread.

Hverabrau├░, a traditional bread from Iceland, is baked by burying by a geothermal spring for 24 hours.

People in Turkey eat more bread than any other European country, averaging about 104kg (229lb) a year per person.

Scandinavian traditions hold that if a boy and girl eat from the same loaf, they are bound to fall in love.

Sources Food For Thought: Extraordinary Little Chronicles of the World by Ed Pearce, Daily Express

No comments:

Post a Comment