Despite the seeming ludicrousness of certain well-publicised latter-day low carbohydrate diets, bread remains a staple food for numerous people worldwide, representing perhaps as much as 80% of the dietary intake in some societies.

Like beer, its origins can be traced to the gruel obtained from mixing ground grain (notably barley in the earliest times) with water or milk. The blend was then subjected to air-drying or was baked either on hot stones or by being put into hot ashes, such ovens being traced to early Babylonian civilisation.

Such breads broken into water and allowed to spontaneously ferment in jars were of course the origins of beer. Preferences for bread per se shifted from a flat form to loaves, and wheat replaced barley as the main raw material, although rye has long played a major role in bread making in central and northern Europe.

Without of course knowing the science involved, the Egyptians were producing leavened bread and soured dough can be traced to 450 BC.

In more modern times, the first dough kneading machines were developed late in the eighteenth century, while large-scale commercial production of baker's yeast commenced in the nineteenth century. And as for other fermentation products described in this book, it was the Industrial Revolution that led to the emergence of large commercial bakeries. Breads assumed much more uniformity in quality, size and shape. However, the local variation still prevalent in terms of styles of bread, whether loaves or flat breads, is at least the equal of variation in most other products of fermentation.

Bread made from flour and water but no leavening agent is flat, for example, tortilla, nan. Other breads are leavened by gases or by steam, this demanding that the doughs are capable of holding gas.

The key ingredients in the production of bread are grain starch (chiefly wheat or rye), water, salt and a leavening agent. Sometimes sugar, fat and eggs are amongst the additional components, while acids are used in the production of rye breads. Whereas wheat doughs are leavened with yeast, rye doughs are not only treated with yeast but also acidified by sourdough starter cultures or acid per se. Gas retention in wheat doughs is dependent upon the gluten structure, whereas in rye doughs there is less retention of gas and the presence of mucilage and a high dough viscosity is important.

An overview of bread production is given in Fig. 12.1. The key steps are (1) preparation of raw materials; (2) dough fermentation and kneading;

Water, salt, fat, yeast

Fig. 12.1 Making bread.

Cereal grains

Grade, clean, mill


Mix, knead


Fermentation 25-30°G, 2-3 h Bake 220-250°G, 20-30 min


Cool, package

(3) processing of the dough (fermentation, leavening, dividing, moulding and shaping); (4) baking; (5) final treatments, such as slicing and packaging.

Bread Making

Bread Making

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