About bread

About bread and sourdough

Often times, when we think about bread, we automatically visualize this white, store bought, spongy, forever lasting, almost synthetic loaf of sandwich bread. However, this white pan-formed loaf can’t be farther from what bread actually is or, rather, is supposed to be.

Bread has been around for more than 10.000 years. Ancient Egyptians are considered the forefathers of bread. Bread production dates from approximately 8.000 B.C.E, in the form of flat breads and roundish cakes. Then, It’s believed that around 3.000 B.C.E, a truly happy accident gave place to leavened breads. At the time, bread and beer productions were located almost together (Also were both extremely important, but I’ll dedicate a whole post to the relationship between bread and beer) and the worm middle eastern weather was the perfect environment for yeast to thrive. So, a batch of uncooked dough was forgotten, and when they realized, probably next day, they noticed the loaves had grown. They baked them like that and the world was introduced, unknowingly, to bread fermentation and its wonders. The yeast loaded air from the brewery transformed the uncooked flour and water mixture into a whole different thing. And that’s what we came to call sourdough.

 

The court bakery of Ramses III (Egypt)

 

Sourdough gets its English name from the acid produced during the natural fermentation process. During this process, the sugars from the flour react with yeast and bacteria, giving place to two chemical reaction. One of these chemical reactions produces lactic acid which is responsible for the sourness, and the other reaction produces alcohol and, more importantly, carbon dioxide which is responsible for the bubbles.

 

It was until 1825 that commercial yeast was introduced. A leavening agent with extremely high concentrations of yeast, which speedup the fermentation process and left bacteria out of the fermentation process. This was followed by the increasing popularity of highly refined white flour and the introduction of hydrogenated oils, artificial preservatives, chemical additives, and emulsifiers to make the bread more mass-produced-friendly. Essentially, bread composition was drastically changed to transform the humble loaf almost in a commodity. This transformation stripped bread down from its many nutritional and health benefits leaving us with a fluffy, lifeless, and nutritionally worthless loaf of something we dare call bread. Also, bringing a rapid increase in grain allergies and intolerances we never knew before.

But, it isn’t all bad news. Additionally to many technological, social, and political advances, the 2000’s brought a new found popularity for naturally leavened breads, as well as an increasing demand for bread made with whole grain flours. It is a process, but is happening steadily. People are taking more interest in what their eat, which tends to steers them towards more natural, high fiber breads. There is a growing interest in sourdough, too. So, I believe new times are bringing old breads back, and we’ll all benefit from that. This humble blog is my tiny minimal contribution to the sourdough and wholegrain movement.

 

 

If you’d like to read more about it go to:

– Encyclopedia of Food and Culture

– https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2014/aug/12/rise-sourdough-bread-slow-fermented-health-benefits

– https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/articles/201205/natures-bounty-the-wonder-bread

– Dig into History Magazine

 

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *