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A (not so) brief history of Bread

not so brief history of bread

At Bakers Maison, our knowledge of bread making with traditional techniques has been our business center point, with of course a strong focus on customer service. But we also love to explore our heritage and boy did we learn a thing or two about our beloved Breads!

The great history of bread begins in prehistoric times, at the end of the Upper Paleolithic era, 10,000 BC. J-C. The birthplace of bread is found in the Middle East, where tender wheat was already found in the Jericho region at that time. Around -8,000 the first traces of agriculture appeared. The history of bread is intimately mixed with the evolution of tools, and the advent of Mediterranean civilizations. The cereals then used are barley, rye or spelled. Men grind the harvested seeds between two stones. Mixed with water, the porridge is consumed as it is and then, later, in the form of thin patties, cooked under ash or on hot stones.

The first representations of bread appear during Antiquity, in Egypt. Initially used as an offering to the gods, it became an essential food but also a currency.

The history of bread continues around 800 BC. J-C., When, initiated by the Egyptians, the Greeks improved milling techniques and obtained finer flours. Although the ovens seem to have originated in the Mediterranean basin, they improve and extend their use. By the way, the bread will gradually leave the homes for specialized bakeries.

Propagators, the Greeks shared their taste and their science of bread with the Romans, who considered, at the start, the fortuitous fermentation of the dough as a disaster. It was not until the second century BC. J-C. to see the first bread professionals appear. Consequently, the evolutions are connected: in -60, the Romans invent the water mills; in -14 a college of millers bakers was created in Rome.

Following the occupation by the Roman legions of Julius Caesar, the art of making bread was imported into Gaul, approximately 50 years before our era. After the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem (which means "city of bread" in Hebrew), this food takes on a sacred dimension since it symbolizes the body of Christ.

From the 5th to the 15th century, the history of bread continued when the gap widened between the bread of the rich and that of the poor. The latter is generally a mixture of meslin, barley and barely sifted wheat. Between the 11th and 14th centuries, even "famine breads" appeared, flour bread mixed with straw or clay, acorn flour, roots or crushed herbs! Object of social recognition, the bread bears the name of the caste which must consume it: "bread of court", "bread of knights", "bread of squires", etc. Pieces of brown bread, called "slicers", serve as table plates for the lords.

In the Middle Ages, for a fee, the grain to be ground and the bread to be baked were brought respectively to the water mills and the stately common ovens. At that time, the baker called himself the "talmellier" before organizing himself into a corporation and taking the name of bakers, from the moment they made their bread with a single flour (abandonment of the mixtures).

During the previous modern era, that is to say from the 16th century, bread became a real issue at the heart of food shortages. In 1570, a grain and wheat policy determined the sale price of bread. The law is very tough: a child who steals bread from a baker risks being condemned to the galleys!

But bread remains more than ever an overpriced commodity. In 1774, subsistence riots broke out throughout France. Some even believe that it was the need for bread that started the Revolution. When the people seized the Bastille on July 14, 1789, it was to recover the supposed wheat that they thought they would be kept there. On July 17, 1791, the Constituent Assembly imposed compulsory prices and the manufacture of only one type of bread: "equal bread", consisting of wheat and rye mixed with bran. At the end of the 18th century, with the removal of the gabelle (salt tax), the use of salt in bread spread.

In the 11th century, a Polish baker found a way to do without leaven. This method known as “poolish” makes it possible to obtain a less acidic bread called “Viennese” bread, which met with considerable success until the 1920s, when a new bread called “baguette”, “batard” followed. or "string".

At the end of the XIX-beginning of the XX century, the history of bread jumped thanks to progress. Pressed yeast (the start of the current bread-making technique) appeared in 1867. After many tests, we gradually switched to indirect heating. Finally, from the invention of the mechanical kneading machine, at the beginning of the XIXth century, all kinds of new machines will appear. In the early twenties, hand kneading was no longer practiced.

During the First World War, the lack of cereals was a problem. A "national bread" was created in 1916. Rationing took place: 300 g per day and per person in 1918! In October 1940, it will be 350 g (only 275 g in 1942!) And again, with a poor quality bread, made with the mixture of bean flour, rice, rye, barley and sometimes even corn.

In addition, the rising standard of living transforms bread from a basic food to a side dish. From 900 grams per person per day in 1900, its consumption rose to 325 g in 1950.

The fifties marked a real turning point in the history of bread, with the appearance of a new kneading technique known as "intensified". Thanks to an excessive oxidation of the dough, one obtains a bread as expected by consumers, weary of the greyish fabrications of the war. The result is a loaf whose incredible whiteness, but also blandness, not to mention its conservation reduced to a few hours. This general decline in the quality of bread favors the decrease in its consumption (which reached its lowest historical level in 1990 with 160 grams per person per day) and the development of industrial bakeries with, as a consequence, a collapse in the number of bakeries - artisanal pastries (from 48,000 in 1965 to 35,000 in 1995). The image of bread is at its lowest, nutritionists even accuse it of being indigestible or too high in calories.

Fortunately, for a few years, following a reaction from the profession, the consumer has rediscovered the taste for breads of yesteryear, taking advantage of a slow kneading, long standing, often made from natural leaven, poolish or fermented dough. . For the first time in more than a century, the consumption of bread has increased. It is strongly recommended for our dietary balance thanks to its intake of complex carbohydrates, vegetable proteins, even dietary fiber; And, since May 16, 1996, bread even has its annual celebration, the day of St Honoré, the patron saint of bakers!

With our range of over one hundred traditional French style breads, pastries and sweets, Bakers Maison par and fully-baked frozen products will amaze you with the delicious, honest and heart-warming taste of France, no matter what the occasion.

Steeped in centuries of time-honoured French baking traditions, our recipes use only natural, mostly Australian ingredients and contain no added sugar or preservatives.

For more information in regards to our Frozen products please visit our website or alternatively, contact us via email at info@bakersmaison.com.au

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