Rsionis wrote:Not sure if more people feel like this but i reckon a word limit in a single post. Not very strict but still enough so that members stop with their essays describing and explaining shit to each other. Even continued scrolling to avoid to read them posts becomes a little annoying.
I have an insightful response to this post, but to properly illustrate it let me first recount the entire history of bread. Please bear with me.
The history of bread and cake starts with Neolithic cooks and marches through time according to ingredient availability, advances in technology, economic conditions, socio-cultural influences, legal rights (Medieval guilds), and evolving taste. The earliest breads were unleavened. Variations in grain, thickness, shape, and texture varied from culture to culture.
Archaelogical evidence confirms yeast (both as leavening agent and for brewing ale) was used in Egypt as early as 4000 B.C. Food historians generally cite this date for the discovery of leavened bread and genesis of the brewing industry. There is an alternate theory regarding the invention of brewing. Some historians believe it is possible that brewing began when the first cereal crops were domesticated. Sources generally agree the discovery of the powers of yeast was accidental.
"No one has yet managed to date the origins of beer with any precision, and it is probably an impossible task. Indeed, there are scholars who have theorized that a taste for ale prompted the beginning of agriculture, in which case humans have been brewing for some 10,000 years...Most archaeological evidence, however, suggests that fermentation was being used in one manner or another by around 4000 to 3500 B.C. Some of this evidence-from an ancient Mesopotamian trading outpost called Godin Tepe in present-day Iran- indicates that barley was being fermented at that location around 3500 B.C. Additional evidence recoverd at Hacinegi Tepe (a similar site in southern Turkey) also suggest that ancient Mesopotamians were fermenting barley at a very early date...There is no question that fermentation takes place accidentally (as it must have done countless times before humans learned something about controlling the process), and most investigators believe that barley was first cultivated in the Fertile Crescent region of lower Mesopotamia between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. Grain is heavy to transport relative to the beer made from it, so it is not surprising that there may be evidence of ale in these outposts and not unreasonable to suspect that accidental fermentation did occur at some point in the ancient Mesopotamian region, leading to beer making."
---Cambridge World History of Food, Kenneth F. Kiple and Kriemhild Conee Ornelas, Volume 1 [Cambridge University Press:Cambridge] 2000 (p. 619-620)
"It seems that the discovery of ale was stimulated by the process of bread-making. At some stage in the Neolithic era people had learned that if, instead of using ordinary grain, they used grain that had been sprouted and then dried, it made a bread that kept unusually well. Something very like this was used in brewing. The Egyptian process was to sprout the grain, dry it , crush it, mix it to a dough and partially bake it. The loaves were then broken up and put to soak in water, where they were allowed to ferment for about a day before the liquor was strained off and considered ready for drinking."
---Food in History, Reay Tannahill [Three Rivers Press:New York] 1988 (p.48)
"Leavening, according to one theory, was discovered when some yeast spores--the air is full of them, especially in a bakehouse that is also a brewery--drifted onto a dough that had been set aside for a while before baking; the dough would rise, not very much, perhaps, but enough to make the bread lighter and more appetizing than usual, and afterwards, as so often in the ancient world, inquiring minds set about the task of reproducing deliberately a process that had been discovered by accident. But there is an alternative and even more likely theory-that on some occasion ale instead of water was used to mix the dough. The rise would be more spectacular than from a few errant spores and the effect would be easy to explain and equally easy to reproduce."
---Food in History, Tannahill (p. 51-52)
"The brewing of beer may well have occurred soon after the production of cereal crops, and no doubt for a long time beer was home-produced and in the hands of housewives responsible for preparing the gruel or bread...the first production of beer may be reasonably considered as an accidental discovery resulting for the malting of grain for other purposes."
---Food in Antiquity: A Survey of the Diet of Early Peoples, Don Brothwell and Patricia Brothwell, expanded edition [Johns Hopkins:Maryland] 1998 (p. 166)
Ancient ovens & baking
"The most important part of the baker's equipment is, and always has been, his oven. For six thousand years and more it is the oven, however crude or complex, which has transformed the sticky wet dough into bread. It is the oven which influences the final character of the loaf; the effieciencycy of an oven, or lack of it, can determine the success or failure of any bread baker's business. It is the heart of the baking process...It was the Egyptians who first used a manufactured portable oven. This was a beehive- or barrel-shaped container of baked clay, usually divided into two by a central horizontal partition. The lower section formed the fire-box in which were burned pieces of dried wood, foten taken from the Nile, or even dried animal dung. The upper part, accessible from the top, was the baking chamber. An oven of similar shape, but often constructed of hollowed stone instead of clay, was used by the early Jews. Instead of placing the dough pieces for baking on the bottom or sole of the baking chamber, the Jews put the pieces on the sides. Being damp and sticky they remained in place intil they had dried out, when they fell to the bottom of the oven. The Jews also had fixed ovens in some of their houses, frequently in the main rooms. These ovens or hearths took the form of clay-covered hollows in the floor which were heated with burning wood. When the heat was sufficient the embers were raked out and the pieces of dough placed in the hollows and covered over. In Jerusalem there was a bakers' quarter where bread was baked in tiers of stone-built ovens, or furnaces as they were called in the Bible. In Ancient Rome bread ovens in the public bakeries were originally hewn from solid rock. These ovens were heated by the familiar method of burning wood in the baking chamber, raking out the ashes and putting in the dough to bake. The oven opening was closed with a large stone, sometimes sealed with clay. Ovens which worked on this principle, but were constructed of bricks or small stones, may still be seen in the ruined city of Pompeii. The fact ovens based on this simple design formed the majority of those in use throughout Europe until little more than two centuries ago. Although some of the early Roman ovens had chimnesy to improve the draught and carry away steam, it was many centuries before chimneys were commonly used or dampers incorporated so that the heat could be more effectively controlled."
---The Story of Bread, Ronald Sheppard & Edward Newton [Charles T. Branford:Boston MA] 1957 (p. 107-109)
""When I break your staff ten women shall bake your bread in one oven, and shall deliver your bread again by weight; and you shall eat, and not be satsified." ---Lev. 26:26. This type of oven may have been a small earthenware cylindar called tannur in the Bible as it is by present-day rural north Africans who still use it. A fire is kindled in the bottom and the dough is slapped against the hot interior walls, yielding curved disks of bread. Many other sorts of oven have been discovered in Israeli excavations. Larger, bi-level ovens have been unearthed which would have been more suitable for baking commercial quantities. They have a top rack to hold the loaves, while the fire below is stoked with "the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven..." (Mt. 6:30). These baking techniques and others were known to the Romans, whose own commercial bakeries were not established unitl a relatively late date (171-168 B.C.). Once Roman administrative genius was applied to even so commonplace a task as breadmaking, the results would be impressive."
---The Bible Cookbook, Daniel S. Cutler [William Morrow:New York] 1985 (p. 371)
About ancient Roman ovens
"Many kitchens had an oven, furnus, sometimes called a fornax...The oven consisted of a square or dome-shaped hollow construction of brick or stone, with a flat floor, often made of granite, sometimes lava. It was filled with dry twigs when lit. When the flire was spent, the glowing embers were swept aside. The first heat of the glowing oven was suitable for baking unleavened or thin breads. Pizzas are still cooked this way, and this type of oven is still considered best for baking top-quality bread. Thin breads go in first, then large round loaves to in, or meat dishes, and the door is closed. After an hour or so, these are removed, but the oven is still hot, so finer pastries follow, then dishes that require the least heat, such as meringues."
---Around the Roman Table: Food and Feasting in Ancient Rome, Patrick Faas [Palgrave MacMillan:New York] 2003 (p. 132)
Compare with Colonial American ovens.
What is a "Baker's Dozen?"
A "Bakers Dozen" is 13 items (cookies, muffins, bread, etc.). The practice stems from Medieval times when bread was sold by the loaf. Because some loaves were lighter than others (purposeful shortweighting or ingredient differential) laws were enacted requiring bread be sold by weight. Adding an extra baked good to the customer's standard dozen ensured customers they were getting their money's worth. This practice remains active today in many bakeries across America.
"Baker's dozen. There are many theories about the origin of this phrase. The most commonly accepted theory dates back to fifteenth-century England. It seems that bakers had long had a reputation--whether deserved or not--for short-weighting their bread. As a result, very strict laws were passed, regulating the weight of various kinds of breads, muffins and cakes. But, as every cook knows, it's not possible--especially when cooking with the primitive ovens then available--to have the loaves absolutely uniform in weight. So the practice developed of giving thirteen loaves on every order for twelve, thereby guaranteeing that there would be no penalty for shortages. Another theory is that the phrase developed by analogy from printer's dozen, for in the early days of publishing it was the custom of printers to supply the retailer with thirteen copies of a book on each order of twelve. Since the retailer was billed at list price, the return on the thirteenth book represented his profit on the transaction. As a sidelight on this medieval selling technique, by the way, we may note that one of the most prevalent practices of the book trade is for the publisher to offer retailers "one-for-ten" or one free book with every ten ordered, thereby increasing the retailer's margin of profit and, of course, the number of books sold by the publisher. The there's still another theory. It seems that the bakers of the medieval period had such a bad name that the words baker and devil were sometimes used interchangeably. Thus, the term baker's dozen may have evolved from devil's dozen, which was a common folk phrase meaning thirteen. And thirteen was the number of witches usually reprsent at meetings summoned by Old Nick."
---Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins, William and Mary Morris [Harper & Row:New York] 1962, Volume 1 (p. 23)
Why were bread boxes invented?
Bread boxes certainly would have discouraged mice, but that was not the reason they were invented. Homeade bread (without chemical preservatives) has a very short shelf life. In the olden days, much bread was consumed the day it was made. Leftover bread quickly staled unless stored in a protective environment that could control air flow and moisture. Before the advent of cheap metal products, bread was stored in crocks. These containers could not be completely airtight (hence the holes in the metal bread box) or bread's own natual moisture would do it in.
"Among the vital points to remember about the storage of bread are, first, the larger the loaf the longer it stays fresh; next, that a loaf should never be wrapped up or put away until it is perfectly cool; and that unless it is be to be consigned to a deep freeze it keeps best if it is allowed to breathe. A loaf enclosed in...a sealed plythene box or bag may appear to retain its moisture for a day or two but is in fact giving it out; this moisture is condensing in the airtight container and dampening although not quite so quickly, when bread is stored in a non-porous, highly glazed stoneware crock unless there is an air hole in the cover, or unless the cover can be raised slightly, allowing air into the crock...On street-maket stalls and in antique shops one sometimes coms across the old Doulton stoneware storage crock for bread. It is a rare occurrence to find one complete with its cover. This is because the people who made these crocks, familiar with the problems of bread storage, evolved specially designed lightweight steel covers, slightly domes and perforated with small air holes in the cintre. These covers provided a very practical solution to the problems both of ventilation and of weight..."
---English Bread and Yeast Cookery, Elizabeth David, American Edition with notes by Karen Hess [Penguin Books:New York] 1980 (p. 221-2)
When did we start baking square-shaped bread in pans?
Food historian Elizabeth David sums this topic up most eloquently:
"Bread baked in pans or tins of uniform shape and capacity was a late development. Indeed, it seems to have been mainly a British one, Holland being the only other European country in which the method is in general use. In France only soft sandwich loaves and rusk bread are baked in tins, provided with a sliding cover so that almost crustless tops and perfectly even shapes are achieved ..Before the advent of mass-produced tinware English household bread was either baked in earthenware crocks glazed on the inside only, or the loaves were hand-moulded and fed into the oven on wooden peels in the ancient manner, as was our bakery bread. In the seventeenth century, deep tin or wooden hoops and, more rarely, round iron cake pans were used for yeast cakes, and there were earthenware dishes for pies, 'broad tins' for gingerbread, tin patty pans, plates and oven sheets for small cakes, biscuits and confectionery...and occasionally wooden dishes for moulding rolls or small loaves--Robert May [English cookbook author: The Accomplist Cook,  specifies these--but until the turn of the eighteenth century no mention is made in cookery books of tins for bread-baking. That they were in used long before that, probably in the early years of the century, seems certain, but it is Mrs. Rundell, writing in the second editon of A New System of Domestic Cookery (1807), who makes the earliest English cookery book reference I have yet found to tin loaves: 'If baked in tins the crust will be very nice', says Mrs. Rundell. It is curious to reflect that without those tins we might never have had the sliced wrapped loaf. Dear Mrs Rundell, would she have been quite so pleased with the innovation had she forseen where it was to lead? And how was it that only the Dutch and the English took readily to bread baked in tins while the system was obviously rejected by the rest of Europe? Of course, at the time it must have seemed wonderfully convenient--it still does--to settle a batch of dough comfortably into space-saving tins, simply cover them with a cloth and transfer them into the heated oven when the dough had risen for the second time. This means much less handling in the shaping of the dough; the tricky notching, cutting or 'scotching', as the earlier writers called this part of dough management, could be dispensed with; and if the dough had been made up too slack no harm will be done; it would be confined within the walls of the tin and so could not spread and flatten out, but would spring upwards. By the early nineteeth century domestic cooking methods had aleady much changed. In the towns coal ranges with ovens were being installed in kitchens, so the separate bakehouse with its special bread oven was often abolished, and housewives or their cooks no doubt found that in the new ovens bread baked in tins or crocks was more satisfactory than the old hand-moulded 'crusty' loaves, the all-round exposure to high heat in a small space without radiation from above causing a hard crust to develop before the inner part of the loaf had properly grown...In stpite of the new tins and the new ovens, which certainly didn't become common until after the middle of the nineteenth century, most householders continued to make their bread as they had always done, often taking the prepared dough to a communal oven or to a local bakery to be baked. When Eliza Acton [English Cookbook author: Modern Cookery fo Private Families, 1845] did this at Tonbridge she put her dough into large round earthen crocks, rather shallow, wide at the top and with sloping sides. The tin loaf was given short shrift by Miss Acton. 'The loaves are technically called bricks, which are baked in tins,' she remarks, are of convenient form for making toast of for slicing bread and butter.' "
---English Bread and Yeast Cookery, Elizabeth David [Penguin:Middlesex] 1979 (p. 206-9)
Related food? Pullman loaves.
"Yeast has been used in the preparation of food and drink for as long as there have been leavened bread and beer, but it was only in the 19th century, thanks to the work of Pasteur, that its nature was understood...Yeast is a single-celled fungus, of which hundreds of species have been identified. Those of the genera Saccharomyces and Candida are the most useful. The single cells are very small: hundreds of millions to a teaspoonful. Instead of feeding by photosynthesis, as green plants do, they feed on carbohydrates...and excrete alcohol. They breathe air and exhale carbon dioxide...Despite the simplicity of their structure, yeast cells can operate in alternative ways; one that suits bread-making and one that is right for brewers. Given plenty of air and some food, yeast grows fast and produces a lot of carbon dioxide. It is the pressure of this gas which makes the bread rise. Only a little alcohol is formed. However, in a fermentation vat, where there is almost no air but an abundance of food in the form of sugar, the yeast cells change to a different mode, breathing little and concentrating on turning sugar into alcohol. The same species of yeast, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, constitutes both baker's and brewer's yeast...Beer leaven, known as barm, was used for bread-making until quite recent times. The making of beer, black bread, and the alcoholic drink kvass were traditionally linked in Russia...it is no longer true that the same yeast is used for brewing and baking...In addition of fermenting and flavoring other foods, yeasts themselves may also be used as food. They contain much protein and all but one of the B vitamins (B12)...They are consequently used to provide dietary supplements for countries whos diets are deficient in protein."
---Oxford Companion to Food, Alan Davidson [Oxford University Press:Oxford] 1999 (p. 855, 857)
[NOTE: according to this source, yeast is also used to make kefir, koumiss, soy sauce, sake, and the fermentation of cocoa to develop the flavor of chocolate.]
"It is estmated that the art of making wine, leavened bread and beer was practiced more than 4000 years ago. Phenomena producing these foods were attributed to yeast. And, in many languages, the word for yeast describes the visible effects of fermentation, as observedin the expansion of bread sough and the accumulation of froth or barm on the surface of fermenting juices and mashes. Historically, it has been reported that yeast cells were first seen in a droplet o f beer mountedon a crude microscope by van Leeuwhenhoek in 1680. He found globular bodies, but was not aware that these were living forms. For nearly 2 centuries the theory of spantaneous generation dominated through and research on the causes of fermentaion and disease. In 1818, Erxleben described beer yeast as living vegetable matter responsible for fermentation. In the following 20 years, yeasts were sown to reproduce by budding and, in 1837, Meyen named yeast, Saccharomyces or 'sugar fungus.' By 1839, Schwann observed 'endospores' in yeast cells, later named ascospores by Reess. As early as 1857, Pasteur proved the biological nature of fermentation and later, n 1876, Pasteur demonstrated that yeast can shift its metabolism from a fermentive to an oxidative pathway when subjected to aeration. This shift, then named the Pasteur effect, is especially characteristic of bakers' yeast...and is applied in large-scale production of yeasts. Botanically, yeasts form a heterogeous group of saprophytic forms of life occuring natrually on the surface of fruits, in honey, exudates of trees, and soil. They are disseminated by airborne dust, insects, and animals."
---Foods and Food Production Encyclopedia, Douglas M. Considine [Van Nostrand Reinhold:New York] 1982 (p. 2163)
"Commercially produced yeast first appeared in the United States in the 1860s. Charles and Maximillian Fleischmann, immigrants from Austria-Hungary, with the financial backing of James Gaff, patented and sold standardized cakes of compressed yeast...produced in their factory in Cincinati. By the early twentieth century, factory-produced yeast was widely available. Cookbook recipes began specifying that commercial yeast be added directly to bread dough in sufficient quantities to leaven it in less than two hours. Bread changed in texture, becoming lighter and softer, and its flavor turned blander..."
---Oxford Encylopedia of Food and Drink in America, Andrew F. Smith [Oxford University Press:New York], Volume 2, 2004 (p. 652)
[NOTE: This source contains more information than can be paraphrased here. Ask your librarian to help you obtain a copy.]
Recommended reading: Engish Bread & Yeast Cookery/Elizabeth David (p. 89-118)
The science of yeast
How Stuff Works, yeast
If you would like to learn more about the history of bread and how it relates to different cultures ask your librarian to help you find these books:
English Bread and Yeast Cookery, Elizabeth David [Penguin:New York] 1977
---general oververview and details regarding different types of bread products (muffins, soda bread, scones, etc.)
The Encyclopedia of American Food and Drink, John F. Mariani [Lebhar-Friedman:New York] 1999
The History of Bread, Bernard Dupaign [Harry N. Abrams:New York] 1999
---excellent illustrations, text highlights interesting and unusual facts
The History of Food, Maguelonne Toussaint-Samat [Barnes & Noble:New York] 1992, Chapter 8 "The History of Bread and Cakes."
---best overview of the history, evolution and symbolism of these items.
A Mediterranean Feast, Clifford A Wright [William Morrow:New York] 1999 (p. 548-576)
---evolution of grain, methods, and popular recipes
Nectar and Ambrosia, Tamra Andrews [ABC-CLIO:Santa Barbara] 2000 (p. 41-2)
---symbolism of bread in religion and mythology
The Oxford Companion to Food, Alan Davidson [Oxford University Press:Oxford] 1999
---separate historic entries for specific types of bread
World Sourdoughs From Antiquity, Ed Wood [Ten Speed Press:Berkeley] 1997
---ancient baking methods & modernized recipes
Recommended for K-8 lesson plans:
Bread and other cultures, University of Pennsylvania
---lesson plan for middle schoolers
Bread around the World, Oklahoma City Schools, Grade 2
Multicultural exploration with bread, University of South Florida, elementary grades
Bread Around the World, Jo Ellen Moore & Gary Shipman
---Grades 1-3; lesson plan with posters
Bread, Bread, Bread, Ann Morris (Foods of the World)
---K-3 book; nice photos and simple text, covers 29 countries
World Atlas of Food, Jane Grigson [Mitchell Beazely:London] 1974 (p. 50-51)
---contains an excellent full-color two page graphic illustrating breads from different countries.
You Eat What You Are: People, Culture and Food Traditions, Thelma Barer-Stein [Firefly:Buffalo] 1999
---food notes arranged by country, highly recommended.
"The dietary qualities of bread depended on four variables (so Simeon Seth carefully explains): the kind of grain, the making of the dough, the form of oven and the baking process. He later adds a fifth, the length of time between baking and eating: different qualities are allowed to bread which is still warm, to today's bread which is cold, and to bread one or two days old: after that, it is not good to eat. One can tell the superior power of wheat, Simeone Seth continues, from the fact that the raw grain can scarcely be broken by the teeth. By contrast with bread made from fine wheat, emmer bread (artos olyrites) was a makeshift when there was no other bread to be found...Again , it was possible to make bread from oats. But oats were 'food for cattle, not people, except when extreme famine dictates that bread be baked from them...' One almost poetic evocation of good bread is due to the enthusiastic compiler of the dietary text De Cibis...He calls for white bread 'with a moderate use of yeast and salt, the dough kneaded midway between dryness and rawness', but that is only the beginning. There should be 'a little anise, fennel seed and mastic', additions still favoured by many Aegean bread-makers...Bread was the staple food of Byzantium. That evaluation is strongly suggested by the fact that grain comes first in 'Categories of Foods'...and wheat comes first among grains. Bread likewise comes first in Simeon Seth's On the Properties of Foods.."
---Tastes of Byzantium: The Cuisine of a Legendary Empire, Andrew Dalby [I.B. Tauris:New York] 2003, 2010 (p. 77-79)
"...bakers of Constantinople are the subject of quite special regulations in the Book of the Eparch compiled under Leo VI. The municipal regulations specify with great precision the price to be charged for bread, and also exempt the human and animal staff of bakeries from being commandeered for public service. 'Bakers shall sell bread by weight fixed from time to time according to the price of wheat, as ordered by the Eparch. They are to buy wheat in the Assistant's warehouse, in units corresponding to the amount on which a tax of one gold nomisma is payable. After grinding, proing and baking, they shall calculate the price by adding one deration and two miliaqresia per gold nomisma; the keration being their profit, and the two miliaresia the cost of employing the men and the animals who do the milling, and also the cost of fires and lighting. Bakers are never liable to be called for any public service, either themselves nor their animals, to prevent any interruption of the baking of bread. They must not have their ovens under any dwelling house...'"
---Tastes of Byzantium (p. 64)
"There were two useful substitutes for freshly-baked bread, for those who were out of reach of this prized commodity. They were the ring-shaped loaf boukellaton and the thickly sliced toasted barley bread paximadi. Both were typical food for the Byzantine army."
---Tastes of Byzantium (p. 99)
"White bread. Bread made from wheat is the best and most nutritious of all foods. Particularly if white, with a moderate use of yeast and salt, the dough kneaded midway between dryness and rawness, and with the little anise, fennel seed and mastic, it is very fine indeed. One with a hot constitution should include sesame in the dough. If wishing to add more moistness to the bread, knead in some almond oil."
---Tastes of Byzantium (p. 180)
Bread types & recies
"Bread was the primary product of cereals, at least for the affluent. Recipes appear to be in two general categories: leavened wheat bread and unleavened bread, often mixed with another grain. Breads are very frequently mentioned, but except for a few passages, we have only hits of the ingredients and cooking processes. I have found no statement that leavened bread was allowed to rise twice as it is currently, but I don't know if that is because only one rising was allowed or it was simply a well-known fact so that no one needed to mention it. Leavening is also seldom clearly specified. It could be the ale or beer barm (yeast), the wild yeast, floating in the air, sourdough yeast, or the yeast contained in the dough from a previous batch if bread (which was left uncooked, but dried). Consequently, any of the recipes below should be treated as speculative...the 'wheaten bread should be prepared from the least glutinous wheat flour possible, and this gently fermented with sweet leaven, such as is made form the hardest spelt flour...Bake in an oven seems to be to be safer than in a covered earthenware vessel, but better still is baking in a milk bread oven: for the baking is gentle and takes a long time and burning from the fire does not readily happen to the bread in the baking because the heat is outside the oven.'...Oribasios appears to be describing a wheat bread made with something like (low gluten) cake flour and a starter made from spelt. This dough is then placed in an oven where the heat source is outside the baking chamber. Ground spelt will ferment if mixed with water, but the process has some risks and many days before it can be used. I recommend the use of dry yeast for safety and convenience, but if you'd like to take the medieval approach, here goes"
--- Byzantine Cuisine, Henry Marks [Henry Marks:Eugene OR] 2002 (p. 138)
Starter 1/4 C(up) stone ground spelt, 3/4 cup water,1 t(easpoon) sugar or honey
Bread Starter: 3 C(ups) cake flour or other low gluten wheat flour, 1 T(ablespoon) salt, 3/4 C(up) water
Mix spelt, water and sugar/honey. Cover lightly and place in a warm place (75-85 degrees F). In 18 to 48 hours, the spelt mixture should have fermented and become somewhat bubbly. A pink tinge means it has turned bad and you should discard and start again. There will be a slight sour smell, but if the smell is more than slightly sour, it has probably spoiled and you'll need to start again. I urge caution in the use of these starters as they can produce some annoying medical problems. When the spelt mixture is actively bubbling, add the cake flour (slightly more or less than the 3 cups may be required), water and salt. Mix completely. Allow to rest for a few minutes and then knead. Knead for at least 15 minutes. Place in a greased bowl and cover. When the dough no longer bounces back from a finger pushed into it, form it into a round shape (or multiple round shapes) and place on a baking tray sprinkled with stone ground wheat. Place this into a 350 degree F. oven and cook for approximately 1 hour (time depends on the size of the loaves you've made). To check for doneness, remove from baking sheet and tap on bottom. Bread should sound hollow. The resulting loaf is substantially less well-risen than if high gluten flour, modern yeast, or two or more rising are used. If you wish to make the bread lighter, you may start with a cold oven and allow the bread to rise more as the oven warms. Baking time will be increased slightly.
"If you wish to get the taste of spelt in your bread, but don't want to go to the trouble of making the starter, you can use spelt flour plus commercial yeast. This will produce a fairly similar tasting but better risen bread.
1 C(up) water, 1 T(ablespoon) honey, 1/2 C(up) whole spelt flour, 2+ C(up) cake (or other low-gluten) flour, 1 t(easpoon) salt, oil, 1 t(easpoon) packaged yeast. Combine yeast with warmed water and honey. Allow the yeast to grow in the spelt for at least 30 minutes, then add flour until you have formed a soft dough. Knead for at least 15 minutes. Place in a greased bowl and cover. When the dough no longer bounces back from a finger pushed into it, form it into a round shape (or multiple round shapes) and place on a baking tray sprinkled with stone ground wheat. Place this into a 375 degree F. oven and cook for approximately 30 minutes (for two small loaves). To check for doneness, remove from baking sheet and tap on bottom. Bread should sound hollow. This bread is better risen than the preceding loaf, but is still far form a modern, well-risen loaf of bread.
"'Koukoule says, 'Brucellatum was the Latin for crusted wheat and it was used to make unleavened bread for the soldiers...The bread which is given to the troops to eat, required that it be dunked into liquid to soften it enough to be chewed.'
4 C(ups) crushed wheat, 1 C(up) water. Add the crushed wheat to one cup of warm water. it may take slightly more or less than the 4 cups of crushed wheat. When the dough has formed and holds together, knead if for 15 to 20 minutes. More crushed wheat my be needed in the kneading process. Heavily grease and flour a pan. Put the dough in the pan in a 350 degrees F. oven for 45 minutes. Remove from oven and cool until the 'bread' can be removed from the pan. Cut into 1/2 inch slices 3 to 4 inches long. Place these pieces on a baking sheet in one layer. Increase oven temperature to 375 degrees F. and continue baking until well-toasted on both sides. This is indeed hard enough to require soaking in a liquid before attempting to chew it. The taste also leaves something to be desired, but it will stay edible for extended periods of time. I haven't been able to duplicate the traditional circular shape mentioned by Koukoules as the dough tends to lose its shape unless put into a pan."
---Byzantine Cuisine (p. 139-141)
What is spelt?
Flatbreads: pita, roti, paratha, naan, lavash, lefse & tortillas
These are the oldest breads of all. Quickly cooked, extremely delicious, and practically portable, and incredibly versatile. Originating in places where fuel was scarce, flat breads are traditionally baked in portable clay ovens called tandoors. Recipes evolved according to place and taste. Middle Eastern pita, Indian roti, paratha & naan, Armenian lavash and Norwegian Lefse are popular Old World examples. New World tortillas are similar products. Flatbreads can be leavened, or not, depending upon the recipe.
These versatile middle-eastern flatbreads are perhaps the oldest breads known. Soft and thin, they provided the basis for a variety of popular portable items, most notably pizza, and a variety of filled pocket or rolled sandwiches. Modern menus often call these "wraps." Asian and European pancakes are related in both method and function.
"Pitta (or pita or pitah...) Is a flat, roughly oval, slighly leavened type of bread characteristic of Greece and the Middle East. Typically eaten slit open and stufed with filling, it became a familiar sight on the supermarket shelves of Britain and the USA in the last quarter of the twentieth century. The word, a borrowing from modern Greek, can perhaps be traced back ultimately to classical Greek peptos, 'cooked'...a derivative of the verb pessein, 'cook, bake'."
---An A to Z of Food and Drink, John Ayto [Oxford University Press:Oxford] 2002 (p. 258)
The Israeli and western name for the Arab bread called khubz adi (ordinary bread) or names meaning Arab, Egyptian, Syrian bread or kumaj (a Turkish loanword properly meaning a bread cooked in ashes), baked in a brick bread oven. It is slightly leavened wheat bread, flat, either round or oval, and variable in size...The name had a common origin with pizza...In the early centuries of our era, the traditional Greek word for a thin flat bread or cake, plakous, had become the name of a thicker cake. The new word that came into use for flat bread was pitta, literally pitch, doubtless because pine pitch naturally forms flat layers which many languages compare to cakes or breads...The word spread to Southern Italy as the name of a thin bread. In Northern Italian dialects pitta became pizza, now known primarily as the bearer of savoury toppings but essentially still a flat bread...Early Arab cookery texts do not refer to khubz, since it was bought from specialists, not made in the home. However, it is safe to assume that its history extends far into antiquity, since flatbreads in general, whether leavened or not, are among the most ancient breads, needing no oven or even utensil for their baking."
---Oxford Companion to Food, Alan Davidson [Oxford University Press:Oxford] 1999 (p. 611)
"...there is no earlier evidence than third-century Madedonia for the use of a flat loaf of bread as a plate for meat, a function which bread continued to perform in the pide of Turkey, the pita of Greece and Bulgaria, the pizza of southern Italy and the 'trencher' of medieval Europe."
---Siren Feasts: A History of Food and Gastronomy in Greece, Andrew Dalby [Routledge:London] 1999 (p. 157)
Roti & Paratha
Roti is ancient, parata/paratha, a related bread, dates to the 10th century. Naan is an oval roti and made from wine white maida. Roti was introduced to the Caribbean by Indian immigrants.
"Roti. A general Indian term for bread. In this sense it covers the whole amazingly diverse range of breads found in the subcontinent. However, it is also used in narrower senses, for example in some parts of India as an alternative name for chapati and phulka, or as part of the names of particular breads. The origins of roti, as the wide meaning of Indian breads, can be traced back 3,000 or 4,000 years, to the arrival of the Aryans in the Indus Valley. In this connection it is noteworthy that barley was the major grain eaten by the Aryans. Although wheat was known from very early times, its widespread adoption for bread-making purposes came relatively late...Numerous names of breads incorporate the term roti. These may reflect the method of cooking (tandoori roti); or something to do with the shape and size (roomali roti is as thin as the scarf for which it is named). But more often they refer to the type of flour used; thus besan ki roti contains chickpea (besan) flour. Roti in the wide sense have become an important element in the intercontinental culinary scene, mainly because so many of these Indian unleavened breads have spread to other parts of the world where Indians and their foodways have become established..."
---Oxford Companion to Food, Alan Davidson [Oxford University Press:Oxford] 1999 (p. 673)
"Parata, or Paratha, an Indian flaky bread prepared by smearing the dough, which is unleavened and is also enriched with oil, with ghee or oil and folding the dough three times. More ghee or oil is brushed over and the process is repeated. The resulting packet of dough is then rolled out to the required size and fried in oil or dry cooked on a tava or griddle. The layers of pastry separate and flake while frying. Paratas are often stuffed with spicy mixtures of meat or vegetables before frying. A similar bread is made in Afghanistan and Nepal."
---Oxford Companion to Food, Alan Davidson [Oxford University Press:Oxford] 1999 (p. 575)
"Parata, paranta. Wheat dough rolled out with frequent folding over while smearing with fat, to a square or triangular shape and pan-fried using a little fat to a layery texture...Many of these are of considerable antiquity, both the puige (later termed holige) and the mandate being mentioned on a Kannada work of AD 920, the Vaddaradane of Shivakotyacharya."
---A Historical Dictionary of Indian Food, K.T. Achaya [Oxford University Press:Delhi] 1998 (p. 177)
[NOTE: This book has several pages on the history and evolution of roti, including footnotes to primary documents and academic studies. Ask your librarian to help you find a copy.]
"Of all the immigrant ethnic groups, Indians coming to the Caribbean as indentured servants did not recognize the majority of food items that they were given to eat as part of their rations. Their diet consisted mainly of staple carbohydrates and some seasonal vegetables. Most could not afford any additional supplement to their diet as they would have been charged for extra food items and their wages were almost nonexistent. Indian families could usually afford only the ingredient to make their traditional breads, chappatai or roti, which required only flour and water, and which were made on a special griddle, called a tawa, brought by Indian immigrants to the Caribbean. However, they could not afford to make the traditional accompaniments to go with these breads, like dahl, a type of porridge made from lentils. Instead, they would eat these breads with some of the local Caribbean varieties of pepper, or wild spinach (called baji). Judging by their availability and the frequency of their consumption by many ethnic groups, chappati and roti, especially, are still some of the most popular Indian foods in the Caribbean."
---Food Culture in the Caribbean, Lynn Marie Houston [Greenwood Press:Westport CT] 2005 (p. 22-23)
Roti simply means bread, and this is the term most often used in Trinidad for parathas, which is what these are. They are of Indian origin, but like everything else in the Caribbean, have evolved form the original. One 12-inch roti makes a magnificent lunch when a generous dollop of currie chicken, kid, shrimp or potatoes is placed in the center, and the bread is folded over it like an envelope. One can eat it with a knife and fork; fingers however, are more fun. The 8-inch roti is served as a bread with curries. I have two versions of roti, one a little more elaborate than the other, both very good.
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons butter,or vegetable shortening
Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Rub in the butter or shortening with the fingertips until the fat is in small flakes. Pour 1/4 cold water over the flour and mix to make a fairly stiff dough. Add more water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the dough holds together but is not sticky. Knead until smooth. Cover, and leave in a warm place for half an hour. Knead again for 3 or 4 minutes then divide into 4 equal balls. Roll out on a floured board into 12- or 8-inch rounds. Brush lightly all over with ghee, then sprinkle with flour. Fold in half, then in half again, to form a 4-layered quarter circle. Cover and leave for half an hour. Then shape roughly into a circle with the hands, and roll out into a floured board into 12- or 8-inch rounds. Heat a cast-iron frying pan or griddle so that a little flour sprinkled on it will brown instantly, or on the griddle and cook for about a minute. Turn, and spread again with ghee. Cook for 1 minute longer than then. Hit with a wooden mallet all over until it is flaky. Wrap in a towel and keep warm until the other roti are cooked. Serve at once. Serves 4.
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
Milk, or water to mix
Ghee...or vegetable oil
Sift the flour, baking soda, and salt into a bowl. Add enough milk or water to mix to a stiff dough. Knead the dough thoroughly on a lightly floured board. Form into 4 balls and roll out into 8-inch circle. Brush all over with ghee or vegetable oil and fold into a ball again. Cover and allow to stand for about 15 minutes. Roll out again into 8-inch circles. Heat a cast-iron frying pan or griddle until a drop of water will sputter when dripped on it, or a little flour with brown instantly. Cook the roti for about 1 minute, turn, spread with ghee or vegetable oil and cook, turning frequently until the roti is baked. Remove from the pan and clap with both hands until pliable. Wrap in towel to keep warm the other roti are cooked. Serve at once. Serves 4."
---The Complete Book of Caribbean Cooking, Elisabeth Lambert Ortiz [M. Evans:New York] 1973 (p. 388-389)
A roti of fine white maida, leavened, rolled out oval in shape, sprinkled with nigella (kalonji) seeds and baked in a tandoor or ordinary oven. Small, mud plastered ovens closely resembling present-day tandoors' have been excavated at Kalibangan, and Indus Valley site. In about AD 1300, Amir Khusrau notes naan-e-tanuk (light bread) and naan-e-tanuri (cooked in a tandoor oven) at the imperial court in Delhi. Naan was in Mughal times a popular breakfast food, accompanied by kheema or kabab, of the humbler Muslims. It is today associated with Punjabis, and is a common restaurant item, rather han a home-made one, all over India."
---A Historical Dictionary of Indian Food, K.T. Achaya [Oxford University Press:Delhi] 1998 (p. 170)
Lavash (Armenian flat bread)
Lavosh, lahvosh, lavash, Armenian cracker bread: a flat bread with ancient roots. According to the food historians, Lavash was/is popular in the Caucasus and neighboring middle-eastern regions. The ancient recipe remains virtually unchanged. Current applications for this bread product reflect a broad range of culinary adaptation and professional creativity. Foodservice professionals agree wraps (of all kinds) are hot. Lavash are baked in tandoor ovens.
a thin crisp bread usually made with wheat flour made in a variety of shapes all over the regions of the Caucasus, Iran (where it is often so thin as to be like tissue and can be almost seen through), and Afghanistan. It is leavened and baked in a tandoor. Lavash is served with kebabs and is used to scoop up food or wrap round food before being eaten...Its origins are ancient and it is also known a lavash depending upon the region. As in the other countries of this region large batches of this bread are made and stored for long periods. "
---Oxford Companion to Food, Alan Davidson [Oxford University Press:Oxford] 1999 (p. 445)
"The more charming feature of lavash is its versatility. Lavash can be used as a plate, a saucepan, a spoon, or a napkin. Ranging from soft and pliable to crisp and cracker-like, lavash is a staple throughout the Caucasus, Iran, Lebanon, and Syria. In Armenia, it became an important form of national self-expression and wisdom...A very special tool is the batat or rabata, a wool- or hay-filled cushion used for stretching the dough. Every Armenian household would have a set ot two batats: one large and one small. The bug cushion was used for baking lavach, while the little one was for smaller and thicker circle bread...Tradionally, lavash is baked in a typical Middle Eastern tandoor-style oven, called a tonir in Armenia...Armenians used to bake lavash in autumn, to be stored for use throughout the winter. It was dried, stacked in piles, covered with clith, and stowed away. Top make the dried lavash soft again, it was moistened with water and covered with cloth for half an hour."
---Armenian Food: Fact, Fiction & Folklore, Irina Petrosian and David Underwood [Yerkir Publishing:Bloomington IN] 2006 (p. 26-30)
"One of the things that is absolutely compelling about flatbreads is that they are old, really old. Many of the flatbreads eaten today have changed little over the last several thousand years. Flatbreads, such as sanguake in Iran, lavash in Armenia, and fetir made by the Bedouin in Israel, are all of ancient origin. When people first began cultivating grain, flatbreads were an obvious solution to the problem of how to turn hard grain into edible food; the grain could be pounded into flour, mixed with water, and cooked on a hot stone. The earliest method of cooking flatbreads probably involved spreading a dough or a batter over a very hot rock, then peeling the bread off from the rock when it had finished cooking, a method still used by the Hopi in making their remarkable blue corn piki bread. It is also very much like the Bedouin breads from Jordan. Oven-baked flatbreads most likely came into existence not long after, as the idea was essentially the same. Instead of cooking the bread on a rock that had been heated in, or over, a fire, the bread could be baked in a "room" of hot rock or clay that had been preheated with fire. A tandoor oven (an oven of ancient origin still in use all the way from western China to India to Mali in central Africa) operates on this principle. After the oven is preheated, flatbreads (often called naan) are slapped against the hot oven walls, then skillfully lifted off when they are done. Ovens can bake more bread than skillets or stove-top methods, and in a shorter period of time, but they also tend to require more wood, coal, or dried dung, whatever the local fuel resource happens to be. The Bedouin in southern Tunisia and Algeria use an exceptionally low-tech and fuel-efficient baking method. Hot coals are placed into a hole that has been dug into the desert sand. The bakers place flattened pieces of bread dough onto the coals and then cover it with more coals and sand. When the breads are baked (a timing learned only from experience), the sand is pushed aside and the breads lifted out. A few slaps get rid of any sand still clinging to them. For most people who eat flatbreads on a daily basis, the breads are a staff of life. For a villager in north India, a town dweller in Uzbekistan, a Kurdish nomad in eastern Turkey, a day without flatbreads is unthinkable. Flatbreads are a part of every meal, day after day, year after year. "
---By Bread Alone: Ancient Ways Turn Hard Grain into Edible Food, Bergen Record, Feb. 19, 1995 (p. L 5)
"There are many different flatbreads baked throughout the easter Mediterranean, the Middle East and India--from pita or naan--but lavash is perhaps the oldest. This bread-in-various shapes and sizes, and in textures ranging from soft and pliable to crisp and crackerlike--is a staple throughout Armenia and in parts of Georgia, Iran, and Lebanon. Armenian lavash has been prepared in the same way for thousands of years: Long sheets of dough are stretched and baked in a clay oven similar to an Indian tandoor. The nomadic peoples crisscrossing Asia knew a good thing when they saw it: A filled and rolled-up lavash sandwich might be the ultimate in picnic fare (easily transportable, its food, eating utensil, and container all in one). Lavash is also delicious served with stews such as Morrocan tagine or an Indian curry, or with a favorite dip."
---The Lowdown on Lavash, Jane Daniels, Gourmet, Sept. 1997 (p. 157)
"A selection of Armenian cuisine
Food in Armenia is one of the chief attractions. Each region has its own unique cuisine with its own special flavour. For gourmands the long list of delicious local dishes is provided: kololak, khaplama, tolma, basturma...Lavash - the national thin, paper like bread of Armenians. It is baked in tonyr and they are so transparent that the sunrays pass through them. Armenians use it also as a plate, a saucepan, a spoon. Many dishes are cooked on mild fire, covered with lavash. Traditionally Armenians eat their food folded in lavash."
Related foods: focaccia, pizza & pancakes/crepes.
What is a tandoor oven?
The classic oven used by peoples of India from ancient times to present (including the Medieval period) is called a tandoor. This special oven can be used to cook a variety of foods, including bread.
Tandoor. The middle Eastern clay oven, found from Arab countries to India. The original Babylonian form of the name, timuru, is probably related to nar, the Semitic word for fire...In the tandoor, the breads (necessarily flat in shape) are slapped onto the vertical wall, where they bake quite quickly by a combination of radiant heat and convection. After the day's bread-making, casseroles and other dishes may be baked in a tandoor (as in a brick oven) to use the residual heat. In cold climates, the tandoor also heats the house, like the hearth in Europe...In the Middle Ages, skewered meats were more often roasted in a tandoor than over burning coals, as they still are in Central Asia. Tandoor meat cookery has been popular in India since 1948, when a Kashmiri restaurant named Moti Mahal became a fashionable dining spot for politicians in New Delhi. As a result, Indian tandoor restaurants have sprung up all around the world."
---Oxford Companion to Food, Alan Davison [Oxford University Press:Oxford] 1999 (p. 781)
"In India the processes of baking, roasting, and grilling are all achieved by tandoori cooking. This is because the food is prepared in a tandoor, which simultaneously bakes, roasts, and grills. The tandoor is believed to have originated in the northeastern part of Persia (present-day Iran). Its use spread to different parts of the continent with migrations, and as a result, today the tandoor is used in all of Central Asia...In India the tandoor was initially built for the purpose of baking breads (still its main use). The dough is stretched and shaped into flat breads and smacked onto the sides of the pit, to which it adheres. It puffs up and bakes in 7 to 10 minutes. The cooked breads are then peeled off gently with long metal skewers specially designed for this purpose. In the earlier part of the nineteenth cnetury, in Peshawar, a city in the northwest frontier region of Pakistan (the part of India), an ingenious method for cooking meat was invented and introduced. Today, it has become one of the most popular cooking methods in India. In this process, whole chickens and large chunks of lamb were threaded on specially designed long skewers, lowered into the tandoor pit, and cooked. Any food thus cooked was referred to as tandoori food...Just about any meat that can be threaded on skewers can be cooked in a tandoor."
---Classic Indian Cooking, Julie Sahni [William Morrow:New York] 1980 (p. 80-1)
[NOTE: This book also cotains recipes for classic Indian breads, though no additional history or reference to Medieval times.]
"Tandoor. At the Indus Valley site of Kalibangan were found small, mudplastered ovens with a side opening 'very strongly resembling the present-day 'tandoors'. Live embers are placed at the bottom and fanned briskly so that they glow, raising the temperature of the clay sides. Thick, slighly leavened wheat rotis called naan and tandoori are slapped on to the sides to cook, with some puffing and surface charring in patches. Meat and fish can also be tandoor-grilled."
---A Historical Dictionary of Indian Food, K.T. Achaya [Oxford University Press:Delhi] 1998 (p. 247)
"A tandoor is shaped rather like the juge jar in which Ali Baba hid from the Forty Thieves. It is usually sunk neck-deep in the ground or, if built above ground, is heavily insulated on the outside with a thick layer of plaster. The charcoal fire on the flat bottom of the jar should heat the sides of the tandoor to a scorching point about halfway up, and to a hot glow for the rest, diminishing, of course, near the neck. To achieve this particular distribution of heat, the tandoor has to be lit at least two hours before anything is cooked in it, and longer if it is not frequently used."
---Foods of the World: The Cooking of India, Santha Rama Rau, [Time-Life:New York] 1969 (p. 138)
Flower pot bread
Food historians confirm bread has been baked in clay vessels from ancient times forward. Clay vessels were also used for slow cooking meats and stews in several cultures and cuisines. The Indian tandoor is one of the popular examples. Clay pots & ovens were an efficient, effective, and economical way to cook. Flower bread is indeed a modern twist on a very old theme! Our survey of contemporary U.S. magazine/newspaper articles indicates the resurgance of interest in clay baking in the early 1980s. La Cloche brand stoneware [Sassafras Entertrpises, Inc.] containers were marketed to upscale consumers in high end gourmet supply shops.
Where does Flower Pot Bread fit in?
Our research indicates this novelty baked good became popular in the late 1960s. We do not find any particular person, place, or restaurant credited for the "invention" of this loaf. Early print references in British souces may indicate the item originated there. The use of cracked wheat and other natural grains connects some flower pot bread recipes with the "back to nature" health food movement du jour.
"Terracotta flower pots make admirable bread moulds. Anyone who still possesses some of these now nearly obsolete pots may like to try the following method. The best size of a pot for a loaf is 5 1/2 inches in diameter by 4 1/2 inches deep. First temper the pots for baking by coating them liberally outside and inside with oil and leaving them empty in the oven while bread or something else is baking at a fairly high temperature. Do this two or three times. Once they are well impregnated with oil the pots will need very little greasing, and the baked loaves will slip out of the pots without the slightest sign of sticking...The trick about making good flowerpot bread is to bake the loaves upside down. This is easier than it sounds: when the dough has fully risen for the second time, break it down, knead it very thorougly and divide it into two equal pieces. Shape and fit each into a warmed and greased flower pot...What hapens when the loaves are under the flower pots is that during the first few minutes of baking the dough springs up and fills the pot, producing a perfectly even and well formed loaf, whereas if the pot is put upright into the oven in the normal way the dough rises unevenly over the top, making an untidy loaf with a mushroom top which often sticks to the sides of the pot...Cracked wheat or coarse oatmeal can be scattered at the bottom of the pots and on the sides before the dough is put in."
---English Bread & Yeast Cookery, Elizabeth David, American Edition with notes by Karen Hess [Penguin:New York] 1980 (p. 309-310)
[NOTE: Complete instructions & recipe for flowerpot bread are also found on these pages. We can fax or scan if you like.]
"A few years ago an attractive-looking propriety brown loaf, baked in a flower-pot shape, the outside scattered with cracked wheat grains was commony sold by London bakers and dairy shops. This loaf seems to have vanished..."
---ibid, (p. 73)
"Puffy, light whole wheat breads are displayed in real clay flower pots. Baked by Britisher Heather Linsley Ross--in her New York apartment--the flowerpot breads are selling fantastically well as centerpieces."
---"Food with a Homespun Flavor," Rosalie Greenfield, new York Times, November 21, 1971 (p. E6)
The oldeset recipe we have (in an American source) is dated 1969:
"Flower Pot Bread
2 cups milk
3 tbsp. sugar
3 tbsp. shortening
3 tsp. salt
1 cup lukewarm water
2 tsp. sugar
2 env. dry yeast
6 cups sifted flour