366 days of gratitude

Who came up with the idea of grinding grain to make flour?

Who thought of adding liquid to it to make dough?

Who thought of using yeast and something sweet to make the dough rise?

Who then thought of kneading it, leaving it to prove and finally baking it?

I don’t know the answers to any of those questions but I am grateful to them and the others who contributed to the many and varied recipes for our daily bread.

7 Responses to 366 days of gratitude

  1. Andrei says:

    Who thought of using yeast and something sweet to make the dough rise?

    Nobody – they left it to ferment with the natural yeasts doing the deed ,

    The next step was to use previously fermented dough as a starter kneaded into fresh dough – its called pate fermentee which speeds the process

    And finally just add yeast and use a bread maker

    A lot of grains are fairly indigestible and grinding them adding water and fermenting them make them far more digestible,

    Of course the original process made wheat digestible but now we have people complaining they can’t digest gluten because the new quick way of doing things does not achieve the digestibility of the old slow process IMHO


  2. Andrei says:

    If you are interested here is a video of a man making “prosphera”, Church Bread, with nothing but flour and water and nothing else besides time and love

    In Greek but subtitled


  3. TraceyS says:

    The first yeasted bread was probably discovered when some unpasteurised beer or wine was accidentally spilled into the flatbread mixture and left so time and heat made it go bubbly. This can happen quite fast under the right conditions. There is no need to add additional sugars because the wheat, if it’s good quality, provides an adequate feed source.

    Wild yeasts can also be captured straight from the bloom on grape skins, plums, or other fruit. The yeasts are constantly floating around in the air and stick to the skins. I don’t know if this would work in the city as it does in the country. I’ve made my own yeast starters like this many times. The more you do of it the more rapid is the fermentation. Unheated honey also works well.

    If a lot of bread-making is done in this way then there is no need to use a starter at all (although it’s more reliable to do so). The environment where the bread is made will be alive enough. In the video above, the source of the microorganisms to initially sour the dough comes from the skin of the man’s hands. Unless he otherwise inoculated it and I didn’t notice (sorry skipped through due to lack of time). The fermentation is likely achieved by lacto bacteria rather than by yeasts (although could be a combination of both). The former producing lactic acid as opposed to alcohol in the latter – both being good preservatives to prevent the mixture going mouldy until it is ready to bake.

    Many people these days would be too sterile to achieve what he is doing and it could even be dangerous depending what happens to be lurking in their skin. Slowly we are catching up to the past and realising the importance of microbiology to health with microbiota transplantation becoming a thing. I won’t post a link in case it puts you off your bread!


  4. Andrei says:

    Nobody added “yeast” to bread dough until the late 19th century Tracey when bakers started doing it with brewers yeast to save time and money and to get a more consistent result

    The way of making bread shown in the video goes back to old testament times – the source of the yeast is primarily yeast found naturally in flour though the flora and fauna on the mans hands may establish a presence in the brew – our bodies are covered in bacteria and yeasts after all – but organisms adapted to wheat will have an advantage in the dough’s ecosystem over that adapted to living on human hands

    Once a good starter is established with TLC it can be maintained for years – there are bakeries in Europe with starters hundred of years old maintained through the generations

    My mothers starter still exists in our family – it was I believe created from vine leaves, rye flour and white flour mixed but is maintained with white high grade flour in four or more colonies
    (I don’t know how many people it was passed on to but most of my siblings maintain it and others besides).

    It takes three days to bake a loaf of bread using it the way I was taught – it differs from the video

    It also never comes out the same way twice – temperature and humidity play a great role in how the dough develops – this is fine for home made bread but for professional bakeries probably not ideal

    As for worrying about the bugs that dwell in fermenting dough – they get killed in the baking

    And let us not forget wine used to be made by people pressing the grapes with their bare feet and maybe the bugs on their feet played a role in the finished product


  5. TraceyS says:

    You don’t appear to differentiate between the two main types of micro-organisms, yeast and bacteria, responsible for both leavening and flavour (to different degrees). Sour dough is mainly a lactobacterial fermentation and that’s what gives the sour taste. Wild yeasts can also be favoured in the culture and make for more leavened bread. There is evidence of early very culturing of yeast and leavened bread. The process has simply been refined to give us modern breads – many would say overrefined.

    I’m not at all worried about the bugs in fermenting dough:

    “These remarkable changes in house microbial content across urbanization might translate into differences in microbial exposure that may have developmental health implications for humans, according to several related hypotheses [the “hygiene” hypothesis, the “Old Friends” hypothesis, and the “Disappearing microbiota” hypothesis], suggesting that the reduced pattern of microbial exposure leads to immune and metabolic disorders that have become the new disease paradigm in the industrialized world.”



  6. Andrei says:

    You don’t appear to differentiate between the two main types of micro-organisms, yeast and bacteria, responsible for both leavening and flavour (to different degrees).

    Well no Tracey the dough is its own ecosystem and the yeast and bacteria compete to some extent – good bakers know how adjust the balance between them to get their desired results –

    temperature, wetness of the dough, salt etc all tip the balance between yeast and bacteria to favour one or the other. Most bacteria are undesirable of course, not for health reasons but for reasons to to with the flavour and the yeast helps keep these in check

    It is hit and miss and serendipity to get a good starter but once developed can be maintained

    And this is why starters are preferred rather than starting from scratch each time you bake

    The science of this is in its infancy which is why artisan bread making is an art

    But mass produced bakery bread is created in tightly controlled circumstances with all sorts of additives – to soften it, flavour enhancers and preservatives keep it fresh longer and so forth


  7. TraceyS says:

    “…temperature, wetness of the dough, salt etc all tip the balance between yeast and bacteria to favour one or the other.”

    Also the degree of aeration as lacto-bacteria favour aerobic conditions whereas yeast prefer anaerobic – so simply covering or uncovering can make a big difference.

    I don’t eat bread at all anymore.


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