Bread, in all its various forms, is the most consumed food in the world, it’s portable and compact which has explained its place in our diets for thousands of years, where it was suggested that humans started baking bread at least 30,000 years ago. So how did we get from stone cooked flat bread to a fluffy grocery store loaf?

People have been making bread since prehistoric times, beginning with an unleavened bread made of meal ground from oats or beechnuts and mixed with water and ultimately cooked on stones. The first leavened bread is believed to have been baked by Egyptians about 4,000 BC. They found that dough left out for hours captured wild yeast from the air and when the dough was put on the hearth to bake, it puffed up. Time, technology and science, stone-cooked bread to grocery store packaged, sliced and over 30,000 years of patterned gains, there were three innovations that were vital to the change and progression of bread’s evolution.

First, the Leavening. This is what makes the bread rise into a light and fluffy loaf. Bread without this is known as flatbread, mostly resembles first breads from Middle Eastern (Pita), Indian (Naan), Central Americans (Tortillas). The most common leavening is yeast. Yeast is a living organism, it floats around in the air, looking for a comfy place to settle into and ferments most readily when it has sugar~(Sugar acts as a preservative and contributes to the golden color of the crust)~ to feed on, and is activated when it comes in contact with warm liquids, however, it sometimes feeds on flour. In basic bread, the yeast creates tiny bubbles of carbon dioxide gas that makes dough rise. Commercial yeast production dates back to the skilled bread makers of Ancient Egypt around 300 BC. Baking with and taking advantage of its leavening qualities, frustrated bakers went to great lengths to try to minimize its sour taste, finally discovering a yeasty by-product of beer brewing that did not create such sourness in their breads. It wasn’t until the 19th century that compressed yeast was perfected. Nowadays, it is available in single serve packets, 4-ounce jars and you can find bricks or blocks in health food stores.

The second is Refined flour, The earliest grains were grounded by hand with rocks, resulting in coarse whole grain, the descendants of which are dark, rustic breads such as rye and pumpernickel bread from Europe. Barley, millet, oats, rye and wheat have been milled for thousands of years in Europe and Asia, where as corn was a grain of the Americas. “Milling” the grains was refined around 800 BC with two stones stacked on top of each other, rotating until a smooth, finely ground flour was created. The modern era and science continued in the advancement of the whitest and most refined flour and later developing sifting to remove the bran and germ and eventually on to bleaching the flour itself to create the All-Purpose (AP) flour, bread flour, whole wheat and white wheat flours commonly found now.

Third, Mechanized slicing. For hundreds of years, the finest breads were sold in whole loaves to be cut at home. The New York Public Library’s “Lunch” Exhibit notes: “Nineteenth and early 20th century cookbooks and magazines gave highly specific advice about lunchtime sandwich making. For ladies and kids, the bread was supposed to be sliced very thinly and the crust removed. For workers, thick slices with crust were deemed more appropriate.” A lunch exhibit! That was exciting!

In 1917, a then jeweler, Otto Rohwedder created the first mechanized bread slicer. In the beginning bread companies were convinced that housewives wouldn’t be interested and he faced skepticism from bakers who thought the sliced bread would quickly go stale or fall apart. His bread slicer stayed dormant, a fire destroyed his prototype and drawings, but he rebuilt and it was installed in his friends baking factory in Missouri in 1928. Within two years, 90% of store-bought bread was factory sliced. Progress led us to what was supposed to be the ideal loaf of bread; perfect, white, ultra-fluffy and pre-cut even slices. This perfect bread was dubbed, The American bread.

The first major brand to distribute the perfect sliced bread in the 1930’s was “Wonderbread,” the bread, once wrapped in brown paper, eventually branded with the little blue, red and white circles

should have been the last loaf of bread we ever needed, but modern science experimented with and encountered nutritional benefits of whole grain and oats and more and more people preferred the texture and nutty taste of a rustic loaf.

A secret for years I have to share with you, is that baking bread is fun and easy. Time consuming, yes. Messy, definitely. Kneading, while mentally relaxing, will tire your muscles. But difficult? No.

Bread dough is patient, flexible and tolerant of mistakes. The rewards are wonderful-the fragrance, the texture, the taste of fresh-baked bread are unbeatable, but because people are often intimidated by the mysteries of yeast, bread-making at home has been in danger of becoming a lost art.

What is a bread machine? It’s a kitchen appliance for baking bread. Unbelievably first traced back to the 1800’s, Joseph Lee invented the first bread machine. Bakeries began purchasing the automatic machines to produce more bread products.

During the 1950’s most bakeries used them commercially, it wasn’t introduced to home chefs until 1986. During 1996, most households owned the bread machine and it’s popularity doubled in the next 10 years. It became a household staple as one that permitted time-challenged cooks to provide a homemade meal for their families, including fresh homemade bread. While for some it might sound like an unnecessary step, others can not imagine their life without freshly home-baked bread. You control what you eat by eating homemade bread, because you can control the components that you use. It’s easy! All the mixing, rising, and baking process is happening inside the machine, which makes zero messes! I actually only had a measuring cup, spoons, and spatula to wash. It may save you money in the long run. If you think buying bread at the store is cheap, you might be mistaken. It turns out long term bread making at home can save you money. You’re able to produce a great variety of different breads. It has great taste and quality. Nothing beats that! It’s also a multitasker. You can create your own fruit or vegetable butters. You can make delicious tomato sauce, it’s as good as a crock pot! You can bake a casserole. You can bake cakes, make pizza dough, donuts, bagels. Feeling hungry? You can take your bread maker journey to the next level.

Using a bread machine, baking bread becomes an easy task. It produces spectacular results. You don’t have to worry about the water temperature used in activating the yeast, the bread machine regulates the temperature. You won’t be kneading dough until your muscles ache, it does it for you. There’s no need to worry about drafts that will interfere with the rising, it’s protected inside. You can make an array of breads and with no more than just measuring the ingredients. You can create a variety of loaves to suit your taste, pantry or season. You don’t need to settle for ordinary. Bread machines do have their flaws, most are inflexible in their kneading, rising and baking cycles and have little tolerance for stiff or soft dough. Getting to know the quirks and idiosyncrasies of it is like getting to know any piece of equipment.

When you can’t find the directions, manual or little cookbook that came with your machine, this is pretty much a tweaked, fool proof method for a wonderful light white bread with a flaky crust. Made in 5 minutes and with love. Serves 12

The Bread Machine Basic Bread Recipe:

1 cup warm water (110 degrees F.)

2 tbsp. white sugar

1 (¼ ounce) package yeast (2 ¼ tsp)

2 tbsp. melted butter

2 tbsp. oil (or use 4 tbsp of melted butter)

3 cups of white bread flour

1 tsp. salt

Directions:

Place the water into the bread pan.

Sprinkle the sugar, then the yeast over the water, allow the yeast to foam for 10 minutes.

Add in the melted butter, oil, flour and salt.

Select white bread function, med. to dark baking and press start.

This is a great recipe that can be made a day ahead and refrigerated, up to 24 hours, then baked when needed. Very easy to do and soooooo good!

Bread Machine Dinner Rolls Makes 12/ 24 rolls Prep time up to 35 minutes.

¾ cup milk, warmed

6 tbsp. soft butter

1 egg, beaten

1 tsp. salt

3 cups bread flour

¼ cup sugar

1 ½ tsp. active dry yeast

Directions:

Place the ingredients in machine (starting as above recipe)

Select dough cycle.

When cycle is complete, remove dough from pan, shape as desired, wrap and refrigerate up to 24 hours.

When ready to use, let dough set out for an hour before using.

Shape, divide into 24 equal parts and roll balls into your hands. Place on lightly greased baking

sheet. Cover rolls with a damp cloth and let rise for about 20 minutes or doubled in size.

Bake in preheated 400* oven for 15-20 minutes. Brush tops with melted butter.

The Appliance Graveyard holds many surprises. Couple weeks ago I stumbled into a “Bread Machine”. It was perched high on top of the cabinets at Mr. B’s lake house, he tells me Miss Jo used to make bread all the time. I was totally fascinated, because I had heard of them, but never got that close to use one.

With giddiness and really looking forward to my experiment and this being my first attempt at this marvel machinery, I looked into the container where I had placed my liquids, Uh-ho! liquids gone! Further inspection showed it had all seeped through the rubber plug thing-a-ma-jig. Clean up and start again! I managed to get everything in which surprisingly was quite easy, because I found the whole “R2D2” looking machine intimidating of sorts, but when I pressed the start button, I was shocked with glee. The humming of the kneading brought a smile to my face, and while tending the gardens, it would cycle its stages and then hours into it, I had my first loaf. The color was nice, though it fell on top, I was encouraged and delighted at the same time. I’m gonna try another one tomorrow.

Happy Fooding! Happy Bread Making! Your comments, recipes and love are always welcomed. [email protected]~And the last words~ “Good bread is the most fundamentally satisfying of


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