Rise Up! A journey to bread
How was bread invented?
I’ve often wondered this. It has to have been an accident. I can fathom that someone mixed pounded grains with water, and added salt for flavour, but how did the yeast get in there? How did they know how long to wait and how long to knead it? Did some genius or clairvoyant just figure it out on the first attempt? Where did they find the yeast? Why did they think they should mix it in??
Bread has been written about for thousands of years and there are different versions of “bread” all over the world.
I googled the history of bread and learned that bread can be traced by over 30,000 years. Wow. I know gluten and wheat are controversial these days, but based on this history, I really don’t think bread is going anywhere soon. Bread recipes have been handed down through the ages. Bread doesn’t discriminate. Rich, poor, anyone can make it. It can be fancy or plain. You don’t need special tools or pans (although you can use them if you like). You need a bowl, and your hands, a pan or pot, strong arms, and confidence. That’s what I know now. I didn’t know that until surprisingly recently.
Bread was not baked in my house. Why buy when you can get fresh bread from the store?
Back when I was a Girl Guide I learned to make dinner rolls. Ok, let me rephrase. A bunch of girls went to a nice lady’s house and we played with dough and got badges. I remember that it seemed like a lot of work and a lot of waiting for a batch of plain white buns.
A few years later, maybe for guides, or maybe for school…I can’t remember. I was given a big sloppy bag of goo and told to put it in my fridge and “feed it”. It was sourdough starter. Well I forgot about it and it became a big sloppy, smelly mess. It wound up in the garbage.
Those two events clarified for me that bread should be purchased in a store.
Until….The Great British Bake Off.
Seriously. I saw all of these awesome home bakers making mess free bread that looked awesome. Hearing Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry talk about bread making techniques made me curious. Seeing bread making done live – and seeing lots of different types of bread – made me realize that I was really missing out – from a baking and an eating standpoint. I bought a Paul Hollywood book and got to work.
I have learned that I love making bread. Maybe it’s my age (sigh)…I don’t know, but I love kneading bread. It’s methodical, it’s meditative (things I hated as a kid). I love the beating and the pounding and the stretching. Bread dough transforms. Truly, it’s like magic. It starts as a sticky mess and becomes a stretchy, silky ball. You know when it has been kneaded effectively not by how long you’ve kneaded it, but by its texture. There’s no guessing or wondering. You see it evolve and develop. I love the physicality of it. You really get rough with the dough. I often slap it down on the counter (which sends my dog hiding under the dining room table) to help develop the stretch. When I am done I feel like I really worked hard to create something.
I don’t have a favourite go-to bread recipe at this point. I feel like I am at the beginning of my bread journey and there are so many breads I need to try. Here are a few that I have played with:
Bread proves (pun intended) that the simplest of ingredients create wonderful results. Flour, yeast, salt, water. That’s it. Yes, some recipes may add butter, oil, eggs, herbs…there are lots of variations, but flour, yeast, salt and water are the foundation. From simple comes beautiful. The beauty of bread.