Bread – they say it’s the staff of life and, although essentially a paste made from flour and water that’s baked, it holds a place in many of our hearts, and our history.
The earliest bread was made in Egypt around 8000BC, with grain being crushed, mixed with water and cooked, producing what we now recognize as unleavened flatbreads, such as chapatis, or tortillas. Their beer making skills and the warm humid environment encouraged the Egyptians to add wild yeast to the dough mix, creating a leavened bread.
Up until around 450BC, the whole grain, once crushed, was used to make bread; however, the Romans, after inventing the watermill, learned to roughly separate the husk from the soft, inner endosperm, making white flour, and consequently, white bread. This was a difficult, labor-intensive process, even with the watermill.
White bread was seen by the Romans as a higher quality bread, with the rich, educated Roman elite eating only the white, while their slaves ate the coarser, rougher whole grain bread. They carried this tradition with them as they conquered countries, and the fine, white loaves quickly became the food of the rich upper classes, whilst those of poorer status ate the, ironically, healthier, whole grain, bran or rye bread.
This idea continued right up to 1830s when the steel roller mill was invented. This allowed the wheat grain to be separated easily, enabling white flour to be produced quickly and in large quantities, making the whole process cheaper, and more accessible for everyone.
In the 20th century, with the addition of chemicals, vitamins, and minerals, bread became whiter and softer and gained longevity. However, with an increased knowledge of healthy eating, bakers, following consumer demand, have gone back to basics, creating healthier whole grain rustic bread from a variety of sources.
Many of us would love to make our own bread and with it, recreate images of a more peaceful rural life, however, very few have the time or energy to do so. But living modern lives, with modern kitchen appliances, can have its good points – the bread maker being one.
Having a bread maker, however, is only as good as the recipes you choose, and although most makers come with plenty of ideas for types of bread, it never hurts to have a few more.
So, here are some of our favorites:
Chocolate Cinnamon Bread
Makes a 1lb loaf
- ½ cup milk
- 1 egg
- 1 tablespoon butter or margarine
- ¼ cup of sugar
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 cups bread flour
- ⅓ cup miniature semisweet chocolate pieces
- 1-1 ½ teaspoons Bread Machine Yeast
For the Chocolate Glaze
- ½ cup powdered sugar
- 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 to 3 teaspoons milk
Add all the ingredients, except the ones for the glaze, to the machine. Set the machine to basic/white bread cycle and light or medium crust. To make the glaze, stir together powdered sugar and cocoa powder. Stir in 1/4 teaspoon vanilla and enough milk to make a glaze of drizzling consistency, and drizzle over the baked bread.
Be nice and try to share!
Oregano and Romano Cheese Bread
Makes a 1 ½ loaf
- 3 cups bread flour
- 1 cup of water
- ½ cup freshly grated Romano or Parmesan cheese
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 1 tablespoon dried leaf oregano
- 1 ½ tablespoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons active dry yeast
Add the ingredients to your bread machine following the manufacturer’s instructions. Set on basic or medium, and press start.
Makes a 1 ½ lb loaf
- 1 cup water, boiling
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 ½ teaspoons salt
- 3 tablespoons honey
- 1 tablespoon dark molasses
- 1/2 cup oats
- 1 large lightly beaten egg
- 3 cups bread flour
- 2 teaspoons yeast (sprinkled over flour)
Put the oats in a mixing bowl. Pour the boiling water over the oats, and set aside.
When oats have cooled but are still a bit warm, transfer them to the bread machine pan. Make sure they are not too hot or the heat could kill the yeast. Add the remaining ingredients according to your bread machine manufacturer’s manual, and set to a light cycle.
There’s no end to the types of bread and rolls a bread machine can make, and many are versatile enough to make jams, pasta, cakes, and even yogurts. But never be bound by rules – invent, create and enjoy your own recipes – be a bread maker master!