There are many stories about the origins of bread. In Middle Eastern lore, Allah is supposed to have given man grain by sending it from heaven wrapped in seven handkerchiefs.
In Egypt, bakers learned to use fermenting agents, taking sour dough from one batch to enable the dough of the next batch rise. But in Gaul, yeast from the scum in wine barrels was used to make the dough rise.
Traditions and rituals abound. For example in ancient times, 12 loaves of unleavened bread were placed every Sabbath on the high altar of the Temple at Jerusalem, each loaf representing the 12 tribes of Israel.
Visiting the Grimm bakery in Vienna’s pristine First District made me think about the origin of bread. Grimm produces “dinkel” or spelt bread as well as cakes, cookies and other bakery products. This is the only bakery authorized, under Vienna’s strict laws to actually bake bread on the premises in the First District.
An ancient grain, spelt is a species of wheat known in Europe since the Bronze Age. It was introduced to North America in the1890s and is now found mainly in health food shops. I use it in many recipes, substituting half the regular amount of flour with spelt. The result is a slightly nutty, slightly sweet loaf or cake that is absolutely delicious.
2 envelopes dry yeast
2 tsp. sugar
7 mL (1 1/2 tsp) salt
(6 cups) flour, sifted
Put yeast and sugar in 125 mL (1/2 cup) warm water in a large bowl and let stand for 10 minutes. Dissolve salt in 375 mL (l l/2 cups) warm water and add this solution to yeast. Work in the flour. Turn out on a floured board and knead for ten minutes.
Divide into about 10 balls and roll out on a floured surface into 12 to 15 cm (5- or 6-inch) rounds. Put on a greased cookie sheet and bake in a preheated 240º C (475º F). oven for ten to 12 minutes or until golden and puffed up.
Auntie Min’s brown bread
This recipe from the early 1900s is from my grandmother’s sister-in-law in northern Ontario.
5 mL (1 tsp) baking soda
500 mL (2 cups) sour milk or buttermilk
5 mL (1 tsp) salt
50 mL (1/4 cup) brown sugar
1 L (4 cups) whole wheat flour or 625 mL (2 1/2 cups) whole wheat flour and 375 mL (1 1/2 cups) spelt flour
Preheat to 180º C (350º F).Put baking soda into buttermilk. In a separate bowl sift salt, sugar, and flour. Add buttermilk mixture to flour mixture half at a time and mix. Dates and nuts may be added if desired. Put in a greased loaf pan and let stand for 20 minutes. Bake in a moderate oven for 45 minutes or till done.
Susan Hallett is an award-winning writer and editor who has written for The Beaver, The Globe & Mail, Wine Tidings and Doctor’s Review among many others. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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