The aroma of freshly baked bread on a cold winter morning is a memory that will torment your taste buds for life. The simple, humble food has been called the Staff of Life in the Bible.
Researchers have found evidence of bread-like crumbs dating about 14000 years back in an archaeological site in Jordan. This predates the start of agriculture by thousands of years. During the Neolithic times, bread was nothing but a paste of water and ground cereal cooked over a fire. History also suggests the earliest bread was made in Egypt in 8000 BC. This bread was an uncouth form of what we call sourdough today, and the Egyptians’ beer-making and fermentation skills made breadmaking successful.
The variations of bread over thousands of years in different cultures leave us baffled today. The list of versions of bread is long and varied, so here we will take up a few of them that we see around us daily and which are easy to hatch in your own kitchen.
The flour used to make whole wheat bread or more commonly called wheat bread is just like the name suggests: whole wheat grain flour. As history suggests, the wealthy Romans could afford to eat white bread which was fluffier and softer and thus deemed to be of better quality. The poor could only afford to eat brown bread made out of bran or rye and beneath the rich, till the tables turned and whole wheat bread was finally touted to be a healthier choice sometime in the 20th century.
This particular loaf of bread is coated with broken grains of wheat or oats to add a decorative quotient. The nutritional value of this bread comes from the iron, magnesium and fibre it contains.
The whole wheat bread originated in the US. The ways to relish this bread calls on to your imagination as it is one of the best sandwich breads around. As a sandwich, with spreads and dips and as croutons, this bread will blow you away with its various options.
This delightfully pretty variety of bread is small, round or oblong. It is usually served as an accompaniment to a meal with plain or herb butter. The beauty of this bread is that it can be cut up and used with a filling of choice, making it a mini sandwich.
Almost every culture in the world has some or the other variant to this little loaf, but the origin of bread roll is deemed to be England where it is called a “bap.”
Bread rolls can also be enjoyed with gravies, sauces and stews. To stretch its uses, one can slather it with butter and herbs to go as a side with pasta.
Footlong or Submarine bread
This long crusty roll is more of a sandwich bread that is split lengthwise to stuff with a motley of meats, vegetable or cheeses. Filling of fresh vegetables, turkey, cold cuts or an omelette with a slice of cheese and rows of mustard, barbeque or any choice of sauce gives it a unique name – the submarine sandwich. It has been baptised with names like a sub, hoagie, hero, grinder and many more as per the many incidents from history dating back to World War 2.
One of these stories leads back to Italian immigrants who came into the US with their bread recipes and ever since have changed the bread game in the country. So, why put your hunger on hold to decide on the origin of this long roll as Italy or the US when you can just go ahead and bite into the messy sandwich instead.
This small round flatbread steams and puffs up creating a pocket: a pocket which can be stuffed with the most delectable chow.
The prehistoric Middle East boasts the origin of this versatile flatbread and evidence found in Jordan support the claim that this bread was eaten during the Stone Age though it was made from wild grains and cereals then. Pita bread has a long and colourful association with Greece and Middle Eastern cuisine.
This bread can be used as wraps with falafel, gyros and kebabs. If slit into triangles and baked further, it can be served with hummus and Baba Ganoush. Pita sandwiches can hold a choice of meats, vegetables and sauces, making it adaptable in any cuisine.
This peculiar bread is long with a crispy crust and a chewy inside. It is eaten with ham and butter throughout Europe. Baguettes came into being as long crusty loaves of bread when bakers needed an alternative to the time-consuming round loaves. It is typically savoured by tearing and dipping in olive oil or slathered with butter. Again, you can make sandwiches galore with baguettes stuffed with vegetables and meats.
The origin of baguettes is the foodies’ heaven, France.
Our classic garlic bread and bruschetta have a base of this famed French bread.
This fat round bread probably has the longest fermentation cycle as the dough slowly produces lactobacilli and natural yeasts during the long hours it is resting. The lactic acid produced in the process lends it a slightly sour taste which is a trademark of this exquisite bread and hence the name – sourdough. Omitting the packaged yeast makes this bread much healthier than the other quick rise ones. Sourdough is something every fermentation enthusiast attempts at some point. It requires a starter for the dough, but once you have a starter on hand, you can keep a little away from every batch of dough you make for the next one.
This chewy bread with its mild tangy flavour will become your new favourite when you see how many ways it can be relished in. Sandwiches with this crusty bread is a given, but you can also slather dressings or dip it in sauces. This interesting bread can be made as a bread bowl to hold your soup and then can be eaten up towards the end of the meal. Remember the trencher bread in medieval cuisine if you have watched the Game Of Thrones? That’s sourdough!
Now reach for the flour, yeast and water and get down to giving these breads a trial run. If nothing else, your kitchen will smell like heaven on earth, I promise!