Stock photos & stock pictures gallery of bread loaves.
Bread is a staple food prepared by cooking a dough of flour and water and frequently additional ingredients. Doughs are usually baked, but in some cuisines breads are steamed, fried, or baked on an unoiled skillet. It may be leavened or unleavened. Salt, fat and leavening agents such as yeast and baking soda are common ingredients, though bread may contain other ingredients, such as milk, egg, sugar, spice, fruit (such as raisins), vegetables (such as onion), nuts (such as walnuts) or seeds (such as poppy seeds). Bread is one of the oldest prepared foods, dating back to the Neolithic era, and is referred to colloquially as the “Staff of life”. The development of leavened bread can probably also be traced to prehistoric times.
Fresh bread is prized for its taste, aroma, quality, appearance and texture. Retaining its freshness is important to keep it appetizing. Bread that has stiffened or dried past its prime is said to be stale. Modern bread is sometimes wrapped in paper or plastic film, or stored in a container such as a breadbox to reduce drying. Bread that is kept in warm, moist environments is prone to the growth of mold. Bread kept at low temperatures, in a refrigerator for example, will develop mold growth more slowly than bread kept at room temperature, but will turn stale quickly due to retrogradation.
The soft, inner part of bread is known to bakers and other culinary professionals as the crumb, which is not to be confused with small bits of bread that often fall off, called crumbs. The outer hard portion of bread is called the crust.
Bread is one of the oldest prepared foods. Evidence from 30,000 years ago in Europe revealed starch residue on rocks used for pounding plants. It is possible that during this time, starch extract from the roots of plants, such as cattails and ferns, was spread on a flat rock, placed over a fire and cooked into a primitive form of flatbread. Around 10,000 BC, with the dawn of the Neolithic age and the spread of agriculture, grains became the mainstay of making bread. Yeast spores are ubiquitous, including the surface of cereal grains, so any dough left to rest will become naturally leavened. There were multiple sources of leavening available for early bread. Airborne yeasts could be harnessed by leaving uncooked dough exposed to air for some time before cooking. Pliny the Elder reported that the Gauls and Iberians used the foam skimmed from beer to produce “a lighter kind of bread than other peoples.” Parts of the ancient world that drank wine instead of beer used a paste composed of grape juice and flour that was allowed to begin fermenting, or wheat bran steeped in wine, as a source for yeast. The most common source of leavening was to retain a piece of dough from the previous day to use as a form of sourdough starter.
Sourdough likely originated in Ancient Egyptian times around 1500 BC, and was likely the first form of leavening available to bakers. Sourdough remained the usual form of leavening down into the European Middle Ages until being replaced by barm from the beer brewing process, and then later purpose-cultured yeast.
San Francisco sourdough is the most famous sourdough bread made in the U.S. today. In contrast to sourdough production in other areas of the country, the San Francisco variety has remained in continuous production for nearly 150 years, with some bakeries (e.g., Boudin Bakery among others) able to trace their starters back to California’s territorial period. It is a white bread characterized by a pronounced sourness.
Today many breads are leavened by yeast. The yeast used for leavening bread is Saccharomyces cerevisiae, the same species used for brewing alcoholic beverages. This yeast ferments carbohydrates in the flour, including any sugar, producing carbon dioxide. Most bakers in the U.S. leaven their dough with commercially produced baker’s yeast. Baker’s yeast has the advantage of producing uniform, quick, and reliable results, because it is obtained from a pure culture. Many artisan bakers produce their own yeast by preparing a ‘growth culture’ which they then use in the making of bread. When this culture is kept in the right conditions, it will continue to grow and provide leavening for many years.
TYPES OF BREAD
- WHITE BREAD is made from flour containing only the central core of the grain (endosperm).
- BROWN BREAD is made with endosperm and 10% bran. It can also refer to white bread with added colouring (often caramel colouring) to make it ‘brown’; commonly labeled in America as “Wheat” bread (as opposed to “Whole Wheat” bread.)
- WHOLEMEAL BREAD contains the whole of the wheat grain (endosperm and bran). It is also referred to as ‘whole grain’ or ‘whole wheat’ bread, especially in North America.
- WHOLE GRAIN BREAD can refer to the same as ‘wholemeal bread’, or to white bread with added whole grains to increase its fibre content (i.e. as in “60% whole grain bread”).
- ROTI BREAD is a whole wheat based bread eaten in South Asia. Chapatti is a larger variant of Roti. Naan is a leavened equivalent to these.
- GRANARY BREAD is bread made using flaked malted wheat grains malt. Trademarked to Hovis, it is made from white or brown flour and flaked malted wheat grains. The standard malting process is modified to maximise maltose / sugar content but minimise residual alpha amylase content. Other flavour components are imparted from partial fermentation due to the particular malting process used and to Maillard reactions on flaking / toasting.
- RYE BREAD is made with flour from rye grain of variable levels. It is higher in fiber than many common types of bread and is often darker in color and stronger in flavor. In Scandinavia, Germany, Finland, the Baltic States, and Russia, rye is a popular type of bread.
- UNLEAVENED BREAD or Matzah used for the Jewish feast of Passover, does not include yeast, thus it does not rise.
- SOURDOUGH BREAD is a dough containing a lactobacillus culture, usually in symbiotic combination with yeasts. It is one of two principal means of leavening in bread baking, along with the use of cultivated forms of yeast (Saccharomyces). It is of particular importance in baking rye-based breads, where yeast does not produce comparable results. In comparison with yeast-based breads, it produces a distinctively tangy or sour taste, mainly because of the lactic acid produced by the lactobacilli; the actual medium, known as “starter” or levain, is essentially an ancestral form of pre-ferment.
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