Bread. The beautiful creation made from ground flours or grains that is then baked or fried. Sometimes it is leavened, or made with products to make it rise, and other times it is made flat or unleavened. There are endless possibilities and recipes for the delicious food that is known as the food of life. Bread is known as the food of life because throughout the Bible, bread is a symbolic representation of God’s life-sustaining provision. When Jesus told the hungry crowds that he was the Bread of Life, he was teaching his followers that He alone was their true source of spiritual life, both in this present world and in the everlasting life to come.
The latest archeological finds show that bread, in some form or another, has been around for around 30,000 years. Breads are the oldest foods around that do not require foraging or hunting. It has been an essential part of human history and formed early human societies. Bread is also a gift from God: when Moses fed his people in the desert with food which fell from heaven, and during the last supper, when bread became the body of Christ. When Jesus multiplied the bread to feed the crowd, bread became a sign of sharing. It also symbolized the Word of God which nourished the crowds.
Bread was central to the formation of early human societies. From the Fertile Crescent, where wheat was domesticated, cultivation spread north and west, to Europe and North Africa, and east towards East Asia. This in turn led to the formation of towns, as opposed to the nomadic lifestyle, and gave rise to more and more sophisticated forms of societal organization. Similar developments occurred in the Americas with maize and in Asia with rice. Bread is a universal food: today there is no country in the world in whose culinary tradition there is not some form of bread. From Mesopotamia to the tables of the whole world, bread has been the symbol of culture, history and anthropology, of hunger and wealth, of war and peace.
Bread is thought of as pure, honest food. We are automatically drawn to fresh, homemade bread. It makes us smile and it satisfies as few other foods can. It brings people together and connects us to both our past as well as the present, and it also connects us to other people. There is something very special and significant about “breaking bread” with others that binds us together like nothing else can. We eat some type of bread at least once every day, as do many other people around the world. Bread often takes center stage at any special occasion or holiday tables anywhere you go.
Breads can be very simple or they can be very complicated. But the main ingredients are very simple. The basics are either some kind of flour of crushed grains, liquid, which is usually water, a dash of salt, sometimes sugar, and yeast if you are leavening the bread.
If you want your breads to rise, you need yeast. Yeast is the essence of bread. It is what makes it rise and also what gives it its distinctive flavor and aroma. Yeast is able to work its magic with the help of liquid, flour and a little salt. Then you need to add the right temperatures, precise measurements and the simple art of kneading or “stirring down” the dough to create your masterpiece. Your yeast is a variable, that is affected by the weather, temperature and humidity, and as I have found out, altitude as well.
Flour provides the main structure of bread. The specific structure and characteristics of the bread will be determined by the type of flour used. Different types of flour have different amounts of gluten. Gluten is a protein that helps give bread its elasticity and strength. Bread flour, followed by all purpose flour, tend to give breads the best volume and texture. Whole wheat flours are more dense and have less gluten, which will make the breads more dense and they will not rise as much.
The liquid used in bread is usually water, although you can use other liquids as well for different flavors. Water dissolves and activates the yeast and allows it to be mixed and incorporated into the flour. For best results, the liquid should be lukewarm, at between 105* and 115* F. If it is too cold, it will slow or stop the yeast action and if it is too hot, it will destroy the yeast.
Adding sugar to the dough helps the bread to form a golden crust and adds flavor to the dough. Though beneficial, it is not a necessary ingredient.
Adding just a bit of salt controls the yeast action by slowing down the rising time and allowing the flavors of the dough to develop. It also adds to the dough’s structure by strengthening the gluten. You always want to add salt to the mixture. It will NOT work if you don’t.
There are three main kinds of bread in the world; those that rise highest so are baked in pans, breads with a medium volume like rye and French breads, and those that hardly rise at all called flatbreads. They are all very tasty and very good. All have been served and enjoyed at my table many, many times, and will continue to be a staple in my house for many more years to come.
Break bread together and enjoy it with family, friends and loved ones. It’s hard to remain enemies when you’ve broken bread together. This means that sharing a meal is often about more than just food; it’s also about coming together despite the past. To “break bread” also means to have a meal with someone, by breaking off pieces of your loaf of bread to ensure that everyone is fed. This term occurs in numerous places in the New Testament, where it sometimes means to share bread and other times to distribute food to others.
Enjoy your breads and break your breads with others. Stay safe and stay well Everyone. ‘Til next time.