History and How to of Bread

The Art and Science of Breadmaking

Bread has been an important element in the diet of all cultures for thousands of years, it is not only an important food but also a way of expression of tradition, culture, and human intelligence. Baking is an art, and a science, that involves a few simple things but requires skill, patience, and a magic touch. 

A Journey through History 

The history of bread goes back thousands of years, beginning around 10,000 BC in the Fertile Crescent. Originally, bread was a simple mixture of water and crushed corn, baked on a hot smooth rock. As time went by, civilization perfected the art of breadmaking. They in fact discovered a leavening agent such as yeast which led to the creation of the fermented water we know today. 

The Chemistry of Bread

At its core, baking is chemistry at work. The basic ingredients like flour, water, salt, and yeast make complex changes. Yeast is a living microorganism that feeds on sugars and flour, leaving behind carbon dioxide which causes the dough to rise. This process creates air, the structural characteristics and texture of bread.

The Art of Kneading

It’s in the mix that magic happens. This step does not only consist in just mixing. Gluten is formed in the water-flour mix, giving the bread structure and texture. Gluten is a collective term for a variety of proteins that belong to the group of storage proteins, formally termed prolamins, which are naturally occurring in some grains like wheat, barley, and rye, and serve diverse advantageous roles in bread products. A baker’s hand is an essential tool for this job,  as it folds and presses the dough repetitively until it is smooth and changing.

The Rise 

After kneading, the dough is left to rest and gets up again. This process, called fermentation, allows the yeast to do its work, causing the dough to rise. Mixing shall be stopped, the dough shall be covered and by giving time, it will expand, and transform into a lighter and more airy dough.

The Bake 

The baking process marks the end of the baking trip. When the dough goes in the oven, the final heat is generated by rising explosions, known as “heat waves”, and the Maillard reaction gives that golden brown colour and aroma to the bread. The Maillard reaction is a chemical reaction between amino acids and reducing sugars that occurs when heat is applied, resulting in browning, flavour development, and aroma enhancement in cooked foods. It is responsible for the delectable crust on bread, the rich flavour of roasted coffee, and the savoury taste of grilled meat. 

Varieties Across Cultures

Bread comes in countless forms, each representing the culture they are from French, Italian baguettes and ciabatta, Indian naan, or soft, round Middle Eastern pita. Each has a unique place in the culinary world, showing interest in local culture.

The Artisanal Resurgence

Recently there has been a revival of handmade baking. Bakers and artisans adopt traditional methods, by testing ancient seeds, sourdoughs, and long fermentation which adds depth to the flavour and texture they create.

Bread Beyond the Table

Bread has deep roots in many cultures and languages. Phrases like “bread eater” and “bread slicer” carry symbolic meanings beyond the culinary meanings. Bread became an example of food, community, and hospitality.


Baking, a combination of science, tradition, and nature, continues to evolve. It holds a special place in the hearts and homes of people around the world with the simple joy that kneading the dough brings and the rich aroma that fills the kitchen when various cakes are in the oven. The art of baking remains popular and timeless, connecting us to the past and supporting us in the present.


Boyce, Carrie. “The Art & Science of Bread-Making.” Royal Canadian Institute for Science, 14 Oct. 2020, www.rciscience.ca/blog/bread-making.

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