As long ago as 2,000 BC the Egyptians knew how to make fermented bread. The practice was to use a little old dough, or leaven, to “start” the new dough. These two doughs were mixed together and allowed to ferment (rise) for some hours before baking. They made an astonishing 50 varieties of bread, paid wages with bread, and painted breadmaking scenes in their tombs.
A variety of methods have since been developed in making leaven. The Baker’s Patent required the fermentation of hops and scalded malt for at least two to three days.
In the early 1900’s it was discovered that traditional long fermentation times could be reduced from 18 to 3-4 hours by the use of very small amounts of certain chemicals, called oxidants, in bread or flour. Oxidants, when added to dough, not only speed up the process but also produce a superior loaf.
This loaf of bread is 4000 years old (approximately). The triangular loaf was one of many objects found under the foundation of Mentuhotep II’s mortuary temple at Deir el Bahari in Western Thebes. Mentuhotep II reigned from c.2008 to 1957 B.C.
The Egyptians believed the temple was a miniature representation of the universe. The objects placed in the foundation deposits were intended to symbolically stabilise and protect the corners and the boundary walls of the temple. They believed they would be rewarded with a stable universe where there was an abundance of food such as bread.
History of Bread Production in New Zealand
Bread was the subject of many of New Zealand’s earliest food regulations such as the Sale of Bread Act and Bread Ordinance in 1863. At the turn of the century, seventy bakehouses were established in the Canterbury Settlement, which were mostly family businesses and baked throught the night.
In those days, dough was mixed in a wooden trough by plunging arms into the mixture, punching and kneading it until all ingredients were mixed. This task required considerable strength.
Ovens have developed dramatically since the first European settlers used a camp oven ( a round cauldron) which stood over the hot embers of an open fire. Early bakeries used small ‘beehive’ direct fired ovens heated by lighting a fire in them. When the oven was hot enough the fire was drawn, or taken out and the batch inserted.
With the help of technology, bread baking methods have changed considerably. Most of the tedious manual work associated with bread baking has now been eliminated.
In New Zealand there are two main processes for making bread. One of these is called the Bulk Fermentation (BF) method and the other the Mechanical Dough Development (MDD) method. In the BF method, the mixed dough is left to rise for approximately two hours until it is ready to be divided into loaf size pieces. It is then given a final rising and baked, In the MDD method, the dough is mixed at very high speeds and has higher levels of some essential ingredients. This cuts down the amout of time the dough needs to rise from two hours to ten minutes. The dough is then divided, moulded into loaf size shapes, given a final rising and baked. About 80% of the bread made in New Zealand is made by the MDD method.