Friday, 16 August 2019

Baking Part 1 -A Brief History And Introduction


Pictorial representation of ancient oven
We all like to bake ? Many of us might start baking, after watching a series of cookery shows on TV, recipes from magazines, etc., and ends up in faulty products, isn't it. I also started baking in the same way and I didn't have a proper oven in my home. But I have seen my parents baking tea cakes in an idli cooker during my childhood. But most of the time, it came out with a bad eggy smell with a hard burnt bottom. After one or two trials, they have stopped this practises forever. 

Later, when I grow up, I used to try  recipes from magazines and television shows. Even though, these baking recipes were good enough, but all end up in a catastrophe. So I analysed ....and finally found the problem...Yes, it is me... I started baking experiments  without the knowledge of its real technique. So the results of experiments were hard cakes and cookies.

Later, I gave more importance to the basics rather than the recipe. So if  we get a recipe, we need to standardise it. This will happen only when we have a thorough knowledge about the ingredients, methods and the chemical process of baking. So I think, it will be better to start with the basics rather than a recipe. Do follow me and we will bake perfect products. 

What is baking ?

Baking is a method of cooking where leavened or unleavened flour-based food under a prolonged dry heat especially in an oven.  It can be done on, true enclosed ovens, hot stones, or in thick bottomed pots.  While baking, the heat gradually penetrates from the surface towards its the centre, making dough crisp on outside and soft  inside.



Why should we bake at home

Baking at home is more than a hobby ...yes, it is an entertainment and will give you oven fresh healthy food from your own kitchen. Sitting near the oven by sipping a  cup of hot tea and  just feel the nice tempting aroma of baked goods in and around of  you and see the smiling faces of kids ... are the beautiful moments of proud baker.


History of baking



History of baking is as vast as human race and it so enchanting enough to motivate you to start baking.  Baking history is as deep as the human history. It started from  the pre - historic people when they start collecting wild grains,  removed the tightly clung husk by pounding the grains with stones or wood and made a fine grain paste. Later, as soon as they invent fire, they recognized that the grain paste cooked on hot stones near the fire is tastier than the uncooked paste. This marked the beginning of preparation of flat breads like dosa, roties, tortillas etc. 

This grain paste left for sometime captured wild yeast from the air and fermented. Later, people learnt that this fermented dough could be saved and used for the next day's preparation. Thus the ancestors of today's leavened bread originated. In the same way, we can use the previous day's dosa/idli or appam batter in next day's batch. In both the use of the previous days dough helps to introduce active yeast in today's dough and alter fermentation rate.

The preparation of leavened bread in the mold was started by ancient Egyptians where the hot molds were filled with fermented dough and then cooked in heat chambers. These first mass produced breads made of wheat were costly and were not affordable to common people . Most people depended on bread made of other grains such as barley.

Pictorial representation of ovens in ancient Greek

Later true enclosed ovens were introduced in ancient Greek. These ovens were having a closed chamber with a front door for loading and unloading the food and was heated up by making fire inside them. But the baked products were nothing more than leavened grain paste. But these were the staple food of people that time and were served with accompaniments such as meat, fish, vegetables etc. 

Several years later,  Gauls, (the ancestors of French migrants in Rome) invented beer. Sooner or later, they also identified that the use froth from beer in bread dough gives especially light and well-leavened bread. The froth from beer contains yeast - the microorganisms that aid fermentation. This glorious invention can be considered as the beginning of controlled use of yeast in bread production. 

The baking became an important profession of Rome at that time. It became an important and respected profession that time. Many pastry chefs invented new varieties of tasty treats that time and were made in large pans during special occasions. Use of honey and oil was quite common.
Pictorial representation of oven in ancient Rome

After the collapse of Roman empire, the baking profession was almost disappeared. But later the baking and pastry making was emerged as a valuable industry and eventually spread throughout Europe and the eastern part of Asia. But bread baking was performed by men in bakeries as it needs a good oven. Due to the fear of fire, these ovens were built in isolated space away from the cities. 


Later baking became more popularised and alternative raising agents like baking powder and baking soda were more common, people started to standardise the recipes and so many bakeshops were emerged throughout Europe.  Ovens became accessible to everyone and women started to bake at home. Small ovens became more popular. 

These days, baking  became familiar to everyone, and more people started baking at home. But luckily we have our own ovens and we can bake beautiful cakes, cookies and breads in our home.


Introduction of baking in India

In India we have our own breads and cakes. Roties like chapaties, nan etc., are a type of flat bread cooked under dry heat without an oven.  It would not be exaggerated to say that baking in India was introduced after the colonisation of the British. There was only one bakery at that time and was catered only for the British.

Surprisingly, the first bakery owne by an Indian was started at Thalaserry, Kerala by a malayali named Bapu after his return from burma. He made the first X'mas cake after getting an order from a British named Brown. Mr. Brown was handed over a piece of cake to Bapu and ask him to make one exactly like that. Bapu uses his senses to identify the ingredients and made a beautiful X'mas cake using local spices. Anyways, the successors of Bapu runs his business successfully throughout Kerala and other states too. Luckily, we got chance to taste some of their dishes while in Mangalooru. 

Previously, in India, yeast for leavened bread were introduced using Toddy until the British starts importing controlled yeast. The same fermentation method we Keralalites followed in making Kallappam. Nowadays, toddy is not easily available and we depend on the ready made yeast. 


Summery

This is my first post on baking section, after covering the basics and technique, we will start recipes.  I think, in baking skill and basic knowledge is more important than recipe, So  it will be better to start with th basics.


                                                                                                            With love
                                                                                                             Anju





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