Bread can be hard or soft, flat or raised, crisp or chewy. Tortillas, injera, naan and khobuz are some examples of soft, chewy flat breads. Lavash, while also flat, can be chewy or crisp. Bread is made from a combination of flour, sugar, yeast, salt, water and oil. Some bread recipes also include eggs; grated, juiced, dried or chopped fruits, vegetables and nuts; liqueurs; herbs; and spices.
The most basic bread recipe requires an ounce of yeast, three to four cups of pastry flour, one to two tablespoons of sugar, shortening or oil and salt, and one to two cups of water. Yeast makes bread dough puffy, which makes a light, soft loaf. Without yeast, bread will stay very dense. Most wheat flours contain gluten, which provides the stretchiness of the dough. Sugar is the food source for yeast, which is a live fungus present in air.
Warmth and dampness plus sugar will result in a yeast bloom even if you do not have any packaged yeast. Ancient Egyptians mixed barley flour with water a teaspoon at a time to make soft dough. They rolled the barley dough into a ball and made a little hollow in it, which was filled with a few teaspoons of water. The ball was then placed in the dark in a warm place for two to three days until the dough puffed up and split open. The dough was then kneaded back into a large ball and broken into equal size pieces. Each piece was then used as leaven to make a new loaf of bread.
Gluten is the ingredient that makes bread stretch and allows it to rise without breaking open. Wheat has the most gluten, while grains such as teff, rye and barley require additional gluten in the recipe in order to make a typical loaf of bread. Teff, whose name means "lost," in Amharic, is a very small grain that makes injera: the flat, spongy bread of Ethiopia and Eritrea. If you want to experiment with gluten, make a ball of wheat flour dough and wash it under water until all the starch has washed away, leaving you with a sticky, stringy ball. Gluten is almost pure protein, and can be used as a meat substitute.
Ancient Egyptians would soak barley seed until the seed coats began to split. They ground the split seed with a mortar and pestle to make a thick paste. This paste was spread in a thin layer and dried in the sun, and ground again after it dried, to make barley flour. Rye, millet and corn can all be prepared the same way to make flour for specialty breads.
Feed My Horse: Pain Pour Nicole
Rye flour is mixed with unsweetened cocoa, a cup of gluten powder, a package of yeast, a teaspoon each of sugar and salt, and 1/4 cup of black coffee to make pumpernickel, which was originally invented as "pain pour Nicole," French for "bread for Nicole," Napoleon's horse. Pumpernickel is high in protein and fiber, with a sharp, strong flavor.
- Photo Credit Bread Loaf by Jane M. Smith 2009; Napoleon Crossing the Alps, Public Domain
- Belgian Horse Facts
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