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The Rise and Rise of Bread

The smell of freshly-baked bread is one of the most recognisable aromas in the home and on the high street. Bread has been a staple food across the world since the dawn of agriculture – for at least 14,500 years, possibly as long as 30,000 years. In that time, specialist breads have evolved across different cultures and countries.

Bread is made with just a few simple ingredients: flour (usually a form of ground wheat or other grain), water and yeast, with small amounts of salt, sugar and fat. These are formed into dough, which rises in a process of fermentation. After it is baked in an oven, a crust forms on top of the bread, while the loaf remains soft and moist on the inside. There is plenty of science involved in baking bread. The taste and texture depends upon the environment and agriculture, the type and production of grain, the milling and storage of flour, the sugars, starch, enzymes, the kneading and mixing of dough, and the risks of oxidation.

The UK saw a huge decline in bread baking between 1940 and 2000. Recent years have seen a revival, however, with dozens of craft bakeries opening across the country. Home baking has seen a big increase in popularity too, especially during the long weeks of Covid-19 lockdown. It seems that stretching dough can help to relieve anxiety as well as providing freshly-baked treats under isolation and with social distancing restrictions.