The baking profession was not common until the Roman Empire. Until then,
bakers were employees of kings and dignitaries. There were no bakers
for the masses, and each household baked their own bread on the hearth.
the Romans, a new breed of professional baker evolved, albeit limited
to the wealthy and the well-connected, as oven construction was costly. A
few magnanimous overlords built community ovens for the private use of
their vassals, a concept that continued into the Middle Ages.
Commoners prepared their own dough at home and were allotted time to bake their bread in the community oven.
the 16th century, the village baker emerged and sparked a transferral
of roles from home baker to professional baker. It took the Industrial
Revolution to finally relegate the home baker to minority status and
shift production of bread for the masses to the large, centralized
industrial bakeries that proliferated in the early 1900s. It was not
until the end of World War II, however, that industrialized baking
became the standard that exists to this day.
Baking is both a
science and an art. Three hundred years ago, little was known of the
science, and bakers relied on the art – experience and knowledge passed
down from their predecessors. From Louis Pasteur to the present, much
study has been made of the science of baking. Since the dawn of time,
man has sought ways to manipulate the basic ingredients of bread –
flour, water, yeast and salt. A baker can be compared to a puppeteer
manipulating the strings of his puppet.
By cleverly manipulating
the “strings,” or ingredients, in his bread, a baker can achieve
infinite varieties of texture and flavor.
Armed with this
historical background, we can now explore the fundamental difference
between an artisan baker and his counterpart, the industrial baker. Both
manipulate the baking process to suit their needs. A baker’s life is
arduous, and one primary aim is to achieve a sustainable workload, using
techniques and technology to make life easier. A baker must also
maximize profits by producing as much bread in as short a time as
possible. These are common goals of both types of bakers.
It is the philosophy and hence the methods used by each that set them apart.
underlying principle of industrialized baking is to control or “coerce”
the baking process by any means to reduce cost and maximize profit.
Industrialized bakeries use any available modern technology to optimize
their production lines – mechanized equipment, artificially controlled
environments and chemical additives. Advantages of this type of baking
are high volume, low cost and consistency. The disadvantages are
blandness of taste and less nutritious value in the bread (due to the
The industrial baker’s mission is to take baking out of the home and to centralize it (preferably in his company).
artisan baker resembles the 300-yearold village baker prior to the
Industrial Revolution. Instead of forcing the process, he respects the
natural baking process, allowing yeast – usually natural sourdough yeast
– to ferment at its own pace, using only basic ingredients and his
knowledge and experience (rather than chemical additives) to achieve
texture and flavor. He minimizes the use of mechanical equipment, opting
for hand techniques and baking in a traditional brick oven. Advantages
of artisan baking are tastier, more healthful breads. The disadvantages
are higher cost and lower volume. Unlike the village baker of old, the
true artisan baker’s mission is to reacquaint the public with
high-quality, healthful bread and old-world baking methods. His goal is
as much educational as it is entrepreneurial, if not more.
Recent years have seen a resurgence of true artisan bakers around the world, a group of which the writer is a proud member.
public awareness of health continues to grow, this movement will
hopefully expand and effect a reversal of the process and take baking
out of the hands of entrepreneurs and return it to the home, where it
SOURDOUGH RYE BREAD
✔ 1¾ cups white flour
✔ ¾ cup rye flour
✔ ¾ cup sourdough culture (see www.jpost.com/Food-Index/In-the- Grain-Sourdough-for-dummies-317813)
✔ 1 cup water
✔ 2 tsp. salt
✔ ½ tsp. instant powdered yeast
✔ 1 Tbsp. caraway seeds
ingredients and knead for 10 minutes by hand. Dough will be sticky.
Leave to rise for 1 hour. Flour lightly, shape into an oval loaf and
place in a bread pan. Leave to rise for 30 minutes. Bake at maximum oven
temperature (approximately 250°) for 35 minutes. Master
baker Les Saidel, originally from Johannesburg, South Africa, lives in
Ginot Shomron with his wife, Sheryl, and four children. He is the owner
of Saidels Bakery (www.saidels.com),
specializing in handmade, organic health breads and the inventor of
Rambam Bread. He also works as a consultant in the fields of cereal
chemistry, health and nutrition.