Home‎ > ‎B188 3pm‎ > ‎

Zhu, Christine

The Art of Baking 

T'is the Holiday Season again..the season where cookies, cakes, pies, and all pastries are our best friends. Baking has been many cultures' favorite technique for creating snacks, desserts, and accompaniments to meals for many years. Now, it is very well-known as the method for creating sweets and all sorts of wondrous mouthwatering pastries. But rarely do people know about the history of baking, when it had start, and how it had become refined.

How it all started...

In ancient history, the first evidence of baking occurred when humans took wild grass grains, soaked it in water, and mixed everything together, mashing it into a kind of broth-like paste. Then, the paste was cooked by pouring it onto a flat, hot rock, resulting in a bread-like substance. Later, this paste was roasted on hot embers, which made bread-making easier, as it could now be made anytime fire was created. Around 2500 B.C., records show that the Egyptians already had bread, and may have actually learned the process from the Babylonians. The Greek Aristophanes, around 400 B.C., also recorded information that showed that tortes with patterns and honey flans existed in Greek cuisine. Dispyrus was also created by the Greeks around that time and widely popular; was a donut-like bread made from flour and honey and shaped in a ring; soaked in wine, it was eaten when hot.

In the Roman Empire, baking flourished widely. In about 300 B.C., the pastry cook became an occupation for Romans (known as the pastillarium). This Became a very highly respected profession because pastries were considered decadent, and Romans loved festivity and celebration. Thus, pastries were often cooked especially for large banquets, and any pastry cook who could invent new types of tasty treats, unseen at any other banquet, was highly prized. Around 1 A.D., there were more than three hundred pastry chefs in Rome alone, and Cato wrote about how they created all sorts of diverse foods, and flourished because of those foods. Cato speaks of an enormous amount of breads; included amongst these are the libum (sacrificial cakes made with flour), placenta (groats and cress), spira (our modern day flour pretzels), scibilata (tortes), savaillum (sweet cake), and globus apherica (fritters). A great selection of these, with many different variations, different ingredients, and varied patterns, were often found at banquets and dining halls. To bake bread, the Romans used an oven with its own chimney and had grain mills to grind grain into flour.

Eventually, because of Rome, the art of baking became widely known throughout Europe, and eventually spread to the eastern parts of Asia. Bakers often baked goods at home and then sold them in the streets-children loved their goods. In fact, this scene was so common that Rembrandt illustrated a work that depicted a pastry chef selling pancakes in the streets of Germany, and young children surrounding him, clamoring to get a sample. In London, pastry chef sold their goods in handcarts, which were very convenient shops on wheels. This way, they developed a system of "delivery" baked goods to people's households, and the demand for baked goods increased greatly as a result. Finally, in Paris, the first open-air café of baked goods was developed, and baking became an established art throughout the entire world.

Baking Varieties

Bread baking was one of the first items to be baked because of the abundance of wheat that were present in ancient times.  Bread has been one of the principal forms of food for man from earliest times. The trade of the baker, then, is one of the oldest crafts in the world. Loaves and rolls have been found in ancient Egyptian tombs. In the British Museum's Egyptian galleries you can see actual loaves which were made and baked over 5,000 years ago. Also on display are grains of wheat, which ripened, in those ancient summers under the Pharaohs. Wheat has been found in pits where human settlements flourished 8,000 years ago. Bread, both leavened and unleavened, is mentioned in the Bible many times. The ancient Greeks and Romans knew bread for a staple food even in those days people argued whether white or brown bread was best.

There are generally eight basic types of breads:
Of these types of breads, Bagel is probably one of the more distinct types of breads that Americans recognize.  A bagel is "a hard bread roll made of yeast dough twisted into a small doughnut like shape, cooked in simmering water, then baked." The bagel is the only bread product that is boiled before it is baked. That's what gives the bagel its unique texture and the crust its characteristic shine.  The American bagel industry established formal roots in New York between 1910 and 1915 with the formation of Bagel Bakers Local #338. This exclusive group of 300 craftsmen with "bagels in their blood" limited its members to sons of its members. At the time, it was probably easier to get into medical school than to get an apprenticeship in one of the 36 union bagel shops in New York City and New Jersey.


Cake is a term with a long history (the word is of Viking origin, from the Old Norse kaka) and denotes a baked flour confection sweetened with sugar or honey; it is mixed with eggs and often, but not invariably, with milk and fat; and it has a porous texture from the mixture rising during cooking. It is not surprising that the frontiers between cake and bread, biscuit and bun are indistinct. The progenitor of all is bread in its simplest form. As techniques for baking and leavening developed, and eating patterns changed, what were originally regarded as froms of bread came to be seen as categories of their own and named accordingly. Certain Roman breads, enriched with eggs and butter, must have achieved a cakelike consistency and thus approached one of these indistinct frontiers.

Europe and places such as North America where European influence is strong have always been the center of cakes. One might even draw a line more tightly, fourn English-speaking areas. No other language has a word that means exactly the same as the English 'cake.' The continental European gateau and torte often contain higher proportions of butter, eggs and enriching ingredients such as chocolate, and often lean towaars pastry rathern than cake. Central and East European items such as baba and the Easter kulich are likewise different.

The western tradition of cakes applies little in Asia. In some countries western-style cakes have been adopted on a small scale, for example the small sponge cakes called kasutera in Japan. But the 'cakes' which are important in Asian are quite different from anything occidental for examples, mooncakes and rice cakes of the Philippines.

The history of cakes, goes a long way back. Among the remains found in Swiss lake villages were crude cakes make from roughly crushed gains, moistened, compacted and cooked on a hot stone. Such cakes can be regarded as a form of unleavened bread, as the precursor of all modern European baked products. Some modern survivors of these mixtures still go by the name 'cake', for instance oatcakes, although these are now considreed to be more closely related to biscuits by virtue of their flat, thin shape and brittle texture.

Ancient Egypt was the first culture to show evidence of true skill in bakin, making many kinds of bread including some sweetened with hone. The Greeks had a form of cheesecake and the Romans developed early versions of fruitcakes with raisins, nuts and other fruits. These ended up in 14th century Britain. Chaucer mentions immense cakes made for special occasions. One was made with 13 kilograms of flour and contained butter, cream, eggs, spices, currants and honey.




****Recipes for the Holiday****

Snowflake Cookies

Websites to Checkout: