Baking - History


In ancient history, the first evidence of baking occurred when humans took wild grass grains, soaked them in water, and mixed everything together, mashing it into a kind of broth-like paste. 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.

Baking flourished in the Roman Empire. In about 300 BC, the pastry cook became an occupation for Romans (known as the pastillarium). This became a 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 was highly prized. Around 1 AD, there were more than three hundred pastry chefs in Rome, 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. The Romans baked bread in an oven with its own chimney, and had mills to grind grain into flour.

Eventually, because of Rome, the art of baking became 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. This scene was so common that Rembrandt illustrated a work that depicted a pastry chef selling pancakes in the streets of Germany, with children clamoring for a sample. In London, pastry chefs sold their goods from handcarts. This developed into a system of delivery of baked goods to households, and demand increased greatly as a result. In Paris, the first open-air café of baked goods was developed, and baking became an established art throughout the entire world.

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