Millennium Post

Breadtime Story

So do you think you know enough about your daily bread? Celebrity Chef and columnist Vikas Kumar lines up some interesting facts about the humble ‘Staff of Life’

Throughout history, bread been the staff of life. It has played an important role in the evolution, rise and fall of civilisations. So much so, that the Lord's prayer itself asks for 'our daily bread'.The bread by itself is the history of humanity which we contemplate. Bread is the very base of our food since millennia; it is the privileged witness of the history of mankind and of its buildout. As a spiritual symbol, it has accompanied religious festivals and rites. With the whims of nature and military campaigns, the bread has been a token of opulence or misery, of constraint or freedom. Lack of bread caused famine in the Middle-Ages, protests due to the bread price was at the root of the French revolution, bread rationing was practised during World War II, whereas the grandiosity of people was measured by the colour of bread they ate after the war. In this article, let us discuss a subject that is very close to my heart and try and rewind the history and the contemporary significance of the humble loaf.


The History of the bread is as old as the civilisation itself. Since the Neolithic Era approximately 12,000 years ago bread has been known to be eaten in one form or the other. There is evidence suggesting that cereal grains were crushed and mixed with water to form a paste that was cooked over open fire and eaten. In 2600 BC, the ancient Egyptians have been said to have developed the use of natural yeast in bread making and the first leavened bread is said to have originated from thereon. Slowly bread making and bread as an ingredient started to gain immense importance. In fact, many workers in Egypt were paid in loaves of bread which were used as a valid currency. Paintings in some Pyramids show that the dead were buried with loaves of bread to provide sustenance in the afterlife. The Greeks then brought the Egyptian flour to Greece where bread baking really flourished and developed to be one of the most respected and sought after professions. After Rome conquered Greece, they developed the enterprise further and the bread makers had a very strong presence in local governance and decision making. In 150 BC, the first Baker's Guild was formed in Rome and later in England, where the Baker's Guilds came to be respected as thoroughly professional and powerful bodies that could give harsh punishments for overcharging the bread.

In the early 1800s, two events took bread making to entirely new levels where commercially, mass-produced bread started to get popular and the consumption of non-home-made bread became popular and affordable, a trend that continues even to this date. These two events – the invention of roller flour mills that could mill the flour into different grades and helped in making the bread loaves lighter and whiter and the invention of compressed cakes of yeast by a German Baker which made the production of breads much more easier and efficient and completely – changed the way bread was manufactured and consumed. In Colonial America, the lack of wheat and flour millers led to the development of now-famous Corn Bread.

Indian Breads

Ayurveda dates back to the consumption of 'Roti' during the Vedic periods where something called Purodhashas (probably the origin of the word Paratha) made as thick pancakes was offered during Yagnas and religious functions. With the Islamic invasion and rule, many types of bread with Middle Eastern influence also made India their home and to this date, we enjoy the Naan, the Bakarkhani and the Bhaturas. Our own chapatti, on the other hand, is said to have been the favourite of Emperor Akbar himself and finds a reference in the 16th-century document 'Ain –i-Akbari'. Later Aurangzeb, who is known to be a vegetarian made Chapati and Phulka his favourite dishes and carried those to war too. Later, when the British arrived in India, they brought with them the sandwich bread and it quickly went on to become popular throughout the country. Indian breads, for the most part, were made with whole wheat flour or 'Atta' and other coarse grains such as sorghum, millet or even rice flours, whereas the breads in Europe and the Middle East used refined flour or 'Maida'. Today, India boasts of its own wide variety of breads including Poori, Bhatura, and Paratha from the North, Puran Poli, rotla and bhakri in the west, Appam and Dosa in South and Luchi and Pithe in the East of our country.

Is Bread Bad?

Over the last several years carbohydrates in general, and breads, in particular, have become the outcasts in the food world, mainly referring to self-proclaimed 'specialists' that make all of us think that breads somehow is equivalent to a slow poison that kills you slowly while making you fat and lethargic. While it is true that any food group eaten beyond moderation is bound to have ill effects and that a carbohydrate-rich diet is not preferred for a certain group of people, it is also true that breads provide plenty of nutrients that are essential for the proper functioning of the body and the mind. Carbohydrates are the body's preferred source of energy since it breaks down into glucose easily and gets absorbed to be used as energy. Eating breads in moderation also keep you full for longer and help you in eating less while the roughage and fibre found in breads - especially the whole wheat type - keep the gut healthy. The fibre also helps regulate blood sugar and cholesterol while producing 'serontin'- the hormone said to make one happy. So there you have it- breads are happiness.

The recent trends

The recent trends in the bread consumption are first, that of healthier alternatives such as whole grain and low sugar breads which are gaining traction. Dark breads such as Rye and Pumpernickel as well as Gluten-free breads are also making significant inroads. Another is that of more and more people trying their hands at making sandwich breads at home since the raw material and the know-how, including machines and ovens are easily and widely available. Overall, with the increased culinary awareness, specialty and artisan breads have more takers, even at higher price points.


Today, I am giving the recipe of an extremely easy to make bread that is delicious and simple and can be made without the use of yeast. In fact, it is almost like a tea cake.

Spicy Carrot - Pineapple Bread

500g Red Carrot (peeled and grated)

3 eggs

250 ml vegetable oil

500g sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

500g crushed pineapple

750g all-purpose flour

2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

½ tsp baking powder

1½ tsp ground cinnamon

¾ tsp ground nutmeg

250g finely chopped walnuts

250g raisins

Preheat oven to 180 degrees. Grease and flour two 9 x 5-inch loaf pans. In a large bowl, combine eggs, vegetable oil, sugar, and vanilla extract; beat until thick and foamy. Stir in carrot and pineapple. Add flour, baking soda, salt, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, nuts, and raisins, stir until well blended. Pour batter into prepared loaf pans and bake 55 to 60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from oven and cool completely before slicing. It goes extremely well with a cup of coffee or hot chocolate.

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