Bread is a staple that has been around since the early Neolithic era, about 10,000 years ago. At that time, agriculture and domestication of animals started to displace the nomadic hunter-gatherer traditions. The selection of grasses with large seeds gave rise to our modern grains like wheat, barley, rye, millet, and spelt.
Grains consist mainly of protein and carbohydrates. The protein or gluten is sticky and insoluble in water, and the carbohydrates are in the form of starch, sugars, and fiber. A great variety of products can be made when grains are milled into flour.
Mixing flour with water produces a resilient dough which when rolled out thinly and baked produces crispy unleavened bread. When the dough is allowed to ferment by adding yeast to it, the dough becomes spongy with bubbles. This spongy dough produces soft bread when baked. Spongy dough can also be made using chemical leavening agents like baking powder. Crumbly shortbread is made by mixing a fat, such as butter, with dry flour to keep the gluten from aggregating and adding just enough moisture to form the dough. Puff pastry is made by layering fat-containing dough with water-containing dough. The steam pockets created during baking produce a flaky and crunchy pastry.
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