There is a good chance that you’ll buy some bread on your way home other than anything else. On the other hand, there is a better chance that the bread will be short of a few pinches from its head. The reason is a piece of crunchy, piping hot bread can even entice a person who just ate and would make a face at the smell coming from meal.
Almost as old as the history of civilization, the journey of bread-making started in Neolithic age when people transitioned into agricultural societies. People used to grind cereal grains with the help of stones and pour some water into it to soften the mixture. This way, they created an alternative to dried fruits to eat: bread. The ancient Egyptians were the first to be able to find yeast by chance. They introduced the humanity to leavened bread, sparing us from that old recipes for flattened and insipid bread.
Bread is more than a food product as it has an important place in the foundation of Abrahamic religions. Christians make use of bread and wine in their rituals upon the belief that Christ offered to his followers some bread and wine to represent his flesh and blood in the Last Supper. Jews use bread and salt in their ceremonies. When Muslims see some bread dropped on the ground, they pick it up and kiss it, because there’s only one explanation of that: “Bread is a blessing!”
Transitioned from being nutrient to being a religious symbol; according to some stories, the form of bread was used as a secret message too. In order for people to know in which bakery the bread was made, Christians used to score their breads with three lines on account of their belief of The Holy Trinity, while Muslims scored theirs with only one line to represent the oneness of Allah and hence the current shape of the white bread was born.
Let alone its shape, even its color was associated with different classes in Ancient Rome. While the white bread was a luxury food produced only for the high class at that time, the whole grain bread was associated with the servants and the countrymen. But in our contemporary world this picture is turned upside down, in which the white bread is used by students as a fork to eat some scrambled eggs and the dining tables of the wealthy people are almost covered with a great variety of the whole grain breads.
There is a different type of bread to suit every palate
When we mention “bread” in today’s world, everyone would think of a different taste. There is a long list of types of breads to come into people’s minds including: a loaf of Italian “ciabatta” that has its unique bubbly texture or “focaccia” enriched with olive oil and various herbs; French “baguette” with its golden crust or “brioche” soft as it could be; a scrumptious Indian “naan” baked in a stone tandoor or an unleavened flatbread “chapati”; Greek “pita” to be stuffed with delicious ingredients; Brazilian “pao de queijo”, a food for breakfast with some mouth-watering cheese stuffed in it; Jamaican “bammy” made from a type of tropical flour called manok or cavassa; Mexican “tortilla” which is a type of thin flatbread; Norwegian “lefse” which is a different version of tortilla made with potatoes; Serbian “proja” made from corn flour; a roll of German “brötchen”; “challah” which is a Jewish braided bread eaten on Jewish holidays and Sabbath; A loaf of soft Irish “soda bread”; Finnish “dark rye bread” which is a five-star health booster; American version of baget, “donut”; Chinese sweet bread “pai bao” made with milk instead of water.
For me, the word “bread” strikes a different chord. My list comprises all the time fresh “vakfıkebir” bread; a round “somun” with its thick crust; “lavash” stuck on the side of a tandoor; “bazlama” with its soft texture; “sac ekmeği” also known as “açık ekmek”; similar to that but only thinner “yufka” which is used to make various böreks; fried “bişi” similar to boortsog, eaten at breakfast; “fodla” a rectangular bread with brans; “pide” that makes you forget all these when Ramadan is due; “gastra” which is baked with leavened dough at home around the city Antalya; “ebeleme” of Ankara, leavened lumps of dough in a hot sac (a type of sheet metal used as a kitchen utensil); “tapıl” of İçel which is made from corn flour; “gilik” of Sivas, which looks like a flat ring; “kakala” of Artvin which is baked in a stone oven; small rolls of “pıt pıt” of Çorum; “fetil” of Elazığ which is a sort of thick yufka; “kömeç” of Zonguldak which is baked in the ashes; “toraman” of Ordu made from corn flour; “sweet yeast bread” of Söke made from chickpea yeast and more…
Turkish people don’t find the meals filling enough without bread, in short they can NOT live without bread. As of 2007, Turkey even entered Guinness Book of Records as the country with “the largest per capita consumption of bread”. But this does not make Turkey even a step closer to Germany famous for its over 300 bread types or France with its dazzling number of artisan bakeries almost around every corner.
Let’s face it! Although Turkey is known for its large wheat production, but its bread culture is not developed as much.
Because we cannot find those authentic Turkish breads I listed above in every restaurant. We’re not even familiar with some of their names!
I’ve always respected the refined restaurants which bake their own breads. For example, “Eleven Madison Park”, fifth best restaurant of the world with all the stars it was awarded with. Also Geisel Werneckhof which recently received its first Michelin star bakes its own breads and serves with scrumptious butter and olive oil. The taste of those breads was unforgettable. Although at “Alancha Restaurant” in Çeşme, I finally found some bread at the same level of those baked in the aforementioned restaurants, this pleasing development for my palate does not make me ignore the fact that there is quite a few restaurants on my list.
In the end of its journey that started with some wheat and water in 4000 BC, variety of breads has grown over time so that numerous kinds of breads are now sold in the shelves. But does that mean this is a satisfactory result? I’m afraid, no!
Journalist Oktay Akbar wrote in his first book that “First the breads were ruined!” I think he was right about that.
The increase in population and technological development brought to the industry’s attention the question of “How can we produce such bread that would be extra puffy and with a longer shelf life?” and bread production turned into a serial fabrication. Out of these commercial concerns to earn more money at the expense of the natural, the industry took the natural artisan bread which was made from only water, flour, salt and yeast from the dinner tables and instead offered its own bread packed with more than 20 chemicals as its ingredients. As for the main ingredient of the flour, I’ve got some bad news. If you consume white bread, you have to be informed that the white bread is made from the flour from which the “wheat germ” is removed. This is the most valuable part of the wheat.
For this reason, the news about people’s return to home-made bread and the artisan bread movement have been encouraging developments.
There was a French hegemony in the bakery world during the 70s and 80s. Baguettes were the stars of the show. But the naturalist trends in gastronomy showed up with the recipes that belong to various ethnicities. Maybe you cannot knead your dough with naked feet like “hamurkars” (bread-makers) in the Ottoman Empire or simple cannot find an artisan bakery like in France or take the big chefs’ advise and do not use bread making machines not to eat those warmed spongy breads; but in the future you may find some recipes for crispy crunchy croutons besides sour yeast and whole wheat bread in the recipes section. I’m sure you won’t be able to wait for sharing them with your beloved ones who will be enticed by the fresh smell of the bread once you follow the simple recipes of our elders and prepare your own yeast to achieve the right amount of fluffiness in your bread.
Bon appétit and enjoy the taste of life!..