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The staff of life since 10,000BC

Baking is a way of preparing food by the process of conduction, generally in a closed oven. In the process of baking, the starch content in the food is generally decreased, which gives the appetising brown colour.

Because they contain less moisture, baked goods last longer.

People have been baking bread since at least 10,000BC. Yeast was used in Egypt as early as 4,000BC; a relief from the reign of Ramses (1279BC) features bread and cakes in the royal bakery.

About 300BC the pastry chef emerged. In the Renaissance, French and Italian chefs perfected puff and choux pastry, and started producing recipes. Baking soda was invented in 1843 by chemist Alfred Bird (who gave his name to Bird's custard), and commercial yeast in 1868.

For hundreds of years, housewives kneaded dough and then brought it to communal ovens to bake. But the history of the 20th century is of store-brought bread and cakes taking over.


The first mechanical mixers were developed in the 1930s, and in 1961 British Baking Industries developed a 'no-time method', which used the intense mechanical working of dough to dramatically reduce the fermentation period. This allowed for the use of lower protein grain.

Bread and cakes became so cheap, that it seemed an affectation to make them, and with more women in work, no one had time anyway.