From the Middle Ages onwards, bread was the basis of food in France. Dense and hard, it is dipped in soup. It was not until Parmentier and his research on potatoes and bread that production improved. In 1778, he wrote a reference work, Le Parfait Boulanger, and founded the first free bakery school in Paris with other scholars. Some see the lack of bread as the driving force behind the French Revolution. When the revolutionaries took over the Bastille in 1789, they expected to discover a stock of wheat, and later, when symbols had to be found for the Republic, the sheaf, the ear and the gesture of the sower were a natural choice. At the beginning of the 19th century, the first bakeries and pastry shops opened in Paris. In the midst of gilding and paintings under glass, they launched the vogue for English bread (made with brewer's yeast), Provençal bread and then Viennese bread. Wheat bread (white) replaced wholemeal bread (black), which had been the most widespread until then. The latter remained the prerogative of the poor and the countryside until 1950. Bread became a simple side dish in the middle of the 20th century. At that time, 325 grams of it were consumed per day per inhabitant, almost three times less than in 1900. New methods of intensified kneading gave it a new volume and whiteness, to the detriment of its texture and flavour. The industrial bakery is completing the process of denaturing it. The public and nutritionists are turning away from it. Nevertheless, bread remains omnipresent in everyday language with a number of tasty expressions: "It's as long as a day without bread", "I don't eat this bread", "I've eaten more than one loaf" (i.e. I've travelled a lot)... Begun in the 1970s, the return of speciality breads and farmhouse breads was confirmed in the 1980s, when the whole artisanal sector was re-mobilised. The bread machine enters the homes. Consumption finally began to rise again in 2002. Bread is once again an everyday pleasure, the jewel in the crown of the French art of living. The Eric Kayser bakeries are one of the key players in this revival.
Sourdough is a symbiotic culture of leaven and lactic acid bacteria growing in a mixture of flour and water. It is used to make sourdough bread, to which it gives a specific taste, different from that of yeast-matured bread.
For a long time, the addition of leaven was the only way to make the bread rise. It is very difficult to date the discovery of leaven, but the first representations of it date from the Ancient Egyptian Empire. Depending on the version, leaven was discovered by the Babylonians or by the Hebrews. But the most frequently cited origin is that of Egypt: a person would have been late in baking his cereal dough, and the dough, under the effect of fermentation, would have begun to swell, thus creating the first leavened bread. The Egyptians and before them the Sumerians mastered the fermentation process: they made beer and bread together.
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