Early days for a simple loaf

In days gone by when people made their own bread they would go to their local brewery to get a jug of brewer's yeast to take back home. Could that maybe explain the quality and variety of German bread and beer since there was a brewery in nearly every bigger village?
In Turkey during the 18th century, a master baker paid a special assistant a higher salary. For that, the poor soul had to appear in court if his master was found guilty of baking to small rolls or bread. The assistant was 'lucky' if he was only nailed by his ear to the door post at his master's shop. However, it was not uncommon to hang a baker or two if prices were to high during a famine and culprits were needed.
In England, the price of bread was regulated for over 600 years, from 1266 when a law was passed to determine the price of a loaf. Since that time also the price of wheat has also been recorded continually.
The price for a loaf of bread was calculated by the cost of a quarter (320lb/145 kgr) of flour. The baker's expenses and profit were added to this sum and the baker was required to produce and sell 80 4-lb. loaves out of this amount of dough.
Better farming led to higher yields and better quality grains. Silk was brought in from the trade with the East, which meant, finer sieves and whiter flour.
Tin mining in Cornwall was at its peak and baking tins were invented. The industrial revolution and invention of steam power also brought new technology to the mills. 'Steam bakeries' took the place of the old wood or coal fired brick oven. Steel tubes containg water are being heated until the temperature rises to about 500F.This heat is more than enough to bake bread to a golden brown and crispy crust.
As the population grew, new methods of milling and bread making were needed to satisfy the demand for more bread.
A process that used steel rollers replaced stone milling.
In addition, with the introduction of more machinery, the process of baking bread has been changed even more.
In big plants, machines are being used at every stage of making the dough and baking the bread. The bread is actually never touched by hand from the mixing and kneading stage right through then end where bread is being baked in huge rotation ovens and even tipped out of their tins automatically.
The role of the baker has been reduced to that of a supervisor and nowadays he should nearly have a degree in engineering to be able to handle all the technique that surrounds him.
For many hundreds of years, the wood fired clay or brick oven of the baker remained unchanged. The dough too, has for centuries been kneaded by hand. (Only in Egypt descriptions were found, showing bakers trampling the dough with their feet.)
Even he basic ingredients for bread still are the same today es they were than. Flour, water, yeast and a little bit of salt.
As the standard of living rose, the use of flour made from other grains declined and bread was mainly baked from rye and wheat flour.
However, from the looks of it, the circle of baking is doing a full turn around. We know that all kinds of fancy breads baked with different seeds and grains are in fashion again. Moreover, 'handmade' bread baked in a good old brick oven fetches prices that only makes one wonder.
Nevertheless, even at home you can bake your own bread with very little effort and excellent results. Little miracle machines allow you to dump all the ingredients into them before you go to sleep and a timer does the rest. Next morning you wake up to the smell of freshly baked bread. The machine has done the mixing, proving and baking all in one cycle. You just have to open the lid and take out a freshly baked loaf for breakfast.

How does bread rise?

Scientists and bakers alike still speculate how leavened bread might have been discovered. Most likely, as with so many other things in life it might have come by accident. After learning how to grind wheat, our ancestors probably added water to make a sort of mush. Left in the open under favorable conditions, this porridge would have started to ferment. Add a little less water and some sort of wild 'sourdough' might have been the result.
Add more water and the fermented mush might as well have been the forerunner of our modern beer. Baking and brewing were developing together as people gained more skills.
Today yeast is being made commercially on a large scale. The small cubes you buy in your shop have been compressed and wrapped for convenient handling.
However, they are being replaced more and more by dry, granulated yeast. Not only is it easier to handle and to store. It last much longer and the chances that dry yeast is 'dead' and your dough will not rice are practically non existent.
Today's commercial yeast does not come anymore from the beer brewery but from whisky distillers.
Our ancestors did not use yeast, as we know it now. They prepared a leaven from ground millet kneaded with 'must' scratched out of wine-vats. (This 'must', or cream of tartar as we call it now, also is part of another leavening agent, baking powder. The other part being bicarbonate of soda).
This was than dried in the sun and made into little cakes. When needed for making bread, these cakes were soaked in water and added to the flour.
In another process, a sourdough starter was used to make bread.
Some leftover dough is mixed again with water and left to sour naturally.
It is said that some of the sourdoughs in several of the traditional bakeries in Europe are up to several hundred years old. Apparently, since the sourdough making process can be repeated endlessly. However, in real practice, where sourdough is still used for baking bread, a new starter is made at least once a week.

Folklore, tradition and superstition:

Since bread is such a vital thing, it is no wonder that it has gathered around itself a folklore of its own.
In many countries, it is thought that a loaf baked on Good Friday and kept until the following year is an effective medicine against stomach disorders. You grate a little of the stale bread into water, drink it and hope for the best. (There might be even some truth in it. Dry biscuits and water is being ordered by modern day doctors for an upset stomach)

In Europe, older people still make the sign of the cross on the loaf before cutting it for the first time.

Cut bread at both ends and the devil will bypass and fly over your house.

A paste of bread, pepper and crushed garlic applied to the face, relieves toothache.

To burn bread can mean that your sweetheart is angry with you.

Leave a slice of bread and a cup of coffee under a house; this will prevent ghosts from calling.

Eating bread baked by a woman whose maiden name is the same as her married name was a cure for many illnesses.

If all the bread is eaten at the table, the next day for sure will be fair.

Sailors took a hot cross bun on their sea voyages to prevent shipwreck. On the Grand Banks, amongst deep-sea fishermen, if a man is lost overboard, a slice of bread with a lit candle is floated on the water to comfort the soul of the drowned man.

Farmers also keep hot crossed buns in their granaries as a protection against rats.

An old New Year tradition called First Footing, means leaving a piece of bread, a coin and a lump of coal at the front door. This will bring you warmth, comfort and enough money for the coming year.

The bride at a Muslim wedding must eat 21 small chapatties before leaving the room.

And I am sure nobody will have any objection with this one:
If a boy or man takes the last piece of bread from the plate, he has to kiss the cook!