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The Book of Bread (1903) by Owen Simmons

    After dedicating numerous years of my life to the bread industry, I stumbled upon a remarkable treasure – a public domain book dated back to 1903, entitled ‘The Book of Bread‘ by Owen Simmons. This discovery proved to be a profound experience, as the book offered unparalleled insights into the scientific learning of the bread industry as a whole in its infancy.

    As someone deeply entrenched in the bread business, encountering ‘The Book of Bread’ was akin to uncovering a time capsule of knowledge. This literary gem, penned by Owen Simmons over a century ago, provided a captivating glimpse into the humble beginnings of the bread industry. Simmons, through his meticulous research and passionate documentation, shed light on the very essence of breadmaking – an industry that has been a staple of human sustenance for millennia.

    Within the pages of this insightful book, I unearthed a wealth of information that not only enriched my understanding of breadmaking but also allowed me to appreciate the craftsmanship and dedication that have fueled this industry’s growth. Simmons’s work served as a bridge between the past and the present, offering timeless wisdom and historical context that continues to resonate with contemporary bread enthusiasts and industry professionals alike.

    “At the outset of his book ‘The Book of Bread’ in 1903, Owen Simmons asserts the age-old adage that ‘A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.’ He embarks on a mission within this work, aspiring to definitively forge ‘the link between the bakery and the laboratory,’ with a dual aim of catering to ‘the needs of the baker and of the miller.’ Simmons, whose expertise in the art of breadmaking was unquestionable, emerges as a baker’s baker. He was not only a co-founder of the esteemed National School of Bakery in London but also a prolific contributor to ‘The British Baker‘ magazine.

    The text contained within ‘The Book of Bread’ often assumes the character of a meticulous laboratory manual custom-tailored for commercial bakeries. Simmons details the realms of chemistry and culinary science, providing equations elucidating the conversion of starch into alcohol, elucidating the journey from maltose to dextrin and glucose. He offers chemical insights into the deleterious effects of viscoelasticity on the production of various biscuit varieties. Simmons’s discussions extend to the intricate world of nitrogenic proteids, and he meticulously explains how they metamorphose into peptones, which, in turn, serve to nourish yeast through the intricate process of percolating its cellulose.”

    The hole truth and nothing but the hole truth.

    Concerning holes in bread there are many conflicting opinions. Men engaged daily in the handling of dough differ; thinking men who commit their thoughts to paper are diametrically opposed; but we think the differences of opinion would disappear if the different kinds of holes were kept in mind, and the subject more fully discussed. Holes in bread may be divided into two classes—those, on the one hand, which are more or less distributed in a loaf, being of medium size and numerous, and those, on the other hand, which are very large, being only one or at most two in the entire loaf. There are many subsidiary causes, which we shall proceed to discuss. . .

    This expansion provides more context and elaborates on Owen Simmons’s expertise and the scientific aspects of his work in ‘The Book of Bread.’ In numerous aspects, ‘The Book of Bread’ foreshadows the emergence of molecular gastronomy during the 1990s and 2000s. Simmons seamlessly integrates scientific knowledge into his exploration of the art of breadmaking, demonstrating a profound commitment to the world of glutenous creations. Amidst his scientific explanations, one can discern occasional instances of less engaging discussions, but his unwavering passion for bread consistently elevates these moments.