Last week I wrote about Breadmaking in the 1830s. Victorian England was mostly rural, baking took place in a tiny bakery and the village baker would be cooking for labourers in the field. In contrast, Breadmaking in the 1870s is taking place in midst of the industrial revolution progressing at full throttle. However, methods and equipment have been far from revolutionised so this is effectively a little country bakery in the middle of a hot smoky town. The bakers are preparing massive batches of bread for a paultry return and very poor working conditions.
There is little to praise in bread making during this period. The profit margin is very narrow so bosses try to make a bit more money by cutting costs. This is the era of compromised ingredients. The flour would probably have been adulterated each time it passed hands. Finally, the bakers would add chalk or other dubious substances creating a compromised, gritty loaf.
Bread made the traditional way was excessively physically exhausting. So much so, that the baker’s sweat would literally pour into the dough. One particularly novel solution to this was to make aerated bread in a factory. Carbonated water was mixed with the dough to create bubbles throughout the bread. Although the yeast was bypassed, this resulted in a relatively fluffy (yet tasteless!) loaf. This process grew to be increasingly popular, especially as Pasteur’s germ theory was gaining ground and this mysterious yeast was lumped in the same category as these germs which were making people ill. A sterile clean loaf without character was exactly what many in the population desired!
My final comment on baking during this period is to note that this was the age when steam rolling flour began in earnest. Fortunately or unfortunately, flour has never been the same since.