Bakery products and similar products
Bread is a basic food product, always present in homes all over the world in many forms and variations. It is obtained by cooking a mixture of wheat flour or other grain-based flours, water, yeast, salt and a variety of other ingredients. Bread can also be “unleavened”. The flours used are obtained from wheat, rye, barley, corn, soy, etc. The history of bread dates back to primitive humans and then to ancient Egypt, where once fermentation was discovered, rich families grinded the grains of cereals and mixed them with water, then cooking the loaves in ovens. From Egypt the art of baking was introduced into Greece. The Greek civilization developed bread dough by adding milk and flavouring it with herbs, wine or honey. The bread making technique was then introduced into Italy by Romans, who further elaborated the recipe, adding more ingredients to give it flavour and a more appealing appearance, such as olives and apples. Wheat bread is mainly consumed in European countries where the climate is temperate, whereas in the cold countries of northern Europe, rye bread is often very widespread, as rye is much more resistant to harsh climates than wheat.
Alongside artisan bread, consumers can now also find industrially produced bread (fresh, long-lasting, frozen or partially cooked and frozen). The production process for these types of bread is exactly the same as it is for artisan bread, and is divided into the following stages:
- Making the dough
- First rise (the dough is left to rise)
- Dividing and shaping
- Packaging, when required
For frozen partially baked or baked bread, there are also the freezing and packaging stages. There are numerous varieties of bread available in the various Italian regions – around 250 – each using ingredients that are available in the area. For example, in Southern Italy hard wheat flour is used for making bread, which is traditionally used for pasta. Hard wheat crops are less widespread because it requires warm climates and is typical of regions where the climate is mild. Bread made with hard wheat flour has a lighter consistency than bread made with soft wheat flour. In Sicily, the crust of bread made with hard wheat semolina flour is flavoured with cumin, sesame or anise seeds. In other regions, such as Lombardy, where rice growing is a common practice, light, soft rice bread is made with soft wheat flour mixed with rice flour, which gives it a particularly light consistency. In other areas where corn cultivation is widespread, for example in Emilia Romagna and Lombardy, it is still customary to make “yellow bread”, obtained with a high percentage of corn flour mixed with wheat flour. Bread with olives is a typical specialty in Mediterranean countries, especially in Southern Italy, and has now spread throughout Italy.
Bread made with rye flour is typical of mountain regions; it is very popular in Valle d’Aosta, Piedmont, Trentino Alto Adige and Valtellina. Bread made with fruit such as raisins, dried figs, walnuts and grape must when it is in season, is particularly high in calories and suitable for snacks and at breakfast.
A few figures
In 2017, the Industrial Bread sector reached a turnover of €767 million and represents approximately 10-15% of the total amount of bread consumed in Italy. About 40% of production is sold through large-scale distribution. Artisan bread accounts for 88% of consumption, and the overall expenditure, which includes bread, breadsticks and crackers, is 8 billion euros per year.