So, maybe it was no match for the Civil War, but the invention of America’s first commercially produced yeast in the 1860s was also a turning point in history. Before that, people relied on home-brewed sourdough starters and lived in caves. And sliced bread was not yet “the greatest thing since…” I learned this and many more things at a rootin’ tootin’, flour kneadin’, dough braidin’, bread-bakin’ jamboree in the dining hall today, part of history professor Adam Franklin-Lyons class called “History of Food & Cuisine.”
Led by food service director Gene Sanders, a group of half a dozen students and Adam made a pile of plump loaves of challah, I mean easily enough to feed a small college. In case you didn’t know, like yours truly, challah is the traditional Jewish holiday bread symbolizing the yummy manna that fell from heaven during their memorable exodus from Egypt. Applying years of research and experience with Play-Doh, the students nimbly braided strands of dough into pleasing loaves, painted them with egg white and sprinkled them with seeds in biblical proportions. Then they baked the loaves until they were golden brown and had the distinctive hollow (or challah?) sound when you rap on the crust with your finger. Okay, so these guys had not walked across any deserts for 40 years or anything, but the warm bread still tasted pretty darn good.