In the beginning, archaeologists believe, the first breads were created using some of the most rudimentary technologies in human history: fire and stone.
In the region that now encompasses Jordan, one of the world’s most ancient examples — a flatbread vaguely resembling pita and made from wild cereal grains and water — was cooked in large fireplaces using flat basalt stones, according to Reuters.
The taste is “gritty and salty,” said Amaia Arranz-Otaegui, a University of Copenhagen researcher in archaeobotany.
More than 10,000 years later, bread has clearly evolved but perhaps not as dramatically as the technology used to bake it.
The latest example is the BreadBot, a bread-making machine that mixes, kneads, bakes and cools bread without human assistance. The robot bread maker — which can produce 235 loaves a day (or about 10 loaves an hour) — is on display at this year’s CES technology show in Las Vegas, where one reporter labeled it the media expo’s “best-smelling booth.”
Wilkinson Baking, which created the machine, says its robotic oven can also produce nine-grain, honey-oat and rye breads. Once the dough is mixed into balls, the machine moves them onto a conveyor belt, shapes them and puts them inside individual trays in which the dough is baked. Once it is finished, a robotic arm moves the loaf to a vending machine for customers to purchase using a touch screen.
“The big challenge with bread — as anyone who has tried to bake it has discovered — is that it’s a tricky process, because you’re working with a biological organism,” said Randall Wilkinson, chief executive of Wilkinson Baking, which has spent much of the past decade developing the machine. “To duplicate what a master baker can do with a robot is quite a challenge.”
When professional human bakers produce a perfect loaf of bread, they are most likely relying on intuition and experience. The BreadBot uses sensors to adjust the baking process in real time, Wilkinson said, from the water temperature and mixer speed, to the proofer’s humidity and loaf height.