I've been spending a lot of time with flour lately. Between a bread-baking class, a sourdough starter standoff, and the Victorian Bakers on BBC, you might be surprised to hear I haven't yet developed a gluten intolerance. Something about making bread by hand is very satisfying, but also makes you realize just how much modern technology changed our relation to bread.
Finally, lets talk flour and sugar. Apparently, the grains grown in the UK tend to be lower in gluten than the hard winter wheats of North America. So towards the end of the 19th century when imported flour was introduced in a big way, bakers all of a sudden had an easier time of making consistent and desirable loaves. While I get really excited about the prospect of using interesting heritage varieties of wheat (or even rye), I'll also readily admit that more glutinous flours are considerably easier to work with. The other interesting ingredient development, which surfaced in the final episode, was the expansion of sweet treats in the baking world. This came about as the British colonies allowed for a ready supply of sugar, lowering the cost and making cakes and tarts more widely accessible. For better or worse, this mainstreaming of cake breaks (along with tea, of course) is still a fixture to this day.
Besides an entertaining hybrid of a history documentary and reality tv cooking show, Victorian Bakers proved thought-provoking an reflective on the evolution of our daily bread to this day.