Skip to Main Content

Home Explore Careers

Bakery Workers

History

Baking, the process of cooking food using dry heat, is one of the oldest methods of cooking. The ancient Egyptians are credited with building the first known ovens, which were shaped like beehives and made of clay from the banks of the Nile River. Later cultures introduced various technological improvements, including the Roman cylindrical oven. By the middle of the second century B.C., there were professional bakers in Rome, and ordinary people could buy bread instead of having to make it themselves. The first mechanical dough mixer, powered by a horse or donkey walking in circles, was built by the Romans. In European cities during the Middle Ages, bakers formed associations called guilds, which carefully regulated how bread was made and how bakers were trained. Outside of cities, however, most baking was done at home or in a single village oven.

Professional bakers were common in colonial America, but most settlers in small communities baked bread at home. The beginnings of an industrial society changed the American idea of self-sufficiency. Urban workers and apartment dwellers did not always have the time or facilities to make their own baked goods. Technology made possible huge ovens, mixers, and ways of controlling heat and measurements that enabled manufacturers to make mass quantities of good baked food at reasonable prices.

In recent years, the popularity of bread machines has led more and more people to bake their own bread. Most Americans, however, still buy bread and other baked goods at the grocery store or from retail bakeries. Manufactured cookies and crackers are found on the shelves of nearly every American kitchen. The freshness, taste, and consistency of these products are the responsibility of bakery workers.