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My grandmother used to tell me about the life of field workers in her (and her grandmother's) time, going from the 1950s backwards to the 19th century (in Portugal). This often included baking bread at home in a large batch which the men would take with them as they spent a week away from home, working in the fields.

This bread would become stale and hard, but it was always edible and wouldn't get moldy in those five days [unlike modern bread, which she complained about and which brought on the memories].

My grandmother further explained that making bread was a morose task. You would never do it daily (unless you were a baker, naturally), but about two or three times a week.

While researching (online) the diet of plain farmers in Canada in the 19th century, I expected to find a similar pattern of baking bread once or twice a week. Unfortunately, I have found no reference either to daily or weekly bread baking.

Does anyone have any references concerning how often bread was baked?

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  • Yeast breads or sourdough? Biscuits and other quick breads? My grandmother (raised in Texas and Oregon in the early 1900s) would bake them all, depending on what the menu was. But some kind of bread was made daily...
    – Jon Custer
    Oct 7, 2018 at 3:22
  • @JonCuster There was only yeast bread in my area, as far as I know. Oct 7, 2018 at 3:34
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    I bake bread about once a week in the winter, so it's hardly an exc;lusively historical practice. (And not by any means a morose task - there's very little actual work involved, other than ~10 minutes of kneading.) Might try on the cooking site, but I would imagine how much was baked, and how often, just depends on the number of people you're feeding.
    – jamesqf
    Oct 7, 2018 at 3:51
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    @jamesqf: My grandmother mentioned it was an entire morning worth of work and that the kneading took quite a lot of muscle, the right technique and time. Perhaps it's just a matter of different types of bread requiring different amounts of kneading? There's always the fact my grandmother was one of 13 children, so it was a much larger batch. I'll probably follow your advice and look at the cooking site as you suggest. Thanks. Oct 7, 2018 at 14:33
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    @jamesqf The flour you deal with is likely to be very different from the 19th century's one (especially in Portugal), in both gluten content, and overall quality. Kneading was a very big deal.
    – user58697
    Oct 8, 2018 at 21:42

1 Answer 1

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Most preindustrial sources will emphasize that most lower-class people got their calories largely from grains because meat and other supplements were expensive, so you'd need a LOT more bread to feed a family than you would in modern times.

This article explains that a family/household of 10 people needed huge troughs to knead 7 US gallons' worth of bread per week. If a gallon of water weighs 8 pounds, you've got around 56 lbs of dough in the kneading trough, so one person needs five or six pounds of bread every week.

Nobody would want to knead eight or ten pounds of bread every day.

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    Nobody would want to knead eight or ten pounds of bread every day. This may well be true, but it only goes a little way towards answering the question and the OP is looking for references. Mar 12, 2022 at 6:53
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    The article link I posted seems pretty straightforward? A household needed about 50-60lbs of bread for 10 people in a week, and they most likely did it in one or two batches. Using a kneading trough for just one or two loaves' worth of dough would be WAY too impractical.
    – Jamie L.
    Mar 12, 2022 at 6:58
  • "Grain" does not require bread. There's always porridge.
    – Mary
    Mar 13, 2022 at 23:36
  • But the OP was specifically talking about baking bread, and the article I linked is literally talking about a household item that can fit "7 gallons' worth of BREAD FLOUR per week."
    – Jamie L.
    Mar 14, 2022 at 1:01

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