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Artisanal Baker Recreates Taste of Biblical Times

Updated: Aug 12, 2022

Artisanal baking is undergoing a resurgence around the world - and that includes Israel.

Loaf of artisan bread

Hagay Ben Yehuda is one of a small number of Israeli bakers who stick close to the old ways, working by hand with organic ingredients to produce healthier, tastier bread.

He is a fifth-generation baker, working at a small artisanal bakery at Kibbutz Einat, in central Israel, where he's returning to his roots and pioneering the search for heirloom grains.

He wants to recreate the taste of the past and to produce loaves that are close to the original bread eaten all the way back to biblical times.

"This place of the Middle East is where everything began in terms of wheat," Ben Yehuda said, deftly kneading dough by hand at his bakery.

Wheat was first cultivated in this region some 10,000 years ago. Known as the Fertile Crescent for its shape, it included several countries in the Middle East, including modern-day Syria, Lebanon, Israel, the Palestinian territories, Jordan and Egypt, as well as parts of Turkey, Kuwait and Iran.

But in present-day Israel, heirloom grains have been replaced by industrialized wheat and modern farming methods.

Interest in baking with heirloom grains has come later to Israel than some other countries. Over the past seven to 10 years, as it's intensified, Ben Yehuda has been one of the pioneers.

With the help of Israel's agricultural research institute, the Volcani Center, who were already taking part in a national effort to revive heirloom wheat varieties, Ben Yehuda is now successfully growing ancient, heirloom grains - and turning it into delicious (and deliciously authentic) loaves of bread at his revamped bakery.

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