Wednesday, August 26, 2015

For Better Bread

When Charles Fleischmann (1835-1897) and his brother Maximilian (1846-1890) came to America (Cincinnati, Ohio), they were shocked and dismayed at the quality - or lack thereof - of American bread. The reason for the coarse, dense loaves was a lack of yeast, which lead to the use of homemade starters. Back in Vienna, Charles had managed a distillery that produced spirits and yeast, so the Fleischmann brothers knew exactly what they needed to do.

After finding a financial backer, James Goff, they established a yeast plant in Cincinnati. Their compressed yeast cake was a success and had a tremendous impact on American baking, both at home and commercially.

To launch their product, the Fleischmann brothers opened a concession stand, “The Model Vienna Bakery,” at the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, PA. Soon, Fleischmann’s yeast became a household name. In addition to yeast, the Fleishmanns became one of America’s major producers of vinegar and the country’s first commercial gin maker. To enhance their products, Charles Fleischmann invented and held the patent to numerous pieces of machinery necessary for yeast production.

The company, which remained in the family until it was acquired by Nabisco in the 1980s, continued to grow and expand even after the passing of its founder. In 1900, Fleischmann’s opened a research facility in Peekskill, NY. Later, as part of the war effort during World War II, the Fleischmann’s company invented the still popular dry-active yeast that did not need to be refrigerated.

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