If you've ever been to a bakery, you know it can be hard to choose just one donut. As you gaze around at the selection of donuts, you might feel the urge to try them all. Maybe that's why people often buy donuts by the dozen.
If you've ever bought a dozen donuts, you probably had a lot of fun choosing the donuts that you took home in that big rectangular box. If you kept track of the donuts on your fingers, you had to start over when you ran out of 10 fingers, because a dozen equals 12 delicious donuts.
At many bakeries, though, the fun doesn't end with 12 donuts. Instead, a lot of bakeries will give you an extra donut to create what's known as a "baker's dozen." That's 13 amazing donuts for the price of 12. What a deal!
A baker's dozen isn't limited to just donuts, though. Over time, the term baker's dozen has become synonymous with the number 13. You could get a baker's dozen loaves of bread, or you could cut a pizza into a baker's dozen slices if you need to feed 13 people.
So exactly how did 13 become a baker's dozen? No one knows for sure, but there are a few theories out there. For example, some people believe that bakers used to bake loaves of bread on trays that held 13 loaves in rows of four, five, and four. Of course, that theory doesn't explain why bakers would then sell loaves in quantities of 13 instead of 12.
Others believe that the term came from the practice of selling 13 loaves to vendors for the price of 12. This would allow vendors to sell 13 loaves at full price, thereby earning a profit on each loaf. While this theory may have some merit, there's no hard historical data to back it up either.
The most popular explanation for the term baker's dozen appears to be the strict laws that applied to bakers hundreds of years ago. Long ago, bread was a primary source of food for many people, especially the poor. Unfortunately, it was also very easy for bakers to cheat customers by using less wheat and selling loaves that were lighter than expected.
Given how easy it is to buy a loaf of bread today, it may seem strange to think that people could care that much about a loaf of bread. History, however, shows us that people did care quite a bit about their bread many years ago.
For example, cheating bakers in ancient Egypt could have their ears cut off and nailed to the door of their bakery. Likewise, bakers in ancient Babylon who were caught selling light loaves could have their hands chopped off. The British even passed a law in the mid-13th century that detailed the required weights and prices of bread.
If you've ever baked a loaf of bread, you know how careful you have to be when you measure the ingredients. Given the harsh penalties involved, bakers had to worry about making accidental mistakes that could get them into big trouble.To avoid the possibility of such penalties, many bakers began to include a 13th loaf of bread with every dozen sold. This extra loaf made up for any possibility that the other 12 loaves might be light. Over time, that group of 13 loaves of bread became known as a baker's dozen, and that's what we still call it today!