Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Soulmass Bread.

The second of November is a special day of observance in some branches of the Christian Church. It is “The Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed” or “The Feast of All Souls” - more commonly known as “All Souls’ Day”, or, in Spanish-speaking countries, the Day of the Dead. Many of the traditions of the day have ancient pre-Christian roots, as do many other church feast days (Christmas being particularly notable.) Naturally, there are some special foods associated with the day.

In some part of England, special breads called Soulmass loaves (Sau’mass or Solmas-Loaves) were made – perhaps to be eaten, but some to be kept, for luck (a similar tradition existed for Easter hot-cross buns). A mid-nineteenth century glossary of Yorkshire words describes them:

Soulmass Loaves, soul mass bread, …eaten on the feast of All Souls, November 2d. They were sets of square farthing cakes with currants in the centre, commonly given by bakers to their customers, and it was usual to keep them in the house for good luck. Dr. Young, in his History of Whitby, mentions a lady as having one above a hundred years old.
(A glossary of Yorkshire Words and Phrases, Francis Kildale Robinson, 1855)

I doubt that the bread was anything other than the baker’s basic everyday dough, and that there were more than a token number of currants in this special bread. So, for today’s recipe I give you a much richer, fruitier version of currant bread, from The New Hydropathic Cook Book (1854) by Russell Thacher Trall.

Currant Bread.
Take three pounds of flour; one pound of currants; one pint and a half of new milk; and one gill of yeast. Warm the milk, and mix it with the flour and yeast; cover with a cloth and set it by the fire. When risen sufficiently, add the fruits and mold it; then put it intoa baking tin or deep dish, rubbed with sweet-oil or dusted with flour; after it has risen for half an hour longer, bake it in a moderately hot oven.

Quotation for the Day.

Where our bread is concerned, it is a material matter. Where our neighbor’s bread is concerned, it is a spiritual matter.
I.D. Douglas


Anonymous said...

Is this the same as a soul cake?

"Soul, Soul, a soul cake!
I pray thee, good missus, a soul cake!
One for Peter, two for Paul,
three for Him what made us all!"


The Old Foodie said...

Hi Sandra, yes, the breads for the day go by several names. I dont know if they all contained currants though - I guess there were regional variations.

Sharlene T. said...

I just might have to try one of he breads! Thanks for some very interesting information... come visit when you can...