Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Elizabethan Bread.

William Harrison, in his Description of England, (1577) described the bread of the land:

“The bread throughout the land is made of such graine as the soil yieldeth: nevertheless the gentilie commonlie provide themselves sufficientlie of wheat for their owne tables, whilest their household and poore neighbours, in some shires, are inforced to content themselves with rie or barleie; yea, and in time of dearth, manie with bread made either or bran, peason, or otes, or of altogether, and some acorns among;  of which scourge the poorest doe soonest tast, sith they are least able to provide themselves better. I will not saie that this extremitie is oft so well to be seene in time of plenty as of dearth; but if I should, I could easily bring my triall.”

The finest white wheaten bread was commonly called manchet, and we have considered it in previous posts (here, and here) and we have also had a recipe for acorn bread in the past. I am sure barley bread and rye bread are hidden in the depths of the blog too, but I am not inclined right now to do a Search and Link, for which you will have to excuse me. I am confident that we have not really looked at the idea of bread containing ‘peason’ however, so I am keen to do that today. I cannot give you an Elizabethan version, but it would surely not be too dissimilar to that made from the following recipes – which are taken from, of all things, The engineer's and mechanic's encyclop√¶dia, by Luke Hebert (1836.)  I wonder how many engineers’ and mechanics’ journals and texts today contain recipes?

Bean Bread.
Bean flour does not essentially differ from other farina, but it has an unpleasant taste; this is, however, scarcely perceptible if the flour be steeped in water before it is used for making into bread. This flour, so treated, made up into cakes or bread with yeast and salt, is tolerable; but a good bread with a mixture of wheat and bean flour is thus made: Soak the flour for three days in water before it is required, changing the water every day, to carry off the peculiar flavour of the bean; then put the flour to drain over a sieve; during this operation put a peck of wheat flour into the kneading trough, and mix it up with yeast and salt. After it has been properly fermented, knead the bean flour with it into dough, and after it has stood a sufficient time to prove, divide it into loaves, and bake.

Pea Bread may be made in the same manner as directed in the foregoing article for beans; it is sometimes mixed up with oatmeal and made into cakes; but equal quantities of pea flour (that has been steeped), potatoe flour, and seconds wheat flour, afford a good bread. The sponge should be set with the wheat flour, and after fermentation the other flours kneaded in, allowed time to prove, then divided and baked.

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