Yesterday I gave you a thirteenth century description of sourdough – the making of which was already a very old practice by many, many centuries, as we know. Today I want to show you that seeded and other specialty breads are also far from new.
Although the source I am using today was written a mere couple of centuries ago, it describes a huge range of grain, seed, and other plant materials which the author of the book was satisfied were authoritatively documented to have been used in the making of bread.
The book is one of four volumes with the full glorious title of The Domestic Encyclopaedia: or, A dictionary of facts and useful knowledge : comprehending a concise view of the latest discoveries, inventions, and improvements chiefly applicable to rural and domestic economy : together with descriptions of the most interesting objects of nature and art : the history of men and animals, in a state of health or disease : and practical hints respecting the arts and manufacrures, both familar and commercial : illustrated with numerous engravings and cuts... by A.F.M. Willich (London, 1802.)
The paragraphs I am interested in are in the section on Bread:-
New Substitutes for Flour or Bread.
We have, in the preceding analysis, as well as on former occasions, mentioned various substances which might advantageously be employed in the manufacture of this indispensable article of human sustenance; independently of the different kinds of grain and roots that are already made subservient to this beneficial purpose. In order to exhibit a distinct view of the most promising
substitutes, whether indigenous or exotic, and especially such as have actually been used, on the authority of creditable evidence, we shall here divide them into three classes, and, in the course of the work, give a more particular, account of each article, in its alphabetical order.
I. Farinaceous Seeds: — Wheat-grass, or Triticum Spelta; Millet, or Panicum miliaceum; Common Buck-wheat or Polygonum fagopyrum; Siberian Buck-wheat, or Polygonum tataricum; Wild Buckwheat, or Polygonum convolvulus; Wild Fescue-grass, or Festuca fluitans ; Maize, or Indian Corn, the Mays Zea; Rice, or Oryza sativa; Guinea Corn, or White Round-seeded Indian Millet, the Holcus Sorghum, L.;Canary-grass, or Phalaris canariensis; Rough Dog's-tail Grass, or Cynosurus echinatus; Water Zizany, or Zizania aquatica; Upright Sea Lime-grass, or Elymus arenarius; Sea-reed, Marram, Helme, or Sea Mat-weed, the Calamagrostis or Arunda armaria.
The following mealy fruits, however, deserve a decided preference over many of the preceding: viz. Water Caltrops, or the fruit of the Trapa natans, L.; Pulse of various kinds, such as Peas, Lentils, Beans, and the seeds of the Common Vetch, Fetch, or Tare-acorns, and especially those of the Quercus cerris and esculus; the seeds of the White Goose-foot, Common Wild Orangem or the Chemodia album; the seeds and flowers of the Rocket, or Brassica eruca; the seeds of the Sorrel, or Rumex acetosa; of the different species of Dock, or Lapathum; of the Yellow and White Water-lily, or the Nymphaea lutea and alba of the Corn-spurrey, or Spergula arvensis; of the Spinage, or Spinacia oleracea, L.; of the Common Gromwell, or Graymill, the Lithospermum officinale; of the Knot-grass, or Paniculum aviculare; the Beech-nut; the husks of the Lint-seed, &c.
II. Farinaceous Roots: namely, those of the Common and Yellow Bethlem Star, or Ornithogalum luteum and umbellatum; of the Yellow Asphodel; of the Wake Robin, or Arum muculatum (after being properly dried and washed) j of the Pilewort, or Lesser Celandine, the Ranunculus ficaria; of the Common Dropwort, the Spiroea filipendula; of the Meadow-sweet, or Spiraea ulmaria; of the White Bryony, or Bryonia alba; of the Turnip-rooted Cabbage, or Napobrassica; of the Great Bistort, or Snake-weed; of the Small, Welch, or Alpine Bistort; of the Common Orobus, or Heath-pea; the Tuberous Vetch; the Common Reed; both the Sweet-smelling and Common Solomon's Seal; the Common Corn-flag, or Gladiolus communis; the Salt-marsh Club-rush, or Scirpus maritimus, &c.- Indeed, some authors also include in this list the roots of the Mandragora, Colchicum , Fumaria bulg., Helleborus acconitifol, and nigr., Lilium bullbif. , and many others; but for these last mentioned we have not sufficient authority.
III. Fibrous and less juicy Roots: viz. those of the Couch-grass, or CreepingWheat-grass; the Clown's, or Marsh Wound-wort; the Marsh Mary-gold, or Meadow Bouts; the Silver-weed, or Wild Tansy; the Sea Seg, or Carex arenarius, &c.
Well, if that doesn’t give you bread-enthusiasts some inspiration, I don’t know what will!
There are recipes elsewhere on this blog for bread made with turnips, potatoes, pease and soybeans, but most of the others mentioned in the article are remaining stubbornly mysterious. I do however have a recipe for you for a bread which could have made this list. It is from one of the greatest bread books ever written – Eliza Acton’s The English bread-book for Domestic Use, published in 1857.
The seed of the white varieties of French-bean, boiled quite tender, and rubbed through a strainer to divest them of their skins, and mixed with two thirds of their weight of flour or meal, will make bread which in flavour and appearance can scarcely be known from genuine wheaten bread; and as the bean is one of the most nutritious by far of all vegetables, it will replace very advantageously a portion of wheat-flour for persons whose digestion is not extremely delicate: by those who are out of health, this bread is perhaps better avoided.* After the beans have been prepared as above, the pulp from them should be intimately mixed with the flour or meal, and the bread finished in the usual way. It will be seen, as the dough is gradually moistened, that less liquid will be required for it than for common wheaten-bread; but the exact difference cannot easily be specified. The dough should be mixed entirely at once, and be made rather firm. The seed of the scarlet-runner, or any other coloured variety of the vegetable (if the flavour were not strong), would probably answer as well as the white, particularly for brown bread.
Pulp of white French beans (haricots blancs), 1 lb.; wheat-flour or meal, 2 lbs., made into dough with the common proportion of yeast, rather less liquid, and a little more salt. Fermented and baked like other bread.
*The French-bean seed, known as haricots blancs, served so abundantly at foreign tables, and very much now in England also, is not considered, even where it is so much eaten, as well adapted to invalids. When quite fresh, it is less objectionable than after it is harvested for winter consumption.