I know I’ve been talking about ale or beer barm bread off and on for a while now. In fact I made some out of mead barm too. And I’ve come up with a number of ways of making a medieval loaf. Today I put my money where my mouth is. I’ve got some barm from a local brewer and I’m making beer barm bread. Technically it’s ale barm bread, but that’s a modern technical difference, not one from period. In the pre-modern period it would just have been called beer barm.

First up, our recipe:

Fine Manchet. “Take halfe a bushell of fine flower twise boulted, and a gallon of faire luke warm water, almost a handful of white salt, and almost a pinte of yest, then temper all these together, without any more liquor, as hard as ye can handle it: then let it lie halfe an hower, then take it up, and make your Manchetts, and let them stande almost an hower in the oven. Memorandum, that of every bushell of meale may be made five and twentie caste of bread, and every loafe to way a pounde besyde the chesill.

The Good Huswife’s Handmaide for the Kitchen,
1588

Back in 2011 I figured out that I had been re-reading the recipe wrong, due to the change in the weight of a bushel at some point. So my current conversion is:

  • 77 cups flour
  • 20 cups water
  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 2.5 cups barm

And my conversion to weight just to be sure:

  • 19.25 lb flour (100%)
  • 10 lb  water (52%)
  • 0.25 lb salt (1.3%)
  • 2 lb barm (10%)

I’m going to make 1/10th of the recipe, so my recipe will be:

  • 7 cups flour
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup barm

If that looks wrong, you’re right, because yeast doesn’t actually just convert down like other ingredients, it’s a living organism and there needs to be enough for it to do its job. So just to make sure I’m going to increase that to 3/4 cup barm.

And on to the Recipe:

Beer Barm Bread/Manchet

Ingredients

  • 7 cups flour
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup barm

Directions

  1. Mix barm, water, and 1 cup flour together, let sit 1/2 hour or till bubbling
  2. Mix in salt, add flour a cup at a time, knead for 10 minutes
  3. Let stand 1/2 hour to rest
  4. Form three loaves, allow to rise 1/2 hour
  5. Preheat oven with baking stone at 450F
  6. Bake for 30 min
  7. Turn temp down to 400F and bake till golden brown, about 20 min
  8. Each loaf should weigh 1lb

Final thoughts:

The bread was quite dense, slightly more than previous medieval style breads, with a pleasant ale taste to it. The crust, while tasty, was a bit too thick. Next time I’ll add some steam to the oven.


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