February Update

Some thoughts today:


I was browsing my stats.  I never realized how popular my Roman Legion Cooking project I did for AT War was.  It seems that that is the most viewed page, and the biggest reason people come to this blog.  Followed closely by my bread experiments.

Norse Bread

I’ve been planning some more experiments with the bread.  I’m thinking that since the mead barm bread went so well I might try to expand on that.  A friend of mine did a project on Norse Bread, and it brought up some great ideas.  I could use the resarch into norse bread and the types of grains that were found in it, particularly in the Birka find, and make a mead barm bread with the proper grains.  I’m not sure if they would use mead barm or beer barm to leaven it, but since both would be readily available it would make sense.  My no research suspicion is that they would use mead barm, as it would impart a light sweetness to the bread.  Based on the types of norse bread I’ve read about I’d assume that they would go stale about a day after baking, so they would likely be eaten fresh and hot.  Perhaps a lightly leavened pan bread….  Much research is required here.

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A Reassesment of Medieval Bread

1588 cookery book, The Good Huswife’s Handmaide for the Kitchen:

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.

This is the origin of my medieval inspired bread.  With the Mead Barm bread I did last time I think I”m ready to return to my recipe and see if I can make it better based off the original.  Something to remember: unlike most things yeast cannot simply be added or reduced in scale.  It takes a certain amount of yeast to get a leaven and if it’s too small, regardless of what the percentage is then you’re SOL.

If you want to take a look at the previous versions check Medieval Style Bread part 1 2 3 4.  All of them are more inspired by medieval as they don’t use barm.

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Mead barm bread


I know I was going to do ale barm bread, but a friend of mine gave me some mead barm at Tir Righ Arts and Sciences back in October.  I decided to use that… in November… yeah, this post’s been on the back burner a while.

Mead barm is easy to keep alive, just add honey and water and it will keep growing for a long time.  I made three batches of it.  I just used my basic medieval bread recipe and used the mead barm instead of the yeast.  Because of this I didn’t need to add as much water to make it similar, but more on that in a moment.

First, mead barm does not have as much leavening power as modern bread yeast.  Not a big surprise there.  I treated it like sourdough and didn’t punch down the dough, as I figured it wouldn’t have a second rise.  My first attempt turned out rather flat.  I suspect this was because the bread stuck to the bowl it was rising in, and because of that when I took it out I killed a lot of the leaven.  Mead barm does not create a very strong leaven.  I suspect one of the issues was that there was a very low yeast to liquid content in the barm.  I’ll have to try to fix that when I do ale barm.

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Medieval Style Bread Part 2

Only a few days later, and I already have to update the post.

On Yeast:

I’ve been doing some research into yeast and have come to the conclusion that I am using way too much yeast in this dough.

Small amounts of yeast will reproduce rapidly given the right stimulants.  So, if I decrease the amount of yeast, but let the sponge work for longer (a few hours instead of 20 min) then the resulting yeast will be stronger, and I won’t need to use as much.

Some people seem to recommend using 1 tsp of yeast in a sponge to get the same effect of a normal 1 tbsp.

I am thinking 1 1/2 tsp, or 1/2 a tbsp instead.  It’s a little more, but this should work.  My plan is to make the sponge in the morning, let it grow all day, then make the dough in the evening and let it rise all night, then make the bread the next day.

A very medieval system.

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