I was reading this article about Tudor Beer from Brew Your Own, a home brewing website, and I thought it would be fun to try. A friend of mine, Machabi Caiaphas, is a great brewer so I asked if he’d help me brew up a batch, this is the first time I’ve brewed so it was a new adventure for me.
The early English brewing industry focused primarily on ale, made with gruit (Unger 2004, 64), and expanded and commercialized significantly during the 14th century (Unger 2004, 98). At the same time hopped beer was being imported from Holland and Flanders (ibid.) primarily for the immigrant population which was more used to beer than ale. England also made something called beer, though unhopped, as early as the late 12th century (Unger 2004, 97) however it had a reputation as not being as good as ale or hopped beer. English brewers began producing hopped beer in the 15th century (Unger 99), though the operations were primarily run by immigrants, which caused other tensions (ibid.). By the 16th century the primary difference between beer and ale was the additives used to flavour it. While beer used hops, ale used herbs, spices, fruit, and sometimes even toasted bread (Unger 100). By the middle of the 16th century in most, though not all (Unger 103), areas the ale brewers and beer brewers had merged (Unger 102) though there remained a firm distinction between the definitions of ale and beer based on the additives. Many Englishmen felt that ale was the proper drink of the English while beer was for foreigners (Unger 100), however the tide was shifting in England and by the last quarter of the century beer had mostly replaced ale as the preferred beverage in England (ibid.).
One great thing about being done the A&S 50 is that I don’t feel bad about doing a recipe where I didn’t do the recreation and the background research is shaky. So, with that said, here’s pretzels.
Ever since I made some modern soft pretzels I’ve been reading about the history of pretzels. Modernly we use boiling water with baking soda in it. Previously they used lye in the water to accomplish the same dark colour. However, I can’t find any use of lye or ash in boiling water in the production of bread products in the SCA period. Some people have suggested that they used malt in the water but again there’s no proof of it. That of course doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.
It’s been a while since I did a medieval bread post (*cough*five years*cough*) so I thought it was time to bring it up again. I wanted this to be a post and recipe for everyone to be able to make medieval style bread.
I’ve been making sourdough a lot the last few months (thank you Lady Audrey) which has given me a better appreciation for the art and act of levening. This made me want to return to my old bread recipe. So for the first one were starting from my reassessment of medieval bread. Searching more info I found Steamy Kitchen which seems a super similar one.
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 1234. All of them are more inspired by medieval as they don’t use barm.
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.
Hmmm… I think I should start giving these posts better names. Like Rolof.
Anyway. The next part of my mission is accomplished. I made bread this week that seems to fit the descriptions.
It is thick, and hard to kneed, and has a tight enough crumb that I can easily see the stale version being good for trenchers. It’s also whiteish. Although I haven’t done my flour experiments yet, I imagine that this bread would not be dissimilar in colour to what was eaten in the 16th century.
I kinda winged it this time round. Here is the recipe that I used (created retroactivly):
Ok, so I made the first batch of bread yesterday, and learned a lot.
In kneeding it was definatly “as hard as ye can handle it”, as I had to wet my hands twice while working it for it to kneed properly. The sponge was a bit disapointing. The yeast culture seemed to separate from the water and slow down. This must be why people recomend that you stir the yeast every few hours when doing a low yeast content sponge. Also, I’ve read that if you let the yeast sit in water too long that it exhausts the yeast, but I suspect that’s if you’re not adding the flour for the yeast to eat. I think I’m going to bump the amount of yeast back up to where I had it before. I’m also going to decrease the length of time I let the sponge sit, as with a full ammount of yeast I just have to wake it up, rather than trying to breed it.
Only a few days later, and I already have to update the post.
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.