So here it is: the much-anticipated 18th century bread post! If you are as interested in this sort of thing as I clearly was, you can read my précis of the pamphlet I studied dealing with grain shortages and rising bread prices (click the tab "Tout et n'importe quoi). But if not, you can just look at the pictures of some seriously dense, fibrous, filling bread. My plan was to recreate with as much accuracy as possible the sort of bread that the average Jacques would have eaten during the Revolution. I stumbled upon a description of a bread called pain d'égalité which was THE bread eaten by all after the 1789 storming of the Bastille - the idea being that from then on everyone would eat bread of equally poor quality. In all the descriptions the ration of flours is described as 3/5 farine de seigle (rye), 2/5 froment (wheat). The wheat flour would have been nothing like the flour we know today which would seems light as air to 18th century bakers - imagine whole wheat flour with more stray bits of bran, coarsely ground, with maybe some flakes of rock from the grinding stone mixed in. In order to get the same effect, I stuck to the ratio, but with the 2/5 whole wheat flour I added a little handful of bran and one of barley flour, which some bakers would cut into wheat flour to make it go further.
Picture
Here you can really see the difference in texture between whole wheat flour and wheat bran, which is the outer shell of the wheatberry. I added only a few tablespoons of bran, as 18th century flour would have been sifted to remove the larger bits of bran.

Now for the yeast. Traditionally, the yeast used for bread baking would have been the spent brewers yeast settled at the bottom of beer barrels and salvaged after the beer was drained out of the barrel. Obviously that would be ideal, but I settled for using a packet of dried brewers yeast which I "woke up" in some warm water, waited till it began to bubble and foam, then added my flour mix.
What resulted was a sticky mass that I let rise for 12 hours. This is the no-kneed method which I just love, although it does require a very long rise, which actually works out well if you put together the dough in the morning, then come back home and it's ready!
Above you can see the dough after 12 hours of rising, it has bubbles on the surface and has doubled in mass. Next, you turn the dough onto a heavily floured surface and form it into a boule, which you then let rise another few hours (called proofing). At the ending of the proofing, heat your oven to 475 F and place a large cast iron dutch oven (really, if you're serious at all about cooking you should own a Le Creuset...at least one). Then tip the dough into the heated cocotte CAREFULLY and bake, covered, for 30 minutes, then take the lid off and bake another 15 minutes.
The resulting loaf could probably kill someone if thrown hard enough. It almost makes me feeling like singing...Allons enfants de la patrie le jour de gloire est arrivé!.... Bon appétit les citoyens!



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    Scarf Angela

    Cooking is therapy. I love food: shopping for it, preparing it, eating it, talking about it...If you ever want more detailed recipes of anything I describe in this blog, just leave a comment and I will email you!

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