Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Harleian MS. 279 (ab 1430) -- Rastons - Medieval Bread

A loaf that has been baked and sliced into "sops"
This month I have decided to focus on various sops and pottages from Harleian MS 279.  Sops are thick slices of bread which have been soaked in liquid, usually a broth and then eaten.  They were quite common during the period, yet we seldom see them featured at the banquets that are recreated in the SCA.  An example of a modern day sop, would be the bread you find on top of french onion soup! Pottage is another word that can be used for a soup or a stew.  For my next several posts you will see that this kind of cooking is a very simple kind of cooking, using ingredients that many cooks have on hand.  I believe it would be an easy way to "add" an extra dish at the beginning of a course without breaking the budget.

Given my focus on simple soups or stews, I wanted to create bread that would have been used in the same period.  I am using a recipe for "Rastons".  This recipe creates a small round loaf of bread that has been fortified with eggs.  Traditionally, the top is cut from the crown of the bread, the bread removed from the inside of the loaf, crumbled up into crumbs mixed with clarified butter, the hollow refilled, the top put on and the bread baked till it was warmed. I am not planning on using a traditional method; however, as I plan on simply cutting the bread into "sops" for my next few posts.

The recipe below can be found here: Two fifteenth-century cookery-books : Harleian MS. 279 (ab 1430), & Harl. MS. 4016 (ab. 1450), with extracts from Ashmole MS. 1439, Laud MS. 553, & Douce MS. 55 / edited by Thomas Austin

.xxv. Rastons.—Take fayre Flowre, & þe whyte of Eyroun, & þe ȝolke, a lytel; þan take Warme Berme, & putte al þes to-gederys, & bete hem to-gederys with þin hond tyl it be schort & þikke y-now, & caste Sugre y-now þer-to, & þenne lat reste a whyle; þan kaste in a fayre place in þe oven, & late bake y-now; & þen with a knyf cutte yt round a-boue in maner of a crowne, & kepe þe cruste þat þou kyttyst; & þan pyke al þe cromys withynne to-gederys, an pike hem smal with þin knyf, & saue þe sydys & al þe cruste hole with-owte; & þan caste þer-in clarifiyd Boter, & Mille*. [melle A. (mix). ] þe cromeȝ & þe botere to-gedereȝ, & keuere it a-ȝen with þe cruste, þat þou kyttest a-way; þan putte it in þe ovyn aȝen a lytil tyme; & þan take it out, & serue it fortℏ.

Dan Myers offers this interpretation for the recipe above at his site Medieval Cookery.  If you have not visited his site. I urge you to do so!

xxv - Rastons. Take fayre Flowre, and the whyte of Eyroun, and the 3olke, a lytel; than take Warme Berme, and putte al thes to-gederys, and bete hem to-gederys with thin hond tyl it be schort and thikke y-now, and caste Sugre y-now ther-to, and thenne lat reste a whyle; than kaste in a fayre place in the oven, and late bake y-now; and then with a knyf cutte yt round a-boue in maner of a crowne, and kepe the cruste that thou kyttyst; and than pyke al the cromys withynne to-gederys, an pike hem smal with thin knyf, and saue the sydys and al the cruste hole with-owte; and than caste ther-in clarifiyd Boter, and Mille (Note: melle A. (mix)) the crome3 and the [correction; sic = MS. the the] botere to-gedere3, and keuere it a-3en with the cruste, that thou kyttest a-way; than putte it in the ovyn a3en a lytil tyme; and than take it out, and serue it forth.

25. Rastons- take fair flour, and the white of eggs, and the yolk, a little; then take Warm Barm, and put all these together, and beat them thereto, and then let rest a while: then caste in a fair place in the oven, and let bake enough: and then with a knife cut it round above in the manner of a crown, and keep the crust that thou cut; & then pick all the crumbs within together, and pick them small with thine knife, and save the sides and all the crust whole without; and then cast therein clarified butter and mix the crumbs and butter together, and cover it again with the crust, that thou cuttest away; then put in the oven again a little time; and then take it out and serve it forth.

Interpreted Recipe:

3-4 cups flour
2 tbsp. sugar
1 cup warm ale
2 eggs beaten
1 package dry yeast

I read somewhere, and I wish I had thought to save the information, that to recreate the "flavor" of ale barm, which many recipes call for, you add yeast to ale.  In order to attempt to recreate the flavor of the "ale barm" the recipe calls for that is what I did. I used The Hairless Hare Brewery's "Brown Barrel Bomber" which is a bourbon barrel aged ale. I also mixed my flours with a 3:1 ratio of unbleached white to whole wheat in an attempt to simulate what the bolted flours of the time period would have been like. I also added a tsp. of real salt to the flour.
Sponge after proofing 20 minutes

I mixed a1/2 cup of flour with the ale (warmed to about 110 degrees), sugar, eggs and yeast together, let the yeast dissolve and then let it ferment until it created a sponge. I added the fermented yeast mixture to the remainder of the flour and then shaped it into a round loaf.  I covered the loaf and let it rise until it had doubled in size.

Note: The dark color is coming from the very dark ale I used.

After the loaf had doubled in size I baked it in a 450 degree oven for approximately 20 minutes, until it sounded hollow.  If I were following the traditional recipe at this point, I would let the loaf cool, cut the top off, hollow out the loaf, and mix the crumb with butter. Eventually, I plan to come back and revisit this recipe, completing it as it should be completed.

The bread itself is very pleasant in taste, soft textured with a good crust.  I prefer it to my beloved Manchet of the French bread.  The loaf is good sized, and it is not as time consuming as the other breads that I have made in the past. This is definitely on my "keeper" list.

Similar recipes can be located in the following sources.

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