Celebrating the release of HIS FAIR LADY, I’m happy to offer this recipe for Medieval wastel bread.
Years past, Mr. KK and I hosted a Medieval-themed dinner and served this recipe, adapted from The Medieval Cookbook by Maggie Black (highly recommended). The bread proved not only delicious fresh, but spectacular when toasted. In truth, it transported me back to my girlhood days, when my mother and I would visit the Amish market. We always returned with prized loaves of their homemade bread. It made superior toast (which my brother and I quickly devoured). I highly doubt the Amish used ale to make their bread, but this recipe makes a lovely loaf that, when toasted, is a taste match to theirs – at least to my memory and tastebuds, such as they are today.
In honor of Juliana and Royce’s love story, enjoy!
Medieval Wastel Bread
When Juliana first tastes the soft rolls of white bread (manchets) at King John’s court, she exclaims to Sir Royce, "Ah, 'tis Heaven itself, Sir Knight." Raised as a brewer’s daughter, she has known only coarse barley and rye breads. Juliana would no doubt approve of this tasty modern-day version of white-wheat “wastel” bread that uses brown ale in place of the “ale-barm” of her day (used for raising the dough). Papa Georges the brewer would approve as well!
Makes 4 round loaves; or 16 – 20 rolls; or 2 round loaves and 8-10 rolls
2 lb 14 oz unbleached white flour
2 oz rice flour or cornflour
1 tablespoon salt
1 oz fresh yeast
2 ½ - 3 ¾ cups warm water
3/4 cup brown ale
4 teaspoons warmed clear honey
Oil for greasing
· Mix the flours and salt in a warmed bowl.
· Blend yeast with a little water until a cream consistency.
· Mix in the ale, honey and approximately 2 ½ cups of the remaining water.
· Stir the liquids into the flour mixture and mix to a firm dough, adding more water if needed.
· Turn out on surface and knead dough for about 8 minutes or until it feels elastic.
· Shape it into a ball and place in bowl that has been oiled inside.
· Cover loosely with oiled parchment or wax paper, or oil top and cover with towel. Leave in a warm place to double in bulk.
· Punch down the dough.
· For four round loaves: divide into quarters.
· For rolls: divided into 16 – 20 equal sized pieces
· For two round loaves and 8 – 10 rolls: divide into two halves.
o Shape one half into two equal-sized round loaves and the other half into rolls.
· For loaves: make a crosscut in the top of each loaf. Place on oiled baking sheets, leaving a good space apart; cover loosely with oiled parchment or waxed paper (or oil and cover). Let rise a warm place.
· Pre-heat the oven to 450°F.
o Rolls: 15—17 minutes. Testing: tap bottom of roll; it should sound hollow if cooked.
o Loaves: 25 minutes; Test as for rolls by tapping. If needed, lower heat to 3oo°F and bake a little longer.
§ Cool, covered with a cloth, on a wire rack.
Adapted from The Medieval Cookbook by Maggie Black
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