Original recipe from De honesta voluptate:
Anyone, therefore, who does baking should use flour [farina] which is well-ground from wheat, although farina is so-called from far, ground grain. From this, he should separate the bran and the inferior flour with a very fine flour sieve, then put the flour, with warm water and some salt, on a baker's table closed in at the sides, as the people at Ferrara in Italy are accustomed to do. If you live in damp places and a bit of leaven is used, [the baker], with help from his associates, kneads to that consistency at which bread can be made fairly easily. Bread should be well-baked in an oven and not used the same day, nor is it especially nourishing when made from very fresh wheat and if it is digested slowly. (Milham, 121)
The Sponge Starter for the Bread
In a small bowl stir together the yeast and warm water and let them stand 5 minutes, or until creamy. In a bowl, combine this yeast mixture, the room-temperature water, and the flour and stir them for approximately 4 minutes. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Let the sponge starter stand at cool room temperature at least 12 hours and up to 1 day before using it.
Making the bread:
In a small bowl, stir together the yeast and milk and let them stand for 5 minutes, or until creamy. In the bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with dough hooks blend together the milk mixture, sponge starter, water, oil, and flour at low speed until the flour is just moistened. Beat the dough at medium speed for approximately 3 minutes. Add the salt and beat 4 minutes more. Scrape the dough into an oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise at room temperature until doubled in bulk, about 1 1/2 hours. The dough will be sticky and full of air bubbles.
Have ready an edgeless baking sheet and two well-floured 12-inch by 6-inch sheets of parchment paper. Turn the dough out onto a well-floured work surface and cut it in half. Transfer each half to a parchment sheet and form them each into an irregular oval about 9 inches long. Dimple the loaves with your floured fingers and dust the tops with flour. Cover the loaves with a lightly dampened kitchen towel and let them rise at room temperature until they are almost doubled in bulk, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
At least 45 minutes before baking the bread, put a baking stone or four to six unglazed quarry tiles arranged close together on an oven rack in the lowest position in your oven. Preheat the oven to 425°F.
Transfer one loaf on its parchment to the baking sheet with the long side of the loaf parallel to far edge of baking sheet. Line up the far edge of the baking sheet with the far edge of the stone or tiles, and tilt baking sheet to slide loaf with parchment onto back half of stone or tiles. Transfer the remaining loaf to the front half of the stone or tiles in a similar manner. Bake bread loaves 20 minutes, or until pale golden. With a large spatula transfer loaves to a rack to cool.
Per serving nutritional information:
187 Calories; 2.7g Fat (4% calories from fat); 6.4g Protein; 35.3g Carbohydrate; 1mg Cholesterol; 404mg Sodium
Notes on the recipe:
This looks to be a standard sponge-starter method of bread making. A natural sour dough starter is used (presumably this is what the "leaven" is that Platina refers to), to which fine wheat flour water, and salt are added. The whole mix is combined and kneaded. Sponge starters using natural leaven such as the kind in Platina's recipe typically take a long time to reach the appropriate state, often and entire day. The rising time and the starter give the bread a more traditional texture and stronger flavor (not necessarily a sour one!) typical of today's European-style breads.
The recipe uses a natural sponge starter and a standard, basic half-white half-whole-wheat flour bread recipe to make the bread. The sponge takes only a few minutes to put together the day before making the bread. Though the dough for this bread is very wet and sticky, resist the temptation to add more flour.
Although we recommend the corner-of-the-kitchen method of bread dough rising, we understand the convenience of modern-day appliances. A bread-making machine often proves invaluable when your feast staff and preparation staff is small. The bread recipe here can easily be converted to the mixing, kneading, and first-rise cycles common to most modern bread makers. If you choose to use one, follow the specific instructions for bread making in your owner's manual, being sure to add the ingredients in the order recommended. We do not recommend baking the bread in the bread machine because the resulting shape is rarely representative of a medieval loaf.
Should you be lucky enough to have it, a proofing oven may assist you in baking bread the day before or the day of the feast (keeping in mind of course, that Platina recommends eating bread older than fresh-baked).
Additional notes on this recipe may be found at: The Coronation Feast of Dag IV & Elayna II
Milham, Mary Ella. Platina's On Right Pleasure and Good Health. University of North Carolina at Asheville: Pegasus Press, 1999. ISBN: 0866982086.
Gaylin Walli is a technical writer and editor for a multinational software company. She spends the vast majority of her personal time researching things because her friends (and people throughout the known world) torture her with comments like "Do you know anything about..."
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