A Simple Recipe for on the Trail

On the Trail (Time 0_01_02;25)
“To make Norfolk dumplings, mix a good thick batter as for pancakes, take a half a pint of milk, 2 eggs, a little salt, make it into a batter with flour. Have ready a clean saucepan of water boiling into which you drop the batter before the water boils fast and two or three minutes will boil them. Stir a piece of butter into them and eat them hot while they’re very good.”

  • Flour
  • Salt
  • Water
  • Milk (optional)
  • 1 or 2 eggs (optional)

On the Trail (Time 0_01_13;21)
This is a super simple recipe. It uses only flour, salt, milk, and egg. If you’re on a trail and you don’t have milk or eggs, you can just use water with this recipe and it will work out just fine.

On the Trail (Time 0_02_23;06)
Start off with whisking up your egg, then add about a cup of milk, but hold back some of your milk in case your batter becomes a little too thick later on. Next add some flour to the mix along with a little bit of salt. On the Trail (Time 0_02_46;05)
You want the consistency to be just a little thicker than you would make for pancakes so that it doesn’t break up when it goes into the water but not so thick as to make a dough.

On the Trail (Time 0_03_03;27)
Once your water has just barely started boiling, place your dumplings in by the spoonful. Depending on how hot your water is boiling these can take anywhere from 2-5 minutes.  They have a wonderful little bready consistency. On the Trail (Time 0_03_47;13)
They will be a little bland with so few ingredients but the texture is wonderful and they would go great in something like a stew or soup that you make on the trail, especially a super simple one. If you have been on the trail al day and you’re really tired and cold, this is the perfect meal because there are very few ingredients and it is so easy to put together and so quick to cook up.

Transcript of Video:

Today is a fun and kind of a different episode. I’m out here in the woods today and we’re going to be doing a very simple Norfolk dumplings recipe. This one’s from the Primitive Cookery cookbook but you’ll also find it in Hanna Glass’s cookbook of say 1747. Thanks for joining us today on 18th Century Cooking.

Well, I’ve got water on to boil. Let me read you this very simple recipe in this little cookbook. It says, “To make Norfolk dumplings, mix a good thick batter as for pancakes, take a half a pint of milk, 2 eggs, a little salt, make it into a batter with flour. Have ready a clean saucepan of water boiling into which you drop the batter before the water boils fast and two or three minutes will boil them. Stir a piece of butter into them and eat them hot while they’re very good.”

This is a super simple recipe. It uses just flour, a little bit of salt, milk, 1 egg. We want to make it a really thick batter. We don’t want it to break up as we put it into this boiling water. It’s going to take a good bit for this water to get boiled. The other trick with this recipe, if you’re on a trail and you don’t have some of these special ingredients, you don’t have eggs with you, which is very, very common that you wouldn’t have eggs, milk is something that you’re not going to have on the trail, the question is would this work out just as fine if we didn’t have milk or eggs but we just used water and flour? I’m betting that’s going to work out just fine too. That’s probably going to be the most common version that you would do on the trail or in the camp when you don’t have lots of ingredients to work with and I’ve got just the simplest of mixing utensils here. I’ve got a little wire fork and just one simple wooden spoon along with a mixing bowl. Just the minimal equipment is what we’re going with here and of course I’ve got one of our tin cooking pots to cook our dumplings in.

Let’s start off with just one egg here and whisk this up. To this egg I’m going to add let’s say about a cup of milk. I’m going to hold a little back here in case the mix is a little too thick later on. Now let’s add some flour into this mix, and we’re going to add enough flour that we think we’re going to get to a thick batter. Of course she doesn’t say anything about how much flour, you just add as much as gets to the right consistency, and don’t forget to add a little bit of salt before you get this fully mixed up. Maybe a little thicker than I would consider a pancake mix but still a batter, not a dough necessarily.

Well, my fire has built up nicely and it’s just starting to boil so let’s put some of these dumplings in by the spoonful. There we go. I’m not sure exactly what Hanna Glass intended when she put this very simple recipe in her cookbook but the author or the collector of recipes for Primitive Cookery saw this recipe and knew that it was perfect for simple cooking for inexpensive cooking and that’s why they picked it out and put it into this little cookbook. It’s sort of a compilation of simple inexpensive recipes.

There we go, they’re ready. They’ve been in probably a little bit longer than the two or three minutes, but I didn’t have a really hot boiling thing going on here, so let’s take a look.

So, let’s see how these turned out. They look pretty simple and they are obviously. Just a few ingredients, but they have a wonderful little, kind of a little bready consistency. Obviously they’re a little bland, because they’re just not amazing flavors in there. We haven’t put a lot of ingredients in there, but it’s got a wonderful texture and this would go great in something like a stew or a soup that you make on the trail, especially a super simple one. On the trail, we can’t expect amazing, intense flavors, “Oh, this is the best thing I’ve ever had!” Sometimes when you’re really tired and you’re cold and you’ve just built a fire like this and you’ve walked a long way, you carried what you’ve got with you, this is an amazing meal because you’ve made it yourself and you brought all the things along with you and there’s just a very, very few ingredients. I really want to encourage you to get out this spring, get outdoors, get cooking some of these amazing simple things. They are incredible. This is such a wonderful time of year to get out and to get active and to really kind of get into the grove again of summer.

I want to thank you for joining along with me today and this experiment as we savor the flavors and the aromas of the 18th century.

If you’re new to our channel I want to welcome you. You can subscribe by clicking the button right up here. Also, check out our related videos. Thanks so much for watching.

Posted in 18th Century Cooking, Bread, Historic Cooking, Ingredients, Recipe, Video | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Using Leaven

Using Leaven (Time 0_09_59;06)
In our last blog, we made leaven. Leaven is old dough that you save back and you use to inoculate a new batch of dough with yeast. We took our leaven and preserved it in salt. Today we’re going to wake this leaven back up and use it to make a new batch of bread.
First, we need to scrape off as much salt as possible. We put the salt on earlier because we wanted it to be dry to slow down the yeast activity. Now that we want to wake it back up you need to get as much salt off as possible. Once you have as much salt off of it as you can get, you need to chop it up into the smallest pieces possible. Just make it crumbs if you can. Then dissolve it in about a cup of warm water.Using Leaven (Time 0_10_09;28)

Stir the leavened water to get as much dissolved as possible, then use a cloth to strain out any crusty material that would not dissolve. You should end up with about ¾ of a cup of liquid yeast. Using Leaven (Time 0_10_50;20)

Now we need to make a sponge. Add your yeast to about 1 ½ cups of good quality bread flour. This is going to make a very soupy mixture but this is where the yeast is really going to come alive again. Cover and set aside. This could take as long as overnight so cover it with either a wet cloth or some plastic to keep it safe. When this is ready, you’re going to see large bubbles starting to form and it’ll have a very spongy texture.Using Leaven (Time 0_11_28;18)

Once it’s ready we can start making our bread. Start off with about 3 cups of bread flour in a bowl. To that add about 2 teaspoons of salt. Now let’s put about a cup of the sponge into our flour. Once the sponge is incorporated, add a cup of nice warm water and mix this into our dough.Using Leaven (Time 0_11_49;06)

If the dough looks a little wet you can sprinkle it with a little extra flour, then turn it out on a floured surface and knead it until it has a smooth soft texture. At this point it’s time to take another piece of dough off to save for our next batch of bread. You want a piece that’s about a half to a whole cup of dough and we’ll put this in salt just like we did before.

Now place the rest of your bread dough in a bowl and cover it with a cloth for an hour or two until it doubles in size. Once it has risen, punch it back down and reform it into a loaf, place it back into the bowl and allow it to rise one more time.

Now preheat your oven. You can use a conventional oven, an earthen oven, or even a Dutch oven. Once you have your oven warmed up, sprinkle some corn meal onto the surface where the bread will be cooked to keep the layer from sticking. The corn meal will brown up just a hair to let you know if the oven is the right temperature if you are using an earthen oven or Dutch oven. Slit the top of your bread so that it can grow a little, you will want a nice sharp knife for this. Now slide your bread gently into your oven and close it up.

Using Leaven (Time 0_16_45;26)
It should cook about 30 minutes until it’s a really nice golden brown. After 15 minutes you want to take a peak to make sure this thing isn’t overcooking, then you can adjust the heat accordingly. Sourdough bread is a much more dense bread so it can take a little bit more cooking than you might think. Don’t worry about possibly overcooking it a little bit, it’s going to need a little bit of that to get the heat all the way into the inside.

And there we have it, bread baked from leaven or old dough. You know, each time you repeat this process and save back dough you get a little bit more flavor, each time it’s going to keep developing and make a wonderful tasting bread.

Transcript of Video:

In our last episode, we made leaven. Leaven is old dough that you save back and you use it to inoculate a new batch of dough with yeast. We took our leaven and we preserved it in salt. Today we’re going to wake this leaven back up and use it to make a new batch of bread.

Last week we prepared a dough and then we saved off a little piece, the leaven, to use this week. This is the dough that was sitting in the salt. What we need to do now is to scrape off as much salt as possible. We put the salt on earlier because we wanted it to be dry. We wanted it to slow down the yeast activity. Now that we want to wake it back up we need to get as much salt off as possible.

I’m going to chop this leaven, this dried leaven, up into the smallest pieces possible. We’re going to dissolve this in some water so the smaller the particle size the better.

When we’re done with this, we can add about a cup of nice warm water so we can get this to dissolve.

Now I’m going to keep stirring this so I can get as much dissolved as possible. I need to strain out as much of this crusty material, it really doesn’t dissolve, so I’m going to strain it through this cloth.

We’re going to end up with about ¾ of a cup of liquid yeast.

Now I’m going to make a sponge. I’m going to add about a cup and a half of good quality bread flour and stir this in and it’s going to make a very soupy mixture. This is where the yeast is really going to come alive. We’re going to cover this up and set this aside. It may take as much as overnight for this to wake back up. You’ll want to cover it with either some wet cloth or some plastic.

Now we’ve prepared a sponge last night. Let’s have a look at this. When this is ready, you’re going to see large bubbles starting to form. It’ll have a very spongy texture. Let’s make our dough. I’m going to start off with about 3 cups of bread flour in a bowl. To that I’m going to add about 2 teaspoons of salt. Now let’s put about a cup of this sponge into our flour. Now that we’ve got this sponge in here,  I’m going to add a cup of nice warm water and then mix this into our dough.

This dough looks a little wet so I’m going to sprinkle it with a little extra flour before I turn it out and knead it.

I’m going to knead this until it’s nice and smooth and soft. At this point it’s time to take another piece of dough off of this to save it for our next batch of bread. I want a piece that’s about a half a cup or maybe a whole cup of dough and we’ll put this in salt just like we did before. Now back to our bread dough, let’s put it in a dough bowl and cover it with a cloth. We want this to double in size. It may take an hour, it may take a couple of hours, depending on the temperature and your yeast, just how active it is.

This dough has risen. I’m going to go ahead and lightly punch it down and reform it back into our loaf, put it back in the dough bowl and let it rise for the final time.

Now we could bake this bread in our earthen oven, but today we’re going to use our Dutch oven.

There seems to be a modern resurgence in baking in Dutch ovens, but this technique has really been used for hundreds of years. Dutch ovens were commonly used in 18th century kitchens. They were known by various names and they took on various forms, but they were known throughout Great Britain, France and the American colonies. Dutch ovens play an important role in the American colonies as well as the later on Western expansion. Louis and Clark took numerous Dutch ovens along on their western expedition. These vessels were favored by 18th, 19th, and even 20th century cooks and sojerners for their versatility. They could be used for soups and stews, for frying as well as for roasting and baking, even bread. We found one early 19th century source that used the term Dutch oven and bread oven interchangeably. When it came to baking for a single meal, these were much more efficient than a wood fired oven. Because of their versatility and efficiency, they were also highly valued. You could frequently find them in old 18th century last will and testiments and in household inventories. Jas. Townsend and Son offers three different sizes, a four quart, an eight quart and a twelve quart model.

While our loaves are rising, we started a small fire to preheat our Dutch oven and then we can use these embers when it’s done. This dough is ready to bake. Let’s prepare our Dutch oven.

We have this oven over the fire and it’s warmed up. Don’t skimp on preheating this. You want it to be nice and hot when you get started. I’m going to go ahead and sprinkle some corn meal into the bottom of that. This’ll keep the loaf from sticking, just a very thin layer here, looks good, and it should brown up just a hair, so you can see that the oven is getting the right temperature. Now we can slip this loaf in. You want to make sure that it’s loosly in your bowl so you can just nudge it in there. There we go, okay, there it goes, and we’re just going to get it into shape here. This turned over but that’s alright, and now we’re going to slit the top here so it can grow a little bit. You want a nice sharp knife for this and then you can slice it and slice it the other way too, there we are, nice and I think that looks really good. Now, we’re going to close this up, and I’ve already got our bottom coals going. I’ve got a nice ring, there’s an open center here, we don’t want it to get too hot, and we’re going to set that on, and put our lid on. Now we’re going to put more coals up on top of the oven.

I got a good layer of coals up on top now and we’re going to let this cook. It should cook about 30 minutes until it’s a really nice golden brown. For a nice even baking, you want to pick this up and rotate it a quarter of a turn every 5 or 10 minutes. After 15 minutes you want to take the lid off and take a peak to make sure this thing isn’t overcooking, then you can adjust the heat accordingly. We took a quick look at 15 minutes and it was progressing rather well. I’m sure, now that it’s about 30 minutes in that this is ready to take a look, and we’re going to take the lid off here and we can see that it really is looking quite nice and golden brown.

Sourdough bread is a much more dense bread so it can take a little bit more cooking than you might think. Don’t worry about possibly overcooking it a little bit, its going to need a little bit of that to get the heat all the way into the inside, so let’s get this out of here.

And there we have it, bread baked from leaven or old dough. We even baked it in a Dutch oven and we’ve saved off dough for the next time we’re going to bake bread. You know, each time you repeat this process and save back dough you get a little bit more flavor, each time it’s going to keep developing and make a wonderful tasting bread.

I hope you subscribed to our YouTube channel so you can get notification of all the new videos when they come out and be sure to check out our Facebook page for all the news at Jas. Townsend and Son. All the items you’ve seen here today, all the clothing, all the cooking utensils, all these things are available on our website or in our print catalog and I want to thank you for watching and I want to invite you to come along as we savor the aromas and flavors of the 18th century.

Posted in 18th Century Cooking, Baking, Bread, Historic Cooking, Ingredients, Recipe, Video | 2 Comments

Making Leaven

Leaven (Time 0_09_16;15)Leaven or Sourdough Starter is very easy to make. First you make a very simple bread.

  • 4 cups unbleached Bread Flour
  • 1 tsp. Kosher Salt
  • 1 packet Instant Yeast
  • 1 ½ cups warm water

Mix together your bread flour, salt, and yeast. You could mix up some barm for a more authentic flavor for your bread, but it will not change anything about your leaven so it is ok to use the instant yeast. It’ll end up being exactly the same in the end.Making Leaven (Time 0_06_57;25)

Make a pool in the middle with your water, mix and turn out onto a floured surface. Knead until it’s nice and soft. Once the dough is ready to set and rise it is time to extract a piece to use for next time you bake bread. Separate about a handful of dough away from the main ball, about the size of a tennis ball. Making Leaven (Time 0_07_15;19)
Take the rest of your dough, reform it and place in a bowl to rise for an hour or two.

The ball of dough that you have separated out has become your starter. If you’re going to use this dough tomorrow or the day after, you can take this ball and put it into a little pile of flour and save that for later on, but if you aren’t going to bake for 7-10 days, you need a way to preserve this for later use. To preserve this properly, you need to have a full salt canister to put it in. Making Leaven (Time 0_08_07;28)Punch a hole in the middle of your dough to fill with salt then place the dough in a cavity in the salt canister and cover completely with salt. This will completely dry out and become a little hard lump when it comes out in a week to ten days when you need to use it again.Making Leaven (Time 0_08_25;29)

Keep an eye out for our next blog where we show you how to wake up your starter and use it to bake some bread.

Transcript of Video:

As we continue our series on 18th century breads, we feel we’ve only just begun to discover that complex role bread plays in history. Today we’ll take a closer look at leaven in the 18th century, how to preserve it and then how to use it.

First, we need to make a distinction between the word leavening and the word leaven. The word leavening is a generic term meaning anything that you add to dough that creates a lighter and fluffier loaf when you’re finished. Leavening can be mechanical. We can whip air into egg whites, creating a meringue that we fold into batter to make a lighter bread. We could also use a chemical agent such as pearl ash or saleratus similar to the modern baking soda and baking powder. These create a chemical reaction. Carbon dioxide bubbles are formed and this creates a quick bread, a lighter and fluffier sort of bread. Then there’s yeast, which is a biological agent. The word leaven, at least in the 18th century, means a lump of old dough.

We know from archeological evidence that yeast has been used for thousands of years for brewing beer and for baking bread. By the mid 1700’s, two strains of yeast had been domesticated, ale yeast used for brewing beer and for baking bread and lager yeasts which the Germans had developed for brewing beer at cooler temperatures for longer periods of time.

By the late 18th century, ale yeast had been further refined by the Dutch for commercial sale, specifically to bakers. Now while modern commercial baking yeasts have been cultivated into various strains, they still remain the same species of ale yeast.

Now there’s a third species of yeast we have yet to mention. That’s wild yeast. Wild yeast exists everywhere. It exists in the air, on your skin, even on the grains of wheat themselves.

Many 18th century bread recipes call for the use of barm, which is that soupy yeast mixture that’s skimmed off the top of a fresh batch of ale. In our mixed bread episode, we showed you how to make a modern equivalent to barm. For the British palate, barm was the preferred form of yeast. They like this lighter sweeter bread. In fact there were laws passed that prevented professional bakers from recycling or reusing they’re yeast, this old dough, which resulted in a much sharper flavor. In contrast to the British, up until 1670, the French outlawed the use of barm yeast in making bread in favor of the much more flavorful and acidic old dough or leaven method.

We talked about our generic term of leavening and the term leaven which means old dough. After our initial batch of bread dough is yeasted, we save back a piece of this dough for our next batch, whether it’s the next day or the next week, and as this process continues, each time we make the dough, we save some back for the next batch, it turns into what we call sourdough, but I’ll explain that more in a minute.

Now, there were many reasons to use this old dough or leaven. The first one was flavor. It gave a much more rich and sharper flavor to the bread, but there were other reasons also. Not only in France, but in Great Britain and America, because of the importance of ale in the 18th century diet, virtually everyone had access to ale yeast or barm, but there were circumstances when the supplies were very limited. Take for instance, William Ellis who wrote the 1750 book Country Housewife Family Companion, and in it he mentions a shortage of yeast during the great frost of 1740. This year marked the coldest period during what is now known as the little ice age. Yeast was very scarce during that time in Europe because of the extended period of frigid temperatures that prevented it from being cultivated.

When barm was in short supply, leaven was used to replace it, but there was another reason to use leaven and that was to preserve yeast from one session to the next. Frequent use of a wood fired oven was impractical and inefficient for the home baker so there needed to be a way to preserve yeast from one baking session to the next.

Now we have to remember that in the 18th century, no one fully understood yeast, what it was and how it worked, any of these things. It wasn’t until the mid-1800’s that yeast was proven to be a living organism. Now the difference in taste between bread made with barm and that made with leaven has a lot more to do with bacteria than it does with the yeast that’s involved. Bacteria lives along with yeast inside of every ball of dough. It converts sugars that are in the dough into lactic acid, so if you let your dough ferment long enough, it doesn’t matter whether you start with a wild yeast culture or a barm, your dough will begin to sour. It’ll begin to take on those characteristics of sourdough bread and so your dough may not taste exactly the same as some regionally famous sourdough breads, it will be a sourdough bread nonetheless.

For the first part of our demonstration today we’re going to make a very simple bread dough. I’ve got four cups of simple bread flour here, unbleached, and I’m going to add to that just a teaspoon of kosher salt, and now I’ve got some yeast. I could mix up barm, but since this isn’t really the main part of what we’re doing here, this is just a start, we’re going to use dry instant yeast. It’ll end up being exactly the same in the end so that’s what we’re going to use here. So we’re going to use a packet of instant yeast.

And now we’re going to add to that about a cup and a half of warm water, make a pool here.

This should make just about the right consistency.

Now we’ve got this mixed, let’s turn this dough out onto a floured surface here and we’ll get that mixed up, and we’ll knead this until its ready, until it’s nice and soft.

Okay, this dough is ready to let it set and rise, but now’s the time, I’m going to extract a piece of dough to use for the next time I’m going to bake bread, so here we go, here’s a piece of dough, we’re going to save this for later. And we’re going to take this, reform it up into our shape, let’s put it in the dough bowl and let it set for baking. We’ll let this set an hour or two and then we’ll bake it in our oven.

Now here’s our dough that we’ve taken off for the next baking. If we’re going to use this dough tomorrow or if we’re going to use it maybe the day after, we can just take this ball and put it into a little pile of flour and save that for later on, but if we aren’t going to bake for 7 days or 10 days, we need a way to preserve this for later use, so what we can do is we can store that in some salt. To preserve this properly, what we’re going to do is we’re going to punch a hole in our dough, we’re going to take that and fill the hole with salt so that it’s got salt in the middle of it and once this is salted we’re going to make a little cavity in our salt canister and we’re going to pour salt right on top and fill that up so it’s covered up with salt and this’ll dry out. It’ll be a little hard lump when it comes out of here in a week or 10 days.

In our next episode we’re going to take this preserved dough ball and we’re going to wake it back up and we’re going to use it to bake some bread. We’re also going to start a wild yeast culture.

Be sure to subscribe to our YouTube Channel and check out our Facebook page for all the news at Jas. Townsend and Son. All of the items you’ve seen here today, all the cooking implements, all the clothing, these things are available on our website or in our print catalog and I want to thank you for joining us today and I want to invite you to join us as we savor the aromas and flavors of the 18th century.

Posted in 18th Century Cooking, Baking, Bread, Historic Cooking, Ingredients, Recipe, Video | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Leaven

Mixed Grain Breads (Time 0_00_41;22)There is a distinction between the word leavening and the word leaven. The word leavening is a generic term meaning anything that you add to dough that creates a lighter and fluffier loaf when you’re finished. Leavening can be mechanical, such as whipping air into egg whites to create a meringue that gets folded into the batter to make a lighter bread. We could also use a chemical agent such as pearl ash or saleratus, similar to the modern baking soda and baking powder. Leaven (Time 0_01_10;10)These cause a chemical reaction creating carbon dioxide bubbles for a lighter and fluffier sort of bread. Then we have yeast, which is a biological agent that produces carbon dioxide bubbles as it ‘eats’ through the sugar and starch in the dough.

Leaven (Time 0_09_16;15)
The word leaven, at least in the 18th century, means a lump of old dough. After the initial batch of bread dough is yeasted, we save back a piece of this dough for our next batch, whether it’s the next day or the next week, and as this process continues, each time we make the dough, we save some back for the next batch, and it turns into what we call sourdough.

We know from archeological evidence that yeast has been used for thousands of years for brewing beer and baking bread. By the mid 1700’s, two strains of yeast had been domesticated, ale yeast, used for brewing beer and baking bread, and lager yeast, which the Germans had developed for brewing beer at cooler temperatures for longer periods of time. There is also wild yeast. Wild yeast exists everywhere, in the air, on your skin, even on the grains of wheat themselves.

By the late 18th century, ale yeast had been further refined by the Dutch for commercial sale, specifically to bakers. Now, while modern commercial baking yeasts have been cultivated into various strains, they still remain the same species of ale yeast.Leaven (Time 0_02_18;29)

Many 18th century bread recipes call for the use of barm, which is that soupy yeast mixture that is skimmed off the top of a fresh batch of ale. For the British palate, barm was the preferred form of yeast, because they like the lighter sweeter bread. In fact, there were laws passed that prevented professional bakers from recycling or reusing their old dough, which resulted in a much sharper flavor. In contrast to the British, up until 1670, the French outlawed the use of barm yeast in making bread in favor of the much more flavorful and acidic old dough or leaven method.

Now, there were many reasons to use this old dough or leaven. The first one was flavor. It gave a much richer and sharper flavor to the bread, but there were other reasons as well. When barm was in short supply, leaven was used to replace it. In France, Great Britain, and America, because of the importance of ale in the 18th century diet, virtually everyone had access to ale yeast or barm, but there were circumstances when the supplies were very limited. In a book written by William Ellis in 1750 called Country Housewife Family Companion, he mentions a shortage of yeast during the great frost of 1740. This year marked the coldest period during what is now known as the little ice age. Yeast was very scarce during that time in Europe, because of the extended period of frigid temperatures that prevented it from being cultivated. Finally, another reason to use leaven was to preserve yeast from one session to the next. Frequent use of a wood fired oven was impractical and inefficient for the home baker so there needed to be a way to preserve yeast from one baking session to the next.Leaven (Time 0_02_50;26)

Now we have to remember that in the 18th century, no one fully understood what yeast was and how it worked. It wasn’t until the mid-1800’s that yeast was proven to be a living organism. Now the difference in taste between bread made with barm and that made with leaven has a lot more to do with bacteria than it does with the yeast that’s involved. Bacteria lives along with yeast inside of every ball of dough. It converts sugars in the dough into lactic acid, so if you let your dough ferment long enough, it doesn’t matter whether you start with a wild yeast culture or a barm, your dough will begin to sour. It’ll begin to take on those characteristics of sourdough bread and even though your dough may not taste exactly the same as some regionally famous sourdough breads, it will be sourdough bread nonetheless.

Transcript of Video:

As we continue our series on 18th century breads, we feel we’ve only just begun to discover that complex role bread plays in history. Today we’ll take a closer look at leaven in the 18th century, how to preserve it and then how to use it.

First, we need to make a distinction between the word leavening and the word leaven. The word leavening is a generic term meaning anything that you add to dough that creates a lighter and fluffier loaf when you’re finished. Leavening can be mechanical. We can whip air into egg whites, creating a meringue that we fold into batter to make a lighter bread. We could also use a chemical agent such as pearl ash or saleratus similar to the modern baking soda and baking powder. These create a chemical reaction. Carbon dioxide bubbles are formed and this creates a quick bread, a lighter and fluffier sort of bread. Then there’s yeast, which is a biological agent. The word leaven, at least in the 18th century, means a lump of old dough.

We know from archeological evidence that yeast has been used for thousands of years for brewing beer and for baking bread. By the mid 1700’s, two strains of yeast had been domesticated, ale yeast used for brewing beer and for baking bread and lager yeasts which the Germans had developed for brewing beer at cooler temperatures for longer periods of time.

By the late 18th century, ale yeast had been further refined by the Dutch for commercial sale, specifically to bakers. Now while modern commercial baking yeasts have been cultivated into various strains, they still remain the same species of ale yeast.

Now there’s a third species of yeast we have yet to mention. That’s wild yeast. Wild yeast exists everywhere. It exists in the air, on your skin, even on the grains of wheat themselves.

Many 18th century bread recipes call for the use of barm, which is that soupy yeast mixture that’s skimmed off the top of a fresh batch of ale. In our mixed bread episode, we showed you how to make a modern equivalent to barm. For the British palate, barm was the preferred form of yeast. They like this lighter sweeter bread. In fact there were laws passed that prevented professional bakers from recycling or reusing they’re yeast, this old dough, which resulted in a much sharper flavor. In contrast to the British, up until 1670, the French outlawed the use of barm yeast in making bread in favor of the much more flavorful and acidic old dough or leaven method.

We talked about our generic term of leavening and the term leaven which means old dough. After our initial batch of bread dough is yeasted, we save back a piece of this dough for our next batch, whether it’s the next day or the next week, and as this process continues, each time we make the dough, we save some back for the next batch, it turns into what we call sourdough, but I’ll explain that more in a minute.

Now, there were many reasons to use this old dough or leaven. The first one was flavor. It gave a much more rich and sharper flavor to the bread, but there were other reasons also. Not only in France, but in Great Britain and America, because of the importance of ale in the 18th century diet, virtually everyone had access to ale yeast or barm, but there were circumstances when the supplies were very limited. Take for instance, William Ellis who wrote the 1750 book Country Housewife Family Companion, and in it he mentions a shortage of yeast during the great frost of 1740. This year marked the coldest period during what is now known as the little ice age. Yeast was very scarce during that time in Europe because of the extended period of frigid temperatures that prevented it from being cultivated.

When barm was in short supply, leaven was used to replace it, but there was another reason to use leaven and that was to preserve yeast from one session to the next. Frequent use of a wood fired oven was impractical and inefficient for the home baker so there needed to be a way to preserve yeast from one baking session to the next.

Now we have to remember that in the 18th century, no one fully understood yeast, what it was and how it worked, any of these things. It wasn’t until the mid-1800’s that yeast was proven to be a living organism. Now the difference in taste between bread made with barm and that made with leaven has a lot more to do with bacteria than it does with the yeast that’s involved. Bacteria lives along with yeast inside of every ball of dough. It converts sugars that are in the dough into lactic acid, so if you let your dough ferment long enough, it doesn’t matter whether you start with a wild yeast culture or a barm, your dough will begin to sour. It’ll begin to take on those characteristics of sourdough bread and so your dough may not taste exactly the same as some regionally famous sourdough breads, it will be a sourdough bread nonetheless.

For the first part of our demonstration today we’re going to make a very simple bread dough. I’ve got four cups of simple bread flour here, unbleached, and I’m going to add to that just a teaspoon of kosher salt, and now I’ve got some yeast. I could mix up barm, but since this isn’t really the main part of what we’re doing here, this is just a start, we’re going to use dry instant yeast. It’ll end up being exactly the same in the end so that’s what we’re going to use here. So we’re going to use a packet of instant yeast.

And now we’re going to add to that about a cup and a half of warm water, make a pool here.

This should make just about the right consistency.

Now we’ve got this mixed, let’s turn this dough out onto a floured surface here and we’ll get that mixed up, and we’ll knead this until its ready, until it’s nice and soft.

Okay, this dough is ready to let it set and rise, but now’s the time, I’m going to extract a piece of dough to use for the next time I’m going to bake bread, so here we go, here’s a piece of dough, we’re going to save this for later. And we’re going to take this, reform it up into our shape, let’s put it in the dough bowl and let it set for baking. We’ll let this set an hour or two and then we’ll bake it in our oven.

Now here’s our dough that we’ve taken off for the next baking. If we’re going to use this dough tomorrow or if we’re going to use it maybe the day after, we can just take this ball and put it into a little pile of flour and save that for later on, but if we aren’t going to bake for 7 days or 10 days, we need a way to preserve this for later use, so what we can do is we can store that in some salt. To preserve this properly, what we’re going to do is we’re going to punch a hole in our dough, we’re going to take that and fill the hole with salt so that it’s got salt in the middle of it and once this is salted we’re going to make a little cavity in our salt canister and we’re going to pour salt right on top and fill that up so it’s covered up with salt and this’ll dry out. It’ll be a little hard lump when it comes out of here in a week or 10 days.

In our next episode we’re going to take this preserved dough ball and we’re going to wake it back up and we’re going to use it to bake some bread. We’re also going to start a wild yeast culture.

Be sure to subscribe to our YouTube Channel and check out our Facebook page for all the news at Jas. Townsend and Son. All of the items you’ve seen here today, all the cooking implements, all the clothing, these things are available on our website or in our print catalog and I want to thank you for joining us today and I want to invite you to join us as we savor the aromas and flavors of the 18th century.

Posted in 18th Century Cooking, Baking, Bread, Historic Cooking, Ingredients, Video | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Ship’s Bisket

Ships Bisket (Time 0_00_24;14)Throughout history, bread has been a vital staple of life. . Archaeological evidence suggests that pre-Neolithic cultures baked very simple flat bread on hot stones and sourdough breads have been made for millennia. First century Romans observed the Celts of Gall skimming the foam off of beer to create a lighter kind of bread. By the 13th century, bread became highly regulated as an early form of wage and price controls. Unscrupulous bakers who cut corners to increase profits faced potentially heavy punishment. Such regulation was common throughout Europe and early documents show that at least an attempt was made for doing the same thing in 18th century colonial America.

Ships Bisket (Time 0_01_36;06)
This Ship’s Bisket is known by many names. Most of the time it was called just bisket, sometimes it was called hard bisket or brown bisket, sea bisket and ship’s bread. Now many today might want to call it hard tack, but hard tack is really a 19th century term that was popularized during the American civil war.

These 18th century biskets are not like today’s buttery flaky version that we serve along with sausage gravy for breakfast. These biskets were not made to be enjoyed; they were made out of necessity. Ships Bisket (Time 0_02_01;29)Ship’s captains faced a continual challenge of having enough food on board to feed a large crew for a long journey. Food spoilage was really his greatest concern. Fresh bread rapidly became moldy on long trips and stored flour would go rancid and bug ridden, so hard bisket was really born out of necessity. It was a means of food preservation. If it was prepared and stored properly it would last for a year or more. In addition to preservation, the bisket form also helped in portability and in dividing the rations when it came time. Soldiers and sailors typically got one pound of bread a day and biskets were usually about four ounces so when it came time to distribute them, each sailor or soldier would get four biskets.

Biskets from London were considered to be the highest quality. They were the most resistant to mold to insects. They were really the standard by which all the other bisket maker’s aspired to, but not all biskets were the same quality. Copy of Ships Bisket
In a book called The Adventures of Roderick Random, written by Tobias Smollett in 1748, we read this little section here, “Every bisket, like a piece of clockwork, moved of its own internal impulse, occasioned by myriads of insects that dwelled within it.” There are other accounts of sailors opening up barrels marked sea biskets and only to find them filled to overflowing with roaches, the sea biskets having long since disappeared.

Ships Bisket (Time 0_03_43;12)Biskets were not only used by sailors, but also soldiers and travelers of just about any sort. Traders many times used them to bargain with the Indians and they were also thought to have medicinal properties. They used them in treating edema, indigestion, and gout.

Just as biskets had different names and uses, they were also made in different ways. The term bisket has its origins in the word twice baked. Many 18th century recipes call for bread rolls to be baked, sliced into slices and then baked again. These are also known as rusks. Ships Bisket (Time 0_04_02;15)
Ben Franklin, in his memoir, also called this type of bisket the true original bisket, much superior to the unleavened variety, but it’s the unleavened variety that we’re going to make today.

  • Flour (We used whole wheat for authenticity)
  • Salt
  • Water

Preheat your oven to a medium low heat. If you are using a home oven it needs to be about 300-350 degrees. About two pounds of flour will be enough to make eight 4 ounce biskets. Add about a teaspoon of salt for each cup of flour added. Pour in the water slowly until you get a good stiff dough.

Ships Bisket (Time 0_05_35;29)Knead your dough a bit and then break it up into individual portions about 4 ounces in size. Knead each individual bisket and then form them into a patty for your final bisket shape. Place your biskets on the baking tray right next to each other as they will not rise making sure that they are the final proper thickness of about a half an inch or thinner. Prick each bisket so that they don’t puff up too much.

Ships Bisket (Time 0_06_23;16)These are going to bake for about 2-3 hours. Many times in the time period, these would be baked and then pulled out. They’d let them cool and then they would bake them again the next day, probably at a lower temperature to drive out any excess moisture and for very long term storage, they might bake these three or four times.

Hard biskets could be eaten just as they are, but it was never thought of as an enjoyable event. Many times they were soaked in wine, brandy, or sac to soften them up a little. Ships Bisket (Time 0_07_57;07)Cooks would also take the biskets and grind them up or powder them by putting them in a bag and beating them with a hammer then take the crumbs left over and you can use them like flour. This crunched up bisket tastes a lot like raisin bran without the raisins.

While this isn’t the most flavorful recipe that we’ve done so far, it’s certainly a very significant food source for people in the 18th century.

Transcript of Video:

Throughout history, bread has been a vital staple of life. Archaeological evidence suggests that pre-neolithic cultures baked a very simple flat bread on hot stones and sourdough breads have been made for millennia.

First century Romans observed the Celts of Gall skimming the foam off of beer to create a lighter kind of bread. By the 13th century, bread became highly regulated. As an early form of wage and price controls. Unscrupulous bakers who cut corners to increase profits faced potentially heavy punishment. Such regulation was common throughout Europe and early documents show that at least an attempt was made for doing the same thing in 18th century colonial America.

Over the coming weeks we’re going to focus on 18th century breads. We’re going to begin our journey with one of the simplest forms, the ship’s bisket.

This bisket is known by many names. Most of the time it was called just bisket, sometimes it was called hard bisket or brown bisket, sea bisket and ship’s bread. Now many today might want to call it hard tack, but hard tack is really a 19th century term that was popularized during the American civil war. These 18th century biskets, they’re not like today’s buttery flaky version that we serve along with sausage gravy for breakfast. These biskets were not made to be enjoyed, they were made out of necessity. So ship’s captains faced a continual challenge of having enough food on board to feed a large crew for a long journey. Food spoilage was really his greatest concern. Fresh bread rapidly became moldy on long trips and so did stored flour which would go rancid and bug ridden, so hard bisket is really born out of necessity. It’s a means of food preservation. If it was prepared properly and stored properly it would last for a year or more. In addition to preservation, the bisket form also helped in portability and in dividing the rations when it came time. Soldiers and sailors typically got one pound of bread a day and the biskets were usually made in about a four ounce form so when it came time to distribute them, each sailor or soldier would get four biskets.

Biskets from London were considered to be the highest quality. The most resistant to mold and to insects. They were really the standard by which all the other bisket makers aspired to, but not all biskets were the same quality.

In a book called “The Adventures of Roderick Random” from 1748 we read this little section here: “Every bisket like a piece of clockwork moved of it’s own internal impulse, occasioned by myriads of insects that dwelled within it.” There are other accounts of sailors opening up barrels marked sea biskets and only to find them filled to overflowing with roaches. The sea biskets having long since disappeared.

Biskets were not only used by sailors but also soldiers and travelers. Travelers of just about any sort. Traders many times used them to bargain with the Indians and they were also thought to have medicinal properties. They used them in treating edema and indigestion and gout.

Just as biskets had different names and different uses, they were also made in different ways. The term bisket has its origins in the word twice baked. Many 18th century recipes call for bread rolls to be baked, sliced into slices and then baked again. These are also known as rusks. Ben Franklin in his memoir also called this type of bisket the true original bisket, much superior to the unleavened variety, but it’s this unleavened variety that we’re going to do today.

We’ve preheated our oven and allowed it to cool to a medium low heat. If you’re doing this in a home oven, about 300-350 degrees. Our ingredients for these biskets are very simple. We’ve got some whole wheat flour. You’re definitely going to need some salt, and then we need enough water to make a very stiff dough.

So let’s get these mixed up. I’m going to probably work with about two pounds of flour here, enough to make eight 4 ounce biskets. We’re going to just guess our amount of salt and get that mixed in, and now let’s pour in that water until we get a good stiff dough.

I’ve got this larger loaf kneaded here, now it’s time to break this up into the individual approximately four ounce portions for each bisket and then I’ll form those up individually.

Each one of these I’m going to knead just a little bit more and get it into its patty or final bisket shape. These biskets are ready to go on the baking tray here. We’re going to arrange them, they’re not going to rise so we can put them right next to each other. You want to make sure they’re the final proper thickness, about a half an inch, maybe a little thinner, and we need to prick them so that they don’t puff up too much.

Okay, these are ready for the oven. We’re going to put these in and they’re going to bake for 2-3 hours at that low temperature. You want to watch them to make sure they don’t burn.

It’s been 3 hours. These should have baked long enough. Many times in the time period, these would be baked and then pulled out. They’d let them cool and then they’d bake them again the next day, probably at a lower temperature to drive out any excess moisture and for very long term storage, they might bake these three or four times. Let’s take a look.

Hard biskets could be eaten just as they are, but it was never thought of as an enjoyable event. Many times they were soaked in wine, brandy, or sac to soften them up a little.

Cooks would also take the biskets and they would grind them up or powder them by putting them in a bag and beating them with a hammer then take the crumbs left over and you can use them like flour. This crunched up bisket tastes a lot like raisin bran without the raisins.

While this isn’t the most flavorful recipe that we’ve done so far, it’s certainly a very significant food source for people in the 18th century.

All the things you’ve seen here today, all the cooking implements, all the clothing, these things are available in our print catalog, on our website, I invite you to subscribe to our YouTube channel, and don’t forget to follow us on Facebook.

Posted in 18th Century Cooking, Baking, Bread, Historic Cooking, Ingredients, Recipe, Video | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Historic Mixed Grain Bread

Mixed Grain Breads (Time 0_00_23;06)Bread was an important food source in the 18th century. Not only was it a staple, in and of itself, but it was also an important ingredient in many other foods. It was known to many as a staff of life. Bread played such an important role in the nutritional needs of society that, when there were shortages in the supply of wheat, other grains had to be used to avoid mass starvation.

Mixed Grain Breads (Time 0_01_05;18)During the latter half of the 18th century, western European countries saw a massive increase in population. England itself saw a 70% increase in its population during that same period. This expansion had a dramatic effect on the demand and availability of food. Wheat, for instance, doubled in price in this time period. The result was an important trade link between the American colonies and England.

Mixed Grain Breads (Time 0_01_21;10)Wheat became the largest export crop for the Mid-Atlantic colonies in the 1700s. When George Washington decided to diversify away from tobacco, he chose to cultivate wheat. Consumer goods that were imported into the colonies were often paid for in wheat flour.

Mixed Grain Breads (Time 0_01_50;27)
Back in England, wheat was so important in feeding the populous that the British government enacted laws regulating the production of bread. These ordinances fixed the price of the bread while controlling the weight of each loaf according to the price of wheat flour. Commercial baking became highly regulated. The types of bread that bakers could bake, the grains to be used, and even their salaries were decreed by law.

Mixed Grain Breads (Time 0_02_31;00)
For centuries, white bread was revered by the public as the best bread to eat. The white bread flour came from regular flour that was bolted or sifted many times through cloth to get the finest flour available. Originally this flour was separated out and used only for sacramental bread or for the gentry, but over time, the regular public started to demand to have this white bread, too. Members of the medical community and government did their best to encourage the consumption of whole wheat or brown bread as it was thought that it was much healthier than the white bread that the common people demanded, but these claims were met with general resistance.

Mixed Grain Breads (Time 0_03_10;03)Mixed grain breads were made with a combination of grains, wheat, barley, oats, and rye. At other times, other things were included such as potatoes, rice, beans, or even peas. Mixed breads were generally considered far inferior in taste and texture to wheat breads.

Mixed Grain Breads (Time 0_00_52;01)Today we are going to be making a mixed grain bread made from wheat flour, rye flour, and barley flour. It would have been a much less expensive loaf to produce intended mostly for commoners. It would have been found in England and the American colonies.

 

  • 12 oz. Ale (home brew or good imported)
  • ½ cup Wheat Flour
  • 1 ½ tsps. Dry Active Yeast
  • 8 oz. Wheat Flour ( about 1 ½ cups)
  • 8 oz. Rye Flour (about 1 ¾ cups)
  • 8 oz. Barley Flour (about 2 cups)
  • 1 tbsp. Salt
  • 4-6 oz. Water
  • Cornmeal

Let’s start by talking about yeast. Bakers in the 18th century got their yeast from the brewer. The brewer collected the yeast by skimming the croizen or the foam that is on the top of a fermenting batch of ale. Bakers would then cultivate this yeast. It was called barm and it was in a liquid form.

Mixed Grain Breads (Time 0_03_55;20)
To make your own barm you need some ale, either a home brew or a good imported ale. You could use water, but ale makes a better product with a more authentic flavored bread when you’re finished. In a clean bottle place about a half a cup of wheat flour and add 1 ½ teaspoons of dry active yeast. Mixed Grain Breads (Time 0_04_32;23)
Add a 12 ounce bottle of ale and give it a really good shake to get all the dry ingredients mixed up. Once you’ve got it all good and mixed up you can set it aside to give it 15 or 20 minutes to activate.

Our dough is fairly simple. We’ve got three kinds of flour, wheat, rye, barley. Since the flours have different densities, it’s best to weigh them, but in this case it turns out to be about a 1 ½ cups of wheat flour, a 1 ¾ cups of rye, and 2 cups of barley flour. That’s about 8 ounces of each one of these flours. Because we’re using both wheat flour and rye flour, this is sometimes called maslin bread. All these flours are usually available at your local grocery store in the specialty baking section. To this we’re going to add about a tablespoon of salt, and mix it up.

Mixed Grain Breads (Time 0_05_47;01)
Now let’s add our barm with about 4-6 ounces of water and mix it until it makes a nice sticky, but firm dough. We’re going to knead this quite a while until the dough becomes very elastic, and then form it up into a loaf. Mixed Grain Breads (Time 0_06_36;28)Sprinkle your pie pan with a little bit of flour, put the loaf in there, and cover it with natural linen. This is a whole grain dough, so it’s going to take quite a while to rise, even overnight. We want it to rise until it’s about twice as big as when it started.

Mixed Grain Breads (Time 0_06_58;20)When your bread is ready to bake, make sure to preheat your oven. If you’re using an earthen oven, you want to get that up to full temperature and then let it cool down to bread temperatures. If you don’t have your wood fired oven yet, you can use a standard home oven. You want to make sure to preheat it to about 400 degrees.

Mixed Grain Breads (Time 0_08_00;16)
Once your dough has risen properly, sprinkle some cornmeal onto your peel and turn out the dough onto your peel, then transfer into the oven. Mixed Grain Breads (Time 0_08_04;13)
Your bread’s going to take 30-45 minutes to bake depending on the temperature of your oven. When it’s done, it should sound hollow when tapped and you should let it cool at least an hour before slicing.

Mixed Grain Breads (Time 0_08_49;29)
You know, the crust might be tough, but for all their complaints about this not being white bread, this mixed grain bread is very good.

Transcription of Video:

Bread was an important food source in the 18th century. Not only was it a staple, in and of itself but it was also an important ingredient in many other foods. It was known to many as a staff of life. Bread played such an important role in the nutritional needs of society that when there were shortages in the supply of wheat, other grains had to be used to avoid mass starvation.

Today we’re going to be making a multigrain loaf. It’ll be very similar to the kind of bread used to feed common people in the 18th century.

During the latter half of the 18th century, western European countries saw a massive increase in population. England itself saw a 70% increase in its population during that same period. This expansion had a dramatic effect on the demand and availability of food. Wheat for instance doubled in price in this time period. The result was an important trade link between the American colonies and England.

Wheat became the largest export crop for the Mid-Atlantic colonies in the 1700s. When George Washington decided to diversify away from tobacco, he chose to cultivate wheat and consumer goods that were imported into the colonies were often paid for in wheat flour. Back in England, wheat was so important in feeding the populous that the British government enacted laws regulating the production of bread. These ordinances fixed the price of the bread while controlling the weight of each loaf all according to the price of wheat flour. Commercial baking became highly regulated. The types of bread that bakers could bake, the grains to be used and even their salaries were decreed by law.

For centuries, white bread was revered by the public as the best bread to eat. The white bread flour came from regular flour that was bolted or sifted many times through cloth to get the finest flour available. Originally this flour was separated out and used only for sacramental bread or for bread for the gentry, but over time, the regular public started to demand to have this white bread too. Members of the medical community and government did their best to encourage the consumption of whole wheat or brown bread as it was thought that it was much more healthy than the white bread that the common people demanded, but these claims were met with general resistance.

These mixed grain breads were made with a combination of grains, wheat, barley, oats, and rye, and at other times other things were included, potatoes, rice, beans, even peas. Mixed breads were generally considered far inferior in taste and in texture to wheat breads. This is a loaf that’s made from a regulated ratio of two parts green pea flour to one part wheat flour. This is not the bread we are going to make today. Instead we’re going to be making this mixed bread. It’s made from wheat flour, rye flour and barley flour. It would have been a much less expensive loaf to produce intended mostly for commoners. It would have been found in England and the American colonies. Let’s get started.

Let’s start by talking about yeast. Bakers in the 18th century got their yeast from the brewer. The brewer collected the yeast by skimming the croizen or the foam that is on the top of a fermenting batch of ale. Bakers would then cultivate this yeast. It was called barm and it was in a liquid form. Here’s how to make your own barm. You need some ale, either a home brew or a good imported ale. You could use water, but ale makes a better product, a more authentic flavored bread when you’re finished. We’ve got a bottle here with about a half a cup of wheat flour in it and to that I’m going to add 1 ½ teaspoons of dry active yeast and to that I’m going to add this 12 ounce bottle of imported ale, and we need to give this a really good shake and get all the dry ingredients mixed up. Once you’ve got it all good and mixed up you can set this aside, give it 15 or 20 minutes to activate. Our dough is fairly simple. We’ve got three kinds of flour. I’ve got a wheat flour, a rye flour and a barley flour. Because the flours have different densities, it’s best to weigh them, but in this case it turns out to be about a cup and a half of wheat flour, a cup and three quarters of rye and two cups of barley flour. That’s about 8 ounces of each one of these flours. Because we’re using both wheat flour and rye flour, this is sometimes called maslin bread. All these flours are usually available at your local grocery store in the specialty baking section. To this we’re going to add about a tablespoon of salt, and now we can mix it up.

Now let’s add our barm. We’re going to add that with about 4-6 ounces of water and we’re going to mix this and it should make a nice sticky, but firm dough.

We’re going to knead this quite a while until the dough becomes very elastic. Now I’m going to form this up into a loaf. We’re going to take our red ware pie pan and sprinkle it with a little bit of flour and we can put our loaf in there and cover it with natural linen. Natural linen is something that we offer on our website and in our print catalog. This is a whole grain dough. It’s going to take quite a while to rise, several hours, even overnight. We want it to rise until it’s about twice as big as when it started.

We want to make sure to preheat our oven. If you’re using an earthen oven, you want to get that up to full temperature and then let it cool down to bread temperatures. If you haven’t got your wood fired oven yet, you can use a standard home oven. You want to make sure to preheat it to about 400 degrees.

For more information about baking in an earthen oven like this, you want to make sure to check out our video Baking Bread in an Earthen Oven Part 2. We’re going to transfer our dough onto our peel. First we sprinkle a little corn meal and now we can turn our dough out onto the peel.

Your bread’s going to take 30-45 minutes to bake depending on the temperature of your oven.

Well, this looks done. It should sound hollow when tapped and you should let this cool at least an hour before slicing.

You know, the crust might be tough, but for all their complaints about this not being white bread, this mixed grain bread is very good.Be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel so that you can get notifications of new videos when they come out and check out our Facebook page so you can get all the latest news from Jas. Townsend and Son. All the items you’ve seen here today, all the cooking utensils, all the clothing, these things are available on our website or in our print catalog. I want to thank you for joining us today and I want to invite you to come along to enjoy the flavors and the aromas of the 18th century.

Posted in 18th Century Cooking, Baking, Bread, Historic Cooking, Ingredients, Recipe, Video | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

18th Century Cornbread

Cornbread (Time 0_01_23;05)
For common people in 18th century Great Britain and the American colonies, there were three main dietary pillars, bread, porridge, and ale. People depended on these three things for survival. While there were many similarities between English cooking and that of the colonies. There were also some vast differences as well.

Breads were made with other grains in addition to wheat to make a cheaper loaf for laborers. These breads were promoted to ease the tremendous demand on wheat in Great Britain and Western Europe. This demand for wheat created an important trade link between the mid-Atlantic colonies, where wheat was grown, and Great Britain. The majority of wheat that was grown in these colonies was exported. Cornbread (Time 0_00_47;06)
This created a void of sorts in the food supply for the colonists. It was only natural for this void to be filled by something that was native to the Americas, corn

Cornbread (Time 0_01_00;00)
The word corn, used in the 18th century, meant a kernel or granule of something, like a grain of wheat, rice, barely, or even gunpowder. When we say corn we usually mean yellow corn, field corn, or sweet corn, but in the 18th century they always used the term Indian corn or maize.

Cornbread (Time 0_02_04;04)
In Great Britain, the common perception was that Indian corn was unfit for human consumption. They considered it animal fodder. You simply won’t find recipes that use corn in the old English cookbooks of the 18th century. Cornbread (Time 0_02_33;19)There’s a passage in Joseph Plum Martins Revolutionary War Memoir that expresses this sentiment. “When they (the British soldiers) could find none to wreak their vengeance upon, they cut open the knap sacks of the(Continental) guard and strew the Indian meal about the floor, laughing at the poverty of the Yankee soldiery who had nothing but hogs fodder, as they termed it, to eat.”

Cornbread (Time 0_02_39;10)
The earliest European settlers to the Americas were introduced to this grain by the Indians. They’d been cultivating and eating corn for thousands of years. As demand grew for wheat in the growing Western Europe, more and more of it was exported away from the American colonies. Corn grew in importance in the diet of the colonists, especially for the rural and the poor. So interestingly the three dietary pillars of porridge, bread, and ale remained the same, but with variations. A porridge that was traditionally made with oatmeal was made with cornmeal in the colonies. The wheat in bread that was eaten in Europe was made into corn journey cakes or Johnny cakes, and of course ale was sometimes replaced by corn whiskey.

Cornbread (Time 0_02_16;21)
In our research, we did find a number of 18th century experimental recipes for yeast based bread using Indian corn. These British recipes used a combination of cornmeal and wheat flour very similar to other mixed grain breads. Now it makes a very delicious loaf, but it appears that it was very unpopular. Here’s one authors appeal. He says, “This makes a very cheap and flavorful and nourishing bread. The color of it is true, is very different from that of common bread, but we often eat, by choice, cakes and other kinds of confectionary as deep colored as this and provided that what is set before us is palatable and wholesome, we must not, in times of scarcity, object to it because it may not be altogether pleasing to the sight.”Cornbread (Time 0_04_08;20)

Now when you think of cornbread, you probably think of something like a box of Jiffy mix. These modern day mixes depend on baking soda or baking powder to give it a light and airy texture, but the earliest forms of cornbread in colonial America were of an unleavened type, very similar to the oat cakes or bannock bread that you’d find in the Scottish highlands. It wasn’t until the early 19th century that chemical leavening agents like pearl ash or Saleratus were introduced and used to make a cornbread that we might be familiar with.

Cornbread (Time 0_04_50;29)
We are going to use the earliest cornbread recipe that we have so far from Amelia Simmons in 1796.

  • 1 cup Milk
  • 3 tbsp. Butter
  • 1 tbsp. Molasses
  • 1 pinch Salt
  • 3 cups Cornmeal
  • ½ cup Wheat Flour

Cornbread (Time 0_05_02;17)Place your milk in a saucepan over low heat to scald. To it, add the butter, molasses, and salt, and stir well.

Cornbread (Time 0_05_39;03)
In a separate bowl, mix three cups of cornmeal and a half a cup of wheat flour. After the milk is heated, add it to the cornmeal and mix it well.

Now you can cook it in two different ways.

Cornbread (Time 0_06_18;09)
You can pour it into an already greased pie pan and bake it. When it’s done in this method, it’s called a common loaf. Preheat your oven to about 375 degrees and cook for about a half an hour in this way.

Cornbread (Time 0_06_53;06)
You can also make up some journey cakes or Johnny cakes. Just form up some patties, about a half an inch thick or so and three or four inches around, and then fry them in a pan. If we’re going to use these as journey cakes, take them with us in a haversack, we want to cook them dry without any oil or butter in the pan. Cornbread (Time 0_07_09;06)
If you’re going to eat them right away, you can use butter or grease in your pan and they are really tasty.

Laborers and slaves would bake these cakes on their hoes right over an open fire, thus the name hoe cakes. They could also be baked on a bannock board right before the fire.

Cornbread (Time 0_07_56;13)
This is a great simple adaptation of bread made with corn in a North American kind of way. I’ve also run into a sauce in an old cookbook that goes great with this cornbread. It’s got molasses, butter, and a splash of vinegar. This would make a great meal in and of itself and also very good with soup or beans.

 


Transcription of Video:

In our last episode, we covered mixed breads. These mixed grain breads were made with other grains in addition to wheat to make a cheaper loaf for laborers. These breads were promoted to ease the demand on wheat in Great Britain and Western Europe. As we discussed, this demand for wheat created an important trade link between the mid-Atlantic colonies where wheat was grown and Great Britain. The majority of wheat that was grown in these colonies was exported. This created a void of sorts in the food supply for the colonists. It was only natural for this void to be filled by something that was native to the Americas, corn. In our recent episodes, we’ve taken a closer look at breads of the 18th century. In this episode, we’re going to be looking at an early cornbread.

For common people in 18th century Great Britain and the American colonies, there existed three main dietary pillars, bread, pottage, and ale. People depended on these three things for survival. While there were many similarities between English cooking and that of the colonies. There were also some vast differences as well. Using corn was one of them.

Now before we proceed, let’s clarify the word corn. Corn used in the 18th century meant a kernel or granule of something, like a grain of wheat, or rice, or barely, or even gunpowder. When we say corn we usually mean yellow corn, field corn, or sweet corn, but in the 18th century they always used the term Indian corn or maize. In Great Britain, the common perception was that Indian corn was unfit for human consumption. They considered it animal fodder. You simply won’t find recipes that use corn in the old English cookbooks of the 18th century. There’s a passage in Joseph Plum Martins Revolutionary War Memoir that expresses this sentiment. “When they (speaking of British soldiers) could find none to wreak their vengeance upon, they cut open the knap sacks of the guard (the continental guard that is) and strew the Indian meal about the floor, laughing at the poverty of the Yankee soldiery who had nothing but hogs fodder, as they termed it, to eat.”

The earliest European settlers to the Americas were introduced to this grain, this corn, by the Indians. They’d been cultivating it, eating this corn, for thousands of years, so as demand grew for wheat in the growing Western Europe, more and more of it was exported away from the American colonies. Corn grew in importance in the diet of the colonists, especially for the rural and the poor. So interestingly the three dietary pillars of porridge, bread, and ale, they remained the same, but with variations. A porridge that was traditionally made with oatmeal is made with cornmeal in the colonies. The wheat in bread that was eaten in Europe gets made into corn journey cakes or Johnny cakes, and of course ale sometimes replaced by corn whiskey.

In our research, we did find a number of 18th century experimental recipes for yeast based bread using Indian corn. These British recipes used a combination of cornmeal and wheat flour very similar to the mixed grain breads that we made in our last episode. Now it makes a very delicious loaf, but it appears that it was very unpopular. Here’s one authors appeal. He says, “This makes a very cheap and flavorful and nourishing bread. The color of it is true, is very different from that of common bread, but we often eat, by choice, cakes and other kinds of confectionary as deep colored as this and provided that what is set before us is palatable and wholesome, we must not, in times of scarcity, object to it because it may not be altogether pleasing to the sight.”

Now when you think of cornbread, you probably think of something like this. These modern day mixes depend on baking soda or baking powder to give it a light and airy texture but the earliest forms of cornbread in colonial America were of an unleavened type, very similar to the oat cakes or bannock bread that you’d find in the Scottish highlands. It wasn’t until the early 19th century that chemical leavening agents like pearl ash or Saleratus were introduced and used to make a cornbread that we might be used to.

The earliest cornbread recipe we have so far is from Amelia Simmons in 1796. Let’s make some.

We’ll start with about a cup of milk. I’ll put this in a saucepan over a low heat to scald. To this I’m going to add three tablespoons of butter, a tablespoon of molasses, and a pinch of salt. Now let’s stir this around.

In a separate bowl, I’ve got three cups of cornmeal and a half a cup of wheat flour. After the milk is heated, I’m going to add this to our cornmeal and mix it well.

Now we’ve gone ahead and made a second batch so that we can cook it in two different ways. We’re going to take this second batch and pour it into an already greased pie pan and we’ll bake this. When it’s done in this method, it’s called a common loaf.

And we’re just going to settle that into our pan evenly and put this into the oven already preheated.

For more information about how to cook with one of these earthen ovens, make sure to check out our Building an Earthen Oven Part 2: Baking Bread. That’ll teach you how to use this. If you’re going to be using a regular oven at home, you can bake this at 375 degrees for about a half an hour.

While our common loaf is baking, we’re going to make up some journey cakes or Johnny cakes. I’ve got our other batch of dough here and I’m just going to form up some patties, about a half an inch thick or so and three or four inches around, and these we can fry in our pan. If we’re going to use these as journey cakes, take them with us in a haversack, we want to cook them dry without any oil or butter in the pan. If you’re going to eat them right away, you can use butter or grease in your pan and they are really tasty.

Laborers and slaves would bake these cakes on the hoes right over an open fire, thus the name hoe cakes. They could also be baked on a bannock board right before the fire.

A great simple adaptation of bread made with corn in a North American kind of way. I’ve got a sauce here. It’s something I ran into in an old cookbook. It’s got molasses, butter, and a splash of vinegar. Let’s try this out with a little bit of our cornbread here.

Mmm. This would make a great meal in and of itself and also very good with soup or beans. Be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel so that you can get notifications of new videos when they come out and check out our Facebook page so you can get all the latest news from Jas. Townsend and Son. All the items you’ve seen here today, all the cooking utensils, all the clothing, these things are available on our website or in our print catalog. I want to thank you for joining us today and I want to invite you to come along to enjoy the flavors and the aromas of the 18th century.

Posted in 18th Century Cooking, Baking, Bread, Historic Cooking, Ingredients, Recipe, Video | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Seasoning Cast Iron Cookware

Cast Iron (Time 0_00_15;15)Before you can cook with ironware, it has to be seasoned, and the seasoning does several different things. First of all, it keeps your ironware from rusting. It also creates a nonstick surface, so it makes it much easier to clean after you’re done cooking, and it also separates your food from the metal so you don’t get a metallic taste in your food when it’s done.

  • Cast Ironware unseasoned, washed and rinsed completely
  • Oil of your choice
  • Oven or Open Flame

So the idea of seasoning is to get multiple layers of carbonized oil on the metal. Cast Iron (Time 0_01_26;25)
Most oils work just fine, some better than others. It used to be that most people used animal fats like lard or beef tallow. Most people today use vegetable oil. We are using flax seed oil because it seems to give the hardest nonstick surface of any of the vegetable oils but it does go rancid rather rapidly so be sure that it is fresh however once it has been carbonized on the surface, you don’t have to worry about it going rancid anymore.

Make sure that your ironware is completely clean and that you have removed any wax coating or old seasoning and that all soap residue has been washed off completely, then as soon as it’s out of the water you want to warm it up and dry it off to make sure it doesn’t rust.

Cast Iron (Time 0_04_47;16)
Once your ironware is dry and warm wipe a thin coating all over the inside and outside. You want to make sure to have your work surface protected, because this is a messy job. Once we’ve got the oil completely covering this pot on every surface, then we can take a rag and we can wipe it off, making sure that we don’t have any excess oil. We don’t want it to pool up and get thick any place. We want to have just one thin layer.

There are two ways to fire your ironware. You can use an oven if your piece is small enough to fit inside or you can use an open flame. Either way, this is a smoky, smelly operation. If you choose to do it inside your home, you will need to open all the doors and windows to let the smoke out of the house.

If you choose to put it in the oven, preheat your oven to the highest temperature, 450 degrees or more, place the pot inside and keep an eye on it. When it starts to smoke and turn black you will want to take it out and put another coat of oil on it placing it back into the oven until you have at least a half dozen coats of seasoning or so.

Cast Iron (Time 0_05_10;27)
If you choose to do this on an open flame, you want to heat it up evenly until you start to see some smoke and the pan starts to turn black. Be aware that you can actually burn the seasoning off the pan if you let it set on the fire for too long. As soon as it starts to turn black, remove the pan from the fire and rub with another thin coat of oil making sure to get the bottom and sides as well as the inside.  Cast Iron (Time 0_05_30;07)
Place it back over the fire for a few minutes and repeat until you have at least a half dozen coats of seasoning.

Seasoning your ironware is a simple but necessary task for your ironware. When you’re taking care of this seasoning, you want to make sure that when you wash out these pots, you don’t leave them soaking a long time, you don’t use harsh detergents or it will go into the coating and make your food taste like soap the next time you use it, and you want to make sure to store them so that they stay nice and dry.Cast Iron (Time 0_06_13;20)

 


Transcript of Video:

If you seek the advice of 50 different people about seasoning cast ironware, you’ll likely get 52 answers. Today we’re going to look at how to season your cast ironware.

Before you can cook with ironware, it has to be seasoned, and the seasoning does several different things. First of all, it keeps your ironware from rusting. It also creates a nonstick surface so it makes it much easier to clean after you’re done cooking, and it also separates your food from the metal so you don’t get a metallic taste in your food when it’s done.

So the idea of seasoning is to get multiple layers of carbonized oil on the metal. The real questions are what oil do we use and how do we get it carbonized?

So, the first question, what oil? You’re going to get a whole lot of different answers about what kind of oil to use and most oils are going to work just fine, some better than others. In the time period, most people probably used animal fats like lard or beef tallow. Most people today, they use vegetable oil. Today we’re going to be using flax seed oil. Flax seed oil seems to give the hardest nonstick surface of any of the vegetable oils, it does go rancid rather rapidly so you want to make sure to use fresh flax seed oil. Once it’s been carbonized on the surface we don’t have to worry about it going rancid.

As for the how, we’re going to do two different methods of seasoning today and which one you choose really depends on the tools you have available to you and how big the piece is that you need to do. Today we’re going to season a small cast iron pot. Now this guy’s small enough that he’ll fit in our oven so we can simply bake the finish on. The pot we’re using today is a brand new one so it doesn’t have any coatings on it at all. If you have a pot that has any kind of wax coating or old seasoning on it you want to make sure to wash these off, even new ones like this, wash it off to get any coatings at all.

Make sure you get any soap residues washed off completely and then as soon as it’s out of the water you want to warm it up and dry off the pot to make sure it doesn’t rust.

Our pot is now dry and it’s warm. It being warmed up’s really going to help the oil soak into the pores. Let’s get some oil onto this.

We’re going to put oil on the inside and the outside of the pot. You want to get a nice thin coating all over the inside and all over the outside. You want to make sure to have your work surface protected because this is a messy job. Once we’ve got the oil completely covering this pot on every surface, then we can take a rag and we can wipe it off, making sure that we don’t have any excess oil. We don’t want it to pool up and get thick any place. We want to have just one thin layer.

Okay, so I’ve got the oven fired up. It’s 500 or 600 degrees in there. You may not have an oven like this, you can do this in a regular home oven, just set it for 450 or 500, whatever the maximum temperature is for your home oven, but be aware that this is a smoky and smelly operation. If you do it in your home, you’re going to need the windows open, the doors open.

While that’s baking, we’re going to season another method. If you’re object is too large to bake or if you want to do it outside on an open fire where the smoke wont harm your house, you can do the seasoning on an open fire. What we’re going to do is we’re going to take one of these little folding frying pans and we’re going to season this on an open flame. Our folding frying pans come preseasoned but if you want them to work better, it’s best to get another couple coatings of seasoning on the pan.

I’ve got this pan heated up just like I heated up the other piece, and we’re going to put oil on it.

We want to get a coating on this pan exactly like the other pot. We want to get a nice thin layer on all the surfaces on the outside and the inside. Let’s put it on the fire.

Now let’s heat the pan up until we start to see some smoke. So as this heats up it’s going to start smoking and it’s going to start turning black and what we want to do is make sure that we don’t get it too hot. It’s a bit of a fine line. If you get it too hot, you’ll actually burn the seasoning off. You don’t want to do that, but as soon as that turns black and starts smoking up, we’re going to put another thin layer on it. You also want to hit the bottom so that it gets a good layer on it and then we just put it back on again for a minute or so. We want to have a lot of layers on this. At least a half a dozen.

As you can see, for a job like this a good pair of leather gloves, it’s a must.

Looks like the pan is done. I’ve got a good half a dozen coats of seasoning on this. It’s a nice even black color on the inside. It hasn’t gotten too hot, hasn’t burned the seasoning off, so this pan is done. Now it’s time to look to see how our pot is doing in the oven.

This pot as just a single layer of seasoning on it, so we’re going to need to do the same thing. We’re going to need to use our cloth and put on more oil, nice thin coat, put it back in the oven.

Seasoning, it’s a simple but necessary task for your cookware. When you’re taking care of this seasoning you want to make sure that when you wash out these pots, you don’t leave them soaking a long time, don’t use harsh detergents or those will go into the coating and make your food taste like soap the next time you use it and you want to make sure to store them so that they stay nice and dry.

All the items you’ve seen in this episode today, they’re in our print catalog, they’re on our website and don’t forget to follow us on Facebook.

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Simple Biscuits

Today’s recipe is based on a recipe out of Eliza Smith’s cookbook and let me read you the recipe. It says, “To make biscuits, to a quart of flour take a quarter of a pound of butter and a quarter of a pound of sugar, one egg and what caraway seeds you please, wet it with milk as stiff as you can and then roll them out very thin. Cut them with a small glass and bake them on tin plates. Your oven must be slack. Prick them well just before you set them in and keep them dry when baked.”bisketSimple Biscuits (Time 0_00_21;02)

  • 4 cups Flour
  • ½ cup sugar
  • Caraway seeds
  • 1 Egg
  • 4 oz. Butter
  • Milk

While preheating your oven to 250-300 degrees, allow your butter to melt, but don’t let it get hot enough to cook your egg.

Simple Biscuits (Time 0_01_56;22)
Now start off with 4 cups of flour and mix in about a half cup of sugar. Now’s a good time to add you caraway seeds to our mixture, and you just add as many as you think is fit for your taste. Once that is good and mixed, whisk up your egg and add it to the flour. Next, the butter can be added to the mixture.

Simple Biscuits (Time 0_02_32;16)
The recipe says to mix these in and we will get too stiff of a paste and we add the milk in to get to the right consistency. Just add the milk a little bit at a time until you have the right stiffness, then turn out onto a floured surface and work into a flat sheet, probably about an eighth of an inch thick.

Simple Biscuits (Time 0_03_26;17)
Cut out your biscuits and place on a well-greased baking tin. You don’t have to worry about these growing on the sheet so you can put these right up against each other. There’s not leavening in this. They’re almost a bit more like a cracker than they are a biscuit. All we need to do is place them on the tin and then right before we put them in the oven we’re going to follow the directions in the book and poke little holes in them.Simple Biscuits (Time 0_04_48;20)

Depending on the temperature of your oven these will take about 7 to 15 minutes. When they are done they will be a very light golden brown and crispy. These should be kept in a cool dry place for storage.Simple Biscuits (Time 0_05_58;18)

 


Transcript of Video:

18th century cookbooks abound with recipes for simple biscuits. Something we might call a cross between a cookie and a cracker. Today we’re going to bake some simple biscuits.

Today’s recipe is based on a recipe out of Eliza Smith’s cookbook and let me read you the recipe. It says, “To make biscuits, to a quart of flour take a quarter of a pound of butter and a quarter of a pound of sugar, one egg and what caraway seeds you please, wet it with milk as stiff as you can and then roll them out very thin. Cut them with a small glass and bake them on tin plates. Your oven must be slack. Prick them well just before you set them in and keep them dry when baked.”

Today’s simple biscuit recipe has flour, butter, some eggs, a little bit of sugar, milk and caraway seeds for flavoring. Caraway seeds are a favorite flavoring for biscuits and cookies in the 18th century.

I’ve got my oven preheating and while that’s preheating I’m going to set four ounces of butter here in a skillet right at the edge of the oven to melt it.

We’re going to start with four cups of flour and into that I’m going to mix up a half a cup of sugar.

Now’s a good time to add our caraway seeds to our mixture, and you just add as many as you think is fit for your taste. Now it’s time to take one egg, whisk it up and add it to our flour. Let’s get this whisked here.

It doesn’t need to be done extremely well. This is just to get it mixed up. Let’s put that into our flour.

And now our premelted butter, we can add that right in too. We want to make sure it’s not too hot. We don’t want to cook our egg with that. Let’s get this mixed up.

The recipe says to mix these in and we will get too stiff of a paste and we add the milk in to get to the right consistency.

We’re just going to go a little bit at a time and I think just a little bit more should bring us to our right stiffness.

Okay, let’s turn this out onto a floured surface and we can start to work it into a flat sheet.

We’ve got some flour here. Just get a nice surface, turn out our dough here. Let’s roll this out.

Recipe calls for it to be very thin. There, I’ve got that rolled out nice and thin. Probably about an eighth of an inch thick, and we are going to now cut these out and put them on our baking tin.

I’ve got the oven cleaned out and I’m going to make sure to put a trivet in the oven so that the biscuits don’t burn on the bottom.

I’ve got a well-greased baking tin here. Let’s put our biscuits on there and we don’t have to worry about these growing on the sheet so we can put these right up against each other. There’s not leavening in this. They’re almost a bit more like a cracker than they are a biscuit. All we need to do is place them on the tin and then right before we put them in the oven we’re going to follow the directions in the book and poke little holes in them.

The recipe calls for a slack oven so under 300 degrees. 250-300.

There we go. And this is going to take, depending on the temperature of your oven, 7 to 15 minutes.

18th century cookbooks are chalked full of really interesting recipes. They’re a great way to kind of dig back into history and find out what it was really like through taste. Now I can smell those biscuits cooking so they’re probably just about right. They’re one of those kinds things you really have to watch them to make sure they don’t burn. You don’t want to get these all black on the bottom. Let’s go check these out.

It looks like they’ve turned out just perfectly. Very light golden brown. Nice and crispy, they should be something that’s kept dry. They’re meant to be a crispy dry snappy kind of a cookie, almost a cross between a cracker and a cookie. Very good.

All of the things you’ve seen here today, all of the cooking equipment and the clothing, these things are available on our website, in our print catalog and don’t forget to follow us on Facebook.

Posted in 18th Century Cooking, Baking, Historic Cooking, Ingredients, Recipe, Video | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

How to Build an Earthen Oven

Build Earthen Oven (Time 0_00_41;14)
The existence of ovens like this is easily documented for the 18th century. In fact, just about every ancient culture had a very similar oven. There’s one particular wood cut illustration from medieval times depicting an earthen oven built on a wagon.
There are references in 18th century literature and also archaeological evidence that you would find ovens like these in private homes and in fort settings. There are also references to communal ovens where the baker would bake bread for an entire village.Build Earthen Oven (Time 0_01_10;13)

  • Sand
  • Clay
  • Straw, Dried Grass or Hay
  • paper
  • Bricks
  • Canvas Tarp
  • Water

Build Earthen Oven (Time 0_00_17;16)Before you build your oven, you have to consider what you’re going to build your oven on. There are historical examples of ovens built on tables, brick or stone plinths, and hearths. You will also need to make sure that your oven is protected from the weather. This is water soluble and it will just wash away with the rain, so if we need this to last a while you’re going to want a little roof over it.

Build Earthen Oven (Time 0_01_32;28)
Once you have decided where you are going to put it, lay out a layer of brick for the floor of the oven and chalk out a design. Ours is about 22 inches across for the inside measurement. Build Earthen Oven (Time 0_01_58;15)
The walls are going to be about 6 inches think. Build Earthen Oven (Time 0_02_01;07)
Our door is about 12 inches across so we can get something as big as a pie in without too much trouble. Build Earthen Oven (Time 0_02_11;16)There aren’t very many critical things about the shape and the size of your particular oven, but there is one critical thing, and that is the height of the opening tunnel compared to the height of your dome. This has to be a particular ratio or else the air won’t draw through when you’re burning the wood inside. The tunnel needs to be between 60-65%, or about 63%, of the height of the dome.Build Earthen Oven (Time 0_02_42;04)

Once you have decided on the design of your oven, you should start working on your cob. Build Earthen Oven (Time 0_04_28;29)
You probably want to make a whole bunch of this cob beforehand. It ages well, so it won’t go bad waiting overnight, and that way, as soon as you’re done with your sand castle core, you can start putting it on right away and you don’t have to worry about the sand drying out and blowing away while you’re making your cob. Make sure to wrap your wet cob in plastic so that it does not dry out before you are ready to use it.

The inner most layer of mud or cob that we’re going to put on our oven is just sand and clay. About 2 parts sand to 1 part clay. You mix those two together so that they’re very well mixed. Build Earthen Oven (Time 0_04_53;15)
We want to make sure it’s got about the right consistency that we can still work it but it isn’t so wet that it’s sloppy, and you want to make sure to err on the side of a little more sand than too much clay. The more clay you’ve got the more it’s going to shrink and crack. Learning just the right consistency can be tricky. Build Earthen Oven (Time 0_04_57;25)
You want it to form into a ball, like a snowball and does not deform easily.

Now you want to go ahead and build the core. Build Earthen Oven (Time 0_02_28;16)
This is going to be like a sand castle, just very wet sand that we’re going to build the oven over the top of. You need to make sure that the sand stays wet until we get the first layer on. Sometimes you’ll see other people doing it with sticks and things like that, but this is going to be much easier and quicker. At the door, you should place a brick wall, to get a nice flat surface to build up against.

Once your inner core is built, you need to put paper on it. Build Earthen Oven (Time 0_03_26;13)
Wet the paper down and layer it over the sand to give us a layer to separate the sand from the inner surface and make later removal of the sand easier. Once the paper is on you can start putting on the first layer of cob.

Build Earthen Oven (Time 0_05_27;15)
This first layer does not have any straw or hay because that would just burn up anyway. It needs to be about 3 inches thick. Start from the very bottom and work your way up so you can watch as you go to make sure the thickness stays about the same. When you are done with this layer, allow it to set overnight so it will be slightly firmer but don’t allow it to get too dry or else the next layer won’t adhere properly. Scratch up the layer a little bit so the next layer of cob adheres nicely.Build Earthen Oven (Time 0_09_39;06)

The next layer of cob that we put on is going to have grass or hay or straw in it to give it a lot more strength than the inner layer. We’re going to mix our clay and our sand first. As soon as that’s getting close to the right consistency, that’s when we’ll add our other binding material in.Build Earthen Oven (Time 0_06_48;16)

We need to mix this up just slightly wetter, since we’re going to add in dry straw, it’s going to dry it up a bit. This will add some amazing strength to it. When it dries up it really binds it together.Build Earthen Oven (Time 0_06_58;14)

It’s helpful to make this cob up beforehand. It really makes it work better if its couple days old, but you don’t want to let it get too old because as it’s wet for a long time, the grass will start to rot in there, so you don’t want that to happen. If it’s a day or two old, keep it wrapped in plastic so it’s wet and pliable. It’ll really work even better after a day or two.

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So, to make this go faster, I suggest you invite a bunch of friends over. Have a cob party. They can be stomping on this stuff while you’re putting it on your stove. Everyone will have fun.

About five or six big loaves of cob ready to go is a good start. I’m not sure exactly how many it’s going to take to cover this oven, so we’re going to put this on and then see how much more is needed.
Build Earthen Oven (Time 0_08_01;11)
The outside layer should also be about 3 inches thick. Make sure your loaves butt up well with the inner core so there isn’t a big air space between them and just start adding on your cob all the way around. Build Earthen Oven (Time 0_08_07;00)
You might want to start a little thinner at the bottom than the finish because some of it will sag down into position a little bit as you go.

Build Earthen Oven (Time 0_08_42;25)When you are done with the main body, remove the brick wall at the opening and add a nice rounded opening to it because it will have more strength than a sharp one.Build Earthen Oven (Time 0_09_03;14) Keep in mind that whenever you add two pieces together you really have to work it so that the two pieces adhere to each other and it doesn’t just fall off. Add some sand to the opening to support the new lip around the opening.Build Earthen Oven (Time 0_09_32;00)

Depending on where you’re at, your environment, the time of year, and what the humidity is, this could take anywhere from 2 to 4 week or longer for it to get dry enough for you to even start thinking about warming it up from the inside. While it’s drying, you don’t want it to get rained on so you’re going to need to protect it from the weather, but don’t cover it with plastic so that it can’t dry. You want to protect it from the rain, but still let it breath.

Build Earthen Oven (Time 0_10_25;07)
After it has started drying out enough to support itself you can start slowly digging the sand out and even pulling off some of the paper. Don’t worry too much about the paper because it will burn out anyway. Every few days dig out a little bit more of the sand so that you can start getting some are into the center of it to dry the inside.

Build Earthen Oven (Time 0_11_24;17)
Once the sand core has been removed and your oven is adequately dry you will be ready to fire it. If your oven is not adequately dry before you fire it, it will cause cracking, or at least more cracking than normal, in the body. Even if you wait like we did, it’s inevitable that some cracking will occur. Build Earthen Oven (Time 0_11_10;07)Don’t be alarmed if the cracks are especially big, you can repair them with a little extra sand and clay and let that dry in place. When the oven is close to dry, you can employ a few warming fires to help it along. The walls of this oven are extremely durable. Build Earthen Oven (Time 0_11_39;09)It takes a lot to break this material up so if you need to do modifications you really have to chop at it to break it.

 


Transcript of Video:

In this video, we’re going to show you how to build and earthen oven.

The existence of ovens like this is easily documented for the 18th century. In fact, just about every ancient culture had a very similar oven. There’s one particular wood cut illustration from medieval times depicting an earthen oven built on a wagon. There are references in 18th century literature and also archaeological evidence that you would find ovens like this in private homes and in fort settings. There are also references to communal ovens where the baker would bake bread for an entire village. We’re going to need several things to make our mud oven out of. We’re going to need sand. That’s the major component of our oven. We’re going to need a good bit of clay. This is dried clay you can get at a masonry store or you can get damp clay out of ditch bank. You’re going to need straw or dried grass or maybe hay. You may need some bricks, so some fire bricks, even regular bricks will work, and you’re going to need a canvas tarp to mix your cob together with and you’re definitely going to need a good bit of water.

Before you build your oven, you have to consider what you’re going to build your oven on. There are historical examples of ovens built on tables or on brick or stone plinths, on hearths. On the top of our very sturdy table, we’ve laid out a layer of fire brick. That’s doing to be the floor of our oven. We’ve also chalked out here the design. About 22 inches across to the bottom on the inside. That’s the inside measurement. The walls are going to be about 6 inches thick so we’ve got markings here so we can see about how big it’s going to look on the surface. The door width right here is about 12 inches across that we can get something as big as a pie in without too much trouble.

First thing we’re going to do is we’re going to build the core. It’s going to be like a sand castle, just wet sand that we’re going to build the oven over the top of. Sometimes you’ll see other people doing it with sticks and things like this, but this is going to be much easier and quicker. This is where our door is going to be. I just went ahead and put a couple of bricks in here to be the inner core of the door. They’ll be removed. And right here I placed a brick wall to give us a nice flat surface to build up against.

So we’ve taken about an hour to put this together. We’ve used very wet sand so that it stays into shape. Now we’ve got to make sure that this stays wet until we get our first layer on. There aren’t very many critical things about the shape and the size of your particular oven but there is one critical thing, and that is the height of the opening tunnel here compared to the height of your dome. These need to be a particular ratio or else the air won’t draw through this when you’re burning the wood inside of the thing. So, this is between 65 and 60% or about 63% height here compared to the height there.

The next thing we’re going to do is put paper on this. We’re going to put paper, we’re going to wet it down so that it’ll give us a layer to separate so when we take the sand out it doesn’t stick to the inner surface.

We’ve got the paper covering done on our sand inner core. This will make it much easier to take the core out from underneath it. Now it’s time to make the first layer of cob or mud to put on our oven.

This inner most layer of mud or cob that we’re going to put on our oven is just sand and clay. About 2 parts sand to 1 part clay. You mix those two together so that they’re very well mixed and then we just put it on there. We want to make sure it’s got about the right consistency that we can still work it but it isn’t so wet that it’s sloppy, and you want to make sure to have err on the side of a little more sand than too much clay. The more clay you’ve got the more it’s going to shrink and crack.

So you probably want to make a whole bunch of this cob beforehand. It ages well. It won’t go bad waiting overnight, and that way, as soon as you’re done with your sand castle core, you can start putting it on right away and you don’t have to worry about that drying out and blowing away while you’re making your cob.

So, learning just the right consistency can be a trick. As you see here, I’ve been stomping on this pile for a little while and this is starting to feel really good. It forms up into a ball, like a snowball. It doesn’t deform easily. It’s not sloppy and you can still form it into any shape you want and it’s not too drippy either. That’s what you’re looking for, something that holds together well but still moldable.

So we’re working on putting this first layer on. This is a layer without any straw in it because that would just burn up anyway. It’s about 3 inches thick and we’re starting at the very bottom and we’re going to work our way up, that way we can watch as we go to make sure our thickness stays about the same.

Well, we finished the inner mud layer yesterday afternoon and we let this set overnight and it’s just slightly firmer than it was. We don’t want to let it get too dry or else the next layer won’t adhere to this layer properly. We’ve scratched this layer a little bit so that the next layer of cob we put on here will adhere nicely. This next layer of cob that we put on, it’s going to have grass or hay or straw in it to give it a lot more strength than this inner layer.

We’re going to mix our clay and our sand first. As soon as that’s getting close to the right consistency, that’s when we’ll add our other binding material here.

So, we’ve got this mixed up. I’m going to mix this up just slightly wetter. It’s feeling like a pretty good consistency now under my feet and since we’re going to add in this dry straw here, it’s going to dry it up a bit so I’m going to start with slightly wetter mixture, but we wanted to get this mixed first and then add in the binder.

This will add some amazing strength to it. When it dries up it really binds it together. So it’s helpful to make this cob up beforehand. It really makes it work better if its couple days old, but you don’t want to let it get too old because as it’s wet for a long time, the grass will start to rot in there, so you don’t want that to happen. If it’s a day or two old, keep it wrapped in plastic so it’s wet and pliable. It’ll really work even better after a day or two.

So, to make this go faster, I suggest you invite a bunch of friends over. Have a cob party. They can be stomping on this stuff while you’re putting it on your stove. Everyone will have fun.

Well, I’ve got about five or six big loaves of cob here ready to go. I think that’s a good start. I’m not sure exactly how many it’s going to take to cover this oven, so we’re going to put this on and then I’ll see how much more I need to make.

I’ve got marks here on the table to get about 2.5 to 3 inches for the outside layer. I’m going to start putting on our loaves. We’re going to make sure they butt up well with the inner core here so there isn’t a big air space between them, and I’ll just start adding these on all the way around.

Okay, there it is. We’ve got the second layer of a cob type material on here. This is the stuff with the straw that’s built into it. It does, as you work it, it kind of sags down some so you might want to start a little thinner at the bottom than the finish, expecting some of it to sag down into position a little bit.

This gives us a good opportunity to look at the cross section of what’s going on here. You can see the cobs a little thicker down at the bottom than it is at the top because it’s kind of sagged a little bit. You can see our outer cob core, our inner core that doesn’t have the straw in it and here’s the sand core on the inside. We’re going to add a little bit to the outside here. We’re going to give it a nice rounded opening because a rounded opening is going to have more strength than this sharp one.

Well, we’ve finished putting our rounded opening on the oven so it will be a little bit stronger. We made sure to make the cob that we added back into this outer stuff. Whenever you add two pieces together you really have to work it so that the two pieces adhere to each other and it just doesn’t fall off. We added a little bit of sand on the front to help support that lip. Depending on where you’re at, your environment, the time of year, what the humidity is, this will take 2 weeks, 3 weeks, 4 weeks, maybe even a little bit longer for it to get dry enough for you start to even think about warming it up from the inside.

While this is drying, you don’t want it to get rained on so you’re going to protect this from the weather but don’t cover it with plastic so that it can’t dry. So you want to protect it from the rain but let it breath

So, it’s only been about 24 hours since we’ve been here last, but it’s firmed up enough with how the weather is here that we were able to go ahead and pull out some of the sand. I haven’t gone and dug the whole thing out but I wanted to let it start to dry out on the inside and even pull off some of the paper if you want to. That will all burn out anyway, but we just dug it out about halfway. We’ll come back in a couple of days and take out more.

We’ve removed the sand core from this oven and we’ve given it a couple weeks to dry so it’s almost ready to fire. You may not have to wait this long if you build an oven but if it’s not adequately dry before you fire it, it will cause cracking or at least more cracking than normal in the body. Even if you wait like we did, it’s inevitable that some cracking will occur. Don’t be alarmed if the cracks are especially big, you can repair them with a little extra sand and clay and let that dry in place.

We’ve employed a few warming fires in this oven and it’s dried out well. We’ve gotten a few cracks but overall we’re really pleased. The walls of this oven are extremely durable. Here’s a brick of the material and it takes a lot to break this material up, so if you need to do modifications, you’ll really have to chop at it. However, as sturdy as this is, it still needs to be protected from the weather. This is water soluble and it will just wash away with the rain, so if we need this to last a while we’re going to have to build a little roof over it.

Make sure to watch part 2 of this video where we learn how to bake bread in one of these earthen ovens. You know, this looks pretty good. I think I’m going to fire it up.

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