This one of the earliest and most important English bread recipes. The Good Huswifes Handmaide for the Kitchen was published in England in 1594. It is one of the first English cookbooks. The anonymous author offers a wide range of recipes, mostly simple, and most reasonably accessible to modern readers. The book includes two recipes for a white bread called manchet. Manchet seems to have been the best of the white breads. It was made in private homes, not sold by bakers. The “fine manchet” is the first of the two white bread recipes in The Good Huswifes Handmaide for the Kitchen.
The making of fine Manchet.
Transcription: Take a half a bushel of fine flour twice boulted, and a gallon faire luke warm water, almost a pint of yeast, then temper all these together, without any more liquor, as hard as ye can handle it: then let it lie half and hour, then take it up, and make your Manchets, and let them stand almost an hour in the oven. Memorandum, that of every bushel of meal may be made five and twenty cast of bread, and every loaf to weigh a pound beside the chisel,
Literal redaction: Take a half a bushel of unbleached all purpose flour (18 pounds based on 1 pound fine flour per quart), and a gallon of warm to hot water water depending on season (8.3 pounds), almost a pint of ale yeast in the form of barm (roughly 16 ounces)
Given as a list:
16 pounds (256) flour (½ bushel at 1 pound per quart)
8.3 pounds (133 oz) warm to hot water (1 gallon)
16 ounces barm (1 pint)
salt not mentioned in the recipe
Given as Bakers Math as Written:
100% flour (use modern white flour unless demonstrating absolute authenticity, in which case, mill white wheat at 18% moisture, sift through bolting cloth of around 300 microns, running the throughs through the cloth twice, the second time only keeping the whitest flour).
Given as Bakers Math Substituting Dried Yeast for Barm.
1% dry yeast
Rounding Up to the Final Recipe
At this point, I think it is helpful to stand back and think. It is much easier to remember round numbers, like 60% than it is a number like 58%. Breads with a 60% hydration are standard in modern bread making. 60% hydration (60g water for each 100g flour) is the formula for sandwich bread, pizza dough, pita, rolls and so much more.
The difference between 58% water and 60% water is 9 grams — two teaspoons for a pound (450g) of flour. Unless you imagine that the ingredients are actually being weighed, in which case precision is possible, you should imagine flour and water being measured out in buckets and other containers in which the water and flour are measured out to a level of precision that I would describe as “close to” or “approximately.”
What is important is that the author says to “Temper all these together, without any more liquor, as hard as ye can handle it.” So don’t make this a 70% or 75% hydration. Stick with a sandwich bread. Don’t make it a modern French bread.
60% warm water
1% instant yeast
Salt – optional up to 2% with an eggshell’s worth of salt, roughly xx grams, the amount called for in this author’s other manchet recipe probably being closer to period practice.
500G flour, 300g warm water, 5g yeast, 3g to 5g salt, or up to 10g salt for a modern taste. Mix the ingredient using warm to hot water so the final dough temperature of 75 to 80F – mid 70sC . Based on other period sources, work dough with a dough hook or by hand until the dough is elastic, and may even begin to whiten from oxidation. Cover and let rise for one to one and a half hours in a warm place. Form and immediately bake in the preheated oven.
Note: The original recipe ends as follows: “Memorandum, that of every bushel of meal may be made five and twenty cast of bread, and every loaf to weigh a pound beside the chisel.” This formulation is also used by William Harrison. It seems to me that it is likely an older commercial form of recipe notation. Unfortunately, we do not know what a “cast” is behind it having been a measure of bread given as a food allowance. As in, a waiter being paid in part with cast of bread. This may have been around 1.5 pounds worth of bread.