So much of the history of bread is unknown. What might the white barley bread referred to in this ancient Egyptian text have been like? Much closer in time, what was the bread sold in New York in 1720 like, or the bread in Marseilles in 1848, or Moscow in 1880, or London in 1914?
I have spent years researching historic bread recipes in English and French, the two languages I can read. I have approximately 10 feet of shelves of notebooks with bread recipes and supporting material from the first published recipes in the late 1400s to the mid 19th century.
There is a level on which bread is produced through a natural process so our loaves are not necessarily so different now than they were one-hundred, four-hundred, or even two-thousand years ago. This said, the devil is in the details. I am doing my best to tease out details but welcome any help that you might be able to give me. Much of what I post in this section are working papers — my thinking as of the day I post them and thus very much open to suggestions.
I have not always worked up the recipe into an absolutely modern format. For my own purposes I redact the recipes into baker’s math. This makes it possible to compare recipes on the level of percentages of ingredients in relation to the amount of flour. I am working many of the recipes that I am (and will be) posting here into a book of historic recipes.
What I offer here is probably not for someone who has never baked a loaf of bread before. But if you have, then perhaps in a recipe or in a commentary on an ingredient or process you will find an idea that you can use in a bread you make. If any readers make a bread from one of the recipes I publish here then please send me a photograph of it and I’ll post it.