Recipe for bread by Louis Liger, 1711

This is the recipe and mise en place for the my Zoom bread history seminar/workshop for Thursday, June 25, 2020, 9am Pacific Time.

Please have the ingredients weighed out for the start of the seminar.

The Ingredients for the First Build

This is the Mise en Place for the Final Build. I have increased the water to 185g for this build, which is an 80% hydration from the 135g or 70% hydration in this photograph.

Another Manner for Very Delicate Bread, by Louis Liger

Le Ménage des Champs et Jardinier Francois, 1711 (pp. 16-17)

Sometimes, when you are in the countryside, people come to stay; people that it will give you pleasure to offer an extraordinary bread, and for that;

You must take a boisseau* of the best and finest wheat flour you have; use the sieve you prefer, combine water and starter to a quarter of it to make a levain*, and add two full handfuls of new beer yeast, if you have it, a handful* of salt dissolved in hot water*, and three chopines* of milk*.

One hour later, add the rest of the flour, mix and lightly knead [adding water as required] to form a very soft dough, [let rise to double in bulk and then] turn the bread [onto a work surface], and [form into small loaves] to proof in little wooden bolws, jattes*, [when sufficiently proofed, turn onto your peel or baking sheet and place] into a moderate oven;  in one hour, when it is perfectly baked, remove from the oven and let cool on their sides.

There is yet another sort of roll (petit pain) that is very good to eat, which should be kneaded as the previous one, except that one should throw in a little fresh butter into it, which must be good.

*make a levain “en detremper le quart pour en faire le levain” is the instruction prior to specifying fresh beer yeast, if you have it. While this does not specifically say to “add a starter” the construction is similar to other recipes in the volume, such as the one for Pan Bourgeois, “on en prend une sixiémr partie qu’on met en levain”.

*Boisseau, 20 pounds wheat, thus ⅓ of a bushel. Period white flour weighed 1 pound per quart, 32 pounds per bushel, and thus ⅓ bushel is 10.6 pounds. This recipe is before the metric system.)

*handful of salt. French grey salt is appropriate here. A handful, a measure we have looked at in previous recipes, is ambiguous. This said, a full handful in my hand is 48g which comes to 1% salt. An experienced period baker would have known what salt level was being aimed at. A woman with a small hand might compensate with two handfuls while a big man might go for less than a complete handful. I am using 1% s a reasonable amount for this recipe. This is subjective on my part, as outside the ambiguous “poignée de sel fondu en eau chaude” there is no other guidance as period recipes never provide precise quantities of salt. I think that “salt to taste” is a good guide, with 1% being the starting point. As all of the salt is being added to ¼ of the flour for the first build, I am thinking that salt on scale of 1% may be the maximum practical — but would like to hear from more experienced bakers on this point. 

*Hot water. The French grey salt is very hard to dissolve, hence the call for hot water.

*Chopine. So close to a Winchester pint, now customary American pint, that that is measure to use. 1 pint (Chopin) of milk weighs 1 pound. 

*milk. Raw milk is ideal, but this is a very minor detail. It has more fat than commercial milk, more of a taste, and more bacteria. 

*Jatte is a shallow, rimless, flared mould; it could also be translated as boat-shaped.

Redaction

Bake in a moderate oven, roughly 175C (350F)

Total ingredients in baker’s math.

100% white flour. Early Modern white flour that would have used for this recipe weighed approximately 450g per liter, 1 pound per quart.  Any white flour will work. 

42%- 52% warm water

28% milk, ideally raw

1% yeast (modern functional equivalent to the ale yeast called for in the recipe)

1% salt, ideally French grey salt

12.5% starter

Bakers Math broken down

Ingredients for First Build. The percentages are all in relation to the total flour.

25% flour

1% yeast

1% salt, ideally French grey salt

12.5% starter

15% hot water to dissolve French grey sea salt

28% milk, warmed

Final Build

To the first build above add.

75% flour

27% – 37% warm water

Weights

First Build

125g flour

5g yeast

5g salt, ideally French grey salt

63g starter

19g hot water to dissolve French grey sea salt

140g milk, warmed

Final Build

To the first build above add.

375g flour

135g – 185g warm water

Instructions. 

Please weigh out the ingredients for the first and second build and have them ready when the Seminar/Workshop begins.

First build.

Mix all of the First Build ingredients in a large bowl to form a batter. Let sit in a warm place, covered, for 1 hour. This first build will become very active. 

Final build.

Add all of the Final Build ingredients to the First Build. The water quantity was not specified in the original recipe, only that the dough should be “bien molle” which means “very soft.” Softness, of course, is in the eye of the beholder. I give the water quantity for a 70%-80%  hydration. I don’t know what the quantity of water might have actually been, as the flour used was a low gluten French flour, (no flour imports from North America to France in 1711), but what is important is concept of a dough that is “bien molle,” very soft. 

This dough is mixed and lightly kneaded. It is not heavily worked as a somewhat cake-like bread is what was intended. The original recipe does not mention a bulk rising stage, but bulk rising has always been a standard feature of bread making, so after mixing and lightly kneading, cover and let rise to at least double in bulk. Then, turn onto a work surface and form into between 2 and 4 rolls, at your discretion. If you don’t have small wooden bowls or baskets the right size for this project, then dust a cloth with flour and let the formed rolls proof in the folds of the towel. There are many YouTube videos showing this standard French bread-making technique — particularly videos on baguettes if you have not done this before. 

After the proofing breads have increased by about 50% put them into the pre-heated 175C oven for one hour, or until done. Set on their sides to cool, and enjoy with your sheltering-in-place household. 

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