An Early White Roll Recipe: 1594

I think it fair to say that the two recipes in The Good Huswifes Handmaide for the Kitchin (1594) are the first fully fleshed out English language cookbook bread recipes intended for humans. In the 1570s, William Harrison, in the spirit of the Roman author Cato, included bread recipes in the history of England volume he contributed to the Holinshed’s Chronicles. This was the three-volume history that Shakespeare relied upon for the core stories in his history plays. Harrison’s recipes are the first bread recipes published in English. However, as they are in a history book, I think we can also give precedence to these two recipes even if, a year earlier, in 1593, Gervase Markham published bread recipes for horses in his work, Discourse on Horsemanship.

I think we can be reasonably certain that the sources for these early recipes included both manuscript recipes that have not yet been published, and interviews with bakers. There is an energy to this bread recipe that we can enjoy, even four hundred years later. So, in answer to the question, “How do I make a manchet?” listen to the answer.

The making of manchets after my Ladie Graies use.

Take two peckes of fine flower, which must be twice boulted, if you will have your manchet verie faire: Then lay it in a place where ye doe use to lay your dowe for your bread, and make a litle hole in it, and put in that water as much leaven as a crab, or a pretie big apple, and as much white salt as will into an Egshell, and all to breake your leaven in the water, and put into your flower halfe a pinte of good Ale yeast, and so stir this liquor among a litle of your flower, so that ye must make it but thin at the first meeting, and then cover it with flowre, and if it be in the winter, ye must keepe it verie warm, and in summer it shall not need so much heate, for in the Winter it will not rise without warmeth. Thus let it lie two howers and a halfe: then at the second opening take more liquor as ye thinke will serve to wet al the flower. Then put in a pinte and a halfe of good yest, and so all to breake it in short peeces, after yee have well laboured it, till it come to a smoothe paste, and be well ware at the second opening that yee put not in too much liquor sodenlie, for then it wil run, and if ye take a litle it will be stiffe, and after the second working it must lie a good quarter of an hower, and keep it warme: then take it up to the moulding board, and with as much speede as is possible to be made, moulde it up, and set it into the Oven, of one pecke of flower ye make ten caste of Manchets faire and good.

This is the rare English recipe that uses a sourdough starter. Gervase Markham, writing twenty years later, in 1614, gives a recipe similar to this one as his “cheat” bread—a second-tier bread employing mixed flours, like wheat and rye, and slightly less refined than the white flour for the manchet. In this recipe calling for sourdough and in Markham’s, it is only used for the first build. The final bulk fermentation is spiked with yeast from the brewer.

I start the revision process by breaking the original into steps.

  1. Take two peckes of fine flower, which must be twice boulted, if you will have your manchet verie faire:
  2. Then lay it in a place where ye doe use to lay your dowe for your bread, and make a litle hole in it,
  3. and put in that water as much leaven as a crab, or a pretie big apple,
  4. and as much white salt as will into an Egshell, and all to breake your leaven in the water,
  5. and put into your flower halfe a pinte of good Ale yeast, and so stir this liquor among a litle of your flower, so that ye must make it but thin at the first meeting,
  6. and then cover it with flowre, and if it be in the winter, ye must keepe it verie warm, and in summer it shall not need so much heate, for in the Winter it will not rise without warmeth.
  7. Thus let it lie two howers and a halfe:
  8. then at the second opening take more liquor as ye thinke will serve to wet al the flower.
  9. Then put in a pinte and a halfe of good yest, and so all to breake it in short peeces, after yee have well laboured it, till it come to a smoothe paste,
  10. and be well ware at the second opening that yee put not in too much liquor sodenlie, for then it wil run, and if ye take a litle it will be stiffe,
  11. and after the second working it must lie a good quarter of an hower, and keep it warme:
  12. then take it up to the moulding board, and with as much speede as is possible to be made, moulde it up, and set it into the Oven,
  13. of one pecke of flower ye make ten caste of Manchets faire and good.

I then extract the quantities.

  1. Put 8 gallons of flour weighing 16 ounces per quart—this is a flour within the range of modern white flour, which I suggest you use for the recipe—which is 16 pounds of flour.
  2. Taking the other manchet recipe in this book as a guide—a recipe that calls for 60% liquid by weight of flour, I would measure out and set aside 9.6 pounds of hot water.
  3. Make a hollow in the flour and mix in a moderate sized apple’s worth of dough held back from a previous baking, 2 ounces salt (an eggshell’s worth), and enough water to form a batter, like for pancakes. Sprinkle with flour, cover, and let rise.
  4. Let it lie two howers and a halfe
  5. Add the balance the water, which is re-heated to be warm to hot, and added to the pre-ferment along with the dried yeast and is then mixed in with the rest of the flour.
  6. Missing from this recipe is the kneading step. As this is a manchet, we know from other sources that it is well worked. So, work with a mixer or by hand.
  7. The original recipe gives this a 15-minute rise, but 1 to 1.5 hours is more reasonable. This super short bulk rise suggests an author who doesn’t know bread.
  8. As soon as the bulk fermentation is complete, form into loaves and bake in a slow oven. Period practice did not include a long proofing period for formed loaves. Bake in a cool oven in loaves of 1 pound maximum, and rolls of 4 oz to 8 oz. Crust should come out of the oven pale. Set oven to 225F-250F, 107C-110C.

Note:of one pecke of flower ye make ten caste of Manchets faire and good.The recipe ends with that summary. We find this formulation in other recipes from this period. The trouble is that nobody wrote down what a cast was!

And now, convert to Baker’s Math.

The making of manchets after my Ladie Graies use (1594) in baker’s math.

100% all purpose flour

47.5% warm to water if using barm, 60% warm to hot water if using commercial dried yeast.

3% Sourdough dough

12.5% barm or 1% dried yeast, in which case reduce water.

.7% Salt (derived from an eggshell’s worth)

The making of manchets after my Ladie Graies use (1594) in baker’s math using dried yeast.

100% all purpose flour

60% warm to water if using barm, 60% warm to hot water if using commercial dried yeast.

3% Sourdough dough

1% dried yeast

.7% Salt (derived from an eggshell’s worth)

Instructions.

  1. Put all of the flour into a bowl. Make a well in the center.
  2. Let it lie two howers and a halfe
    Add the balance of the water, which is re-heated to be warm to hot, and added to the pre-ferment along with the dried yeast and is then mixed in with the rest of the flour.
    Missing from this recipe is the kneading step. As this is a manchet, we know from other sources that it is well worked. So, work with a mixer or by hand.
    The original recipe gives this a 15-minute rise, but 1 to 1.5 hours is more reasonable. This super short bulk rise suggests an author who doesn’t know bread.
    As soon as the bulk fermentation is complete, form into loaves and bake in a slow oven. Period practice did not include a long proofing period for formed loaves. Bake in a cool oven in loaves of 1 pound maximum, and rolls of 4 oz to 8 oz. Crust should come out of the oven pale. Set oven to 225F-250F, 107C-110C.

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