Maslin Bread for August 20, 2020 Seminar

Tony Shahan, historian of milling, and director of the Newlin Grist Mill, suggests we make a maslin bread — a bread of mixed wheat and rye OR a bread that somehow reflects the trade in export flour between North American and the United Kingdom in the later decades of the 18th century.

The first cookbook written and published in America was written by Amelia Simmons in 1798. Her book not includes many recipes for cakes and desserts, but no bread recipes. The the last quarter of the eighteenth century, the period for which Tony suggests a maslin bread, there are, so far as I know, no cookbook recipes asking for a mix of wheat and rye published in an English cookbook. We know that such breads existed — but the evidence is not from the cookbook literature.

Maslin in English, métail in French, refers to a flour of mixed grain. In theory it can be any mix – wheat and rye, wheat and barley, barley and oats, etc. In practice, in the context of bread flour, maslin and métail referred to a mix of wheat and rye.

Wheat and rye and been a traditional grain mix in Europe at least since Roman times. They were often planted together in the same field. In a cold summer the rye could still produce a good crop. And the mix was less demanding of the land. American 19th century cookbooks generally mixed rye with “Indian meal” rather than with wheat flour.

I won’t say that American rye is a holdover from the early American maslin tradition — but I do point out that American
Rye is a mix of rye and wheat which makes it a maslin bread.

In English, there is no way of knowing what percentage mix a maslin flour might have been since we call all mixed flours “maslin.” In eighteenth-century French, however, there were three grades of maslin flour. The French had petit métail, métail, and gros métail. These were each roughly in the ration of wheat to rye of petit métail 1:2, métail 1:1, and gros métail 2:1. There was one other métail mix which was ble rame. This is a flour that Parmentier wrote about in the 1770s. It is is 1/8th rye — 12%. Parmentier could no say enough about this flour. He loved it. Said it made bread that smelled of violets — and that it kept longer than pure wheat breads. His short bread book for housewifes – AUX BONNES MENAGERES
— is available as a PDF from the Bibliotheque Nationale de France. The BN interface can be a little obscure, but if read French it is worth downloading the book.

Dictionnaire provencal et francois 1723

Thursday, August 20, 2020 Seminar: Milling from The Ancient World world to the Early 19th Century

The 1086 English Domesday Book records 6000 mills, mostly water mills. Water mill technology exploded after the end of the Western Roman Empire. By 1000, European rivers and streams were driving tens of thousands of mills to produce the flour that made Europe the global power that it became.

I am very excited to announce that Seminar #12, the first of the August -December series of Thursday Bread History Seminars will be led by Milling Historian, Tony Shahan.

Register at EventBrite. The seminar takes place via Zoom at 9am Pacific Time. This is 10am in Columbia, noon in New York, 5 pm Ireland and UK, 6pm Belgium, 7pm Nairobi and Turkey, and 9:30 pm in Bangalore, India.

Tony Shahan has spent the past 28 years studying, restoring, and working in historic mills. He is currently the director of the Newlin Grist Mill in Concordville, PA. The Newlin Mill was constructed in 1704 and has remained in operation for the past three centuries. His most recent projects include researching the material culture of mills, exploring connections of milling with brewing and distilling, and rebuilding a 16’-diameter water wheel using 18th century tools and techniques.

I asked Tony Shahan to lead the seminar the upcoming Thursday because of his wide ranging expertise in milling from the classical world through to the development of the roller mill, the current dominant milling technology. Tony Shahan will examine the evolution of early technologies used to grind meal and sift flour from the classical world to the early 19th century. The survey delves into how grindstones and power systems evolved into the milling traditions we think of today, and investigates sifting technologies that affected early flours.

Tony Shahan has thought a lot about milling. His talk will not only be an exploration of tools and machines, but will also examine the changing relationship between millers, bolters, and bakers. As those of you who have attended previous talks, a central interest of this bread history seminar series is people. Society and culture has changed significantly over the previous 2,000 years. Tony Shahan offers insights into how milling technology and social structures are related.

Tony Shahan knows a lot more about about milling than I do. I look forward to joining you in this Seminar to learn about the key technologies that transforms grain into usable flour for our bread.

As always, there will also be a bread to make at the Seminar that ties into the talk. Tony and I will choose a bread this upcoming weekend so you will have the recipe in plant of time for the Zoom seminar on Thursday, August 20.

Nicolas de Bonnefons, Recipe for Rubel Seminar #11

Nicolas de Bonnefons wrote two fabulous books in the 1650s. One, the Jardiner Francois, was translated by John Evelyn and published under the title, The French Gardiner. I have written an annotated edition that I will publish — one day. Bonnefons followed up the gardening book with a book called Les Delices de la Compagne. The first chapter of that book is devoted to bread. This is the subject of my Zoom talk July 23, 9am Pacific time.

This PDF has the complete texts in English and French. The first text is the manuscript I published in the British Journal Petit Propos Culinary, edited by Tom Jaine. It is followed by the 1680s Evelyn Translation and the original French text.

Delices has a large number of bread recipes, several of which refer to each other. In other words, there is a master recipe and variations. Bonnefons offers a large number of subtle changes to differentiate bread. We will be discussing these in the Seminar. The bread we will make, Pain de Gonesse, is Bonnefons’ interpretation of recipes from bakers in the city of Gonesse (located between the two major airports in Paris) which was the source of a large percentage of the breads consumed in Paris, and especially the white breads. As you see with this recipe, as he wrote it, the choice of flour grade is up to you.

Note for members of the Seminar. I apologize for having prepared this at the last minute. If you live in North or South America, then start the recipe Wednesday evening, if you can. If you are in Europe and parts East then I suggest you start Thursday morning so that you are mixing the first builds with the main part of the flour at the Seminar Thursday evening. In that case, you would let the dough bake overnight to bake on Friday. In hot climates you will probably want to let the dough rise overnight in the refrigerator.

Pain de Gonnesse. (Translated by John Evelyn (1620-1706)

The best Bread of France.

[Recipe 1] There is of this both white and brown, and of all sizes: take six bushels of flower, or what lesser quantity you please, which put leaven to a sixth part at eight a clock at night, then add as much flower to it; this is called refreshing the leaven. The next morning early make your dough with the remainder of the meal, but temper it moderately, or very little: then turn the dough, and put it in a wooden bowl; sprinkle it with flower to keep it from sticking, and when it is ready to set in the oven, you shall turn it into another bowl, that when it is set into the oven with the peel, the right side may stand up-most.

[Recipe 2] The small light bread is made by taking the sixth part of the meal, and instead of the leaven, set it to rise with new yeast, and when it is swelled sufficiently, wet it again, or work it with another sixth part of the meal, and so let it rise for a second time; then temper it a very little, turn it, and lay the loaves on a cloth, with folds (as hath been directed) to keep them from touching, and so bake them.

Pain de Gonesse

100% Flour**

70% to 75% water

8% Sourdough starter OR 1 % yeast

1% to 2% Salt**

** Flour: The light loaf that uses yeast would have been made with white flour. The bread made with the sourdough starter was made with any flour of the baker’s choice.

** Salt is not mentioned in the recipe. However, salt is usually mentioned in bread recipes so I am interpreting this as implying “salt to taste.”

This recipe has multiple steps.

500g total flour divided into three parts, two parts weighing 83g each and then the remaining flour.

375g total water, always be sure it is warm

5g to 10g salt based on your personal taste

42g starter, but if you don’t have starter, use 8g dried yeast

Out of the 500g flour you should set aside two portions of flour that are each 1/6th of the total amount. For 500g flour that is taking out of your total flour reserve two portions each weighing 83g which leaves roughly 334g left.

  1. The first step, Bonnefons specifies 8pm, but that is up to you. Anytime in the evening is fine. Take a 1/6th of the flour (83g) which you will mix either the sourdough starter (42g) OR the yeast (5g). Drawing from your pre-measured and warmed water, add enough to make this a wet dough, almost a batter.
  2. Put in a warm place. A couple hours later, after it is obvious that the dough is active, add another ⅙ of the flour (83g) adding warm water from your reserve as needed to form a soft dough. Cover, and leave over night.
  3. In the morning, add the remaining water which you have made warm again either on the stove or in the microwave, the salt, and the remaining flour. Knead well, cover, and let rise until at least double in bulk.
  4. When the dough has risen, then form the loaves. Bonnefons suggests either using small bowls or baskets to let the formed loaf proof or to set the breads on floured cloths such that the different loaves are separated from each other by a fold in the cloth.
  5. Knowing your rising times and oven pre-heating time, pre-heat the oven to around 190C (375F), and bake until done. Bonnefons specifies until the bottom crust sounds hollow. This will be in roughly an hour, perhaps a little more.
  6. Let cool thoroughly before eating. Period practice was to eat the bread the next day, but not on the day it was baked.

Recipes for Seminar #10: Sourdough

Most of the Seminar #10 on sourdough is being led by Karl de Smedt, founding curator of the Puratos Sourdough Library. He is suggesting a pancake and/or waffle recipe for the Thursday, July 16, 2020 Seminar/Workshop.

So we hewed off some of the inside logs of the cabin, and soon had a roaring fire. With our evaporated potatoes soaked and ready to fry, in less than half an hour we had a good breakfast of fried potatoes and bacon, black coffee and sourdough pancakes. “Landing at Dawson City, Yukon Territory” a chapter in “Attraction of the Compass or, The Blonde Eskimo” by Howard Lewis Dodge, 1916

Karl will be presenting from the Sourdough Library in Belgium. He will be using a starter from the Klondike goldrush era circa end of the 19th century. The recipes he collected when collecting Klondike starters are both enriched doughs with sourdough used as the leavening, plus a little soda.

Early Modern pancake recipes were enriched with eggs, butter, and cream, but were usually unleavened. Completely unleavened pancakes were still common in 19th century American cookbooks, although there were also pancake recipes that used a chemical leavening, like soda or saleratus, or beaten egg.

The sourdough pancake and waffle tradition is relatively new to American culinary traditions. I find no record of the recipe in any 19th century cookbook. They do not appear in cookbooks until after World War II. Searching in Google Books, up to 1940 there are only 12 references to “sourdough pancakes. It looks like the term exploded in popularity from the 1970s on. They remain rare. The most common modern American waffle and pancake is leavened with baking powder. In my family they were (are) leavened with egg whites.

Sourdough leavening for pancakes and waffles is associated with the Klondike gold rush at the end of the 19th century, and as such is part of the mainstream American romantic understanding of frontier settlements. Sourdough waffles and pancakes are foods that a large number of Americans have heard of, but at the same time they are rarely prepared, at least in the “lower 48” states. When the sourdough pancake starts becoming more often mentioned in texts in the 1940s it is closely associated with hunting trips – thus, camping.

The type of oil used in these recipes marks them as American. One of them uses 100g oil. In Early Modern pancake recipes that would have been butter. Sugar creeps into American pancake recipes in the 19th century, though there were sill many recipes published that were sugar-free.

Sourdough waffles and pancakes have a wonderful taste. They also provide a good use of starter you need to dispose of to refresh your mother starter.

I am providing the links to the recipes, below, with their instructions at the Quest for Sourdough website. The website is worth visiting. Some really excellent videos and lots of recipes. I am also posting the ingredient lists here so you can print them both out on a single page.

Note: If you do not have a sourdough starter then I suggest you create a yeast starter. The quantity of starter needed is 350g for the pancakes and 500g for the waffles. If you make both recipes then you need 850g starter. To make that much starter mix 425g flour (nearly a pound) with an equal weight of water. Add .5% to 1% dried yeast — 4g – 8g – depending on when you start your starter. My advice is to at least start your yeast starter sourdough substitute the night before (tonight!). Mix with warm water. Leave out at room temperature until it is working strongly. Then, store in the refrigerator until a couple hours before the Seminar/Workshop starts.


The link to the waffle recipe with instructions are at the Quest for Sourdough website.

  • 500 g of liquid mature starter (add a tablespoon of sugar according to your taste)
  • 3 eggs
  • 100 g oil (peanut or canola)
  • 5 g baking soda
  • 5 g salt


The link to the pancake recipe with instructions are at the Quest for Sourdough website.

350 ml starter

1 egg
30 ml or 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
**30 g or 1/4 cup instant dry/powdered milk or evaporated milk
Beat thoroughly. In a separate smaller bowl combine the following:
5g or 1 tsp. salt
5 g or1 tsp. baking soda
25 g or 2 Tbsp. sugar
2,5 g or 1 tsp. cinnamon (if you want, to taste)
**If you don’t have dried milk or evaporated milk then just use milk.

Mix these dry ingredients together, get all lumps out of soda. Then sprinkle evenly over the top of the batter/mixture and fold in gently. This will cause the batter to rise. Let the batter rest just a few moments as you get the griddle ready.

Mix in fresh blueberries to the batter and then pour batter on griddle to make pancakes. Makes about 12 pancakes.

Thursday Bread History Seminar/Workshop #10 July 16, 2020, 9am Pacific: Sourdough

We are back again this Thursday with an exciting Seminar/Workahop. As always, you need to register with EventBrite for this Zoom meeting. In terms of time zones, this Seminar/Workshop works for people from the California and South American Pacificas Coast through to India, where the Seminar starts at 9:30 pm in Bangalore. For easy reference, it is 6pm in Belgium and 7 pm in Istanbul and Nairobi when it is 9am in California.

I am going to briefly introduce sourdough/levain in the context of the yeast/sourdough choice – talk a bit about what we know about the when of leavened breads based on archeological evidence versus surmise. I will also touch on the antipathy the Anglo-American bread culture had towards sourdough until the last few decades. But, I am going to keep my talk brief as the bulk of the session this week we will be led by the fabulously dynamic, enthusiastic Karl de Smedt, of Puratos, the multinational Belgian baking corporation. Karl is the founding curator of the most unique library in the world (if you want to contradict me on this then you have to post a link to the competitor for the title). The unique library he created and curates is the Puratos Sourdough Library.

Karl de Smedt, Guest Speaker will be Streaming from the Puratos Sourdough Library

Calling this library unique may trivializes its importance. 

As with everything in modern life, diversity is on the way out. For many many cultures, for millennia, sourdough cultures were life. In cultures with traditions of blood feuds, like in Sardinia, hostilities were put on hold if a feuding family lost its starter. They could go to their enemy to get more. Today, in Sardinia, most women making bread, even the local specialty, pane carasau, use commercial yeast. Just as restaurant chains, like Starbucks, McDonalds, Pret a Manger, etc. are reducing diversity in foodways, and just as a few big language groups — English, Spanish, Chinese, French, etc. put pressure on smaller languages — affluence and easy access to commercial yeast has worked havoc on the world’s sourdough cultures.

Karl De Smedt‘s Sourdough Library is preserving something that is exceedingly fragile. As you will hear from Karl, the search for unique starts is tough. And keeping these fragile examples of taste diversity alive is hard work. So, please join us on Thursday. Bring your questions about Sourdough. And prepare to see something truly rare — a repository of taste — a living museum preserving one of the more subtle aspects of culture — the starters we use to make our breads. 

The Quest for a Klondike Sourdough

We will be making pancakes and/or waffles with a sourdough starter. Karl de Smedt will be using a starter that apparently originated in the Alaska Klondike gold rush at the end of the 19th century. So, if you have a starter, I suggest you start refreshing it now. If you don’t, then I suggest you make a 1:1 mix of water and flour and add a pinch of yeast to it. Once that yeast-started starer is active, you can refresh it as you would a starter, between now and the Thursday session. Even if you have been able to make this yeast starter the day before you will get a sense for how to prepare sourdough pancakes and waffles from starters.

To give you a further sense of the diversity of starters in the Puratos Sourdough Library I will share with you a few other Puratos Sourdough Karl de Smedt collecting videos.

Collecting Sourdough Starters in Greece: Religious Context
China! A very different baking tradition.
One of the most famous breads from Italy: Durum bread from Altamura
The Sourdough of Japan
The mythic San Francisco Sourdough
A Glimpse of Sourdough in Turkey

July 9 English French Bread Seminar/Workshop with William Rubel

English French bread was almost invariably rasped. Even into the 20th century.

This page provides the recipe and mise en place information for participants in my Thursday Seminar/Workshop #9 on English French Bread. If you are registered for the Seminar I suggest you also register at my Facebook group: Bread History and Practice. That is where participants post images of their breads and we continue the discussion started in the Seminar.

Please have this set of ingredients weighed out when the Seminar stars at 9am Pacific Time, July 9, 2020

The lightly enriched yeasted bread favored by the French elites defined what people outside of France thought of when one said, “French bread.” The bread that we will be making on July 9 was the type of bread people thought of as “French bread” in the 17th century through at least the first half of the 19th century. It was always made with the best white flour, was always yeasted, and was always enriched with milk, at least, but often also with some butter and eggs. French bread was never as enriched as a brioche, but was never just flour, water, leavening, and salt. The dough for “French bread” was the same as that used in “French rolls.”

The, to us, curious aspect of English French bread and rolls is that it was always (or at least almost always) rasped or chipped before serving. It was thus baked in a hot oven so that a crisp crust is formed. This is in complete contrast with the manchet which was cooked in a slow oven and came out with a pale crust. Chipping or rasping bread is its own story, and it deserves a separate talk, but I would be remiss not to suggest that you have a rasp handy for this bread, or, lacking a rasp, a knife you can use to chip off the crust. While most recipes specify rasping, (as it happens the one we are using does not), there were critics of the rasp on the grounds that it made the final bread or roll too smooth. These critics preferred chipping with the knife, so, if you don’t have a rasp, don’t worry, this puts you in the camp of E. Smith, the first successful female cookbook author who first published in the 1740s.

Here is the text of the original recipe.

English French Bread – 1708

“Take one quart of Flour, three eggs, a little Barm, and a little Butter; mix them with the Flour very light with a little new Milk warmed; then lay it by the Fire to rise; then make it into little Loaves; flour it very well, and bake it in a quick Oven.” Henry Howard, England’s Newest way in all sorts of Cookery (1708)

Note on this redaction. For most of the ingredients Howard is big on the term “little.” He calls for a “little” barm, milk, and butter. This said, Howard is precise where we need him to be — the flour and the eggs — and leaves the rest up to his period readers with whom he had a shared understanding that this bread was made with a relatively soft dough — at least compared to the manchet. My redaction is for a 73% hydration. That puts into the low end of what we use today in our modern, unenriched “French bread.”

Salt: This recipe does not mention salt. As a rule, I don’t like assuming errors in recipes whenever one finds something one doesn’t expect. In this case, I am pretty certain that most, if not all other French bread recipes include salt. About fifteen years ago I encountered a bread that is pretty much identical to this one in Mexico that was made without salt — the man who gave me the recipe emphasized “sin sal.” I often make this recipe without salt, as written, and enjoy it as toast, with cheese, and with soup, which is how it was often used. If you do want to add salt, then add up 2% salt – my advice is around 7-8g salt, but you can go up to 10g.

Hydration: I have interpreted the recipe to end up with a hydration of around 73%. This seems to be where the dough stops being stiff and becomes soft. Period diners would have recognized the crumb as different from manchet, which was made with a much stiffer dough. As always, adjust the water as needed because your flour and my flour may absorb different amounts of water. I live in a relatively humid climate, and you may not.

Baker’s Math 

100% unbleached all-purpose flour

41% egg (preferably from backyard chickens)

7% unsalted soft butter broken into small pieces

18% warm milk, preferably raw

14% warm water

1.5% dried yeast

Salt to taste, 1% to 2% (not in original recipe, but salt is in other French bread recipes)

Weights for 1 quart white flour

500 g unbleached all-purpose flour

3 eggs, preferably from backyard chickens

35 g unsalted butter broken into small pieces 

90 g warm milk, preferably raw

*70g warm water

*7g dried yeast

5g – 10g salt (not in original recipe, but salt is in other French bread recipes.)

*Note: If you have access to barm, then use 70g barm rather than 70g water plus dried yeast.


2 bowls

Electric mixers or whisk

1 baking tin, buttered (optional) 


1. Put flour in a bowl. If using dried yeast, add it to the flour. 

2. Beat the eggs in a separate bowl. 

3. If using dried yeast, warm the combined milk and water. If using barm, then only warm the milk. 

4. Whisk up the soft pieces of butter in the warmed liquid until the butter is broken up into very small pieces. Then add to the egg mixture and whisk for a few strokes. If using barm, then add it here. 

5. Pour the liquid ingredients into the flour. Mix until mostly incorporated. Period bakers would have used their hands. Complete the mixing by turning out onto a work surface, and gently kneading a few times until flour is fully combined. 

6. Cover, and set aside in a warm place, (38C (100F). This will  replicate warming by the fire. When doubled, turn onto a floured board, and gently de-gas. Continuing to handle the dough gently and, dusting with flour as necessary, form into between 4 and 7 rolls or optionally as a loaf. If using a loaf pan, then butter it. While period recipes did not specify proofing periods for formed loaves, my advice for this recipe is to be sure you let the dough rise until nearly double before baking.  

7. If making the roll form, then bake  in a wood-fired bread oven before the main loaves go in, otherwise bake after the oven has cooled some. In a kitchen oven preheated to 190C (375F). Bake for ten minutes and then lower the oven to 180C (350C). Note that baking times are influenced by the shape of the loaf tin and the size of the rolls. Loaves will bake in approximately 40 to 50 minutes. I have not tested rolls. I’d estimate 10 to 15 minutes.

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.


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


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


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. 

Mise en Place for Flatbread Seminar/Workshop #6

This week I am introducing flatbreads through an introduction to the history of bread. This is just an introduction to flatbreads. I am planning further sessions just on flatbreads led by people who are more expert than I am. It looks like we will be able to organize a session on flatbreads from the Indian subcontinent organized by colleagues in India, and a session flatbreads from Turkey and Iran organized from Turkey.

On Thursday, 9 am Pacific Time, November 11, 2020, we will be working with unleavened flatbreads. In terms of flour, you can use any kind of flour you have on hand, though I think most of us will be working with wheat flour. It can be white, whole grain, or anything in between. The type of flatbreads we will be making do not usually have salt. And being unleavened, no yeast or starter.

Flour: 500g any type and any level of refinement. Wheat is easiest to work with. Barley is also a flour that flatbreads, or think dense loaves, were often made with.

Water: Room temperature water

Bakers math

100% flour

65% water

Ingredients by weight

500g flour

325g water

Also, please have lots of extra flour to flour work surfaces, and some water in reserve in case you need more. After mixing and a light kneading in the workshop, we will assign cooking methods based on what various people in the group have. Hopefully, this will not devolve into total chaos!

Please gather rolling pins. For the Saj, the bread baked on the convex side of a pan, like a wok, a dowel around 1.5cm in diameter is best. This is also ideal for the Turkish Yufka.
The bottom of a wok, ideally one that is uniformly curved is best — but gather what you have. If you don’t have a wok then don’t worry, we have plenty of breads to work on.
Pillow for Saj breads. You need a pillow that you can use to stretch dough that is baked on the sasj. The pillow is also used to transfer the dough to the hot surface. Patterns are helpful to have on the fabric so you tell when your dough is translucent. Sounds hard to do. Is actually very easy.
Any kind of a frying pan. The thicker the metal the better.
I acquired this terra cotta griddle in Northern India. It is intended for the first step in baking chapati, which is setting the dough on a griddle before then placing on embers or over the gas burner in an urban kitchen.
A gas burner for completing the cooking of unleavened pita and chapati. This is where the dough, once set on a griddle, will puff up into a ball. A barbecue with a bed of hardwood charcoal or the embers in your fireplace is even more ideal. This is the urban work-around for live embers.


Use an oven for the thicker barley breads.
You can make all griddle breads, like chapati and pita on an induction burner. You may have trouble getting the breads to puff up into a ball.

The Miller’s Thumb

Drawing of a wheat seed.
This is a drawing I made to illustrate grain in terms of structures millers pay attention to.

Stone milling is the art of grinding grain into a meal, and then through sifting and re-grinding (and re-sifting), refining the product into the quality flour one wants for the finished product. While sifting determines the final quality of flour, the ratios of what is produced (and thus profit) depends heavily on the precision with which the miller creates the feedstock to be sifted. Millers were constantly feeling the flour that came out of the mill. Millers did this so much they deformed their thumbs — thus there is a fish that is called the Millers Thumb, the European Bullhead (Cottus gobo). Judging by an image of the fish, the miller’s thumb was widened at the fleshy pad — presumably with a thick callous.

The British artist, John Constable’s father was a miller. Following is, apparently, Constable himself, explaining how millers use their thumb. This is from Cassell’s Popular Natural History, Volume II, 1854, p. 103.

The father of the late John Constable, Esq., it.A., was a miller, and our eminent English painter described to Mr. Yarrell this singular form of the human thumb.

“It is well known,” he says, “that all the science and tact of a miller is directed so to regulate the machinery of his mill, that the meal produced shall be of the most valuable description that the operation of grinding will permit, when performed under the most advantageous circumstances. His profit or his loss, even his fortune or his ruin, depend upon the exact adjustment of all the various parts of the machinery in operation. The miller’s ear is constantly directed to the note made by the runningstone in its circular course over the bed-stone, the exact parallelism of their two surfaces, indicated by a particular sound, being a matter of the first consequenoe; and his hand is as constantly placed under the meal-spout, to ascertain by actual contact tho character and qualities of the meal produced.

The thumb, by a particular movement, spreads the sample over the fingers; the thumb is the gauge of the value of the produce, and hence has arisen the sayings of ‘Worth a miller’s tlmnib,’ and ‘An honest miller hath a golden thumb,’ in reference to the amount of the profit that is the reward of his skill. By this incessant action of the miller’s thumb, a peculiarity in its form is produced, which is said to resemble exactly the shape of the head of the fish constantly found in the mill-stream, and is obtained for it the name of the Miller’s Thumb, which occurs in the comedy of ‘Wit at Several Weapons,’ by Beaumont and Fletcher, and also in Merrett’s ‘Pinax.’

A Website with 7,000+ Watercolors of Fruit!


It is blackberry season and I just came across this amazing USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) website containing images in high resolution scans of of 7,300 fruits (mostly apples). Enjoy!

Here is an article, The collection of pomological watercolors at the United States Department of Agriculture, published in 1982 in the Journal of Botanical history by Carnegie-Mellon University. And, also, a recent article in Slate.