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.

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.

Making Pine Bark Bread

In most of Europe, bread made from bark was a famine food. It was more regularly eaten Europe’s far North. The “bark” in bark bread is actually the cambium layer that grows under the bark. Pine was a common tree to use for bark breads. The cambium layer is pealed from the tree, dried, and ground into a flour. If used alone then it makes a cake — an unleavened bread — and if mixed with flour — rye would be a good choice in keeping with the breads of the Northern Europe — it bakes into a loaf bread.

I have never done this. The author of this video suggests tasting the cambium before stripping the tree to be sure it has a good taste. Taste is apparently  variable.

If you have made bark bread, please leave your report in the comment section, below.

Short Paste for a Covered Tart: Simpson’s Cookery, 1816

FB_recipe_Simpson's Cookery_1816

Tart Paste

Commonly called Short Paste.

To one pound of flour, rub in a quarter of a pound of butter; make a whole in the middle; put in a little water, and two yolks and one white of an egg; put the other white of an egg on a plate, to beat up, and put over the tart, when finished; work it up to a proper stiffness, and roll out for use.

N. B. There should be about to table spoonful[s] of sugar in the paste, when for tarts, or any other think sweet. This is the proper kind of paste for meat puddings, only leave out the sugar.

From, A Complete System of Cookery, on a plan entirely new. By John Simpson. 1816 edition published in London. Page 508.

Implicit in this recipe is that the tart has a top crust. Top crusts were standard in British tarts until the last decades of the nineteenth-century. In British cooking, the topless tart was associated with France. In the American cooking tradition, one of the ways in which we seemed to have set out in the early nineteenth-century to differentiate our American culture from British was our early adoption of the topless tart as the standard for tarts and the renaming of the British covered tart tradition as “pie.”

Americans in first decades of the nineteenth-century were, of course, close to France. France had helped the British Colonists overthrow British rule while it had remained an enemy of Britain until the final defeat of Napoleon in 1814.  It is thus not entirely unexpected that American’s might have adopted a Francophillic tart style a bit earlier than the British.

When I tested this recipe the first time my daughter, age ten, didn’t want me to put on the top crust because, as she said, “Tarts don’t have a crust.”

This dough, with sugar, is intended for a covered dessert tart and without sugar for a covered meat tart. While the recipe doesn’t call for it, I suggest that you add salt when making this as a savory crust.

There is relatively little fat and relatively more water than in a modern “short paste.” The crust is therefore not light and fluffy. This is a crust from a different tradition and as such ads variety to your pie crust repertoire.

Dessert Tart: Add the sugar to the dough and fill with any fruit filling.

Savory Tart: Replace the sugar with salt. Fill with a vegetable, meat, or fish filling.

You need a pastry brush to brush the egg white onto the top crust. Besides the shiny top-crust, this is a classic American fruit pie.

450g flour

110g butter

60g  sugar if being used for a dessert tart

[5g salt if being used for a savory tart]

90g to 110g water

1 egg plus 1 yolk

1 egg white set  aside in a small plate


Bake in a moderate pre-heated oven, 350F or 180C.




A Fine Basic Madeleine Recipe from 1893

Who doesn’t love a madeleine?  The recipe I’ve used since I first bought the New Larousse Gastonomique (1977) is its recipe for plain madeleine.  that makes it almost 40 years since I bought the book new when it came out. What I like about the New Larousse Gastonomique recipe is its utter simplicity. It’s a poundcake. You mix equal parts by weight of sugar, flour, melted butter, and eggs and that’s it.  Continue reading “A Fine Basic Madeleine Recipe from 1893”

Flour Mills on the Seine, Paris

Image of a flour mill floating on the Seine circa late 18th century
A boat water mill floating on the Seine in the 18th century towards the back of Notre Dame Cathedral

This is an eighteenth-century print of a flour mill floating on the Seine with Notre Dame in the background. Until well into the nineteenth century mills were attached  bridges that crossed the Seine and smaller mills, like the one in this print, were actually small boats, or barges, attached to shore or anchored in the river. The infrastructure for producing bread was everywhere.

Paris, in 1800 had a population of 540,000 compared to today’s 2,300,000. This refers to the city itself, not environs If you estimate per capita bread consumption in 1800 at 900g per person and use today’s figure of 130g per person it would seem that approximately 40% more bread was consumed in Paris some two-hundred years ago —490 230 000 grams versus 299 000 000 grams today. Just accepting these as rough figures it suggests the huge number of vehicles — on land and water — that must have been needed to move the grain, the flour, and the breads.

Paris did not produce all of its own bread. Demand from Paris fostered a plethora of bakeries in villages circling Paris, with Gonesse, now a suburb of Paris more or less between the two airports, Orly and Charles de Gaulle, being the most famous of the supplier villages. It is known for the quality of its white bread. Even English-language atlases tie Gonesse to its bread.

Here is a text sent to me by Jean-Philippe de Tonnac, founder of the extraordinary Facebook Group, Universalbread, and editor of the Dictionnaire universal du pain (2010) from his dictionary. This was written by Jean-Pierre Blazy, the current mayor of Gonesse.

“Le pain de marché, qui était en grande partie le pain des forains, assurait les deux tiers des ventes de pain consommé à Paris en 1727, un peu moins six ans plus tard, selon les registres Delalande conservés à la bibliothèque de l’Institut. Les boutiques progressent sans menacer la prépondérance des marchés. Les estimations concernant le nombre des boulangers forains dits de deuxième classe, ceux qui transformaient les blés qui n’étaient pas entrés à Paris avant d’être convertis en pain, demeurent incertaines. En recoupant les différentes sources (Traité de la Police de Nicolas Delamare et registres Delalande), Steven L. Kaplan estime qu’il y avait au total une majorité de boulangers de marchés sur les 2 000 boulangers qui s’activaient dans la capitale, mais les chiffres très variables du seul corps des forains (900, 850, 650…) lui paraissent excessifs. En 1727, sur les 927 boulangers fournissant les
douze marchés (et non plus quinze), il y avait 369 forains, soit près de 40 % ; et sur 747 enregistrés en 1733, on relève 298 forains, soit toujours près de 40 %. La boulangerie foraine s’inscrivait dans une couronne d’approvisionnement s’étendant de Saint-Germain-en-Laye et de Versailles à l’ouest, de Sceaux et de Villejuif au sud, de Créteil et de Vincennes à l’est jusqu’à Goussainville et Roissy-en-France au nord. Les boulangers du Pays de France, ceux de Gonesse et du village voisin de Bonneuil-en-France étaient alors les plus nombreux et les plus actifs en quantités de pain vendu.”

From Dictionnaire universel du pain, Bouquins Laffont 2010

Jean-Pierre Blazy is also the author of “Gonsesse, la terre et les homes: Des origines a la Revolution” (1982)

Early Modern Kitchen Garden References

This post provides references to three works mentioned in my talk to the Farm to Table  New Orleans International Symposium, August 204, 2013. If you attended my talk I do encourage you to write to me with questions and comments.

The French Gardiner by Nicolas de Bonnefons, translated by John Evelyn, 1654.  This is the edition of the French Gardiner at  Google Books. If you are not familiar with 17th century printing, there is a “long s.” This letter looks a lot like an “f”. You quickly get used to it. I have prepared annotated edition of the work. If you’d like a PDF of the manuscript please write to me:

Aceteria, John Evelyn’s work on salad is available from Project Gutenberg. This is the HTML version, but you will find other versions at the Gutenberg website.

Every Man His Own Gardener by John Ambercrombie was first published in the 1770s. It remained in print in many editions long after he died — far into the 19th century. This is the 1809 edition, but you can go to Google Books and find editions that are both earlier and later. This is much less romantic a writer than Bonnefons or Evelyn. But I think it is a good book and shows you the work-a-day kitchen garden at the turn of the 19th century.

Making Cake from Bread Dough circa 1880

I’ve been reading the bread section from The Thrift Book: A Cyclopaedia of Cottage Management, a British book published in the 1880s. It is interesting for being written during a transitional period in home baking when bakers were shifting to tinned breads. The recipe for a cake couldn’t be more different from modern bread and cake recipes with their hyper precision. As the author makes clear, the only important ingredient is sugar.


It is convenient, when making bread, to appropriate a portion of the dough for a sweet cake. After fully kneading the dough, set aside enough for the desired cake, and as soon as the bread is baking, add to the reserved dough a liberal quantity of good moist sugar currants, raisins free from stones, caraway seeds, spices, all or any to taste, the sugar being the only essential. Thoroughly knead the whole into the dough until a complete mixture is effected, and leave the whole to rise afresh, which it will soon do very freely. If there is a tin at liberty it is best to let the cake rise in the tin, and then to bake in a moderate oven for an hour or 1 1/2 hour according to size.


Spit Roast Bread — The Kneaded Loaf of 1823

Today, as part of my work on the glossary section of the history of bread I’m writing for UC Press, I have been researching the British Northern dialect term knodden cake, and its Standard English parallel, kneaded cake. I’m still working on the words and can today only say that I think they were enriched breads made by kneading fat, usually butter or lard, into dough removed from the day’s batch. In the course of this research I came across this fabulous text that I’d like to share with you. It combines my move of the hearth fire with my love of bread. This is an excerpt from a story The Fairy Miller of Croga publshed in The London Magazine in 1823. It is in part written in a Scottish dialect. It is a rare reference to a spit roasted cake and the only one I am aware of being described in a poor person’s household. But what also makes this passage incredibly rich in historic detail is the fairy’s attraction to the “new-meal” bread, a rare literary reference to the period preference for fresh flour.

So as the sun was setting I baked a cake, and put it over the embers.

Except for roasting very large animals, like goats, pigs, and oxen, spit roasting takes place just in front of embers, not over them. I would thus not take the over ember description as literally true — at least if Barbara Macurdo is burning wood.
But what also makes this passage incredibly rich in historic detail is the fairy’s attraction to the “new-meal” bread, a rare literary reference to the period preference for fresh flour. Fresh flour, particularly if it still has some bran in it, is much sweeter tasting than flour that has been stored and has oxidized.

And kindly loved I our goodman; never thought of another,though I was in my prime when lost him;—and I made it a point to have a kind look, and something comfortable and warm for him when he came home at even. So as the sun was setting I baked a cake, and put it over the embers,—for weel he loved a kneaded cake, and aue brander’d brown ;—I never knead a cake now but I think of him. So the cake was on the embers, and’ a sweet smell it made;—for the meal was white and warm from, the millee, and I sat beside it to watch and turn it. As I sat I thought I heard a foot on the floor, and looking o’er my shoulder who saw I but a wee wee womanie! A wee wee womanie, and snodly was she clad, ami fair was her face; ami without halt or cure hoc close came, she to my side. I think I see her yet. and hear her words, ‘Barbara Macmurdo,’ said the wee wee womanie, using my maiden name, ‘I live nigh thy house, —I live on the same bread, and drink of the same water. But water waxes scant, and bread is far from sure; and those who gather earth’s sweetest fruits for me are now in Guiana and Araby, seeking spice, and cloves, and myrrh, and will not be with me; sooner than morning. The smell of thy new-meal cake is sweet, and we felt it underground, and my little babes love it. Therefore give me some, and when the next meller is ground in Croga mill I will repay thee. Give and prosper– refuse and pine.’

You can find the entire store here: