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
DES VILLES ET DES CAMPAGNES
— 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