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Maslin Bread

Maslin Bread is a mixed flour bread. Most breads were commonly made from a mixture of flour, made from various grains in the Medieval and Tudor periods, (bread made of pure wheat was always the exception in much of Britain, and for much of its history). Each different mixture of flour gave rise to the different names of a bread. A common Medieval mix of wheat, barley and rye gave rise to the name of Maslin bread, from the French miscelin, meaning mixture. It was eaten by servants and poorer families (it also made the trencher, edible plates).

Medieval Breads: It was not until the late 19th Century, and the introduction of new farming practices, when wheat was able to be grown all over the country, and also be imported from the rest of the world, that bread became commonly baked with only wheat in Britain. Hence in the Medieval and Tudor periods the very finest wheaten only breads, called Pandemain (panis dominis, lord’s bread) or Manchets were only for the rich and the clergy, the next step in the degree of quality would have been the cheat loaf, followed by these ‘mixed’ breads. Another important difference is that an authentic Maslin bread uses a sour-dough starter, while Manchet Bread, (using only pure, double sieved wheat flour) used a Brewer’s Yeast.

Note On Baking: You might want to bake this Medieval Maslin Bread recipe in a bread tin, to make convenient bread to toast etc. (we sometimes do) however you should understand the following first … Bread baked in pans or tins of a uniform shape and capacity were a relatively late development in culinary history, (although it does seem to have been a British invention) certainly they were in use by the 1700’s, if not before.

An authentic Medieval bread would have been round and domed shaped with a flat bottom, (from having been allowed to rise before baking) and be baked on a bakestone or the flat floor of a bread oven without it being in a tin – each loaf would have commonly been made by using around 4lb of flour (1.9kg). The recipe below is just over a third of that, triple everything in the ingredients if you want to make it the same size as a Medieval loaf. For a Trencher cut a 10cm thick slice across the bottom of the baked bread (a trencher is an edible bread plate, which is what we use to eat off at the table when recreating a medieval feast).

Note On The Flour: The best flour to use in this authentic Maslin Bread recipe is a traditional stoneground flour, rather than a modern roller milled flour, (stoneground bread flour is now quite common to purchase). In Britain you can still purchase flour produced by traditional local millers who still operate surviving wind and water mills and produce an ’80%’ extraction stoneground white flour.

Maslin Bread Recipe

Recipe Ingredients:

  • 200g Rye Flour (if possible traditional stoneground)
  • 100g Barley Flour (if possible traditional stoneground)
  • 350g of Stoneground Wholemeal Flour (plus extra for dusting etc.)
  • 500ml of warm water (1 part boiling, 2 parts cold)
  • 1 tsp salt (sea salt ground)

Raising Agent:

  • either – 15g of dried yeast & 1 tsp sugar (make up according to instructions)
  • or – 30g of fresh yeast & 1 tsp of sugar (make up according to instructions)
  • or – 200g of sourdough starter (remember to take off 200g from the dough after rising, and before baking, to continue your sough dough starter for the next loaf of bread)

Recipe Method:

Note on raising agents: In the Medieval period, (and for many thousands of years before) common breads made to feed the lower classes used an initial sourdough, ‘fed’ over several days, to start the necessary yeast cultures to make the bread rise. Purchasing a live bread yeast (or other type) is fine in terms of this recipe, particularly if you want to make it the same day; although by taking your time to use the sourdough starter, it does give the bread a more intense, and authentic rustic flavour.

Make sourdough: Read this guide on making a Sourdough Starter

Yeast Raising agent:

Dried Yeast: If using dried yeast as a raising agent – in a small bowl or jug pour in half the warm water, (250ml) dissolve in the sugar, and sprinkle in the yeast, whisk it thoroughly. Leave to sit for 10 minutes in a warm place to allow the yeast to start to work. Check to see if the yeast is rising. After about 4–5 minutes, it will have a creamy and slightly frothy appearance on top. Do not allow the yeast to sit longer than 12 minutes before using, leaving it too long will exhaust the yeast before it is in the dough. When ready, stir and pour in all the remaining warm water 250ml.

Fresh Yeast: You need twice as much fresh yeast as dried yeast and you must use it in half the time after activating it. Make in exactly the same way as above.

Make The Maslin Bread

Into a large mixing bowl sift in the flours, sprinkle over the ground sea salt, (mix the ground salt into the flour, so it does not interfere with the yeast when added) then make a well in the centre. Add in the yeast water (or just the warm water if making it with a sour dough starter). Bring together into a dough with a knife, wooden spoon, or your fingertips. If you are using a sourdough starter add it now, (don’t mix in the sour dough until all the warm water is in and mixed with the main flour; otherwise it tends to go lumpy).

Add some more wholemeal flour (if needed) until you form a firm dough which you can knead, it should still be on the ‘sticky’ side, but not so that it is difficult to remove from the bowl. You are looking for it to be springy and elastic. Take the dough out of the bowl and onto a flat floured work surface.

Start kneading the dough to make your Maslin Bread for 7 minutes (kneading dough is a ‘push-pull’ technique to break the gluten and starches down in the flour). If sticking to the work surface sprinkle over a little extra flour, it will probably need a few casts of extra flour over the 7 minutes, but do not over do it. When ready it will become satiny and when pressed with a finger tip the indentation in the dough will rise back out.

Form the dough into a large ball, place it back in the bowl, cover with a light cloth in a warm room until it has almost doubled in size – this could take up to 2 hours. If only using a sourdough starter to make the maslin bread rise make sure you give the bread much longer to almost double in size, it can take many hours (depending on the temperature of the room).

After the dough has almost doubled in size, knock it back, just punch the air out of the dough in the bowl. Remove the dough, knead once more on a work-surface for one minute (note: it is at this stage that you could remove some dough mixture to keep to make into a sourdough starter for the next loaf of bread). Shape the dough into a ball, place on a greased, (with a little butter), non-stick baking tray, or into a loaf tin (see below). This can be one large ball, or several smaller ones to make individual rolls. Leave to rise once more for a further half an hour.

Preheat the oven to 230°C

After half an hour use a sharp knife to make a shallow cut all around the side at the bottom of the dough and cut a cross into the top. Place the oven tray into the pre-heated oven and bake for 10 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 200°C and cook for a further 40min, or until your bread looks nicely browned and sounds hollow when tapped. Remove the Maslin Bread and leave to cool.