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A Fine Manchet - By Master Wulfric the Mad Baker

Fine Manchet

By Master Wulfric the Mad Baker

Therefore I recommend to anyone who is a baker that he use flour from wheat meal, well ground and then passed through a fine sieve to sift it; then put it in a bread pan with warm water, to which has been added salt, after the manner of the people of Ferrari in Italy. After adding the right amount of leaven, keep it in a damp place if you can and let it rise. That is the way bread can be made without much difficulty. Let the baker beware not to use more or less leaven than he should; in the former instance, the bread will take on a sour taste, and in the latter, it becomes heavy and unhealthful and is not readily digested. The bread should be well baked in an oven, and not on the same day; bread from fresh flour is most nourishing of all, and should be baked slowly. (“On Honest Indulgence” (De honesta voluptate), Platina, Venice L. De Aguila, 1475)

Fine Manchet. Take halfe a bushell of fine flower twise boulted, and a gallon of faire luke warm water, almost a handful of white salt, and almost a pinte of yest, then temper all these together, without any more liquor, as hard as ye can handle it: then let it lie halfe an hower, then take it up, and make your Manchetts, and let them stande almost an hower in the oven. Memorandum, that of every bushell of meale may be made five and twentie caste of bread, and every loafe to way a pounde besyde the chesill. (The Good Huswife’s Handmaide for the Kitchen, 1594)

1/2 cup sourdough starter
1 1/2 cups water
3 1/2+ cups white flour
pinch salt
1/2 cup wheat flour

Mix the starter and water together. Combine the flours and salt and mix in. Let rise for twelve to eighteen hours. Knead until stiff, adding more flour as needed. Let rise an hour or two. Bake at 400 degrees for 40 minutes or until bread sounds “hollow” when tapped.

I substituted sourdough starter for the yeast; sourdough is an older rising agent, dating back at least to ancient Egypt. A mixture of white and stone-ground wheat is used to more closely approximate period common flour, which tended to be coarser.

Beebe, Ruth Anne. Sallets, Humbles, and Shrewsbery Cakes. David R. Godine, 1976.
David, Elizabeth. English Bread and Yeast Cookery. Prospect Books, 1988.
Desportes, Françoise. Le Pain au Moyen Âge (Bread in the Middle Ages). Olivier Orban, 1987.
Hagen, Ann. A Handbook of Anglo-Saxon Food Processing and Consumption. Antony Rowe Ltd, 1992.

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