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Medieval Bread

Medieval life and Times

Medieval Bread
The staple diet in Medieval Times was bread, meat and fish. Bread was the most important component of the diet during the Medieval era. The Upper Classes ate a type of bread called Manchet which was a bread loaf made of wheat flour. The Lower Classes ate rye and barley bread. Different types of bread made from wheat were as follows:

  • Manchet - Fine White Bread

  • Cheat or wheaten bread - Coarse texture, grey in color
  • Ravelled Bread - containing less of the pure substance of the wheat
  • Brown or Black bread

Medieval Bread cooked in embers
In the earliest times bread was cooked under the embers. The use of ovens was introduced into Europe by the Romans, who had found them in Egypt but embers were still being used in the 11th century  By feudal law the lord was bound to bake the bread of his vassals, for which they were taxed, but the latter often preferred to cook their flour at home in the embers of their own hearths, rather than to carry it to the public oven.

Middle Ages Food - Unleaven Bread
The custom of leavening the dough by the addition of a ferment was not universally adopted. For this reason, as the dough without leaven could only produce a heavy and indigestible bread, they made the bread very thin. These loaves served as plates for cutting up the other food upon, and when they became saturated with the sauce and gravy they were eaten as cakes. These were called trenchers. The use of trenchers remained long in fashion even at the most splendid banquets. It would be difficult to point out the exact period at which leavening bread was adopted in Europe, but we can assert that in Medieval Times it was anything but general. Yeast was reserved for pastry, and it was only at the end of the sixteenth century that bakers used it for bread.

Middle Ages Food - Facts and Information about bread
At first the trades of miller and baker were carried on by the same person. The man who undertook the grinding of the grain had ovens near his mill, which he let to his lord to bake bread, when he did not confine his business to persons who sent him their corn to grind. Loaves varied in form, quality and consequently in name, there were at least twenty sorts of bread made during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries with names such as the court loaf, the pope's loaf, the knight's loaf, the squire's loaf, the peer's loaf and the varlet's loaf. The "table loaves," were served at the tables of the rich, were of such a convenient size that one of them would suffice for a man of ordinary appetite, even after the crust was cut off, which it was considered polite to offer to the ladies, who soaked it in their soup. For the servants an inferior bread was baked, called "common bread.". In many counties they sprinkled the bread, before putting it into the oven, with powdered linseed.

Medieval Bread for the Poor
Bread made with barley, oats, or millet was always ranked as coarse food, to which the poor only had recourse in years of want. Barley bread was, besides, used as a kind of punishment, and monks who had committed any serious offence against discipline were condemned to live on it for a certain period.

Rye bread was held of very little value, and it was very generally used among the country people. Black wheat, or buck wheat, which was introduced into Europe by the Moors and Saracens when they conquered Spain, quickly spread to northern Europe which helped to ease the problems caused by famine.

Middle Ages Food - Biscuits
The crusaders developed a bread twice baked, or biscuit. This bread was very hard, and easier to keep than any other description. It was brought back to Europe and used for provisioning ships, or towns threatened with a siege, as well as in religious houses. At a later period, delicate biscuits were made of a sort of dry and crumbling pastry which retained the original name.

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Medieval Food

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