Last Saturday was the "Treasure Island" summer fair at my son Benjanin's school, "Lewes New School", and as reported previously he volunteered me for a bread stall. The idea was that the children should make a major contribution to the fair, and I came to the conclusion, that I would let them bake bread from the Treasure Island times, and sell it at the fair.
By the way, the title photo is not "period bread", but my special take on Bo Friberg's Vanilla Butter Biscuits.
Back to the bread making.
After much research and some help from Ananda I settled for three kinds of breads, with slightly adapted formulas to fit the schedule.
You can find the formulas here, I added Ships Biscuits, of which I baked a daily sailor's ration to show at the fair.
The three breads are:
1. Pease Bread, a soured version of Horse Bread, my version uses equal parts of ground yellow split peas, barley and oats, and a tiny bit of sourdough starter of the same mixture. Probably the easiest sourdough to make, peas ferment like crazy. And there is no kneading or sophisticated shaping involved. The taste is quite strong and the crumb a bit crumbly. Excellent with some smoked meats, or with stews.
2. Maslin Bread, this is a bread similar to a German "Feinbrot", usually a mix of wholegrain rye with another grain, depending on the region. In Sussex it probably was wheat, but I used spelt instead because many of the folks at the school try to avoid wheat, for various reasons. I based the proportions on a 50:50 rye:spelt detmolder, with the addition of Ale Barm - now there is a special ingredient.
3. Manchet Bread, this was the posh white loaf of the day, made with Ale Barm and heavily worked, to get a fine, white crumb. I used old dough, with 50% of the final build being old dough. This made a soft, dense but creamy crumb. Delicious. And those hop notes from the barm coming through. Great.
How we did it:
This is Benjamin with all the materials for the bake, on the way to school on Thursday Morning:
The Star Trek box contains his lunch... the other boxes flours and starters, Spock, ... It's life as we know it ...
Then I gave a little taster of the three breads Benjamin's class (15 kids, 1 teacher and 2 assistants) would make, and a little talk about the specifics of each of them.
This was my Manchet sample:
We then set off to Harvey's Brewery
where our most kind hosts gave us a great tour around the brewery, with many insights into the process.
We sampled some malt and yeast, and smelled hops, and saw steam engines, mills, many different tanks and vessels, piped wort, and - what we came for - yeast! Ale Barm.
Here swimming on top of a few thousand litres of great ale to be:
We got our barm and carried it back to school, where the kids had other duties.
I stayed on, and mixed the preferments: Ale Barm dough with wheat and spelt for Manchet (I provided for 5 loaves of spelt manchet), rye sour for maslin, and the full dough for pease bread.
Here is the pyramid of preferments:
I was a bit worried about the size of the second container from the top,
and I guess I was lucky - not too much spillage the next morning:
First thing on Friday Morning each child and adult decided on a slashing pattern so we could recognise or loaves after the bake.
Then we mixed the Manchet bread. Opening the box with the preferment set free great scents of hops and yeast, and the honeycomb structure created many "Aah.."s.
Kneading the dough and beating it with rolling pins was great fun. The kids didn't need much help, but the noise level in the classroom was enormous.
While the manchet was proofing we shaped the Pease Bread, slashed it right away, and I carried it to the kitchen, where the hot oven was waiting.
Next was shaping the manchets, everybody did really well.
Then the Pease breads came out of the oven. The colour here is influenced by the pink of the box:
Next was mixing the maslin. A rye dough. Great stickiness.
Again, everybody was absolutely great, what I had to do most was scraping dough off little hands ....
The bowls are testimony to the stickiness of a rye rich dough:
After we put the maslin bread to rest it was time to slash the manchet and get it into the oven:
After that, and just before lunch, it was time to shape the maslin breads, another sticky experience,
Most of the young bakers understood well that swift and gentle handling of the dough was required at this stage.
I got a bunch of cheap wicker baskets (at Nesbits on Shaftesbury Avenue near Leicester Square, for the Londoners) for the proofing.
During lunch I got the manchets out of the oven:
This oven is a gas oven with two shelves and no stones. It heats up to 250C, but with a load of 20 loaves it goes down below 150C and takes ages to recover.
Unfortunately I hadn't quite figured out how to make the best use of it, some breads got rather dark as a result.
But the smell in the school kitchen was absolutely amazing and won me some customers and helpers for the fair.
Once the kids had their lunch and runaround and the teachers had their cup of tea we went on to turn out the maslins and slash them.
There was already an air of routine in the classroom.
These are the maslins in the oven:
By that time I had figured out how to juggle the heat, and the bake was slightly more even:
All that was left to do now was to tidy up and pack my tools.
Saturday was Treasure Island fair day, and a certain member of our family was so excited that we all had an early start ...
Lots of pirates started to gather, from far and near ...
... to - among various other things - buy Treasure Island Bread at my stall:
The manchet (white bread!) sold out first, but we managed to sell all our 56 loaves!
A great experience, all in all.
Thanks again to Edmund Jenner and colleagues from Harvey's Brewery in Lewes for all their support (and a cask of ale),
and to the Head and the teachers at Lewes New School to support this whole project wih lots of enthusiasm.