The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Medieval Bread inspired by Dan Lepard

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Medieval Bread inspired by Dan Lepard

As I begin to work my way through Dan Lepard's The Handmade Loaf, there is a bread pictured on the inside cover that got me wondering. It looks like a boule with an appendage twisted with pointed tips and makes me think of a handle to hold while carrying or cutting. Dan didn't identify the bread by name and I haven't seen anything like it before so until I hear otherwise from Dan or someone who knows the real name, I'm calling it Medieval Bread. I used the first recipe for White Leaven Bread as the mix and tried to shape the dough as pictured.Waiting until after proofing to shape the twist was a mistake I suspect. If you have the book, you will be amused at my rookie attempt to replicate the image.

I have made Dan's Black Pepper Rye and the White Thyme bread which were delicious but I think I should progress in an order that will let me understand Lepards thinking. After looking at nearly every bread in the book, I see the ratios of leaven and timing are different than I have been accustomed to using. There are also a few specialized techniques that I haven't used and ingredients while common at home are unfamiliar to me in baking. Pickle Juice would be a good example. It would be easy for me to get distracted by the many wonderful new recipes and ignore the common sourdough white loaf. As I discovered, that would be a mistake.

I made the White Leaven bread by the book except I substituted 30 grams of sifted rye into the 500g white bread flour. Dan suggests using fresh yeast and as soon as I find a local source for 1 pound bricks I intend to make the change from Instant Dry (IDY). Most of the brick fresh yeast sold in the US is made just a few miles from here so it's just a matter of finding a distributor.

The method of developing the gluten in all of the recipes in this book are most easily done with your hands or a plastic scraper. Dan is insistent on minimal kneading, waiting 10 minutes and again just a few seconds of kneading and wait 10 minutes. After a few cycles of this you begin to see the dough come together well and become smooth and silky. Following the initial development comes a schedule of stretch and fold, waiting between folding sessions. All very gentle and effortless steps. The result is a perfectly incorporated and developed dough with just the right amount of aeration.

Remembering that these same four ingredients can be mixed and handled in many ways to arrive at vastly different ends, I am very pleased to have followed the procedure exactly. The bread is wonderful. For me a perfect outcome is a bread that looks wonderful and has a full flavor with a long lasting after taste. The crust has been baked to a dark brown and has a deeper caramelized flavor that contrasts the crumb. When I manage to bake a bread that has this contrast and tastes this good, I'm really pleased.

I know there are many bread books out there to choose from. Many are very similar and will produce great breads. If you are serious about making breads that are not merely great but outstanding, "The Handmade Loaf" or the US version "The Art of Handmade Bread"  is available from our link for $12. At this point it's the best value in my library and I'm delighted with the best breads I have made. Lepard has traveled Europe and befriended some of the old time bakers in far off the beaten path corners of the world. Developing these recipes for modern use is a gift to those of us who strive to bake these old style hearty breads.

No snickering at my attempt to make the twisted boule now!

Eric   

Comments

chouette22's picture
chouette22

... your breads look wonderful, reminding me of the big hams I photographed in Barcelona last May. Wouldn't that make a fantastic medieval feast: your bread and those hams? :)

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Slow cured hams are a delicacy over here. That would make a great sandwich.

Eric

Farine's picture
Farine

...came out in my email (I got a automatic mail notification from The Fresh Loaf) as "mid-evil loaf" which sounded quite appropriate for Halloween! :-)

Anyway I checked my copy of The Handmade Loaf (which I bought in the UK) and it says on the back flap of the back cover that the loaf is actually an "Alsace loaf" (recipe p. 49 in my copy of the book) although the picture there is quite different.

Whatever it it, your loaves look gorgeous and I was delighted to read that they were wonderful. I am putting the Alsace loaf on my to-do list!

Bravo, Eric,

MC (from Farine)

ehanner's picture
ehanner

I first thought the mid-evil name would be fun for the season then changed my mind and decided to use proper usage,

You are quite right about the bread type used as identified. The Alsace does sound interesting but then so does every bread in this wonderful book.

Do you have any idea how that teardrop looking loaf is started? It is such an interesting shape I would like to master it.

Thanks for your kind words MC. I've enjoyed following your blog BTW. You are an ace!

Eric

LindyD's picture
LindyD

Wow, Eric.  I've never seen bread with handles before.  Those are very cool looking.

How did they taste?

ehanner's picture
ehanner

I haven't gotten to the handles yet. I gave the better looking loaf away to my neighbors last night and they didn't say yet.

I love the shape.

Eric

Paddyscake's picture
Paddyscake

although yours look most interesting!

Tell me, how would you store a 1lb block of fresh yeast? How long do you think it would take you to go though it?

Betty

hansjoakim's picture
hansjoakim

What an inspiring post! It looks like you've found the perfect book for someone who's passionate about bread (and not just eating, but working through all the steps of breadbaking).

You mention that ratios of leaven and timing are different from what you're used to. Could you elaborate a little bit on that?

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Thanks hansjoakim,

With my daily bread or the bread I make in my sleep quite often, I start in the evening. Because I know that in 12 or so hours the mix will want to be kneaded/folded I add about 50g of my active starter. Lepard has a shorter over all time frame. He starts in the morning around 8:00AM and bakes around 5:30. He uses 200g of starter in 500g of strong bread flour at 65% hydration. He also uses a small amount of fresh yeast which assures the rise but my starter is so robust I'm not sure it is really necessary, in fact,  it isn't.

On the face of it, one would think that my small inoculation over a greater time would amount to the same result as a larger one over a shorter time. That turns out to not be the case. The breads I have made using his scheme are much better tasting than what I am used to. Not a small amount better, way better after taste. Another thing is the contrast of the crust and crumb flavors. Some of that is from baking longer than I usually do I suppose but what ever it is, it's a fantastic change.

There is something happening at the microbiology level that is changing the culture population or available sugars at bake time. It's a few small changes that have a large impact.

Betty: From what Elagen (Stan) tells me you can keep fresh yeast in the fridge for a long time if it's wrapped properly. I might not be able to use it all before it goes bad but it's not expensive. If Lepard says he thinks he gets a better flavor from fresh, I'm inclined to give it a try. Everything else I have learned from him has been spot on so far.

Eric

weavershouse's picture
weavershouse

I think your loaves are so interesting and beautiful. Your writeup about the taste made me get my copy of this book off the shelf and finally really dig into it. Thanks for that. I look forward to following all your posts as you move through the book. Great job, as usual, Eric.

weavershouse

calliekoch's picture
calliekoch

Eric,

 

Regarding how to create the shape of Dan's "Medieval" loaf, I took a class with him in London and he explained it:

Basically you shape the loaf into a rough batard or log shape and then go to shape it as a baguette (elongating it by rolling the dough on the counter and moving your hands outwards to the tips). However you leave the dough much thicker in the middle and apply more downward pressure as your hands move towards the ends to make the dough gradually thinner and end up with pointed tips. Then you pull the tips together folding the dough in half and twisting the ends.

I hope that makes sense. I've Dan posting on here occasionally and perhaps he can give a clearer description.

 

Regarding his Pickle Juice Rye recipe, I made it last week and it is worth another try because I used juice from homemade pickles that was rather strong. I would like to try it with half pickle juice and half water to make the flavors more subtle. As it is now, you REALLY have to love pickle juice to enjoy this loaf.

 

Callie

 

ehanner's picture
ehanner

I understand your description but the picture I see looks like it starts as a boule. I wouldn't think a batard would meld together so evenly, but who knows?

Here is what I'm looking at.

Maybe if it was very fat in the middle? Then as you say fold it.

Eric

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Nice shaped bread.  I do think I spy a little tiny detail... a dimple... right smack in the middle of the above picture.  So it looks more like a donut (with the ends twisted together) that rose shut than a boule with a tail.  Gosh!  it has a belly button!

Mini   :)

ehanner's picture
ehanner

As I look at the image in the book, there is a slight indication that there might have been a belly button. That's what Callie said too but it looks so round. I'll have to try it with no flour dust on the surface.

Eric

AnnieT's picture
AnnieT

Eric, I kept looking at your loaf and didn't recognize it as coming from The Art of Handmade Bread. Thought I was having another senior moment but in fact my copy doesn't have such a loaf! Mine is the softcover version, no pictures inside the cover. I hadn't planned on baking it but now of course I really want to. What about your copy, weavershouse? Anyone else? A.

AnnieT's picture
AnnieT

So sorry Eric, I just re-read your post and see that there isn't a recipe for the bread. I still don't have a picture...  A.

weavershouse's picture
weavershouse

There is no photo of breads on the inside cover so, like Annie, now I want to see it and make it!! I was glad to see that you showed us what you see in your copy, Eric. Very interesting.

weavershouse

ehanner's picture
ehanner

I think the American version must have a different cover. The photo I posted isn't a very good example of the color of the bread but you get the general idea.

Eric

Farine's picture
Farine

...here is a scanned image of the back of the front cover in the British edition:

 

Dan Lepard's Alsace Loaf with Rye

calliekoch's picture
calliekoch

In addition to Mini's astutely observed dimple, it lookes like there are two lines/seams coming off of the dimple where the sides of the dough would meet when folded. I am guessing that both the dimple and lines become much less noticable after a proofing following shaping.

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Thank you MC, for scanning the page. If I squint, I can sort of see a general flow around he body of the form. That must be how it was done. I'm going to try to form one tomorrow so we will see. Thanks Callie, I hope you are right.

Eric