The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

What is a Peasant Loaf?

ericb's picture

What is a Peasant Loaf?

I always hear the term "Peasant Bread," but I've never been able to nail down a definition. I assumed it was a whole wheat loaf made with poolish, but recipes online are all across the board. 

Is this just another name for "rustic" or "artisan" bread, or does it have a more specific meaning?

Any thoughts?

mrfrost's picture

"Peasant bread can refer to a variety of breads, most often European in origin, that make use of whole wheat flour, often rye flour and sometimes other coarsely ground grains to produce a very hearty bread. Such breads are known for their hearty crumb, a bit of stiffness and crustiness, and generally for their coarseness as compared to breads made with more refined flours. You'll find numerous recipes online for these rustic breads, with many different suggestions on ingredients. Most are very simple, though, with yeast, flour, water and a little salt being the predominant ingredients, and many are shaped into round loaves..."

hutchndi's picture

If you really want an idea what peasant bread might have been like, find some nice fine beach sand and toss a cup in your next batch of bread.

A great bit of reading in "Six Thousand Years of Bread: Its Holy and Unholy History" by H.E. Jacob. Aparently millers of olde were a rather rotten bunch. The peoples would bring their grain to the miller, who would grind it for them, take his share as payment, along with whatever he could steal, and substitute sand to make up the weight.

sounds yummy huh? must have been a delight to bake with too.

arlo's picture

Mr. Frost pretty much nailed it. When I've made peasant bread before I aim to use lots of whole grain flours, a hydration that pulls together and doesn't stick to my hands while kneading. The loaf then ends up a bit dense, full of flavor and reminds me that I owe taxes to a king and queen for living in their Hamlet.



ericb's picture

Ah. As I suspected. "Peasant Bread" seems to be a catch-all for anything that isn't fruity, Frenchy, or buttery.

Oddly enough, many of the recipes I have seen are for 100% white flour. I would have expected at least a little WW or rye.

Arlo, I love your comment about paying taxes to the king. I don't want to come off as being too serious, but I've always thought glorification of the peasantry to be a bit offensive. There's so much talk about baking bread the way our "peasant ancestors" would have done it, how it would have been rustic and delicious and filling, blah blah blah. My suspicion is that, at least in Western Feudalism, the peasantry was actually forbidden from baking due to the strictly enforced guild system. It would have been illegal in many places for peasants to grind their own wheat, too. If peasants made any bread whatsoever, it was probably unleavened flat bread or griddle cakes. 

Well, that's enough of my soapbox. Thanks for the input, though!


Broc's picture

My neighbor came back from hunting... missed his deer, but the dog caught something, and came back a little down in the mouth...  Added that to dough, and ended up with pheasant bread.




Just seeing if anyone's awake!


~ B


pmccool's picture

What's all the blather about peasant birds?  Since when is a bird a peasant?


Abracaboom's picture

The one recipe I have for peasant bread (pa de pagès) is your basic rustic bread made with pre-ferment (a chunk of dough saved from the previous day's baking), a dense crumb, 4/5 white stoneground flour, and 1/5 bread flour. First you knead the flours and water only, let that sit for 40 minutes, add your pre-ferment, salt and yeast, knead again, let rise for 3 hours with 2 folds in between, form round, proof in baskets for 8 hours in the fridge, and go from there.