Ancient Bread Revisited

Earlier this month, I blogged about the re-engineering of a 2000-year-old loaf of Pompeiian Bread.  Last weekend, I decided to try baking one of my own.  I watched the video showing Giorgio Locatelli bring his recipe theories to life, but the recipe didn’t appeal to me.  Dry yeast? Gluten?  These ingredients didn’t exist in ancient Pompeii.

I found a link to another recipe at that satisfied both my intent to use ingredients and techniques available at the time and my desire for a tasty, well-sprung loaf.  The recipe is for a Miche – a very large round loaf weighing 1.5 kg.  I cut the recipe roughly in half and made a 2 lb loaf.  My banneton nearly overflowed, but the resulting loaf was excellent.

The spelt and whole wheat flour resulted in a heartier bread than is my usual fare.  I trusted my sourdough starter to leaven the dough, and I was not disappointed.  No dry yeast need apply.

Artisan Miche Loaf

A slice!

One of the advantages of a miche-sized loaf is that it stays fresh much longer than a smaller loaf does.  Most homes didn’t have ovens in ancient Pompeii, or in Rome for that matter.  As well as baking their own bread to sell, bakers provided communal ovens where citizens could bring their loaves from home to be baked.  It was common to press a seal – a signature of sorts – into the dough so that loaves could be identified and retrieved by their owners later in the day.


7 thoughts on “Ancient Bread Revisited”

  1. Lovely post. I’ve always wanted to try making true sourdough. I’m going through a paleo diet stage, so I may save this for later. How long did you let the bread rise?

    1. Thank you! The initial rise was about 12 hours. The second rise was about 3 hours, but I think the oven spring could have been a little better with about an hour and a half of rise time.

      I started my sourdough starter in September 2015 using the San Francisco Exploratorium’s sourdough starter recipe. I’m very happy with this starter.

      Best of luck when and if you begin making sourdough bread! I found that even my initial experiments had great flavor, and I was baking consistently good bread soon after.

      1. Thank you for replying! When I do try my hand at making bread, I’ll check out the recipe you recommended. I miss bread. I developed some intestinal challenges so for the sake of keeping something consistent in my food experimenting, I’m off gluten for the time being. I love your blog. Like me, you have a lot of interests.

        1. I hope you find that you’re able to handle gluten down the road. I love baking (and consuming!) hearty breads,. It would break my heart to give them up. Though they are considerably more modern, I plan to blog about some favorite bread recipes in the not too distant future.

          I checked out your blog this morning, and I see we have some simlar interests. I need to do some research first, but there’s a comment I have for your post on bamboo bicycles.

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