When I was doing the Roman research paper for Steppes Artisan (and Laural’s Prize Tourny), I was reading about the different breads eaten at banquets.  One of the odder ones struck me as strange but yummy.  I mean really, who puts cumin in bread…with honey even?!  I knew the Romans were a little strange in their eating, but seriously?  So of course I HAD to try this.  Oh my…I must say, either my palate has changed for all time or this bread is really really really good!  You have to try this at least once.

Panis Alexandrinus

Cumin and Honey Bread

Translation:

A popular and frequently mentioned bread.  We do not know exactly how it was made except that it contained Egyptian cumin, hence the name and probably honey. (Faas, pp. 191)

Ingredients:

4 C Flour

2 Tbs cumin (Egyption if possible)

1 tsp salt

1 C Honey + 1 tsp for yeast

1 C water

1 tsp yeast.

 

Redaction:

First mix 1 tsp of honey with yeast and water in a small cup or bowl allow to sit for 5 minutes.

Here is the honey and the 2 tbs of cumin, the milky looking cup contains the honey, water and yeast foaming just a little.

Next, in a larger bowl, mix the flour salt and cumin together.

(In this picture I had added the yeast originally for the first batch…the honey makes this bread very dense so the yeast needs a little help, so I suggest doing yeast in water and honey to give the yeast a little extra head start…)

Next add in the honey and yeast mixture.

*A note about period flour.  Period flour was not just one type of flour or another.  Depending on where the flour was in the que of grinding depended on how much semolina, barley or rye might be found in the wheat.  Not matter where in the que though or how much of wheat flour was being ground, traces of other flours would show up.  This is because period grist mills did not clean between grinds.  Unlike today’s flour there was always a little extra to the wheat flour.

Once the dough has been kneaded for 5 minutes (for a better crumb)

coat with oil, place in a bowl and allow to sit for 90 minutes in a warm spot, covered with a towel.  After 90 minutes, remove the dough from the bowl and do a quick kneed, 30-60 seconds.

Place the dough in a greased square pan

Here is the original cumin and honey loaf.

And now the interior of this loaf.

This is very very dense.  The second baking, with the yeast given a bit of a head start, also produced a dense heave loaf but less dense then the first.

I am still playing around with this recipe myself.  I find the taste incredible but the crumb still much denser then I am use to modernly.  The bread may just be a dense type of bread and may never achieve a fluffy crumb but I keep trying for fun!

 

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