Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Ancient Egyptian Bread

The ancient Egyptians were around for 2000 years, so any attempt to reproduce the breads they made in that time would be difficult. Emmer wheat was the grain used preferentially up to the reign of Ptolemy II (285-246 BC), and after that Khorasan wheat was frequently used. Emmer is difficult to find, but Khorasan has been recently marketed as "Kamut" Flour. This is Triticum turanicum and it is genetically a hybrid between Triticum polonicum and Triticum durum.

Take 400 grammes of flour and add a pinch of salt, a little sugar (or honey) and 3 grammes of dried yeast.  Mix with warm water and a little oil, to a stiff dough and allow to rise for 30 minutes.  Kneed and leave to prove for another 30 minutes.  Kneed and form into small balls of dough.
Traditionally, the dough balls would be shaped into triangles about a centimeter thick.  They were also shaped into small rounds (12-15 cm) about a centimeter thick.  Place onto a dry baking sheet and leave to prove for half an hour.
Bake in a hot oven (200°C+) for about 17 minutes and then cool on a baking tray.  This bread has a very distinctive nutty sweat taste,

In the first millennium BC, bread would have been used differently.  Bread was most likely used to mop up or assist with eating other foods.  In some cases the larger rounds of bread (20 cm) may have been used as plates for other food, and then eaten afterwards.
Remains of ancient Egyptian bread have been found, one of the oldest examples of triangles of bread was from the reign of Mentuhotep II (2061-2010 BC) was discovered in the Dyr Al-Bahari mortuary complex.  That bread had sand grains within its structure prior to baking.

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