Thursday, 28 July 2011

Sifting flour

Over the past couple of months I have been re-writing an old website of mine on bread baking.  This week I decided to sift some flour in the old medieval tradition, using a muslin bag.
It is a simple method of sifting - just sew a large piece of muslin into a bag shape, fill it with stoneground flour and shake it over a bowl until your arm aches, then shake it a bit more.
What you are left with is a bowl full of white flour and a bag full of bran and husk.  If you start with a cold milled, stoneground flour, the full flavour of the wheat will be retained.  These two components would be used by the baker to make different kinds of bread.
Wastel is a white loaf made from common flour.  It was a costly loaf in medieval times and was only generally eaten by the wealthy.  This is a firmer version of modern white bread, but with more taste.
The bran could be mixed with bean or pea flour to make a much cheaper bread called Pease Bread.  This type of bread was common when wheat flour was in short supply.  It is firm and nutty to the taste.
My all time bread to avoid is this one.  This is Clapbread, made from bran and rye flour.  It has an amazingly good taste, but it is heavy and very chewy.  All that bran is bound to have an effect.  This type of bread was made with the leftovers from making good bread, and probably the flour sweepings from the bakehouse floor.  Cheap bread for the poor folk!

The main bake would have been a stoneground wholemeal loaf.  Check out the website at

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