Bread in Medieval Staffordshire


During Medieval times, grain was grown and stored locally.  Millers would have produced flour for the local community and the grain from which the flour was produced would need to be sufficient to last all year, until the next harvest.

Wealthy landowners and the aristocracy would be sure to store enough grain to last a full year and the millers would always keep some grain in reserve to sell flour at a premium price when supplies were short.  As in many societies, it was the poor people and low paid workers that would have difficulty in obtaining good bread in the late spring and early summer, before the new harvest.

Millers and bakers would extend the life of wheat flour after a poor harvest by mixing grains.  Mescalin bread was always available for the working customers.  This was a mixture of wheat and rye flour and was cheap and nutritious bread.  Horesebread was any bread made from flour that was not wheat flour.  Barley bread and oat bread were referred to as horsebread, being made from grains that were normally used to feed horses.  Clapbread was also baked for the poorest customers, being made of bran and left over flour from making better quality breads (and perhaps the floor sweepings) and baked in a cooling oven after the last bake of the day.

When flour was scarce, bakers produced peasebread.  This was made from white flour mixed with pea or bean flour.  This bread did not rise so well, but it had a higher nutritional value than wheat bread alone.

•        Mix half and half, wholemeal flour and pea flour.

•        Rub in some unsalted butter and add warm water and yeast to make a stiff dough.

•        Shape into a round loaf, coat with milk, and then rest the dough for an hour.

•        Before baking, push your thumb down into the centre of the loaf to show that this is peasebread.

•        Bake in a hot oven for 30 minutes and leave to cool.

The mix for peasebread is very sticky and does not knead well.  It will rise the same whether it is kneaded or not.

Peasebread tastes good but will go stale in 24 hours and become unpalatable.  Food was not wasted in medieval times and any stale bread would be used to make pobs.  Take stale bread and break it into mouth size pieces.  Soak in hot milk or ale for 10 minutes then eat.