Robert Mays French Bread from 1660

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Take a gallon of fine flour, and a pint of good new ale barm or yeast, and put it to the flour, with the whites of six new laid eggs well beaten in a dish …”

Robert May, The Accomplisht Cook, 1685 (first published 1660)

Robert May's French Bread from 1660

The challenge for the Bread Baking Babes this month was to make Robert May’s ‘French Bread the best way’ from The Accomplisht Cook (1665-85). The adapted version is found in English Bread and Yeast Cookery by Elizabeth David. 

I absolutely love bread history, and the thought of baking a bread recipe from 1660 was enough to get me going, but not so fast…

Ilva (Lucullian Delights), the host kitchen this month, decided that French bread would be too easy so she challenged us to get creative and add a motif or design on top of the loaf.

I opted to explore my creativity with a bread lame.  This scoring pattern is based on a design I’ve been meaning to try for awhile. However, I changed it up a bit and added a couple of extra slashes for good measure.

My adapted version is made with KAMUT white and wheat flours and baked in a Dutch oven combo baker. 

Robert May's French Bread from 1660


I’m pretty sure my bread doesn’t resemble the original bread from 1660 or the adapted version from 1977, but I like it anyway.


Adapted from Elizabeth David's English Bread and Yeast Cookery


  • 500 g/ 1 lb 2 oz preferably a half-and-half mixture of unbleached white and whole wheat *
  • 6 grams (1 3/4 tsp.) instant yeast
  • 10g (1 3/4 tsp.) salt
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 100 grams (1/3 cup) milk, warm
  • 250 grams (~ 1 cup) water **

* I used 250 grams KAMUT white flour & 250 grams of KAMUT whole grain flour

** I added about 20 grams (1 T) more water because KAMUT absorbs more water than regular flour.

Mix the dough:

Mix the flours, yeast and salt in a large mixing bowl. Beat the egg whites in a small bowl until they are just beginning to froth.  Combine with the warm milk.  Pour over the flour mixture and mix well.

Gradually add in the water, a little at a time, and mix using a Danish dough whisk or your hands.  You may not need all of the water if you are using regular bread flour.

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After the dough is thoroughly incorporated, let it rest for 10-15 minutes.  This is a wet dough so I used the fold-and-turn method in the bowl instead of trying to knead it. 

Fold and Turn the Dough:

After the autolyse, perform a fold-and-turn in the bowl.  With the fold-and-turn method, you basically do a series of turns and folds in the bowl to develop the gluten structure.

To perform a fold-and-turn, grab one edge of the dough, lift it up and place it over the top of the dough. Turn the bowl, and repeat this action 3 more times.  This is considered one fold-and-turn.

Bulk Fermentation:

If you are using KAMUT, let the dough bulk ferment for about 1 & 1/2  to 2 hours. Fold the dough every 30 minutes for the 1st hour and then let it rest for the final 30 minutes to an hour.  If you are using regular flour, you may not need as long of a bulk fermentation.

Shape the Loaf:

Remove the proofed dough from the bowl to a floured work surface. Shape it into a round loaf and let it rest on the counter for 10 minutes. Then reshape it into a tight round and place it in a lined banneton basket.

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Final Proof:

Lightly flour the top of the dough. Cover the basket with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel. Let it proof about 30 – 45 minutes.

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Prepare the Oven for Baking

45 minutes to an hour before baking the loaf, preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.  Remove the middle rack from the oven and place a Dutch oven on the bottom rack. I used the Dutch oven combo baker for this bread.

Transfer the Loaf to the Dutch Oven

When the loaf is fully proofed and the oven is sufficiently preheated, carefully remove the Dutch oven using heavy oven mitts. Be careful not to burn your arms or hands on the sides of the oven or the pot. Gently invert the loaf from the proofing basket onto the bottom of the Dutch oven combo baker.  I sprinkled the bottom of the combo baker with cornmeal before inverting the loaf onto it.

Score the Loaf:

Score the loaf using the pattern of your choice.  As I mentioned, I used a new scoring pattern, but you can use what you like.


Bake the Loaf:

Place the Dutch Oven on the bottom rack of the oven and cover it with the lid. Bake the loaf for 20 minutes with the lid on.

Remove the lid and bake for an additional 20 minutes or until the loaf is a medium dark brown.  Just be careful not to burn the bottom of the loaf. 

Robert May's French Bread from 1660I’m sending this loaf to be yeastspotted.


Remove the loaf from the Dutch oven to a wire rack to cool completely before slicing and serving.

Robert May's French Bread from 1660


Check out how the other creative Babes handled this bread:

The Bread Baking Babes (current dozen) are:


Would you like to be a Bread Baking Buddy? Here’s how:

Make Robert May’s French Bread, then email your link to Ilva, the kitchen of the month (or email your photo and a bit about your experience if you don't have a blog).  Refer to Ilva’s post for the details. Submissions are due by September 29th.  Once you've posted, you'll receive a Buddy badge for baking along, then watch for a roundup of all of the BBBuddies posts a few days after the close of submissions.

I hope you'll join us this month in baking French Bread from the past.

Bread Baking Babes Badge for Sep 2014


Happy Baking!


If your grains sprout too long, just make crackers

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Have you ever let your wheat berries sprout too long?  I’ve baked lots of sprouted breads over the years, and I can’t tell you how many times this has happened to me.  In fact, it happened just the other day. 

Sprouted Grains in a jar

Sprouted breads are some of my favorite types of bread because they are healthy and taste great. However, the sprouting process can be a bit tricky. Getting the timing down is particularly important if you’re trying to make bread with all sprouted wheat and no flour.  If you let the grains germinate too long, they turn to starch, and when you bake the bread, it turns out like a brick.

Refer to these posts: sprouted wheat bread with no flour – take one  and sprouted wheat bread with no flour - take two if you want to see what I’m talking about.

I get questions about this issue all the time. Up until now, all I could offer was encouragement. I know firsthand how frustrating it is to have to throw away a bunch of grains that have sprouted too long to use in bread.

I was faced with this issue recently.  I wanted to make some sprouted wheat bread, but the grains sprouted too fast.  I just couldn’t bring myself to throw the sprouts away so I left them in the refrigerator for a couple of days. 

One morning, as I was driving to an appointment (in slow Atlanta traffic), a light bulb went off in my head, and it occurred to me that the sprouts might actually work well in crackers. I love to make crackers so this sounded like a fun experiment.

Sprouted Wheat Crackers

I’ve been working on these crackers for a couple of weeks.  I’m not sure why I haven’t tried this test before, but I’m happy to say that my idea worked.  I really like the flavor and crunchiness of these crackers.


Making Sprouted Wheat Crackers

Makes: About 8 dozen (depending on how you cut the crackers)


  • 2 cups sprouted wheat (from 1/2 cup wheat berries)
  • 4-6 tablespoons water
  • 1 tablespoon honey (optional) *
  • 3 tablespoons coconut oil (or olive oil) **
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat flour (more for dusting, if necessary)
  • 1 teaspoon salt

* I’ve made these crackers with and without honey. I liked both versions, but I enjoyed the crackers with honey a little bit more. If you have a sweet tooth like me, you might enjoy adding a little honey.

** I used olive oil and coconut to test these crackers. Either one works, but I prefer the coconut oil.

Sprouting the grains:

1) Take 1/2 cup of dried wheat berries.  Place them in a bowl and cover them with about 1 inch of water.  Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel, and let the berries soak for 6 to 8 hours or overnight.

2) Drain the berries, rinse and drain again. Transfer the rinsed berries to a quart-size canning jar or something similar. Place a piece of cheesecloth over the top of the jar and fasten it with a rubber band.

3) Place the jar in cool, dark place. I placed the jar on it’s side in a plastic container and put it in one of my kitchen cabinets. 

4) Rinse the berries twice a day until they germinate.

I started this process in the evening and by the next evening (18 – 24 hours), the sprouts already had long shoots (see photo below).  I placed them in the refrigerator until the next day when I planned to make the crackers.

Sprouted Grains in a jar


Making the Crackers:

1) Process the wheat berries. Transfer the sprouts to a blender or food processor.  Add a couple of tablespoons of water and process the berries until smooth. I used 4-6 tablespoons of water each time I made these crackers. If your sprouts are more liquid, you may need less water so add it in a tablespoon at a time to be sure. If you add a little bit too much water, it’s okay, just add more flour to the final dough.

This is what the sprouts look like after being blended with the water.



2) Transfer the mixture to a medium-size mixing bowl and add the oil and honey (if using).  Mix well. 

3) Add the dry ingredients. Mix the salt and flour together and add to the sprout mixture. Stir with a Danish dough whisk or your hands until  the mixture is thoroughly combined.



Note: At this point, you can go ahead and make the crackers or place them in the refrigerator for a couple of hours, or overnight.  I tested this process three different ways. For the first attempt, I baked the crackers right away; for the next attempt I let the dough rest in the refrigerator a couple of days; and the third time I made the crackers, I let the dough rest in the refrigerator a couple of hours before baking the crackers. Each method worked, but I prefer letting the dough rest in the refrigerator for a couple of hours, then baking the crackers. This makes it easier to roll out the dough.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

4) Divide the dough into two equal pieces and roll out each piece onto a piece of parchment paper sprayed (or greased) with oil.  Try to roll the pieces out to the same thickness so they bake evenly. 



5) Cut the crackers into the desired shape using a pizza wheel or decorative cutter.



6) Bake the crackers. Slide each piece of parchment paper onto a baking sheet and place one baking sheet on the middle shelf and the other sheet on the bottom shelf. Bake the crackers for 10 minutes, then switch the baking sheets from top to bottom and bake for 10 minutes more. 

To ensure the crackers get crispy, turn the oven off and leave the crackers in the oven until it cools down.  Keep an eye on the crackers to make sure they don’t burn.  If you rolled some out more thinly than others, they will bake faster. Remove those while the rest of the crackers continue baking.

7) Remove the crackers from the oven and let them cool on a wire rack.

Sprouted wheat crackers made from sprouted grains


These crackers store really well and will stay fresh for several days. To store them, place them in a plastic zip lock bag after they have cooled completely.  If you’re like me, they’ll disappear pretty quickly.

Sprouted wheat crackers made from sprouted grains


So if you have grains that have germinated a bit too much to use in breads, just make sprouted wheat crackers. Or, go ahead and sprout some berries just to make these crackers. They are really good.

Happy Baking!


Uses for Stale Bread: Panzanella Bread Salad

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Making Panzanella is a simple way to use up stale bread. Also known as Tuscan Bread Salad, Panzanella is made with garden vegetables and day old bread. I’ve had it on my list to make for years, but never got around to it until now.


Panzanella Tuscan Bread Salad


I sampled this bread salad while I was in Tuscany and really enjoyed it. So of course I had to try it once I got back.

Those Tuscans sure know how to do things. They take the simplest of ingredients and make delicious and comforting foods from them. However, don’t confuse simple with tasteless. They may use common ingredients, but these components are of high quality and full of flavor.

I’ve been chomping at the bit to make this salad, but I wanted to use tomatoes from my garden so I waited for them to reach their peak.  That finally happened so I grabbed a loaf of sourdough bread from the freezer, thawed it and let it sit out so it would be stale and ready for use in this dish.

Almost all of the ingredients I used are local, except the olive oil. Well, the wheat for the flour isn’t grown locally, but the bread was made in my kitchen so that will have to do for now. The tomatoes, cucumbers and basil are from my garden.


Panzanella Tuscan Bread Salad

Adapted from: Tuscan Bread by Ornella D’Allessio – Sergio Rossi

This book was originally written in Italian, but fortunately for me they also translated it into English although the translation is a bit humorous at times.

Makes: Enough for 4 people


  • 300 g of stale bread (I used 6-7 slices)
  • 3 or 4 tomatoes (or to taste)
  • 1 onion
  • 1 cucumber
  • 2 stalks of celery
  • Fresh Basil
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Water and vinegar, for soaking the bread


Tear the stale bread slices and place them in a bowl.  The bread salad I had in Tuscany was made with Tuscan bread, but you can make it with any type of bread as long as you can tear it.

Add some water and two teaspoons of vinegar.  Let the bread soften in the bowl for 10 minutes, then squeeze and crumble the bread into salad bowls.

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While the bread is softening, slice the onion into rings and roughly chop the celery, tomatoes and cucumber.  Add the chopped vegetables to the bread mixture and toss well.

Add salt, pepper, basil and olive oil to taste and mix again.

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Place the Panzanella in the refrigerator  and let it rest in the fridge for a least 2 hours before serving.

Take the bread salad out of the refrigerator.  Serve and enjoy!

 Panzanella Tuscan Bread Salad


This bread salad is really easy to make which is one of the reasons I decided to try it now. I recently had surgery on my finger so I don’t want to put undue stress on it while it’s healing.  I’ve been focusing on foods that take minimal effort to prepare.  This one fits the bill.

I actually got two benefits out of making this dish.  I was able to utilize one of the old loaves sitting in my freezer, and chopping all of the vegetables gave my finger practice working with different textures and sensations.


Happy Baking!


How to Have Fresh Basil all Year Long

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When I visited Tuscany a few months ago, I learned how to keep fresh basil around all year long even when freshly-picked herbs are not available from the garden.

Fresh basil and olive oil

During the Plated Stories Workshop, we participated in a cooking session with Enrico Cassini.  Enrico was the owner and the renowned chef of Le Cassace, the Villa where the workshop was held. 

As I mentioned in a previous post, Enrico was very proud of his lands and his olive oil.  He made his fresh basil with olive oil from his olive groves and he used it to enhance his food creations.

I made my version with fresh basil from my garden and Il Palazzone Extra Virgin Olive Oil which I brought back from Tuscany.  This olive oil is special because it comes from a vineyard in Montalcino, Italy, in the Brunello wine region of Tuscany.

We visited the winery and toured the vineyards where they grow Sangievese grapes for the Brunello wine. 

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In addition to the vineyards and the winery, they also have a small olive grove of 1000 trees. They have three kinds of olive trees: Toscano, Monenello, and Songenese.

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According to Laura, the Estate Manager and our host for the guided tour, 3,000 is the optimal amount of olive trees that you should maintain in order to have a good yield. However, they want to remain true to the craft so they nurture these trees to produce the liquid gold.

To ensure high quality oil, the olives are picked by hand before they fall off the tree (to keep them from getting bruised) and before they are fully mature.  The oil is packaged in dark green bottles to protect it from light and to help preserve its fragrance and beautiful color.  This arduous process brings in a smaller yield and as a result,  production is limited. 

In order to make the best possible Extra Virgin Olive Oil in the most traditional way, they established a program, called Club 100. The idea behind this program is to let other people share in the cost of maintaining the olive trees and producing the olive oil.  This adopt-an-olive-tree program reminds me of a CSA.  They’ll even put a plaque on the tree with your name on it. How cool is that! 

Olive tree with name plaque

As you can imagine, adopting a tree is very popular so there is a waiting list. I’m on the list and I’m looking forward to adopting an olive tree soon.  Then I’ll be able to say that I used olive oil made from my adopted tree.


Making Fresh Basil with Olive Oil

I’ve been waiting for my basil plants to grow all summer so I could try this trick.  My three plants finally produced enough leaves for me to make it and have some left over for drying. This is a photo of one of the plants after I harvested most of it’s leaves. 



To make it, just take freshly-picked basil leaves, add them to the blender with a little bit of olive oil and process until the mixture is the consistency you desire. Then place the fresh basil in a jar and top it off with more olive oil. 

How much basil should you use?

My basil plants weren’t very big this year so to make this fresh basil mix, I harvested all the leaves from two plants. Then I discarded the bruised and discolored leaves. I didn’t weigh the basil, but the photo below shows what the mound of fresh basil leaves looked like on the cutting board before I placed it in the blender.  I didn’t chop the leaves; I added the leaves whole to the blender and drizzled in olive oil a little at a time until it was completed blended.



Enrico used the immersion blender and blended his mixture about 3 times. My immersion blender wasn’t strong enough so I used the regular blender and blended the leaves until they were fairly smooth.

What type of jar should you use?

Once the mixture was ready, I spooned it into an appropriately-sized jar. I tried an eight ounce canning jar (jelly jar), but it was too small. The pint size jar was too large.  I finally found a jar that would hold it. I just happened to have a jar that originally had basil pesto in it, but you can use any jar that has a tight-fitting lid. After you place the mixture in the jar, you’ll want to top it off with olive oil to within about a half-inch of the top of the jar.

Voila!  There you have it!  Simple, and convenient.

How do you store it?

Store the jar at room temperature.  When you are ready to use the fresh basil, just stir it and scoop out what you need.

You can use it in homemade pasta sauces, soups, or any dish where you would use basil and olive oil.  You could also make basil pesto with this if you choose to do so. 

Fresh Basil and Olive Oil


Happy Canning & Baking!


A Batard and a Pear Tree

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A beautiful Bradford Pear tree stood next to the cherry tree in my front yard.  Over time, it grew and expanded until it’s branches spread so wide, it could hardly contain itself.

Season after season, the tree adorned my yard with splendor and provided a beautiful backdrop to an otherwise boring yard. The colors of the leaves were breathtaking in Autumn and the blossoms in Spring were refreshing.  It even looked good in snow although that didn’t happen very often. The tree commanded a lot of space, but it was so pretty, I didn’t mind.



Sadly, one night a couple of weeks ago, there was a terrible storm and the wind blew so hard, it separated part of the tree from it’s trunk, and it came crashing down on the street. The once glorious tree was rendered helpless in one fell swoop.

Since the tree was in the middle of the road, the cars weren’t able to pass by. My house is at the beginning of the street so this presented a problem. Pretty soon, a crowd of my neighbors (and the police) gathered around to figure out how to get it out of the way.  I stood there in the street looking at the fallen tree; my hand still bandaged from my recent surgery.  I watched as my neighbors worked to get the tree out of the road.  I felt pretty helpless, but it was awesome at the same time.

You could hear the sound of chop, chop, chopping and chain saws roaring as branch by branch, the limbs of the tree were removed from the road.  They opened up one lane so that cars could get by. 

poor pear tree

I called a tree service the next day (Friday), but they weren't able to come until Saturday morning.  This meant the tree would have to lay on the other half of the road all day. 

There was another storm Friday night, and I held my breath the whole time.  Another tree fell, but in the backyard this time, and it wasn’t big enough to do any damage. 

Saturday morning rolled around and the tree service called to tell me they would have to reschedule because they had an emergency.  A tree had fallen on someone’s house.

I decided not to get upset because I remembered the community effort from the night my tree fell down. I was very fortunate. The tree didn’t hit my house or the power lines. I decided I should be patient.

I went about my business that Saturday all the while looking out the window at the tree that still lay halfway across the road and wondering if my neighbors were fussing at me every time they drove by.

Then late in the afternoon, another neighbor came by and asked if I wanted him to clear the rest of the tree from the road.  He had a sheepish grin on his face and said, “I would really like the wood, and I need to test my chain saw. I just got it out of the shop.”  I just laughed and said, “Go for it! Thank you!”  Turns out he does woodworking as a hobby and this is what he wanted to do with the wood. 

He and his wife cleared up the mess in the road and as a thank you, I gave them the wood (of course) and offered to bake them some bread.  When I asked what type of bread they would like, my neighbor said, “a Batard!”  He had tasted them in France and hadn’t been able to find one here that he liked.

I decided to try and make a batard that he would enjoy. The batard shape is one of my favorite shapes.  I just wasn’t sure how well I would be able shape or score it with the stitches still in my finger.  So I waited until I got the stitches out.

I finally made the bread last weekend.  I’m still getting the mobility back in my finger so they were not the best loaves I’ve made in terms of shaping and scoring, but I’m fairly pleased with how they turned out taste wise. 

Batards using poolish baguette dough

These batards are made from a poolish baguette dough of white bread flour and about 12% whole wheat flour in the final dough. They had a wonderful flavor. My neighbor and his wife enjoyed the loaf I gave them. I also shared a loaf with a friend who enjoyed it as well. 

I’ve been using the other loaf to make Tuscan Garlic Bread with garlic from my garden and olive oil from Tuscany.  It’s so good!


Batards with Overnight Poolish

Makes: Four 1 -1.5 pound-loaves

Adapted from: Baguettes with Poolish from Bread: A Baker’s Book of Techniques and Recipes by Jeffrey Hammelman

Note: Depending on what time of year you bake this bread and if you include some whole wheat, you will probably need to add more water.  I baked these loaves in the summer and had to add a good bit more water than the original formula suggested for the final dough.



  • 10.6 ounces bread flour or all-purpose flour
  • 10.6 ounces water
  • pinch or 1/8 tsp. instant yeast

In mixing bowl, add the water and sprinkle the yeast over the top.  Mix in the flour until smooth. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it stand for 12 to 16 hours at about 70 degrees F.  It was 78 degrees F. in my house so I only let it rest for about 10 hours before using.



Final Dough: 

  • 18.8 ounces bread flour or all-purpose flour
  • 2.6 ounces white whole wheat flour (I used home milled)
  • 10.6 ounces water, plus additional if necessary (I used ~ 1/2 cup more)
  • 1 1/4 tsp. instant yeast
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt

For the final dough, add all of the ingredients, including the poolish, in a large bowl or in the bowl of a stand mixer.  Mix using a stand mixer or by hand.  I mixed the dough by hand using the fold-and-turn method in the bowl. 

The dough should be supple and moderately loose.  The desired dough temperature should be 76 degrees F.

Let the dough bulk ferment for 2 hours if mixed in the stand mixer, with one fold after the first hour.

I let it ferment for 3 hours with folds every 30 minutes for the first 2 hours, then I let it rest for the final hour.

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Divide the dough into four equal pieces.  Preshape lightly into rounds, cover, and let them rest on a lightly floured surface for 20 to 30 minutes.  Once the dough has relaxed sufficiently, shape the rounds into batards and place the loaves between folds of a couche.  Be sure to leave enough space between each batard so they have enough space to expand. 

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Cover the loaves with plastic and baker’s linen to prevent a crust from forming on the surface of the loaves.

Let the loaves ferment for 1 to 1 1/2 hours at 76 degrees F.

Score the loaves in the pattern of your choice.  I scored three of the loaves down the middle and added some decorative slashes along the sides.  I scored the other loaf with 3 slashes.


Preheat the oven to 475 degrees F. with a baking stone on the bottom rack and an iron skillet on the top shelf.

Slide the loaves directly onto the baking stone or transfer the loaves to parchment paper dusted with cornmeal and then transfer the parchment paper (with the loaves) onto the preheated baking stone.

Quickly add several ice cubes to the iron skillet to create steam.  Be careful not to burn yourself.

Bake the loaves for 25 to 30 minutes.  They should be golden brown and sound hollow when thumped on the bottom.

batards using poolish baguette dough


Alas, this is all that is left of the pear tree.  The tree service finally took down the rest of it along with some other trees in my yard.   

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Although the tree is gone, the stump makes a great prop for a photo, and I have a bunch of firewood to enjoy in my fireplace. 

Batards and the Pear Tree


The Cherry tree is on it’s own now, but it will have the sunlight it needs and the strength to carry on.  Just like me…


Happy Baking!


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