Yorkshire Recipes

Baking

Maslin Bread

What type of bread did our grandparents, or great-grandparents buy or bake?   From the 1930s onwards, particularly if they lived in the towns, they could buy sliced bread, which became increasingly popular, convenient and cheap for those without the time, energy or resources to make their own.

But before then – and after – for many home cooks, baking your own bread was a weekly, almost sacred, ritual.   And  bread that combined rye and wheat flours was often the norm in this region, and elsewhere. These were chewy, filling breads, full of  subtle harvest flavours.

Maslin – a general term that described these rustic rye and wheat loafs – has a long history. Elizabeth David in her  comprehensive survey on breadmaking in England, ‘English Bread and Yeast Cookery, quotes from a 16th century book, The Dyetary of Helth, 1542, by Andrew Boorde, who noted that:

Maslin bread is made half of wheat and half of rye. And there is also Maslin made half of rye and half of barley.

For centuries this combination became a winning formula.  The food historian, Peter Brears, in his book, Traditional Food in Yorkshire (2014), identifies Maslin bread as being:

… the most common household or brown bread used by all sections of the community. Without exception, the agricultural writers of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries praised its wholesome and nutritional qualities, its moisture and its resistance to going stale (p.135).

Over the last 150 years, however, recipes in the region have moved from 50/50 rye and wheat mixtures toward a blend of rye, wholemeal, and strong white flour, that produces a lighter textured loaf, but one that still presents a taste and texture far superior to anything you can buy today in supermarkets.

The following recipe is typical, and produces a loaf close to the type of bread many home bakers in the region were making 100+ years ago.  Using stone-ground flour, widely available now, even in supermarkets, will also take you closer to the bread of the past.

Ingredients

  • 6 oz (150 g) rye flour
  • 4 oz (100 g) strong wholemeal flour
  • 10 oz (250 g) strong white flour
  • 360 ml lukewarm water
  • 1 tsp dried yeast (or 1 oz/28 g) fresh yeast)
  • 2 tsps salt (8 g)

Method

  1. Pour the water into a jug and sprinkle the yeast on top. Stir well and leave it to activate a little.
  2. Put all the flours and salt into a large bowl and mix them well together.
  3. Add the water and activated yeast to the flours and with your hand gently bring the ingredients together to form a dough.
  4. Tip onto a lightly floured surface, and knead the dough, pushing with the heel of your hand, then folding it over on itself.  It will be quite sticky at first, but gradually it will begin to loose its sticky feel.  Knead the dough for at least 10 minutes.
  5. Place the ball of dough in a greased bowl, and cover. Leave it to rest for around an hour.
  6. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead again, forming it into a ball. It should feel less sticky than before.
  7. Place into a well-greased circular cooking container (I use a round Pyrex dish) and cover with a damp tea towel or cling-film
  8. Leave it to rise again in a warm spot.  The length of time this takes will vary depending on the temperature of the room, but you’re looking for the dough to almost double in size. This blend of flour can take longer to rise than a 100% white flour, so be patient.
  9. When risen, and when your oven has pre-heated to a very hot setting (usually around 250 C in a domestic oven) bake your loaf for around 25-30 minutes. Optional: if you slash the  surface of your loaf with a sharp knife just before it goes into the oven will help the bread to expand, and give a pleasing appearance.
  10. The bread will be firm to the touch, well risen, and browned on top.  It will sound hollow when tapped at its base.
  11. Turn out onto a cooling rack, but leave it until cool before you cut it.  The texture of the bread will be better if you can resist cutting into it when the crust is hot (I know, it’s very tempting!)
  12. Enjoyed with a wedge of mature cheese and a glass of ale – what are you waiting for!  Get baking!

 

Sources

Brears, P. (2014) Traditional Food in Yorkshire.  Prospect Books.  ISBN: 9781909248

David, E. (1977) English Bread and Yeast Cookery. Allan Lane/Penguin Books.  ISBN: 0713910267

 

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