History Buff Bakes Ancient Egyptian Bread Using 1,500-Year-Old Yeast Scrapings
A history enthusiast has baked loaves of ancient bread based on an ancient Egyptian recipe and using an ingredient that was 1,500 years old – yeast scrapings taken from ancient Egyptian bread pots. He claimed the outcome was very tasty!
Ancient Egypt was a society that was very much dependent on the grains that it grew in the very fertile Nile valley. It was used to make bread and even to brew beer, both staples in the Egyptian diet. We actually know quite a lot about the bread that the Egyptians ate because of ‘optical and scanning electron microscopy of desiccated bread loaves’ reports Science.
One amateur research has been intrigued for many years as to how the Ancient Egyptians made their bread and what it tasted like. Seamus Blackley, a successful American video game designer and entrepreneur, became interested in Ancient Egyptian bread some years ago.
He had all the ingredients he needed to replicate how they made their bread and could even use the same type of millstones to grind grain into flour. Blackley only needed one thing- yeast, which was essential in the baking process of Egyptians 4000 years ago, as it is today.
An ancient Egyptian mill arm (Morphart / Adobe Stock)
Blackley was determined and he managed to find some baking pots, once used in the baking of bread. They were approximately 1,500 years old and they were obtained from a reliable but undisclosed source. He then had the sides of the pots scrapped for any resides of yeast. Yeast can hibernate or lay dormant for centuries and can be reactivated.
The ancient yeast was turned into a yeast culture. (Seamus Blackley)
Baking Ancient Egyptian Bread
Blackley documented his project to bake ancient bread on Twitter, keeping his followers updated on the process.
His followers were in general very positive about his attempts to recreate the bread that was eaten by the subjects of the Pharaohs, thousands of years ago.
Blackley was able to buy some of the same wheat that was used by the Egyptians and sea salt. Then he sourced some items that allowed him to recreate the ancient milling process. This meant finding some rotating stone disks to grind the grain into flour as it would have been done millennia ago in Thebes and Memphis.
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The American then activated the yeast and made a yeast culture. He kneaded all the ingredients together, including the yeast. Then, Blackley added the flour he had milled and some olive oil. Then once he had made a mixture he left it to rest “so the moisture could distribute throughout the dough and the yeast could start making it rise” according to the SUN. Then the dough was placed into wickerwork baskets to shape it and a coarse sea-salt was added for taste.
The bread was divided into wicker baskets for baking as this is how bread was shaped in Ancient Egypt. (Seamus Blackley)
After the yeast made the dough rise it was ready to be baked into bread. It was placed into an oven and great care was taken to ensure that it was evenly baked. Then it was taken from the oven and allowed to cool, which Blackley reported on Twitter. He was extremely pleased with how the bread turned out.
Really Tasty Bread
Blackley then tasted it and tweeted that it tasted as good as it looked. The video-game designer tweeted that it is “incredibly-soft, but with body, and a very rich, complex comforting flavor”, reports the SUN.
Blackley’s project is not just a piece of fun, it is also providing some new insights into the food and lives of the Ancient Egyptians.
Blackley assured his fans that the bread baked with ancient yeast, tasted as good as it looked. (Seamus Blackley)
Top image: Traditional hand-made bread (gosphotodesign / Adobe Stock)
By Ed Whelan