Fifth Century Oat Bread

Proper, right out of the cookbook, Oat Bread; Also, a very round loaf of no-knead rye for us

Mixed: 1:50 pm

Molded: 3:05 pm

Retarded: 4:05 pm

Baked: 4:40 pm

Gave to neighbors, well, landlord of the neighbors, on the next block

All this month I’m having fun trying to bake with ingredients and methods that you’d find way back in the fifth century. Saint Brigid, who lived in the 400’s, inspired me to begin baking for my neighbors in the first place. Her crazy love for Christ, and endless mercy on those who crossed her path, have been increasingly on my mind these past few years. I’ve needed someone to help uproot me out of my chair and reach out to those around me a bit more.

I’ve been fiddling with recipes from Tastes of Anglo-Saxon England and followed a recipe for Aetena Hlaf or oat bread by the letter. Ooh, it smelled yummy. In the spirit of Saint Brigid, I wanted to give the loaf to someone who might be in need of love, or maybe just bread, so I headed to a house about a block away that has been in constant disrepair. The folks are always losing and/or chasing after their dogs, and the house looks a lot tumble down–and the folks living there, just… seem… stretched, or struggling… I haven’t been neighborly enough to remember their names, but I have fetched their pooches now and again so have smelled the cigarette smoke and seen the upset interior of their living room.

Anyway, they moved.

I gave the bread to the landlord, who is gutting the house. Boxes and furniture and stuff is all over the curb. (Hence the photo above.) Pray with me that this family finds a better group of neighbors–neighbors who don’t wait years to finally bring them a loaf of bread.

Fifth Century

I’m having fun this month researching more deeply the eating habits of ancient Irish folk. Before we bagged up the loaf of oat bread, we had Viking marauders come and hang out near our warm, honeyed, wheaty, oaty gift. We talked to the Vikings about Saint Brigid, explained who she is and weaved some playmobil plastic into Saint Brigid crosses for them. (Just kidding. That would be REALLY hard…) You could visibly see them swooning to the smell of the hot bread. We play with our food here.

Speaking of play. On Thursday I’m going to a local brewing company to get a tour and then bring home some sludge, some dregs, some barm, no, they call it “yeast trub.” Love that! I’m going to bake with that trub. Here’s what Brian, at the brewing company, told me about the brewer’s yeast I will find at their brewery.

“By dregs, I think you are referring to what we call “yeast trub”… it’s what’s left over in the fermenter after the beer is finished and we have moved it on to the next steps in our process. Yeast trub is a pancake-batter-like “sludge” of living and dead yeast, protein matter than dropped out of the beer, bits of hops and small grain pieces that may have made it over to the fermenter from the brew kettle, and a bit of beer of course.”

I can’t tell you how excited I am to get my hands on some of this sludge. In my reading, I’ve noticed how often brewer’s yeast is referred to in the baking of bread during ancient days… I’m pretty sure they didn’t have tidy little envelopes of instant yeast stacked neatly in their cupboards. Brewer’s yeast was a natural byproduct of making ale, which was a staple in the 400’s. Ale, and mead, and flavored butters, and greens, and stews and so many things sweetened with honey. Those are some of the ingredients that helped fuel Saint Brigid and those around her.

I’m having such fun. Can you tell? Stay tuned…


People who Inspire me–Hani

Cheesy Jaco; one loaf of Aetena Hlaf or Oat Bread

Gave Jaco to Hani and his family–the oat loaf stayed home

Hani is my web guy extraordinaire. He designed my website and helps me on an ongoing basis to keep the site fresh. I’m not sure what sort of career he would have had if he were living in Saint Brigid’s time (this month is all about the fifth century for me…), but he is a creative and technical genius. Perhaps he would have handcrafted swords, like the one Saint Brigid gave away to the leper? Her father wasn’t so happy about that act of charity. Or maybe he would have helped Saint Brigid market her new community at Kildare. Somebody had to help her spread the news of that community, which attracted both folks wanting to enter the monastic life, and others who were artists, bakers, and everything in between. All I know is that Hani’s not only talented, but oh-so-very nice. An inspirational man in a world that needs to breed more gentleman like him. Thanks, Hani, for all you do…

You can find out more about Hani and the work he does here, at Hani\’s website.

Fifth Century News

Baking in the fifth century could have meant using the overnight rise technique that I’m having such fun with. I wonder how Saint Brigid, born around 453, baked her bread? Did she bake it in a pot? They loved pots; most of their meals were one-pot soups and stews, made over an open flame. Or did she have an oven at her disposal? Probably. Anyway, I do know they had barley, rye, wheat and oats at their disposal, which are the grains I’ll be fiddling with all month…until Saint Brigid’s feast day on February 1st.

(A note on the bread. The cheese jaco I made for Hani was yummy. I know, not because I snipped a bit of Hani’s loaf! that just wouldn’t be nice, but because I divided off a small portion of the dough for us to bake, then sample. The oat loaf, a new venture into fifth century food, was quite delicious! Sweet, moist, flavorful. The kids loved it and it is filled with good foods–oats, whole and unbleached wheat flour, honey and milk.  I adapted the recipe from one found in Tastes of Anglo-Saxon England by Mary Savelli.)

Couldn’t resist one more photo of Hani and his son, Lucas. When I delivered the bread, Lucas let me hold him about a dozen times. I was in baby heaven. Lucas is inspiring in his own right!