Cookit Homepage Cookit is published by e2bn

History Cookbook: Girdle Bread

This recipe is in categories Normans / Medieval, Vegetarian
About this recipe
Healthiness : (453 votes)
Comments: This recipe requires a light touch or your bread may not rise. The original recipe has ale as a rising agent; if you use yeast you can be less careful and the bread should still rise.
Preparation Time: 10 minutes and 5-10 minutes rising time
Cooking Time: 7-10 minutes each panful of bread
Number of servings: Makes 4 breads
Serving suggestions: Serve with a main meal or salad.
This is a vegetarian recipe

This is a pan cooked bread. It is quite a rich bread (both in terms of flavour and the status of the dish) with eggs, milk and ale added. The ale is used as a raising agent, you could use yeast instead. Poorer class versions of this recipe use water and no milk or eggs are added.

The finished bread will be flat, like a pitta, but should be soft and slightly fluffy inside. We found that resting the shaped breads for about 10 minutes helped the bread to be lighter.

This kind of bread was served throughout the Middle Ages and on until the Stuart era. Wholemeal flour was used, which was then bolted. Bolting is when you push the flour through a cloth. The white part of the flour falls through, leaving much of the bran behind. You can use white flour but we found that sifting wholemeal flour removes only some of the bran and gives you a more authentic, less bleached flour. 

The original recipe:

'Take fayre small Flowre of whete, Alenym Eyroun & breke ther-to, & coloure the past with Safroun; rolle it on a borde also thinne as parchment, rounde a-boute as an oblye; fry hem and serue forth; and thus may do lente but do away the eyroun, & nym mylke of Almaundys, and frye hem in Oyle, & serue forth.' Harl 279. P46


  • 225g (8oz) wholemeal flour
  • a pinch of salt
  • 25g (1oz) butter (cold)
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1-2 tablespoons ale
  • a little milk
  • Weighing scales
  • Sieve
  • Whisk
  • Tablespoon
  • Spoon
  • Griddle pan or frying pan
  • Greaseproof paper
Making and cooking it
Always wash your hands before preparing food Always wash your hands before preparing food.

  1. Sift the flour
  2. Add a pinch of salt
  3. Rub in the butter with your fingertips to make bread crumbs
  4. Add 2 eggs and a little ale (you can use a little yeast), stir in
  5. Add enough milk to make a soft dough
  6. Break into 4 pieces
  7. On a floured surface, shape the breads, flattening with your hands. 
  8. Leave for 10 minutes to rise a little
  9. Grease a griddle pan ( frying pan)
  10. Add the dough breads one or two at a time to cook 
  11. Turn occasionally until brown on both sides
Girdle Bread - print view  Girdle Bread - print view

If you tried this recipe and liked it, tell us about it
There are 8 comments for this recipe.
Add a comment

Name: Emily Davis 15th April 2018
We had a great time making this. The kids actually preferred the poor persons version made with the flour, ale, and water to the rich version with the milk and eggs!
Name: Emma 8th June 2017
This definitely is vegetarian. It's not vegan (and is not listed as such). Most vegetarians are lacto-ovo vegetarians and do eat dairy and eggs.

Looks good!
Name: Ts 4th January 2017
This NOT vegetarian. Eggs, milk and better are Animal derived.

View all comments, or Add a comment

Required fields are bold

Plum Sauce
Chop the plums into small pieces, removing any stalks or stones Put the plums and sugar into the...