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Girdle Bread

This recipe is in categories Normans / Medieval, Vegetarian,
About this recipe:
Difficulty: not rated
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



Making and cooking it
  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