A while ago I told you about how my gastronomic and academic curiosity evolved from bookworming to recipe reproduction to what has now become into a true cottage industry by definition. [Read: the story here]
I have come up with a very straight forward method to reproduce recipes from yesteryear.
Almost invariably, the historical recipes I have felt curious about have been either an accidental discovery or in some cases are the result of a deliberate research.
The facts that trigger my curiosity can be: the bread’s geographical origins, its ingredients, shape, evolution, migration, historical context, cultural uses and even the mere technical challenge of reproducing a forgotten piece of mankind’s gastronomic history.
An example of this is a Victorian potato bread.
When I first tried a potato bread many years ago, I remember being particularly surprised by the crumb’s moistness. The smell and flavours were sweet and creamy yet fresh with a soft structure.
Over fifteen years later, as I was reading Elizabeth David’s “English Bread and Yeast Cookery” originally published in 1977 and came across a very enthusiastic description of a 19th century potato bread:
“Usually associated with times of grain shortage, or with a need for strict economy in the kitchen, potato bread is also advocated by some writers as being the best bread for toast” …Pure poetry for a food nerd!
Mrs David herself tracked down a recipe from food writer and over all Victorian kitchen star Eliza Acton.
Last year I baked this recipe for the first time. High expectations from MrD and myself were met.
I also did some parallel reads about the consequences of the Columbian exchange and how many American vegetables like the noble potato became the staple foods for entire countries in Europe.
During the Second World War potatoes were exempt of rationing and were an essential part in wartime cookery, sweet or savoury they fed and kept tummies full and nourished.
Oddly enough, in North America (Yes, Mexico is in North America) bread potato isn’t at all common. With the exception of some odd imported breads, it does not have a place in the dietary preferences and I can’t really blame it on people’s tastes but on the fact that wheat bread and corn tortillas have an almost divine status in Mexico’s culinary hierarchies.
The actual process of preparing a potato loaf required a simple methodical execution of Mrs David description, but for scaling up the production I took inspiration on the old Hovis tin and swapped a round loaf for a moulded one.
My costumer’s reaction to both the loaf itself and the shape have gained it a high sales status amongst the other breads which are:
Nan e Barbari. People from the Levant region have been eating variations of this bread for more than 4000 years; Cato’s Mustaceus bread. Recipe first published c.160B.C. and the Mexican colonial bread “Pan Floreado”. Described in the 16th century baker’s ordinances.
I am sure that each baker has their own personal, professional and even economical motivations that drives them to research, experiment and even create recipes. Which are yours? Do you have a favourite?
Which was the moment you knew deep down there was a baker in you waiting to bloom?