When times were tough in the ancient world, those dependent on their primitive farms might have come up short on their preferred grains for bread and would have been forced to add other flours to the mix. For the vast swath of commoners across ancient Mesopotamia, from modern Iran, Iraq, Syria, Turkey, and Mediterranean coast, this hearty multi-grain bread was actually healthier, though nobody knew it at the time.
This bread is made from grains that could be found all over the middle east in 5000 BC. The cultivated wheat and barley, with lentils and chickpeas from the garden, and spelt and rye foraged in the wilderness around the village.
Like NATUFIAN BARLEY BREAD and MODERN ASH BREAD this is another experiment that allows us to really appreciate the miracle of leavened bread. We’re gonna make this two ways, a leavened sourdough loaf with the knowledge of modern cooking technique, and a cracker like version that’s probably more accurate for what an average peasant had to make do with from time to time.
MULTIGRAIN SOURDOUGH BREAD:
1/4 cup sourdough starter or 1/2 teaspoon dry yeast
1/2 cup lukewarm water
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup beer(room temp)
1/2 cup lukewarm water
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup chickpea flour
1/2 cup lentil flour*
1/2 cup spelt flour*
1/2 cup rye flour
1/2 cup barley flour
1 tbsp. coarse salt
*Make these homemade for extra antiquity points
The day before, make the sponge and soak the chickpeas in water. Mix the sponge together and beat with a whisk or spoon for about a minute or two until the gluten starts to make things a bit stretchy. Cover and set aside for at least 8 hours, and up to 24.
The next day, to make chickpea flour, drain the chickpeas and roast them in the oven at 170F for 2-3 hours, until dry, a little softer, but still raw. Let cool, then grind for a long time in mortar in pestle or in a food processor to make a coarse flour.
To make lentil flour, toss lentils in a hot pan for a few minutes until they are browned and toasty. let cool, then grind into a coarse flour same as the chickpeas. This one, you will want to put through a strainer. (you can grind the leftover coarse bits that don’t go through).
Other flours, ASSEMBLE!
Add the beer and water and salt to the now bubbly and yeasty smelling sponge, then mix in the flours. Stir the dough until fully mixed. Let relax for 15 minutes, then come back to stir again, lightly kneading it with the spoon. Set aside for 12-18 hours, or put in the fridge for up to 4 days. This is to develop flavor. Don’t expect this bread to rise all that much.
Preheat the oven to 400F for at least a half an hour before baking, with the baking stone or sheet inside. When ready to bake, take it out, sprinkle with whole wheat flour, drop the dough onto it, score it, and put it in the oven. Time can range from 30-50 minutes. You’ll have to watch it.(But don’t open the oven for at least 25 minutes). Go ahead and use that clay instant thermometer you have and make sure the middle is above 195F.
Let cool before slicing.
2) AUTHENTIC PEASANT CRACKERS (Warning!! Not recommended!):
I know. The picture makes them look a little sexy. Wait till you see the mustard that goes with them.
But these crackers are… tough to eat, to put it nicely. And also literally. I hope you have some strong teeth. It makes you appreciate what an advance leavened bread and hot ovens were. But if a harvest failed or roving nomads raided and destroyed your stockpiles, a Neolithic peasant would have to make do with what they had. With any luck, some of them were chefs who had learned to ferment their dough. Many though, in the long millenniums we were still figuring out farming and baking, were not.
Use the same recipe above but substitute water for the beer, and simply mix it with your flour, 3 to 1 ratio as before. Knead for about 5 minutes until smooth, and cover and set aside for 30 miuntes to let the gluten relax.
Sprinkle a little flour on your counter and roll out the dough until very thin, like a piece of cardboard, which coincidentally, is also sort of what we’re making here. Then cut the into cracker shapes.
Preheat a cast iron pan or griddle over medium heat for 8 minutes. Lay the crackers in the pan bare to toast, shaking occasionally, and flipping after 7 minutes. Cook for an additional 7 on the other side and remove to a plate.
Top them with Ancient date-honey mustard (recipe coming next Monday!) Eat one to say you did it, then use as a soup cracker or turn it into breadcrumbs to spare your poor teeth any more Neolithic treatment.