Trials of Blaa
Black Knight Society is having a Potluck where they are encouraging attendees to bring Irish foods from the 1300's. As I will not have access to a Kitchen that day I searched for a dish I could make ahead of time and bring with me with no additional prep. I found a dish from about 300 years later that looked easy enough... Boy was I wrong! It's past midnight when I have work in the morning then I leave for a meeting out of town, stay at a friends house, then go to the potluck. I wanted to be as authentic as possible while making this since I am only bringing rolls... I did the research and found that red wheat would have been used during that time in that area. I found "Red Mill" brand flour that is 100% stone ground, just as they would have done in that age. I bought organic cane sugar instead of processed sugar. I bought organic sea salt figuring the area we are focusing on was by the ocean so sea salt probably would have been easier to get than regular salt and table salt these days is so processed it wouldn't have tasted the same.
The recepie I found calls for:
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1 oz yeast
1 1/4c warm water
2 1/4 qts water
I modified the directions a little to be more in the order that makes sense to me.
1. Combine flour and salt in extra large mixing bowl (biggest you can find or the dough will try to eat the bowl!)
2. Dissolve sugar and yeast in warm water, stir until frothy.
3. Combine all ingredients in large bowl, kneed until all dough is moist. Cover with a very lightly floured towel or plastic wrap covered in cooking spray.
4. Allow to rise for 30-60min until dough doubles in size.
5. Knead (apparently just pushing it down doesn't work) for 5 min to ensure elasticity of dough. Cover again.
6. Allow to rise for another 15-30 min until dough doubles again.
7. Break (apparently cutting isn't good?) into pieces between 2 and 3 oz each.
8. Allow to rise The original recipe told me about two hours, but when I did that for both of my first batches, they ended up flat as pancakes!
9. Bake at 425 F for about 15 min.
My first attempt ended in spectacular failure and I never even made it to the baking portion of the recipe. I threw the dough away once I found it completely flat and called my mom for some advice. She told me that yes, kneading the dough is better and more likely to yield success than just punching it down as the recipe calls for, also I should be careful to not use too much heat or not enough heat, and last but not least cutting the dough into sections may ruin the elasticity, apparently...
My second attempt after this information yielded slightly better results. I learned not to let the dough rise so much. I make 4 sheets of the rolls and once I am done rolling out the fourth pan I put the first pan in the oven. As each sheet bakes for 15 min that will let me see how waiting a little longer works. I find it easier to make the rolls nice and evenly shaped if I knead individual portions.
If you're interested in making this, give some different techniques a try and find what works for you. No one would have made things perfectly the same in the 1300's or even 1600's!