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Pliny\'s grape juice bread experiment
#1
After much trial and error, I've recently become somewhat-proficient baking sourdough bread, so I decided I wanted to try a Roman recipe.

Quote:Picenum still maintains its ancient reputation for making the bread which it was the first to invent, alica being the grain employed. The flour is kept in soak for nine days, and is kneaded on the tenth with raisin juice, in the shape of long rolls; after which it is baked in an oven in earthen pots, till they break. This bread, however, is never eaten till it has been well soaked, which is mostly done in milk mixed with honey.

Pliny, Natural History, 18.27


Martial mentions this bread, too:

Quote:XLVII. PICENTINE LOAVES.
Picentine flour teems with white nectar, just as the light sponge swells with the water it imbibes.

Martial. 13.47


Since Pliny says the flour is soaked for nine days, and we know the bread was light, I think it virtually certain that it rose with natural yeast, like today's sourdough. The grape juice might help with the raising process, too. There should be sugars and yeasts in the juice, so I suspect it will do something. I don't know what, but I'll find out because I started the nine-day process today so I can bake it the weekend after next.
David J. Cord
http://www.davidcord.com
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#2
Slate magazine this morning has an article about BeerAdvocate.com's adjudged best beer: Russian River Brewing Company's Pliny the Younger.
Pecunia non olet
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#3
The way I read it, the raisin juice is only used in the neading process, and not the soaking?
Visne partem mei capere? Comminus agamus! * Me semper rogo, Quid faceret Iulius Caesar? * Confidence is a good thing! Overconfidence is too much of a good thing.
[b]Legio XIIII GMV. (Q. Magivs)RMRS Remember Atuatuca! Vengence will be ours!
Titus Flavius Germanus
Batavian Coh I
Byron Angel
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#4
Quote:Slate magazine this morning has an article about BeerAdvocate.com's adjudged best beer: Russian River Brewing Company's Pliny the Younger.

And to tie beer and bread together, Pliny says that the Gauls used beer foam as a leavening agent to make bread rise!

Quote:The way I read it, the raisin juice is only used in the neading process, and not the soaking?

Yes, that is what I think, too. Right now I'm just soaking the flour in water. In the sourdough recipes I have used, a bit more water is added when it is time to knead. I was simply going to substitute grape juice for water at this final stage.

By the way, is there such a thing as "raisin juice"? Aren't raisins basically juiceless grapes? How can you get any juice out of them? In another translation I saw a footnote here, saying "or grape juice," so that is what I was planning on using. I'll probably crush the grapes myself, because I assume anything you buy in the store has been pasteurised and stuffed full of sugar and other additives.
David J. Cord
http://www.davidcord.com
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#5
Quote:The way I read it, the raisin juice is only used in the neading process, and not the soaking?

By the way, is there such a thing as "raisin juice"? Aren't raisins basically juiceless grapes? How can you get any juice out of them? In another translation I saw a footnote here, saying "or grape juice," so that is what I was planning on using. I'll probably crush the grapes myself, because I assume anything you buy in the store has been pasteurised and stuffed full of sugar and other additives.[/quote]

What do you think dry wine is made from???? :-P

And after I made sure to check for typos too... :roll: :lol:
Yes, I should have written grape...
Visne partem mei capere? Comminus agamus! * Me semper rogo, Quid faceret Iulius Caesar? * Confidence is a good thing! Overconfidence is too much of a good thing.
[b]Legio XIIII GMV. (Q. Magivs)RMRS Remember Atuatuca! Vengence will be ours!
Titus Flavius Germanus
Batavian Coh I
Byron Angel
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#6
Quote:By the way, is there such a thing as "raisin juice"? Aren't raisins basically juiceless grapes?
Pliny actually says uvae passae suco, "with the juice of spread-out grapes". (passus, "spread-out", is taken to mean "dried", but maybe it could simply mean "mashed"?)
posted by Duncan B Campbell
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#7
Convicts, sailors and soldiers have made booze from dried fruit forever. They just add water (and sugar if they have it.)
Pecunia non olet
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#8
Maybe he means passum.
Christian K.

No reconstruendum => No reconstruction.

Ut desint vires, tamen est laudanda voluntas.

LEGIO XIII GEMINA

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#9
That's interesting. I don't think I can get my hands on any passum, though.
David J. Cord
http://www.davidcord.com
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#10
It is fairly easy to get in Europe. Search for "passito di pantelleria" or "passito" online.
Christian K.

No reconstruendum => No reconstruction.

Ut desint vires, tamen est laudanda voluntas.

LEGIO XIII GEMINA

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#11
Excellent! Thanks a lot. Apparently the Finnish state alcohol shops carry it.

http://www.alko.fi/tuotteet/en/564324
David J. Cord
http://www.davidcord.com
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#12
Day 5, and it is looking good. I'm getting bubbles, so something is happening. Pliny goes into great detail about the grain used and how it is prepared, but for lack of a better alternative I'm just using whole grain wheat flour.

Also, from painfully smelly experience I have discovered that if you just soak flour for days it can go bad. So I'm acting as if this was a starter, and adding a little bit of flour to feed it each day. By day 9 the base should be large enough for the bread.

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David J. Cord
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#13
naturally fermented wine is made from grape juice from squeezed grapes. There is a substance in the skin of the grapes that causes the fermentation. using it with flour would create fermentation in the mix which will be used to have the bread rise. Raisins would have more concentrated sugar which is food for the natural yeast. It might go bad sometimes because you might have some other wild strain of bacteria that if used in winemaking would make pretty horrible wine. Occasional bad batches are a hazard of natural winemaking also. Supposedly, the ancient Egyptians discovered beer as a probably accidental byproduct of breadmaking. As for the raisins, perhaps water was added? Perhaps they were late harvest grapes which are sweeter, perhaps only partially dried to concentrate the grape sugar.
Caesar audieritis hoc
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#14
This looks interesting. I am intrigued. I wonder what it will taste like?

Incidentally, has anybody tried to cook with older recipes? I'm often coming across references to recipes in books, articles often cite what kind of diet random corpses would have had etc but I don't think I've ever seen anybody actually systematically test them.
Jass
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#15
(Partial) success!

[attachment=4061]IMG_6638.JPG[/attachment]

I was quite impressed with the taste. It has that sourdough aroma and taste that one would expect, but the wine adds to it, too. It's quite nice with milk and honey, like Pliny suggests.

The passito di pantelleria is extremely sweet, like a dessert wine. (My wife quipped: "Now I know why the Romans watered their wine.") I was afraid the sweetness and taste would overpower the bread, but it just enhanced and complemented the normal bread taste.

Unfortunately, it didn't rise like I expected. It is possible I didn't wait long enough - I was under a deadline to take my wife shopping - and sourdough normally needs quite a bit of time to rise. It is also possible I added too much flour when I was kneading it. In my past experiences dough with no added yeast needs to be very moist. You can see I got some air holes, but it wasn't near the "light sponge" that Martial describes. I'll have to try again and use more moisture content in the dough and give it more time to rise.

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