Ancient Grains,  Baking- Breads,  Sourdough,  Sourdough Breads

Ancient Egyptian Bread of Ramses III

Baking Scene in the tomb of Ramses III, KV11. From Wilkinson, John Gardner. The Manners and Customs of the Ancient Egyptians. Vol. 2. London, 1878, p. 34.

Bread is not a new creation. The ancients have been making bread since they discovered that it tasted good and was a great way to eat on the go. Above is a scene from the tomb of Ramses III depicting the process in which his people made bread. Eli at Ancient Recipes deeply researched the idea of what this bread would be since no additional information about the recipe was found in Ramses III tomb. In his article, Ancient Egyptian Bread of Ramses III, Eli defines this bread as Emmer Wheat Flour, Sour Grape Juice and Date Syrup.

The Recipe and Process

The recipe for this bread is simple.

  • 3 1/4 cups Emmer Wheat Flour
  • 1 1/4 cups Verjus (Sour Grape Juice) Warm
  • 3 tbsp Date Syrup

I am going to make this recipe two ways. The first way is exactly as Eli describes it in his original post. The second, using the method described in my post on how to make a sourdough starter using emmer wheat flour. Due to how cold my house is, I will be using the proof setting on my oven.

The reason I decided to try these two ways is that, during the times of Ramses III, the skins of the grapes would have created a sourdough effect causing natural yeast to grow. I was concerned that the modern bottling processes would kill the yeast. However, sourdough starter is growing that natural yeast.

Due to availability of the grains, I only have a 2 pound bag of emmer flour so I cut the recipe in half.

  • 1.5 cups plus 2 tablespoons emmer flour
  • 2/3 cups plus 2 tablespoons Verjus (Sour Grape Juice) Warm
  • 1.5 tbsp Date Syrup

For the Sourdough version, I removed 4 tablespoons of flour and used 50 grams of Emmer sourdough starter. This amount of starter was equal to the amount of flour removed.

Left: Emmer Bread made as described
Right: Emmer Bread made with Emmer Sourdough

After making the dough, I covered the bowls with plastic wrap and let it sit in my oven on the proof setting (about 75 degrees). I left these in the oven for about 2 hours to proof. Next time, I am going to leave them to proof a little longer so they can grow more. I only had a light rise and both doughs felt rather dense. Eli notes that the dough is dense. The dense texture probably comes from the emmer flour. The sourdough version was less dense and softer to work with then the straight dough.

After proofing, I divided each dough into 3 equal sizes and rolled them out into a cinnamon roll shape. If I could do this again, I’m going to let them second proof on small squares of parchment so that when I dip them into the water, they will hold their shape better.

Like pretzels and bagels, this bread needs to be boiled to develop a chewy texture. Eli notes that you have to keep the bread from sticking to the bottom of the pot. Eli’s recipe fell to the bottom and tried to stick, so I ended up having to push the buns around making sure they did not stick. The sourdough batch did not stick to the pot like the original recipe tried to.

Left: Emmer Bread made as described
Right: Emmer Bread made with Emmer Sourdough

As for the final bake, these browned very fast. This might have to do with the date syrup in the boiling water. Next time I make these, I will bake at a lower temperature. The taste was actually interesting. The date syrup and sour grape juice gave a sweet and sour taste that played well with the earthiness of the emmer.

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