Part 1: quadratus bread
- 500 g fresh flour, measured 499 g
- 10 g salt, measured ~10 g
- 325 g (mL) water, measured 174 g
Note that scale measurements are inaccurate and changed dramatically as we added and removed ingredients. The water we added, though it registered as 174 g on the scale, was actually significantly more than the required amount and produced a very thin dough. To compensate, we added about 2¾ cups flour at Morgan’s suggestion. At a density of about 127 g/cup, this represents roughly 350 g of additional flour. The final weight before baking was 1.600 kg, suggesting that we may added more than 500 g of flour initially in addition to the extra water.
Mixing time: 3 minutes.
Kneading time: 7 minutes. After kneading, we pressed the cross into the surface by hand. The dough was fairly elastic and resisted the change.
We placed the loaf in a lidded cast iron pot about 6-10″ from the fire and put some coals over the lid. After 20 minutes, we lifted the lid to find the loaf lightly browned. We replaced the lid and eventually removed the loaf after a total of 43 minutes. Throughout the process, we rotated the pot at roughly ten-minute intervals for even heating.
The resulting bread had a well-cooked, lightly caramelized crust with a thin charred layer. The interior was extremely dense and not quite cooked. Despite its density, it tasted reasonably good, and we considered it a success for our first attempt. It kept well overnight without a change in taste, though the cut surfaces hardened and it was less enjoyable to eat cold.
Part 2: sourdough
For this bread, we used previously prepared dough. We determined that our quadratus had been baked at too high a temperature, so we moved the edge of the pot to about 12″ from the fire but kept the coals over the lid. This we baked for exactly 40 minutes. Unlike the quadratus, the bread stuck to the bottom of the pot; this may be because it didn’t char like the first loaf. This bread had a well-formed crust and and a properly leavened interior, and it tasted like a professionally made sourdough.
Part 3: frybread with honey
This was initially meant to be a second quadratus loaf with added honey, but lacking the time to bake it, we opted to fry thinly discs in a cast iron pan.
Ingredients: Same as for quadratus. We weighed 500 g of flour on the scale, measured 325 mL of water by volume, and added four pinches of salt. In addition to these ingredients, we added a small amount of honey.
Mixing and kneading time: 13 minutes. Despite the added honey, this dough was actually stiffer and less sticky than the quadratus dough and had a similar feel to pasta dough. This is likely due to the lower water content. The kneaded dough was stretchy and passed the windowpane test.
Frying time: 10 to 15 minutes. We cooked in a cast iron pan placed over coals without added olive oil. The oil we initially tried to cook with caught fire. Even without a leavening agent, the frybread bubbled like naan as it cooked.
The bread tasted great while hot, with a barely discernable hint of honey.
Preservation and Analysis
After a day, the quadratus and sourdough preserved remarkably well. Though the cut faces of the quadratus hardened, both breads retained their soft interiors and still tasted good. Even as I write this nearly three days later, the quadratus is still palatable once the rock-hard exterior is cut through. The frybread, on the other hand, hardened considerably and was no longer enjoyable to eat after a day. Its texture is comparable to that of thick leather.
In the short term, the frybread was easiest to make and most enjoyable while hot. Though we added honey, I suspect this could be omitted without significant change to the final product. The quadratus bread, though, was reasonably simple to make and offers a somewhat tasty, extremely dense way to store calories. The product could certainly be improved upon by someone with more experience. If a person in antiquity were to bake a large loaf of similar bread, it could easily be a practical and portable source of food for several days. Frybread, on the other hand, is probably best as a quick snack or single meal. Though sourdough was available and most enjoyable to eat, it probably wouldn’t have been practical for the common person to make regularly. Its low density might also restrict its use as an energy-dense provision to bring to the fields or on a march.
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