Monastery Bread and Fragrant Irises

IMG_5715IMG_5719nce, long ago (or so I have read), medieval monks ate simply, dining on porridge, fish, fruit and ale. At some monasteries, a small loaf of bread, the “size of a scone,” was placed by each plate. I read this in “In a Monastery Garden” by Elizabeth & Reginald Peplow, a favorite book of mine. Its depiction of monastery life and gardens appeal to my yearning for a more peaceful, ordered life.

I wondered what such a bread might be like, and have come up with the following, based on a recipe for Jerome’s Millet Bread, from a previous post. It’s a simple whole wheat bread crunchy with either millet or quinoa–your choice. The sage leaf is a nice touch, or you could use a parsley leaf.

In the spirit of that past age, this could be served with a vegetable soup, a piece of cheese, and a glass of wine. Fruit would be the dessert. Before they ate, the monks recited the 51st psalmHave mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of they tender mercies blot out my transgressions . . . Then, they would eat.

Monastery Bread

IMG_57181/3 cup honey
2 packages yeast
3 cups warm water
1/4 cup oil
4-1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon salt
1 cup millet or quinoa
2 cups white flour
1 egg white beaten with 1 teaspoon milk
optional: twelve fresh sage leaves

In a large bowl, mix the honey, yeast and warm water. Allow it to foam up–about 20 minutes. Stir in oil, whole wheat flour and salt. Let rise for about one hour.

Stir in millet or quinoa and white flour. Knead for about five minutes and let rise for one hour. Punch down, and let rise again.

Have ready two baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Upend the risen dough onto a floury surface and divide into two with a large knife. Roll one of the lumps of dough into a rough cylinder, and cut into six pieces. Roll each piece into a round ball, and place onto the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with other lump of dough–you will have twelve balls of dough. Press each one down lightly. Brush each little loaf with the beaten egg mixture. If using, dip sage leaves into the egg white and press one onto each loaf.

Allow the shaped loaves to sit until puffy–about 20 minutes. Have the racks in the oven evenly spaced. Place the baking sheets into the oven, and bake until loaves are brown, about 22 minutes. Makes twelve small loaves.

IMG_5717It’s iris season, and here are some of the irises blooming in the garden. They all have fragrances–the purple iris smells like a sweet grape, the others have soft floral scents. Peace to you. Fran





4 thoughts on “Monastery Bread and Fragrant Irises

  1. It sounds like those monks ate a very healthy diet.
    As for fragrance, this past weekend I found myself in a fen and in a bog (I am still not sure of the difference) and they both smelled wonderful, but the smell was unlike anything I have ever smelled.
    Kind of like an iris, but I have smelled them and can relate.

  2. You got me curious, Joel. Turns out both bogs and fens are mires, which contain decayed vegetation. But a fen is an alkaline mire, which is fed with waters high in minerals, and a bog is an acidic mire, low in minerals. At least that’s what it says on the Wikipedia. Fran

  3. That sounds similar to what our leader was telling us. And he showed us the difference in the soil color, where the fen, with the minerals, had reddish/orange coloring at a certain level beneath the surface,.
    In fact, I found it interesting when he took out a book soil experts use to categorize the color of soils. Each page had a set of hues – Jim would be very familiar with arrays of hues on two axes – and you would line up a soil sample with one of the hues so you can objectively categorize it.
    I love meeting people like our wetlands tour leader, they have such in-depth interesting knowledge.

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