I am back to the subject of Bread. I did warn you that it had become an obsession of mine. This time I can put this bread journey down to my Priest Alison. We are having a Eucharist at the Lent Group on Thursday and she asked me to provide the bread. Now I have fed them on my sourdough loaf and I am sure this is what she had in mind.
But then I ask myself “What was the bread eaten by Jesus and his disciples at the Last Supper?” This meal was a commemoration of the flight of the Jewish slaves from Egypt and so food was needed, and quickly. Bread making, as I have said before, is not quick. But the mothers (practical and sensible as they have to be in the face of their men’s impetuous decision to abide by God’s will and flee immediately) knew that meals had to be provided. So fires were lit in their ovens for one last time and flour, oil salt, eggs and water mixed together. There may even have been dried fruit mixed in to provide sweetness. Then the mix was spread out, probably on a terracotta tile and baked in the oven for half an hour. During the time the unleavened bread (unleavened – no yeast introduced to start fermentation and therefore carbon dioxide bubbles to make the bread rise) took to bake they must have rushed around gathering clothes and chosing which kitchen utensils they could not do without. Then the bread collected from the oven and wrapped for the journey.
I return to my question – what was that bread? Current Jewish practice uses Matzo bread – a biscuit wafer not dissimilar to our communion wafer. These are made under carefully supervised conditions from white wheat flour that is kept in very dry conditions to preclude any chance of fermentation. The resultant Matzo has a very long shelf life but I feel bears little relation to the bread eaten at that first Last Supper. It is virtually certain that the wheat grain used for modern baking did not exist in the Middle East in Biblical times so this gave me a clue for the bread I was to make. Durum wheat, barley, emmer wheat, einkom wheat and spelt were probably available but in the light of this uncertainty I decided to use wholegrain wheat as this is the nearest to handmilled wheat done at home. I discovered that although most people have a clear idea of matza as similar to crackers, there is no requirement that matzah be crisp for any purpose, including the seder. Yemenites and Iraqui Jews traditionally made a form of soft matza which may look like Greek Pita bread or like a tortilla.
So my recipe for Pesach (Passover) bread:
250g wholegrain wheat flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon caster sugar 240ml water
120ml oil (I used rapeseed oil, possibly olive oil would be more correct)
4 medium eggs.
Put the flour, salt and sugar into a bowl and mix well. Bring to the boil the oil and water in a large saucepan and then stir in the flour mixture after turning off the heat. Keep stirring until the mixture comes away from the sides of the saucepan.
Add the eggs one at a time stirring vigourously to prevent them becoming scrambled eggs! Keep stirring until the mixture becomes smooth and thick. Leave to cool.
Line a baking tray with baking parchment. Flatten the dough onto the tray and prick all over with a knife (I used a biscuit pricker that I made some years ago at a Scout camp in Sweden). Leave it to rest for half-an-hour.
Preheat the oven to 190C / Gas mark 5. Bake the bread for about 30 minutes until browned.
So is this the bread eaten by Jesus and the Disciples at the Last Supper? No – it uses the wrong flour, it uses refined sugar. But it is an honest interpretation by me and will be explained on Thursday when bread is broken at the Eucharist. An expression of love.