The Roman Empire was large and extensive, taking in many civilisations which had their own tradition of bread making. Several varieties of wheat, barley, oats and peas were used to make flour. In the early Roman Empire, wheat such as Polish Wheat (Triticum polonicum) and Khorasan Wheat (Triticum turgidum turanicum) were in common use in bread making. By around 300 BC Spelt (Triticum aestivum spelta) was becoming more commonly used, having an improved yield and a slightly higher gluten content than previous varieties. This wheat had been around since late Neolithic times from about 2000 BC in Central Europe and the Romans recognised the advantage of the higher yield crop.
Roman military bakers would make large loaves about 1 pound in weight, round and 3cm thick, divided into 8 segments. They would be pressed with a wooden ruler to divide the dough into marked triangular portions so that the bread could easily be broken after baking. Each portion was suitable as a base for the meal of one soldier in conjunction with a bowl of stew or a lump of cooked meat or fish. In Roman times, bread was used to sop up food where modern people would use a fork.
Bread Oven - Pompei
Reproduction Bell Oven
Civilian bakers were making small rounds of bread and later larger round loaves to serve at table. The main function of bread was to be torn in small pieces from a loaf and used to assist in picking up food to be eaten. The tradition of shaping and flavouring bread had considerable variations across the Empire. Roman bakers would be members of the Collegium Pistorum (Bakers Guild)
Many Romans would have had 3 meals a day - Lenticulum (Breakfast), Prandium (Lunch) and Cena (Dinner). The types of bread used were very similar to modern Italian breads, but using different grains and honey rather than salt.Siligo = Wheat flour that has been sifted several times to give a fine white flour of the best quality.
Bread of Picenum
Download the following .pdf recipes
This part of the Bread Pages looks at the key recipes that were used in different periods of history.