Commercial milling of grain for bread making and animal feed was common practice in Tudor times. Water mills and wind mills allowed local communities to have their grain milled to a high standard. The flour used was generally referred to as white flour, grey flour and red flour
White flour was a double sifted wheat flour using club wheat (Triticum aestivum compactum) The wholegrain flour was passed through a muslin cloth twice to remove the bulk of the bran and chaff, giving a white flour. This flour was costly and would generally be used to make Manchet breads using fresh brewers yeast.
Grey flour was any wholegrain flour, either clubwheat or early varieties of common wheat (Triticum aestivum vulgare) which was used as wholegrain or mixer flour to make sourdough breads. Mixed flours would be used to make Meslin breads for the working classes and the large loaf bases would be cut off to make trencher plates for use at the dining tables of the more wealthy.
Red flour is a term used in some parts to mean different things. It is commonly used to describe rye flour, barley flour and spelt flour as well as mixed flours or flour with other additives. The use of this term requires specialist local knowledge. Red flour was also used to mean Durum Wheat flour when used for bread making rather than pasta making.
Maslin flour was milled from grain harvested from a mixed crop of wheat and rye. Mixing crops in a field was a way of reducing damage by infectious diseases, but the resulting mixed grain gave a poorer quality flour having variable proportions of each grain. This flour was often used to make Meslin Bread.
Pease flour was a
fallback when harvests were poor. Beans or peas would be
milled to give a flour for bread making. The resulting bread was of
Tudor baking methods are consistent with those used in Medieval times though the quality of the breads improve as better strains of modern wheat are being selectively bred to give higher yields and more gluten content. Bread is still being made in brick or stone ovens as standard round loaves.
The celebration of Lammas (Loaf Mass) was well established in Tudor times. The celebration took place with a church service on 1st August where offerings of bread baked from the first new harvest wheat would be made to the Church. The bread would then be used for a local feast for the poor and worthy. This tradition is now established as the "Harvest Festival" in modern times. It originated in the Pagan festival of Lughnasadh which marks the middle of Summer and the marriage of the god and goddess at beltane.
A poor mans staple, and a very cheap meal, was Pobs. This was stale bread (Often pease bread) steeped in warm milk or ale. For some, this could well have been the main meal of the day.
Download the following .pdf recipes
This part of the Bread Pages looks at the key recipes that were used in different periods of history.