Thursday, October 11, 2012
Today I did something rather our of the ordinary, which was to mash up left-over bits of stuff with other items that were too scant to have on their own, nothing surprising, I simply dislike waste. The item today was a bread pudding... a few spoons of apple sauce, some eggs, raisins, remaining dollop of cream, scrapings of butter, spices, syrup and the heals and dried up chunks from last week's bread.
But it left me thinking...
Why did I use bread to make a thickened pudding? Well, the obvious answer was because I did not want to waste it. This, then, seems like logical reasoning for why bread is such a common thickener in medieval cookery over something like flour. When you think of it, flour is readily available to any cook who has access to a kitchen that makes pastry or bread, yet books written for such cooks resort to other thickening agents. Of course raw flour is far inferior to that of bread properly grated, soaked and strained where flavour is concerned, but the starch if superior as a thickener. So why bread? Because they had it, and most probably it might otherwise go to waste. Old bread is what you will find easier to grate, though I have seen new bread called for in recipes as well, and incorporating it into new dishes is certainly a good way to continue getting nourishment from it. Bread is something that takes enough work and fuel to accomplish that it would certainly be something worth stretching.
Somewhere along the long stretch of time, technology and tastes change. Bread becomes valued in a different light just as ones pallet for sauces will change. Bread then becomes less of a key ingredient when other things will do better, and perhaps be easier, and it then finds itself in other dishes in the name of household economy and family nourishment and in continued dishes where the texture of the bread has remained superior (such as what we now call "bread stuffing"). Bread pudding is like this and it's origins are far reaching.