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Learn to make ancient Roman bread from a master baker

J-P Mauro - published on 04/23/20

When at home, bake as the Romans do.

The months of isolation and down-time have many of us searching for crafts to keep our hands (and the kids) busy, and if we can find an activity that teaches something, then that’s even better. One activity that has been taking social media photo rolls by storm is bread making, which has risen like yeast to become on of the most popular isolation hobbies.

There are thousands of fun recipes to make interesting and little known breads, but there’s only one recipe for authentic Roman bread that goes back to the time of Pompeii and beyond. It was discovered in 1930, when archaeologists working to unearth a site in the ancient town of Herculaneum came across an oven which still had a loaf of bread inside.

The petrified dough became a prized piece of the British Museum’s collection, where it was examined and viewed for 83 years. Now, however, the British Museum is bringing the ancient methods of baking back, with a little help from master baker Giorgio Locatelli.

Locatelli takes viewers through the process of making this ancient bread, starting from the making of the dough. It’s a bit thrilling to see such an experienced baker work, making a makeshift bowl out of the flour before pouring the wet ingredients into the middle and mixing them together without a bowl.

Using the excavated loaf as a model, Locatelli recreated the design perfectly, scoring eight cuts into the top of the bread in order to form wedges, just as they did 2,000 years ago. While they do not know exactly why the bread was baked this way, it is suggested that it could have been a guide for cutting portions.

The baking artist wrapped a string around the edges of the loaf, which may have been a Roman design to help tote the bread home with ease, and he even went so far as impressing his own logo into the top, which was another unique design in the ancient loaf.

The whole process looks pretty simple, as far as baking goes, and it is a project that can be tackled by both experienced bakers and amateurs looking for a little at-home fun. On its website, the British Museum has listed the entire recipe, but The Fresh Loaf gives detailed instructions on how to bake your ancient Roman bread.

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