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Stable Made Bread

". . . great bread . . .depends upon the skill, knowledge, and standards of the person making it." - Tom McMahon

 

When one first thinks of making bread in a stable, he shakes his head doubtfully, for we do not think of a stable as the most sanitary place in the world for such a purpose. But in Normandy, that is just where it is done, and if you could look in during the time the good people are hard at work, you would wonder how such a quantity can be used by one family within a reasonable time. But those folks do not make bread oftener than once a month.

The European countries are famous for their breads and for the amount eaten. This bread lasts a long time and the ordinary bread knife makes little impression on the crust when the loaves are old. Perhaps you wonder if the bread gets stale. The outside crust is so hard that its acts as a shield and the inside remains soft and sweet for weeks.

Lets see how they do that bread making in a stable. First, the men do all of the work and the women simply furnish refreshments for their husbands and sons as they work. When the time comes for making a batch of bread, the stable floor is cleaned very thoroughly, scrubbed, then rinsed and polished until it shines and not a particle of dirt is visible anywhere.

Boards are then set up to make an oblong perhaps twelve feet long and nearly as wide. In very large families, this space is even larger. The water and flour are poured on the floor within this enclosure and the farmer and his sons mix it with heavy wooden clubs flattened at the ends. When the mass begins to thicken so that it will not run, the yeast is added and the dough is now beaten and mixed so as to have the yeast spread through it. Now it is left for a half a day or more to rise and it must be some sight to witness - that great mass of dough which, when risen, is four feet or more in height. If it could be baked just as it is, what a loaf of bread that would make. But the kneading comes next and this is accomplished, not by elbow strength, but by foot power. Large wooden shoes, called sabots, are now donned by the men and they jump into the mass, skipping and dancing about through the dough and having a merry time doing it.

It takes a long time and a person has to have great endurance in this work. Rests are needed frequently as the dough gets harder and harder and one is not allowed to work until he perspires for this would not be very good for the bread. When it is well kneaded, the men come from the pit, carefully scrape off the dough clinging to their sabots, clean the sabots and hang them up for the next bread kneading, for these shoes are never used for any other purpose.

Several hours now intervene for another rising of the dough and again the men arm themselves with their flattened clubs and attack the dough, after which the dough is cut into loaves and rolled into shape for baking. Then the loaves are put into great pans and set into the big brick ovens where the heat is such that a crust is baked solidly long before the inside of each loaf is baked. These loaves are of enormous size, much like a good sized cheese and they give out a delicious odor as they are removed from the oven.

A saw is kept on hand for cutting this bread, the crust is so tough; but this keeps out the air and the bread never sours. Taste it and you are surprised for you have never tasted bread as delicious. The people are great bread eaters and have it for every meal, often nothing else other than two or three cups of tea, coffee or some other beverage.

If you were to go into the stable when it is not used for the bread making, you would also find that in most of them, the space reserved for bread making is kept free from the farm animals so that other than the dust that accumulates, there is little to clean up each month, and bread making in a stable is not half as questionable as it sounds.

 

Source: "Making Bread in a Stable" written by Walter K. Putney. Article contributed by Tim Ferree, descendant of Madame's son, John.