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Manchet or Payndemayn

Manchet, or Payndemayn is a very early type of enriched fine bread; Early not in human existence of course, but early in the written record in English – certainly Chaucer wrote about it. I make manchet quite often because it has a nice soft crust and Cathy, my wife, likes soft crusts ..... So here is a modern, vegan, manchet recipe. The flour I usually use is organic and is grown and stoneground in Maine.

250g (9 ozs) organic white flour
300g (10.5 ozs) stoneground organic wholewheat flour
2 tsp (max) dried yeast (do not be tempted to use too much)
600ml (20 fl oz, 2.5 cups) Rice milk (unenriched)
30g (about 1 oz) vegan margarine
9g (about 1/3 oz) salt

To activate the dried yeast, have about 75ml (1/3 cup) warm water (warm means it feel neutral – neither hot nor cold – when you dip your finger in) in a 500ml (2 cups) glass measure. Add a scant Tsp sugar and sprinkle the yeast on top. Whisk gently and leave in a warm place; cover with polythene. In about 15-20 minutes it should froth and rise, towards the top of the measure.

Meanwhile, mix the two flours together and warm the flour gently. Add the salt to the rice milk and warm gently to blood heat (the finger test again).

Once the yeast has activated, make a pool in the middle of the flour and add the yeast. Mix in. Add the milk and salt and mix thoroughly into the flour. You have to start to use your hands here. Coat them in flour so the mix sticks less to them. Now work in the margarine. The dough should be light but just come clean off your hands and the bowl. Knead for a minute or so until everything is well mixed and the dough is springy.

Leave in a warm place in a polythene covered bowl to rise. It will probably take about 1 hour to double in volume. In a cool place it will take quite a bit longer.

Knock the dough down and kneed. Now you can bake one tin loaf, four manchet rolls or a floor loaf. If you want a tin loaf, form the dough into a sausage and press into a greased, floured loaf tin (about 2 L – 8.5 cup capacity). If you want rolls, divide into four and form into buns. If you want a floor loaf, form into a single large bun. For the buns (single or four) place on a greased floured baking sheet.

Whatever – cover with polythene and leave to prove (rise again – recover volume) for probably 30-45 minutes. Once the dough has recovered, for the tin loaf, make three quick deep diagonal cuts. For the buns make a single deep cut. For the floor loaf make two or three deep cuts acrosswise, to divide it into triangle segments. Sprinkle the cuts with a little cold water.

As soon as the cuts start to open, put the loaf into the oven and turn the heat to 220ºC (425ºF - Gas Mark 7). Cook for about 30 minutes, until the top is golden and the bottom of the loaf sounds hollow when tapped. With a tin loaf, leave it to cool for 15 minutes or more before removing from the tin. If it seems a little uncooked, you can always return it to a hot oven for a few minutes to finish off.

This bread keeps well, makes good toast – and is great just as bread. The buns (large or small) are best broken rather than cut. The loaf cuts well with a sharp knife. Don't cut the loaf hot, however much you are tempted!

Two loaves last us a week for toast in the morning and occasionally at night too.


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