Incidentally, YOU ARE READING A THREAD ABOUT SPORES AND BACTERIA.
July 31, 2019 11:19 AM   Subscribe

Seamus Blackley wants to make old-school bread. (Twitter; Threadreader unroll here.) How old would that be? "Just now, the dormant yeast I collected this week from Ancient Egyptian artifacts (with help from @drserenalove and @rbowman1234) is being fed grain for the first time in four and a half thousand years." Starring antiquities, autoclaves, and an actual loaf of Old Kingdom bread. Via kottke.org.
posted by MonkeyToes (34 comments total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
 
Wistfully wondering if I, a person who cannot eat modern bread products, could eat ancient Egyptian bread.
posted by seanmpuckett at 11:31 AM on July 31, 2019


i LOVE this so extremely much, i want the ancient bread, i want the tomb cheese, let me do the historical cromch. Feed Me.
posted by poffin boffin at 11:32 AM on July 31, 2019 [33 favorites]


I appreciate that Bonne Maman jars were a part of this.

When it comes to fruition, a fig jam (with honey, not sugar) would be appropriate.
posted by Countess Elena at 11:43 AM on July 31, 2019 [3 favorites]


Amazing. A sourdough bread baker's dream come true.

The flavor of the bread is strongly dependent on the yeast. I've grabbed cultures from different bakers and even grown some in the kitchen. My favorite bakers are great bakers of course but many have their own really unique starter culture.

There is nothing stopping him from continuing to grow this and share it with others so we can all have a bit of Old Egyptian bread.
posted by vacapinta at 11:56 AM on July 31, 2019 [6 favorites]


Also someone should make egyptian beer with that yeast, where is the beer.
posted by poffin boffin at 11:57 AM on July 31, 2019 [12 favorites]


But would it be beer or ale? Were hops used in Egyptian brewing? Don't care really, still want it.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 12:00 PM on July 31, 2019 [2 favorites]


There is nothing stopping him from continuing to grow this and share it with others so we can all have a bit of Old Egyptian bread.

Kind of like Carl Griffith's 1847 Oregon Trail Sourdough Starter?
posted by MonkeyToes at 12:01 PM on July 31, 2019 [5 favorites]


But would it be beer or ale? Were hops used in Egyptian brewing? Don't care really, still want it.

it would be the ancient bread slurry beer that has been described as a thin beery gruel and also I just got to the part where he says they are definitely going to try making beer so YAY.
posted by poffin boffin at 12:03 PM on July 31, 2019 [6 favorites]


"There is nothing stopping him from continuing to grow this and share it with others so we can all have a bit of Old Egyptian bread."

He runs a twitter account where that is basically what he and other bread nerds do!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 12:05 PM on July 31, 2019 [3 favorites]


Had to immediately pass this on to a friend, who is both an Egyptologist and a bread baker.
posted by dnash at 12:05 PM on July 31, 2019 [3 favorites]


Awesome. Just sent this to my sister-in-law, who's a biologist in Jerusalem. Hoping for an authentic ancient matzah specimen next...
posted by Mchelly at 12:21 PM on July 31, 2019 [2 favorites]


interesting, but I had to stop reading because of the incessant ironic asides (I am SUCH a NERD guys look at me NERDING OUT on this NERD STUFF and if you're still READING you need MORE EXERCISE LOLOL).

i mean, i was laughing too hard to keep reading
posted by logicpunk at 12:29 PM on July 31, 2019 [3 favorites]


Also someone should make egyptian beer with that yeast, where is the beer.

Beers are based on similar ideas in Ancient Brews Rediscovered by Patrick McGovern but I found the book somewhat disappointing. They all follow the same pattern with grain + fruit + honey and although based on chemical analysis of residues in dishes the recipes add inauthentic ingredients, I suppose because they were designed to be commercially released. He does do a yeast capture experiment.
posted by Botanizer at 12:29 PM on July 31, 2019 [1 favorite]


Serious question:

Is there any reason to believe his yeast won't be overcome by the yeast present in/on the grains he'll have to feed to his culture?
posted by Evstar at 12:44 PM on July 31, 2019 [1 favorite]


The Sumerian Beer Project did some old-style brewing based on the Hymn to Ninkasi back in the late '80s and early '90s.
Using the above text, one could literally recreate the ancient recipe embedded within the poem. In fact, back in the early 1990s, Fritz Maytag of Anchor Brewing and Dr. Solomon Katz of the University of Pennsylvania set out to reproduce this brew by deciphering the ancient clay tablet. Thick loaves of bread called bappir were baked from several grains. Mixed with honey, the loaves were then twice baked until a granolalike consistency was achieved, believing that the Sumerians stored this brew for later use. These loaves were added to a mash with a large addition of malt to ensure a proper conversion of starches. The mixture was then cooled naturally, not by modern techniques. The sweet liquid was strained away from the grains and transferred to the fermenter. Yeast was added and yielded a 3.5 percent alcohol by volume. After the fermentation, the beer was served in proper Sumerian style - sipped from bulky clay jugs using lengthy drinking straws, produced to bear a resemblance to the gold and lapis-lazuli straws unearthed in the mid-third millennium tomb of Lady Pu-abi at Ur.
It would be neat to see something similar done with this historical yeast.
posted by Lexica at 12:46 PM on July 31, 2019 [1 favorite]


A dude who can walk into any archaeological site in the world and make bread is COMPLETELY RAW
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 12:47 PM on July 31, 2019 [7 favorites]


Is there any reason to believe his yeast won't be overcome by the yeast present in/on the grains he'll have to feed to his culture?

I think that's why he autoclaves and UVs the grains he milled.
posted by arcolz at 1:05 PM on July 31, 2019 [15 favorites]


Is there any reason to believe his yeast won't be overcome by the yeast present in/on the grains he'll have to feed to his culture?

I am not an ancient bread scientist but I believe this is why they pasteurized the flour in an autoclave before using it?
posted by poffin boffin at 1:07 PM on July 31, 2019 [4 favorites]


Can the bread be used to sop up the ancient sarcophagus juice?
posted by Pastor of Muppets at 1:07 PM on July 31, 2019 [8 favorites]


A friend of mine from the Basque Culinary Center working as a gastronomist at Harvard (who knew?!) participated in a similar project last year - translating ancient babylonian "cookbook" tablets and then making the recipes.

The Yale-Harvard team prepared three recipes which were all from one tablet: two lamb stews — one with beets and one with milk and cakes of grain — and a vegetarian recipe enriched with beer bread.
posted by youthenrage at 1:07 PM on July 31, 2019 [4 favorites]


5000 year old yeast made beer.
posted by Ideefixe at 1:11 PM on July 31, 2019 [1 favorite]


Thanks. I used to bake and the thread is interesting to me but only made it so far before the format made my head hurt.
posted by Evstar at 1:19 PM on July 31, 2019 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: Not an ancient bread scientist
posted by Greg_Ace at 1:30 PM on July 31, 2019 [1 favorite]


Amazing (can't wait to see the actual bread as well).
posted by carter at 2:06 PM on July 31, 2019 [1 favorite]


BUT I WANT TO SEE AND EAT THE BREAD!
posted by soren_lorensen at 2:32 PM on July 31, 2019 [3 favorites]


Wait, is no one else getting the "Act one of a sci-fi horror movie" vibe from this? Hello? Am I the only one?

This ancient yeast will consume us all!
posted by Hamusutaa at 3:40 PM on July 31, 2019 [4 favorites]


He runs a twitter account where that is basically what he and other bread nerds do!

Which is where I just now learned about phallic bread (Twitter, NSFW if staff of life images are inappropriate).
posted by MonkeyToes at 4:55 PM on July 31, 2019 [3 favorites]


I know that "how did anyone discover this weird complicated food thing?" is a cliche but I still am very curious now about what actually took place. I would like a prestige anthology style series covering the sequence of events from "whats that tall plant? Can we eat that?" (Ethiopia?) to "Whoa look at THIS it GREW" to "Hey chill man", "Dude are you okay you're acting weird". I would like to see it.
posted by bleep at 8:04 PM on July 31, 2019


Totally thought the phallic bread was going to bread using yeast from happy places. You can have it with a side of yogurt.
posted by Mitheral at 10:23 PM on July 31, 2019 [1 favorite]


That was fascinating. So, I wonder that the ancient Egyptians would have eaten with their bread? The earliest butter was from sheep and goats - because they were domesticated before cattle. Whatever it was made from - it would have spoiled quite quickly in the Egyptian climate. The earliest recipe for hummus was around the thirteenth century - although it was probably around a lot longer. Olive oil would be my most likely guess - it had already been cultivated for about 1,000 years by the time the samples were taken.
posted by rongorongo at 12:34 AM on August 1, 2019 [2 favorites]


Somewhat related, years ago Discovery World did a series called Ale Through the Ages, which is documented here. They've carefully reconstructed several fermented brews from different points in history, and provided recipes. I have brewed all of the recipes they listed. The Colonial Porter came out great, and the Highland Heather Ale has become a recurring favorite.
posted by xedrik at 7:00 AM on August 1, 2019 [1 favorite]


The usual way you make triangle shapes from dough is by taking a circular disc and folding the edges over. That looks to be how they made that triangular loaf of bread he shows us.

So, I now have a burning desire to know: is this a proto-hamantash? If the triangle is carefully examined, using an MRI or whatever, will it show a mixture of jam and nuts inside? Or being a Pharaohnic hamantash (and therefore evil) will it be stuffed with gritty, disappointing poppy seeds? These questions must be answered in the Name of Science.
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:07 PM on August 1, 2019 [4 favorites]


The first baking experiment was a success!
posted by bitteschoen at 9:13 AM on August 6, 2019 [6 favorites]


Great now that scientist dude who ate the bread is immortal
posted by Pastor of Muppets at 8:44 PM on August 8, 2019


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