Thursday, March 29, 2012

17th Century Dutch Bread / The UCLA Project

If every city could be defined by just one the 80's, my beloved Twin Cities would have been represented by Sarah Beadle.

Mentioning her beauty would almost be insulting, because in addition to stating the obvious....that observation would only be scratching the package.

Sarah Beadle crossed into every social camp that comprised our fair metropolis.

Everybody loved her.

Everybody coveted her time.

You could go to a venues where punk rock, fashion, intellects, idealists were hanging out,and at the top of your lungs cry out........

"Has anybody seen my Sarah Beadle?"

Within moments people would join together...almost magnetically to compare "Beadle stories."

However....these conversations always ended the same way....

To quote Lou Reed .....

"We were still doing things that she gave up years ago."

In simplest terms.....Sarah Beadle really was/is just too cool for my little Midwestern pit stop.

So like most Level 10 people....she was drawn away to to California.

Not too long ago I got a Facebook message from Sarah and she said she was working on some kind of thesis project...her Facebook wall has her listed at UCLA, so I'll just assume that the 2 are connected, but truth be told...I don't care. I just like being in the "Beadle Loop."

Her focus will be 17th century Dutch breads......

Before I state my thoughts/recipes I will say for the record that I simply don't have "concrete" answers.....but I do have strong-strong ideas as to what the Dutch were baking during that period of time.

With that said, as soon as this post is complete, I will send it to my friend Freerk at the "Breadlab" (see on Facebook).

Freerk is based out of Amsterdam, and of all the bakers I have met through social media outposts, I respect and value his opinion the most.

He's a clever and artistic man, perhaps he may be gracious enough to lend his wisdom on this topic.

The Dutch have never been to far from my heart.

My first "Master" if you will, was Bread Master Mel, and he ran the bakery at Golden Valley Super Valu.

When I was 12, I bagged groceries there, and that's where I got my first exposure to baking. When things got slow they'd throw me into the bake shop where I would clean, do prep, or just think I was cool because I was allowed to smoke cigarettes with the bakers out by the dumpster.

Then there is always my main Master.....Master Zolick who signed off on me.

His son Mikey married a woman from Rotterdam and she passed on traditions and baking culture all the time.

So now that this lengthy intro is over......3-2-1.......


To understand the bread of Holland in the 17th century, one first needs to understand the Dutch's place in the world at the time. Most culinary historians will agree that Holland was the #1 place on the planet to be during this periode since the Dutch VOC ruled the seas.

I'm not sure if they were navy or merchant marines, but I do know that they were the strongest presence of floating transports.

The Dutch set up outposts on all the "Spice Islands", and that really pissed off the British navy because every time they found a new island....that's right, the Dutch had been there, and they let it be known that if the islanders did any business with any other traders....not only would their new staples that they found them self becoming dependent on, would get cut off...but their island might get torched as well.

The Dutch ruled the water ways with an iron fist.

So all these ships collected all sorts of spices and everything was brought back to Holland.

Back at home, the Dutch government was very proactive concerning food.

Back in these days, much of the bread doughs (especially the rye) where mixed by foot.

The ingredients were placed in a "Stomping Area" where the baker would walk back and forth,dragging their bare feet through the ingredients until they became incorporated.

To date, nobody in the world was regulating those feet that were wading in your loaves.....

Can you imagine that? some dudes 17th century - skanky toe jam feet oozing all over your table loaf?

The Dutch government made it mandatory that foot washing stations were present at all baking sites, and violators got thumped.

Holland's soil wasn't conducive to growing grains, so most of that was outsourced from who else...LOL, that's right Poland.

When the wheat and rye was brought back home, it was taken to silo's in either Amsterdam, or Rotterdam.

The Dutch kept healthy reserves to stave off price gouging which was common in those days.

Also another thing that the Dutch introduced to the world was the "Expiration Date."

Now I'm not saying that they had little ink guns and marked dates on their packages, but they did have a system in place where market vendors were not allowed to sell produce or meat that was old.

As you can imagine, in a world with limited refrigeration options....people were often getting duped and paying top dollar for items that were close to expiration....if not past.

With all that said...these ordinances had paved the way to create a venue where the greatest bread on the planet was being made.

Greater than France.

Greater than Italy....and yes, even greater than Germany.

The 2 breads we will discuss will be a white bread and a dark bread.

Bread culture was inverted from where it is today, and during the 17th century...the decadent ate the white bread, while the common place and poor ate the dark.

White bread was called Herenbrood, while the dark was referred to as Semelbrood.


I won't lie. I've Googled "herenbrood recipes" and found very little information available. However.....I have talked to several of my peeps, and as we gathered our collective knowledge in the old "Think Tank." the following can be summarized about the Dutch white bread.

First off, even though they where using wheat in this loaf, it still had a low protein level, even lower than today's patent flour I imagine.

Then the second thing to take into consideration would be its fermentation source.

What were the bakers in this time frame striving for?

Did they want to make a pretty artisan bread that would land them a reality TV show?

Or were they looking for a system that would milk every last second of shelf life out of their products?

I banking on the latter.

Most bakers who have passed on traditions orally would agree that a brick starter would have been implemented here.

In addition to making the crumb wall more durable, this concept would hold moisture in longer.






Working with bricks is a whole post in itself, so Sarah..... I would mix this starter, place it in a greased Tupperware and then store it in your fridge 3-7 days before baking for your project.

Now for the Herenbrood..........









Dissolve your yeast in warm water, set aside until foamy, maybe 5 minutes. Combine starter with remaining water, and then gradually add flour until dough comes together in a stiff ball. Now add your vinegar and salt, dates and clove and continue kneading (or stomping).

Once your dough has come together, place it into a lightly oiled container, cover it and let it rest until it doubles in size.

You won't have to "Double Punch" this bread, the "Brick" already has your fermentation process covered.

When the dough is doubled, scale into individual pieces 12 ounces to 1 pound, and form into rounds.

The rounds were the predominant shape of this era because if done loosely....they would proof more rapid than largest load sizes.

During the 17th century....these loaves would have been baked in wood fires ovens for roughly 15-18 minutes, but if baked in a conventional oven, you'll want to bake at 425 (F) for 30-40 minutes.

Thump the bottoms and you should hear a hollow thud when they are done.

This loaf would be considered the Cadillac of Dutch loaves from this era, which is to say....this would have been the best bread on Planet Earth.

In present day, I have heard accusations that Dutch cuisine is bland. I won't address that today, but I will say in the 17th century, nobody was utilizing, experimenting with spice more.

It seems to me that the Brits often get props for modernizing this technology. That couldn't be further from the truth. The Dutch were the true Spice Ambassadors.

Back then....Nutmeg was the Saffron of the day. Its cost was three times that of pepper, but clove....although exotic in nature, it was still affordable to the middle class who left some "Splurging Room" in their grocery budget.

Before moving on to the next bread. I will close this section out by saying, if for whatever reason a person from this period didn't want to accept "Brick" concepts, and were more comfortable with stomping "Straight Doughs", I would suppose the standard source for drawing in the fermentation would have been through a KVASS.

In simplest terms, Kvass is equal parts of rye with water. It is allowed to sit in a moderate temperature cover for 3-5 days.

Some people stir their Kvass, and other strain and only use the liquid.

I just let mine fester and plop the whole kitten caboodle and leave it at that.

But however you approach it....kvass really adds flavor. The ferment creates funky flavorful sugars.

Many cultures use kvass as a product to get drunk on.

I've tried it, but I think I'd sooner drink Listerine.










Follow the same mixing,make up and baking instructions as you did with the herenbrood. Just note that this bread will be far looser, and on certain days (pending the flours humidity) liquid like. This is common amongst euro-rye.

Often times this "Batter" like substance is simply poured into the mold.

I do have one other observation to make before closing out.

Urban legend has it that as a whole....the Dutch are penny pinchers in the kitchen.

Nothing could be farther from the truth.

History shows that the Dutch culture, the Dutch people are committed to the best, however.....they are a superior controller of resources.

We've talked earlier about what lengths the Dutch will go secure the best, but being well organized and methodical should never be confused with cheap.

Subscribing to that theory would be a disservice to the worlds culinary history.

So Sarah Beadle, I am at your service....if you need more, please feel free to rattle my branches and I will do what I can for you, but do know that an entire city of people misses you, loves you, and keeps you in their prayers.


  1. I wonder if that's where the term loafers (for tie-less shoes) comes from ...

    1. Sigh.....I'll get right on it!! LOL

  2. *putting his feet up*

    What a wonderful endeavour! Keep me updated, and ask Sarah if she is aware of a book called "Brood" published as part of a baker's exhibition by the "Museum Boymans-van Beuningen Rotterdam" in 1983. It's a treasure trove of info and leads to other books/pictures/paintings! I was fortunate enough to get it from a friend who ran into it in a second hand bookstore. On a thesis level I suppose she can get a hold of it somehow! Great info can also be obtained at the bakery museum in Hattem!


    p.s. don't stress the VOC bit too much... we r not very proud of that part of our history, lol; it would be so bad, that every tree with spices, in any one's back yard was just "confiscated". Resistance was indeed met with unscrupulous violence

    1. LOL @ Freerk, shhhhhh to the VOC, after all, us Americans have never exploited the resources peaceful countries that were minding there own business.

      Thanks for the great resources.

    2. Klecko, you are a genius. And you are a damn good friend. And you are a talented writer. What more could a girl ask for?

      You forgot to mention in this post that you were once (as you are now) the paragon of cool, and the '80's owes you one. Alas, you handed the credit to me, when it fact it was YOU who defined the era for me. You changed my life, ya know? If it wasn't for you, I'd probably still be in roller skates, hanging out by the dumpster at 7-Eleven eating Snickers bars and watching the traffic roll by. Not that the scenario is unappealing....

      One detail to correct: I did eventually go back to college and get my undergrad degree at UCLA, but am currently preparing for my grad thesis at UCI. Not half the glamor, but I promise you it is all of the rigor of UCLA and then some.

      Anyhow, my thesis project takes on Dutch still life and makes it contemporary. How, you say? With photography, food politics, and performance. The making and serving of bread is crucial to the work, as will be the making and drinking of beer. So good together, no? The Dutch peasants of the 17th century may concur... perhaps I'll channel a few for my thesis performance. I'll send pics, along with love and crumbs.

      @Freerk: I'm all over "Brood" as of now. I thank you thank you thank you.

    3. "With Love & Crumbs"......possibly my next album title!

      BTW....dumpsters,roller skates and Snickers were never so fun.