Saturday, July 24, 2010

Medieval Maslin

Have you had your maslin yet today?

Sounds like a kind of fabric, I know - but apparently rye bread, at least how I'm used to eating it, is not technically "rye bread". It is maslin bread. True rye loaves, as well they should be given their name, are supposed to be made of all rye flour or rye meal, leavened exclusively with sourdough and, as you might expect, form a dense, dark (almost black) brick of a loaf perfect for topping with creamy cheese and marmalade. True rye was the bread of the "peasants", helped along by the grain's capability to grow in even peat bogs and the bread's extraordinary shelf life - so while everyone would technically have a loaf for their table, those with the dark, everlasting loaves knew their place as the proverbial "bottom crust". The rich, hoity-toity class got to munch on slices of manchet - essentially today's "French bread" that was as pale as their powdered faces.

But what of the tiny pool of citizens in the Medieval "middle class", then? Well, they certainly weren't about to be allowed in line at the boulangerie for a manchet loaf by the aristocracy. As you can imagine, though, subjecting themselves to the lowly coarse grained ryes. So, unable to afford large amounts of white flour, and unwilling to sup the same as the plebians, the "mid-range" merchants mixed the two, sometimes with other flours such as barley, and formed maslin bread. A few other seeds and spices wove their way into the recipe as money and availability of those ingredients grew, and the lighter colour and texture of the bread became recognized as the "better" rye bread. Different incarnations of maslin began winding up in more sandwich shops and delis as the rye (and general grain bread) trend grew, wrapping around pastrami and encompassing all colours from almost white to nutty brown to swirls of both.

So now, maslin is what you will generally be buying when you shop for "rye bread" - most are still sourdough or at least sponge-leavened to compensate for rye's somewhat complicated habit of breaking down gluten long after wheat's enzymes have died off.  Flavour-wise, you'll usually find caraway seeds lacing the loaves, unless the label specifies it's unseeded. Fennel seeds might make an appearance too, as will molasses (or caramel colour), cocoa powder and/or coffee to make the lighter crumb of the partial rye nice and dark... hinting at the wholesome roots of the true rye without providing the same concentration of fibre and it's accompanying density.  

So when I set about to make my maslin loaf for my mom's weekly nosh, I broke out the whole nine yards - plus some. A good dose of dark rye flour and a rye-based sourdough kicked off the flavour profile, which I built on with both fennel and caraway seed, before adding a bit of crunch from poppy seeds and nutrition from wheat germ, flaxseed and cooked, toasted buckwheat (AKA kasha). Ground espresso beans and a touch of cocoa powder helped out the colour, as did a bittersweet dose of molasses and a rich buckwheat honey. Not really trusting the strength of my starter,  The resulting loaf rose well but stayed moist and slightly dense, slicing beautifully and apparently forming a delicious bed for butter and honey. You'll have to let me know what you think, and check out the rest of the submissions to Susan's Yeastspotting event on Friday.

Maslin Rye Bread
Makes 1 loaf, 16 slices
1 tsp instant yeast
1 2/3 cups rye flour
1 cup whole wheat bread flour
1/4 cup wheat germ
1/4 cup ground flaxseed
2 tbsp poppy seeds
1 tbsp vital wheat gluten
1 tbsp fennel seed
1 tbsp caraway seed
1/2 tsp espresso-grind coffee
1 tsp cocoa powder
1 vitamin C tablet, finely ground
1 cup active sourdough starter
1/4 cup warm water
1/3 cup warm milk
2 tbsp buckwheat honey
1/4 cup molasses
1 tbsp melted butter
1/4 cup kasha (toasted buckwheat), cooked
1/2 tsp salt
  1. In a large bowl, combine yeast, flours, wheat germ, flaxseed, poppy seeds, gluten, fennel seed, caraway seed, coffee, cocoa powder and vitamin C powder, whisking well.
  2. In a large jug or bowl, whisk together sourdough starter, water, milk, honey and molasses.
  3. Add to the dry ingredients, begin mixing on low speed (if using a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook).
  4. After 4 minutes, add butter, kasha and salt.
  5. Continue mixing for 15 minutes, until supple.
  6. Place into a greased bowl, cover and allow to rest 40 minutes.
  7. Deflate dough and knead 1 minute.
  8. Re-cover and allow to rest 40 minutes.
  9. Deflate dough, shape into a loaf and place into a greased loaf pan.
  10. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 1 1/2 hours.
  11. Preheat oven to 375F.
  12. Bake loaf 20 minutes, then cover top with foil and bake a further 20 minutes.

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 148.8
Total Fat: 2.9 g
Cholesterol: 2.3 mg
Sodium: 10.8 mg
Total Carbs: 27.8 g
Dietary Fiber: 6.2 g
Protein: 5.8 g 


  1. Interesting, I didn't know that. I had always just assumed rye was rye. Great post!

  2. I made "real" rye bread for my in-laws, who said that they just loved the stuff. Yeah. Turns out ... not. It's an acquired taste, apparently.

  3. Is that 1/4 cup of cooked kasha, or 1/4 cup dry kasha that you then should cook (with water)?

  4. Anonymous - it's 1/4 cup dry kasha, cooked according to directions (I detail my method here:

  5. Why the Vitamin C tablet in this recipe? Does Vitamin C even survive baking?

    1. Great question! Its to help the rise, since the dough is heavy. It degenerates in heat but by then its done its work


Thanks for the feedback!