15TH CENTURY RASTONS RECIPE
This may be the single greatest monstrosity that I have ever created. I was inspired by these Macaroni and Cheese bread bowls that I saw being sold at Empire LARP, and I could not get them out of my head. I understand that some people might find the combining of these abhorrent, but it tasted SO GOOD! The recipe I am using for the rastons comes from the Harleian Manuscript 279 (circa 1430). I have seen some translations that state "make a brioche" as the base, but I wanted to see what I could conjure up. The recipe for the Macaroni and Cheese from "The Forme of Cury" can be found here.
The original recipe:
Take fayre Flowre, & þe whyte of Eyroun, & þe yolke, a lytel; þan take Warme Berme, & putte al þes to-gederys, & bete hem to-gederys with þin hond tyl it be schort & þikke y-now, & caste Sugre y-now þer-to, & þenne lat reste a whyle; þan kaste in a fayre place in þe oven, & late bake y-now; & þen with a knyf cutte yt round a-boue in maner of a crowne, & kepe þe cruste þat þou kyttyst; & þan pyke al þe cromys withynne to-gederys, an pike hem smal with þin knyf, & saue þe sydys & al þe
The new recipe:
450g wholemeal bread flour (you can also use white bread flour or just All Purpose)
4 tbsp aquafaba (chickpea water) + 1 tbsp (these are marked as separate to replace the egg white and egg yolk)
25g brown sugar
1 cup warm ale (ensure vegan)
7g (I used the fact action yeast, and that seemed to work)
115 butter (I used the Flora Butter +, unsalted)
1 tsp salt
1. Make the "warm berme".
Gently heat your ale of choice until it is between 28°C and 32°C . If you are using active dry yeast, add your yeast and mix it in gently for around 15 seconds. Once it has become foamy (roughly 10 minutes), you have just made berme! As I was using fast action yeast, it didn't need to be left to bloom. I added it to the ale and it went foamy straight away (although I guess there's no real harm in leaving it for the 10 minutes anyway?). Add your aquafaba and sugar and mix until the sugar is dissolved.
2. Sift your flour of choice and salt into a large bowl and whisk well.
At this stage, you will want to really make sure that your salt is whisked in well. This is because direct contact can cause the salt to kill your yeast, preventing your dough from ever rising.
Add in the warm berme and combine until it is just starting to come together. Don't worry if it is a bit crumbly -the dough is meant to be quite short. Lightly flour a clean surface and knead your dough until it is smooth. This took about 10 minutes for me to do by hand. Coincidentally, sea shanties work really well when kneading dough!
Put the dough back into your bowl and leave it covered for around an hour, or until it has doubled in size.
3. Preheat the oven to 200°C and line a baking sheet.
4. Punch the dough down to knock out the air and, yet again, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface.
At this point, you can decide how many rastons you want this dough to make (although bear in mind that more, smaller loaves = less cooking time and fewer, bigger loaves = more cooking time).
I divided my dough into two equal pieces and then formed those into round loaf shapes. Leave them on your lined baking sheet/tray for another 20 minutes.
5. When the loaves have risen, you can brush them with a little milk-alternative (I used oat milk) to help them look a little shinier once baked.
Score the loaves and bake them for 25 - 35 minutes. If you are making smaller loaves, you'll likely only need the 25 minutes, but my two loaves took about 32 minutes total.
You will know that they are done when they sound hollow when you tap their butts, or when a thermometer inserted into the center reads 87°C - 93°C.
At this point, I started making my Macaroni and Cheese. If you are making both at the same time, I'd recommend jumping over to that section now.
6. Leave them to cool for a few minutes (but not completely).
7. Once the loaves are cool enough to touch, cut the tops off and remove the "lid" that you have just created.
Try and keep this bit intact, as we will be putting it back on in just a second. Remove all of the bread filling to create your bowl.
8. Melt the butter and add your newly-created bread crumbs.
If you are going for traditional rastons, replace all of the breadcrumbs as best you can and put the lid back on. If you are making the macaroni and cheese with this, fill the loaves with your pasta and then place the breadcrumbs on top. When doing the latter, the breadcrumbs won't all fit back in, so feel free to gently fry these or scatter them over a separate lined baking sheet to essentially make croutons. Or eat them as they are. I'm not going to judge.
9. Pop the loaves back into the oven, and bake them for another 5-10 minutes. You may wish to go for the longer time period if you are including the pasta, but take care to not burn your bread.
10. Remove from the oven and serve immediately.
This recipe came out so well! It was just crusty enough to act as a "bowl" but was still easy enough to break apart and use as a spoon for the pasta. Stuffing it like this obviously isn't the traditional method, but it would still be an excellent side dish for any kind of soup or stew. I don't think this result is nearly as sweet or pastry-like as may have been intended, but it still tasted good.
Loaves such as this were a staple at medieval feasts. For example, during the banquet to celebrate the marriage of Margaret, daughter of Henry III, and Alexander III of Scots (1251), around 68,500 loaves of bread were ordered, costing over £7000 (four loaves to the penny)! The breads would have been served alongside meats (likely as part of the second course) and as "sops" - pieces of bread that could be used to soak up liquids, such as wine or broth, and then eaten. Large feasts such as this one required an awful lot of planning. Whilst the banquet itself took place late December, planning would have begun by at least the summer, with the animals being bought and put out to pasture by late July. The many animals being used for the banquet doesn't quite fit my style, but the 25,000 gallons of wine ordered in early August is just right.
Whilst for this recipe I used a wholemeal flour, finely sifted white flour would have been used for the upper classes and likely used at extravagant feasts. Wheat made for the finest, whitest breads but was more difficult to grow. More common breads, such as maslin, were made from a mix of wheat and rye, and some from rye flour alone. This likely gave my bread a coarser texture than may have been intended, so next time I would try a white flour and see what impact that has.
If you have attempted this recipe or have any questions/comments about rastons and bread then pop a comment below or check my Facebook/Instagram.