Sunday, July 12, 2015

FRENCH BREAD HISTORY: Late medieval bread outside Paris

This is the fifth in a series of posts on the history of French bread. The preceding post was on late medieval bread. Further information on bread history can be found on Facebook in the Bread History Lounge.

By the late Middle Ages, Paris had attained the special status it still holds today as both the capital and the most economically important city in France. This is reflected in histories of French bread, which typically treat medieval Parisian bread as virtually synonymous with French bread. But numerous cities – and sometimes only towns – had their own bread history and some – though certainly not all – of this survives. It is found largely in municipal statutes, but also in agreements for banal mills (run by a local lord or monastery), for instance, and in other scattered records.

Some preliminary concepts

A few terms are found through these documents, often with variants, which require some explanation.

Today, the French word for a bread-baker is boulanger; this may be derived (it is uncertain) from the fact that most bread for a long time was made in the shape of a ball (boule). But early records also refer to pestoures (from pistors, the original Latin word for baker), talemeliers (“sifters”) and fourniers (oven-tenders; literally, “oven-ners”) and these terms are sometimes treated as synonymous. In local records, however, a distinction is often made between a fournier and a baker. Often the fournier (the word has no real English equivalent) literally baked or cooked what was brought to the oven (which in at least one region could include meat and fish), either by private individuals or bakers. The baker, on the other hand, might sometimes only prepare the dough or sometimes, even where fourniers existed, do the baking. 

The English word “flour” has its roots in a French term: fleur de farine. This very literally means “flower of flour”; perhaps less confusingly, “flower of meal”, or, the best (most finely sifted) flour – that is, flour that is mostly endosperm, rather than (the other two components) wheat germ and bran. In old French texts, the original term is regularly used to refer to the best flour. But in medieval texts one also finds pain de toute sa fleur (“bread of all its flower”). One might think that this meant bread from the best flour. But in fact it refers to bread made from flour which which still includes, as well as the “flower” of the wheat, most of the bran (and wheat germ); in practice, second quality flour. Similar terms exist in other local languages or dialect.  A rare reference in one record to coarse bread sens flour (“without flower”) shows that a distinction was made between brown bread which, though it had a great deal of bran, still had the endosperm in it and that which was mainly bran.

While these terms are never defined in statutes, often the relation between different qualities of bread is clear from their varying weights; for the same price, the most finely sifted bread will be the lightest, the least, the heaviest. One or more intermediary qualities will have corresponding weights.

Note however that this does not quite align with the modern idea of “extraction rate”, which refers to the percentage of the original meal which remains after various processes (true whole wheat flour should have an extraction rate of 100%). The variable in a modern extraction rate is the amount of bran and wheat germ that remains in the flour. But the reference to flour “without flower” (without endosperm) suggests that, at least sometimes, the endosperm itself was actually removed (presumably to use for the better bread) so that the worst quality bread was what remained from sifting out the “flower of the meal” for the best breads.

In addition to the standard gradations of light and dark bread, two terms are found in many, but not all, localities. One is miche. Today this typically refers to the most common large loaf in a given region (in Paris this would be the round pain de campagne or similar breads). But in the past various indicators show that it referred to an especially fine quality of bread. The other, fouace, exists in numerous variants: fouasse, fogassa, etc. Like foccacia, the term derives from the Latin focacius, meaning bread cooked on the hearth (focus). The latter was originally cooked under embers and was unlikely to have been very fine. At some point, however, the term (which made its way back into Latin in its new form) came to mean a finer bread. In some cases, in fact, it may be synonymous with miche.

One might speculate too that the fouace was at some point still made under the embers, but using especially well-bolted flour. As a practical matter, the reason for the shift in meaning is unknown.

Only some town statutes mention such superior forms of white bread. However, their absence does not mean these were not made locally. Bear in mind that monasteries and many estates had their own bakeries and in some cases the very best bread was made directly for those who would consume it.

Most French towns maintained the system found early on in Paris whereby the price remained constant for each type of loaf, but its weight varied with the price of grain. This may have been practical, even necessary, in a time when coinage was still relatively limited; the average consumer may not have walked around carrying the kind of small change required to adjust for incremental changes in price. For one thing, some people (including bakers themselves) were often paid in... bread (as when bakers or fourniers received one out of a certain number of loaves they had baked).

Whatever the case, wherever a specific weight is listed below for a bread, bear in mind that it typically would correspond to a particular price per setier or bushel of grain, and would vary as the latter changed.

The earliest statutes

The first known statutes specifically addressing bread and bakers in France come not from Paris, but from nearby Pontoise. In 1162, Louis VII declared that only “legitimate bakers” could make “either white or dark bread” in the town to sell:
Notum facimus universis presentibus et futuris nos concessisse bolengariis Pontisare quod nullus in villa faciat panem ad vendendum, nec molendinarius, nec fullo, nisi talis homo qui sit legitimus bolengarius et qui propria manu sciat facere panem et album et bisum.
We make it known to all now and in the future that we have granted to the bread bakers of Pontoise that none in the city make bread to sell, nor miller, nor fuller, but such man who be a legitimate baker and who with his own hands knows how to make bread both white and dark.

NOTE: It is strange that fullers – textile workers – would have made bread; could this be a mistranscription of a word meaning fournier? Such errors are not unknown. On the other hand, a later statute (see below) from Abbeville specifically forbids drapers from making bread, so there may have been an early link between textiles and making breads.
This is the first record of something which only incrementally became true for most of France, which was that commercial bread could only be made by professional bakers. It is probably the first mention as well of white and dark bread being the two main types.

It is also worthy of note that the Latin text uses the word bolengarius, corresponding to the French boulanger, and not pistor (the old Latin word) or any of the other terms used for a baker before boulanger became the standard one. Around 1174, Henry II (then King of England, but also Duke of Normandy) used the plural bolengariis in granting certain rights to the citizens of Rouen (Chéruel). Yet when Boileau established the first Parisian statutes for bakers in 1268, he still used the word tamelier.

Types of regional bread
In a number of local statutes, the same three grades of bread are mentioned as in Paris: the finest quality bread, an average quality bread and a poor quality bread. Some even refer to “the three types of bread”, as if assuming that these were known. The terms used however vary and it may be too that the actual breads at each level did as well. As noted above, sometimes a fourth, superior, form of white bread was mentioned. Conversely, in very poor regions, only two or even one quality of bread might be specified. The main grain used was always wheat; it is more unusual to see rye or barley officially mentioned, but where either are, the region in question probably had a larger proportion of workers, peasants or otherwise disadvantaged consumers. It was exceptional at this point for bread to be salted, so such mentions stand out. Proximity to the ocean was probably one determining factor in this regard.

In Bordeaux, a number of different statutes exist from different periods. In all, the standard white bread is called choyne. The second quality is typically called amassa, though it sometime is called bread “with all its bran” (ab tot son cot). The third is called bassalon or barsalor (probably a variant of bassalon). The statute from 1336 (the oldest) also lists fogassa; that is, a white bread even whiter than the standard white bread. This is clear from the respective weights: fogassa, twelve ounces; choyne, fourteen; amassa, sixteen; barsalor, eighteen. In 1407, the weights were: choyne, sixteen; bread with all its bran, twenty-one; bassalon, twenty-four. In 1421, these were: choyne, ten; massa, thirteen; bassalon, seventeen.

The term for the best flour was flor deu froment (“flower of wheat”). Mouthon, who has studied Bordeaux's bread in depth, says, "this yielded a very white crumb covered with a fine crust", but does not explain why this would be the case. Bread made at home was called pan d'hostau; that is, household bread, or, as the Parisians put it, pain de ménage (which in Paris became a commercial variety of bread). It was bigger than standard baker's bread; Mouthon says a fournier got ten 1.7 kilo loaves from about twenty-seven liters of bread.

All this bread was of wheat and, unlike much bread in medieval France, salted.

In neighboring areas, the picture varied a little. In La Réole, in 1255, the breads were fouace, white bread, “bolted” (balutat) bread and brown bread (pain co or “bran bread”), which (curiously) could be both bolted and not. In Langon in 1494, only white or brown bread was sold.

In Rouen, three qualities of bread were made; but the best could take various forms. A 1491 statute for Rouen orders that bakers make "good white bread, like mollet, fouache, pain de rouelle, semineaux, cernuyaus, craquelins, cretelées or other type of good bread of good wheat". Several of these, such as the craquelins, were more typically considered as pastries. The next article then states that bakers will make three kinds of bread: "white bread of the types declared above", biset ("darkish") bread and fettis (the darkest) bread (fettis seems to be the same word as the Parisian faitis). This raises the question of whether specifications for white bread in other cities simply referred to the traditional ball-shaped bread made with the best flour, or if these also implied various luxury items that simply were not specified.

In Normandy, salt was rarely used in bread. But in Lillebonne and Bolbec (between Le Havre and Rouen), the three types of bread were white bread, dark bread and salted bread. The chef d'oeuvre (the 'masterpiece' made by an aspirant to a mastery) consisted of salted white bread and dark bread. Some bakers only made faitis (the lowest quality of bread). A writer in 1933 said that the bolted bread in this period was finer than in his own.

In fourteenth century Grenoble, according to one (secondary) source, bakers sold four qualities of bread: white “mouth bread” (panis de bochâ; that is, pain de bouche) or miche, brown bread called jacobin; “reddish” bread (pain rosset), and dark bread (pain bis). Another however says that only pain de bouche and rosset were originally sold and that the other two came later.

While no explanation is given for the term jacobin, a Jacobin convent was founded in Bordeaux in 1230 and it may be that similar bread was made there (though typically monks ate finer bread).

In Nantes in 1353, both choayme and mollet bread – the two finest – were to weigh 16 ounces when the setier was at twenty sous. The next quality was called pain de griste, with the "third of the flower", to weigh twenty two ounces; then coarse bread, “without flower”, to weigh twenty seven and three quarter ounces. After this, fouaces are listed, weighing eighteen ounces – that is, they were of slightly lesser quality in this case than the two best white breads.

These statutes are some of the few too to set standards for rye bread. When the setier of rye was at ten sous, a ten denier bread was to weight forty-five ounces (obviously a big loaf).

They also allow for people who brought their unbaked dough (of rye or of wheat) to the fourniers. Some even brought to the fourniers "their flours, wheat as well as rye, still to turn, bolt, set to rise, knead, slice, weigh and put in the oven"; basically, to make the bread. Note that the fourniers did this even though there were bakers (pestours) in the region; the statutes overall are addressed, not only to bakers, but to anyone who made “sellable bread”. 

In Angoulême in 1372, a bushel of wheat was to yield thirty one denier breads “with all their flower”, each weighing seventeen ounces. The miche weighed twelve ounces (and so was effectively the finest quality bread). Dark bread weighed twenty five ounces. This is close to the weight – twenty four ounces – given for something called (exceptionally) a reparon, which was to weigh a third more than bread with all its flour. The word (which suggests “repair”) may indicate that it was made with flour left over from sifting one of the better qualities.

The same statute gives (unusually) similar figures for barley bread, which was to weigh half again as much as wheat bread with all its “flower”.

In Douai in 1496, white, brown and wastell breads were made. Wastell is a variant of gastel (gateau) and so this was a bread of superior quality, like the miche or fouace.

In 1257, the three types of bread in Marseilles were white bread, average or medium bread (panis mediano or pain mejan, an expression still used in 1917) and bread with everything (that is, bran, etc – pane cum toto).

In Perpignan two different documents give an idea of the bread produced around the late thirteenth century. In 1257 the bakers signed an agreement with the Templars, whose oven they were using. This agreement mentions white bread, fluxello bread, and "red" bread. The term fluxello appears elsewhere as flixol or fluxell which (like mollet) implies "soft", and so this bread was probably of a fine quality. The pane rosso would have been a dark bread, and the lowest quality. 

The town statutes probably date from 1276 and address, not the bakers, but the forners. They were obliged to bake a range of products, including bread, which is referred to only as bread, for both individuals and bakers. But it included at least a tortell (tourte) of the best bread (fluxol).

The oven tenders also baked (or cooked) fish, meat and flans, as well panatas, cassoles and formagades. Today, a panade is basically a bread soup. Formagade occurs in several variants; today a formatjades is a fried pastry filled with cheese. A cassole is the dish used to make a cassoulet and probably gave its name to that dish; it may have meant something like a cassoulet at the time. But for the period the only thing clear about all these references is that a variety of dishes were brought to the forners to bake or cook.

A 1269 agreement for a banal oven at Millas (near Perpignan) also mentions not only baking bread but cooking formatjades and panades. A similar agreement from 1246 for Palau (probably Palau-de-Vidre, also near Perpignan) mentions no specific breads but is very unusual in saying that the bread could be of "barley and wheat and whatever other grain".

In Poitiers towards the fifteenth century, the miche could be salted (weighing one and a half ounces for a denier) or unsalted (weighing eight ounces for four deniers; that is, at two ounces a denier, slightly more than the salted). Bread with all its flower weighed ten ounces for four deniers. A large wheat bread was made for households, weighing twelve and a half pounds for three sols four deniers, six pounds four ounces for twenty deniers and three pounds two ounces for ten deniers. Maslin bread (of wheat and rye) is also mentioned, weighing more for the same prices.

In Limoges in 1400 prices were given for wheat and rye bread. But the prices for wheat were only for different weights (five marcs [two and a half pounds] and six ounces for four deniers, two marcs and seven ounces for two deniers and one marc three and a half ounces for one denier). The statute also specified that this was to be without mixing in broad beans or anything else; such a stipulation is rare at this point.

Rye bread was made in tourtes, eight to a setier. A big tourte was to weigh thirteen and a half pounds, each, the small ones four marcs (that is, two pounds).

In Heyrieux (near Lyon) in 1389, fourniers made large breads (in grosso), of wheat or rye, meant (says a note) to last for days; the bakers baked smaller breads (in minuto).

Sometimes only two qualities of bread were made. Rents for Saint-Pere de Chartres included one very white (candidum) and one dark bread (vasselerium; that is, for vassals, and so most likely made with rye or barley). In Compiegne (in the Oise), in 1261, a priest was guaranteed both the finer bread of the monks (panis conventualibus) which was said to be commonly called miche, and common (familiaribus) bread.

Very rarely, only one quality of bread might be made. In a charter (from between 1180 and 1223) for the Picard town of Roye, bakers were forbidden to make anything but bread of 1 obole (a very low price). At the end of the fourteenth century only one type of bread was made in Montivilliers (in Upper Normandy) and an associated town, Harfleur: “coarse dense poorly baked, heavy and little risen” because most residents were poor tradespeople and laborers. The people of Harfleur objected to this limit and sought to make other types of bread.

Some other more specialized types of bread are sometimes mentioned as well.

In the twelfth century the abbey of Saint-Père of Chartres agreed with the parish priest of Chanday that they would equally share Ascension bread, and the “usual” Christmas, Easter and Ascension breads. Charters also mention Pentecost, Purification, Epiphany, and Saint-Etienne breads, all given by the faithful. These breads were also called tortelli. Christmas bread – panis natalitius – was a seniorial privilege, given by vassals.

In Falaise in 1312 bakers had to make tourteaux-Dieu for Saturday and blessed bread (pain béni) for Sunday. A tourteau was typically a large round loaf; it probably was of the best quality to be presented as a “God-tourteau”.

In 1412, the prison of Troyes and Saint-Lys gave prisoners rye bread called tranchours – that is, trenchers, a bread which typically was not eaten but used like a plate. This seems to be a rare example of this use of the term.

In 1286 in Saint-Maries-de-la-Mer, people could also have filled rolls and pastries (placenta) made, to be sold at 1 denier each.

In Dijon in the fourteenth century, gaudiers made gaude, then a special flour used to make "gauderie bread". The term gaude was later used for a kind of corn meal, so this may have been a millet flour (corn for a while was known as gros millet or "big millet").

Other sundry details
A number of other details appear in these records, some of more importance than others. Since the records overall are spotty, it is often impossible to know if similar situations to those referenced existed in other regions or not.

In later centuries, women would largely be excluded from trades, unless they were widows of tradesmen. But some records on baking suggest that this was less true as trades first became established at the end of the Middle Ages. In Montpelier in the fourteenth century, a number of apprenticeship contracts were for women, who also worked as bakers and pastry makers. From the thirteenth to the fifteenth century, a number of women in Bordeaux worked both as bakers and as fournières.

In Marseilles in 1257, people could sell bread without being professional bakers (which was already becoming unusual in other cities). Unbaked dough was sold as well as bread.

An 1199 regulation for Rouen stipulates that “no baker can have more than two windows for selling his bread, one in his house, one in the entry of [the church].” This reflects a situation found elsewhere, where bakers sold bread both at their own shops and in a market or another communal location. Note too that shops were said to sell from their “windows”, typically an opening onto the street, not a glass element.

In some regions, it was standard for either bakers or fourniers to pick up dough and return the baked bread to the customer. In Montolieu in 1392, the bakers at the royal ovens did this. In Picardy, in 1312, the Lord d'Anguerrans of Durcat held certain tenants responsible for the maintenance and constructions of buildings for his ovens, but at Christmas he was obliged to carry their dough to the ovens and bread back to their homes, for which help each owed a loaf, in addition to the thirtieth loaf from each batch.

On the other hand in 1391, Charles VI specifically said that porters were not customary at the oven in the town of Voisines (In Furnis Vicinarum non erunt portatores consuetudine).

In the town of Saint-Maries-de-la-Mer, porters were supposed to pick up the shaped dough and deliver the bread, but did not, obliging women to come to the two working ovens in the town. Further, the ovens were not fired when they should have been, obliging the women to wait around. In 1356, the third oven, in disrepair, was considered dangerous for the public. Two years later, an accident there hurt some women, killed others and caused one or more to miscarry.

This was not the only abuse there. The women also had to bring their own wood and to tip the fournier (both contrary to the statutes). The prior managing these ovens got one out of every twenty-two loaves for the baking and the (theoretical) pick-up and delivery.

Some other mentions are more idiosyncratic.

In fourteenth century Abbeville (in Picardy), bakers could not also be drapers. Also, bread could not be sold where wine, beer or godale was sold (a situation which probably did not endure, since taverns increasingly sold food in most regions).

In 1264. the Collegiate Church of Saint-Urbain in Troyes was granted the right to a tithe from Romilly. Ultimately however it surrendered this particular right, because the chapter was obliged to distribute Easter bread to the peasants of Romilly. But everyone in the area would show up and claim to be one, which resulted in numerous lawsuits. On February 5, 1372 a judgement was handed down declaring that the chapter would only give to true peasants of Romilly, “communing” men, women and children. The bread was to be “of such a size that a setier of wheat would give thirty loaves.”

In fifteenth century Cotentin, bread was made for poultry. It was not unusual to make bread for dogs – barley bread was a common dog food – but this mention of bread for poultry is unusual.

In Provins in 1364 bakers had the right to let pigs out twice a day “to piss” without being fined (in modern terms: the bakers had the right to walk their pigs twice a day). Tavern keeps had to send people to bakers to buy bread “depending on the number of drinkers they had in their tavern”.

This overview of various regional texts on late medieval bread shows similar general tendencies with specific variations. Clearly, the most common model was to define a scale of diminishing quality from light to dark bread. But this left room for a number of variations, both in terminology and in substance. The fact that especially fine white breads were or were not offered in commerce or that rye or barley bread was or was not officially mentioned is at least suggestive of corresponding variations in the affluence or poverty of each area. Too, various idiosyncrasies in local statutes or agreements show the uncertain state this trade was in at the end of the Middle Ages. Sometimes anyone could sell bread; sometimes only selected professionals could. Sometimes dough was picked up and delivered as baked bread, sometimes not. The pricing model of varying the weight of the bread rather than its price endured for a long time outside Paris, which in turn may hint at how coinage was used in the period. Pastries (that is, luxurious baked goods, as opposed to the pastry shells originally denoted by that term) were still confounded with bread in this period. Slim evidence suggests that women played a greater professional role before the hardening of corporate structures increasingly excluded them.

Overall then, these records show commercial bread-baking in its infancy in France, still, in many regards, feeling its way towards what would become a more structured and rigorously regulated trade.


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Chéruel, Pierre Adolphe, Histoire de Rouen pendant l'époque communale 1150 - 1382 suvie de ..., V1 1843

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Malvezin, Théophile, Histoire du commerce de Bordeaux V1-2 1892

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Dardel, Pierre, “Status des Boulangers et Bareme du Prix du Pain”, Bulletin de la Société libre d'émulation du commerce et de l'industrie de la Seine-Inférieure 1933

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Pilot de Thorey, Jean-Joseph-Antoine, Histoire municipale de Grenoble Part 2 1851
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Friday, June 12, 2015

FRENCH BREAD HISTORY: Late medieval bread

This is the fourth in a series of posts on the history of French bread. The preceding post was on early medieval bread; the next one is on late medieval bread outside Paris. Further information on bread history can be found on Facebook in the Bread History Lounge.

Around the time of the First Crusade (1096–1099), French mentions of bread began to reflect something taken for granted today: variety.

A modern French bakery presents a visual experience that is almost musical in its contrast of long baguettes with round pains de compagne, torpedo-like bâtards, braids, croissants, etc. For centuries, such variety has, to a greater or lesser extent, been typical of French bread bakeries, even when the bakeries themselves were (until the nineteenth century) rustic and sparse. But this variety has developed over time and only begins to appear in records in the late Middle Ages. After the Romans and before the Crusades, mentions of bread are repetitive and monotonous and only scattered images suggest any variety at all.

This was probably all the more true in the century before the Crusades, when Hugh Capet (c. 940-966) founded the last major French dynasty. Overall, the Capetians (whose reign ended with Louis XVI) ruled a more sophisticated and settled France than the two dynasties before them. But soon after their reign began, France experienced some of the worst famines in its history. Claims of cannibalism, of human meat sold in markets, have been questioned, but there is no doubt times became dire in the tenth century. Ironically, some scholars believe that the very desperation of this period spurred improvements in agriculture. Whatever the case, even if famines and shortages would recur throughout French history, nothing like the horrors of this period are mentioned after it.

For many, simply getting bread was problematic.

A rare glimpse at what variations did exist at this point comes from the Abbey of Cluny, where monks used hand signals at meals in order not to talk. These are believed to date to the tenth century, though they are mainly documented slightly later. A round bread of one pound was indicated by thumb and index finger touching in a circle; a “better bread” (panis melior) was indicated by making a hollow with one hand, and “pouring” with the other, suggesting that this was a type of bread poached in water (like the later eschaudés). Other signs show a rye bread (turta) divided into four parts with a cross and a tortula, possibly a bread cooked on the hearth. This is a narrow range of variations and most were already known in the early Middle Ages (though this may be one of the first references since Roman times to a poached bread).

By the thirteenth century, if many records still referred to "bread" without description or qualification, bread was no longer just a generic term; there were already, as today, various breads, intended for different uses and purposes. If the soccer-ball like shape seen in innumerable medieval images remained the standard bread, the names at least of different breads were recorded and very probably some, though unknown to us, had different forms.

In the seventeenth century, 
the great philologist Du Cange (1610-1688) included a long list of breads in his Latin glossary, drawing on various histories, charters, donations, etc. He does not give dates for all of these and no doubt many of his sources have disappeared since. What is more, it is rare that his sources provide anything more than the name of each bread, so that it is often impossible to know exactly what each term corresponded to and whether different terms from different sources in fact refer to the same bread. Still, what can be gleaned from Du Cange's glossary shows that different terms for breads already appeared in documentation around the time of the Crusades.

One of his terms, panis asper, comes from Rudolph Glaber, the same historian who recorded some of the dramatic accounts of tenth century famines. Glaber writes more specifically of panemque admodum asperum; that is, very rough or harsh bread. Du Cange takes this to mean black or bran bread.
Here in a somewhat summary fashion are references from Du Cange going into the late Middle Ages:

1050 Panes Coronati [Crown Breads] – Perhaps a circular bread?
1106 Panis Ecclesiaticus [Church Bread] – Probably a finer bread
1130 Panis de Cambio [Trade or Exchange Bread] – This was a rye bread used as a kind of currency (in Italy): “In northern Italy, bread loaves of a determined size (panis de cambio, exchangeable bread) were ascribed a specific monetary value as fractions of the gold coin, thus making up for the lack of coins usable for small transactions.” (Postan)
1188, 1214 Panis Natalitius [Nativity bread] (also tourte)
1190, 1209 Panes Curiales [Meeting or Banquet Bread]
1201 Panis de Mait [“trough or tub bread”]- The name suggests one of a number of breads which were poached in water, though it might simply have been made in a tub, presumably in larger quantities.
1224 Panis de Paribus [“Equals' Bread”] - A shared bread, apparently.
1235 Panis Emendationis [“Compensation Bread”] - Given as payment to a worker. and so very likely to have been made of rye, barley or maslin.
1242 Panis Biscotus [“Twice-cooked Bread”] - Biscuit, basically (but this had already existed for some time).
1248 Panis Falsus [“False Bread”] - Not of statutory weight or form.
1248 Panis Panetarie [“Storehouse Bread”]
1248, 1270 Panis Militis/Armigerorum [“Soldier/Squire's Bread”] - This was probably an inferior, bran-heavy bread as was true of later military breads.
1254, 1270 Panis Conventualis [“Conventual or Meeting Bread”]
1271 Panes Festi [“Holiday Bread”] - Probably a finer bread.
1284 Panis de Aula [“Hall Bread”] - For the abbot or guests of an abbey; thus finer.
1291 Panis Francicus [“Frank/Frankish Bread”] - Apparently a finer bread, possibly even a pastry.
1296 Panis Medianus [“Middling Bread”] - Probably between dark and the finest bread.
1303 Panis Foliati [“Leafed Bread”] - Puff pastry, or something very like it.
1308 Panis Orationis Sancte [“Bread of Holy Prayer”] - Possibly a Communion wafer, which would later be called (among other things) a “bread for singing”.
1309 Panis Paganus ['Village or Peasant Bread:”] - Du Cange says this was bread made by peasants; probably of barley or rye.
1339 Panis Focagii [“Hearth Bread”, foccacio] – Bread made on the hearth; this was known by a variety of names – fouace, fougasse, etc. - all corruptions of the Latin for hearth bread.
1392 Panis Ferratus [“Iron Bread”] - Wafers or waffles; that is, bread made between two hot irons.
1460 Panis Moly [“Softish Bread”, corruption of pain mollet] - A very fine white bread which in later centuries would be the first to be leavened with yeast instead of sour dough.

Note that it is  relatively rare here to indicate anything particular in the making of each bread. Most of these breads are named for the circumstances under which they would be used and many may have been the typical ball-shaped bread made more or less fine. But even this variety in the names is a new development at this point.

John de Garland's Dictionary

John de Garland (Johannes de Garlandia) (c. 1190? - c. 1270?), an Englishman who lived and taught in Paris, left a curious dictionary which gives an overview of Parisian trades in the thirteenth century. He says that bakers at that point sold bread of wheat, rye, barley, oats, maslin (mixed grain) and bran, but says nothing of specific loaves. Still it is interesting that such a range of grains was used for bakers' bread; whether they were used or not, most are not named in subsequent statutes, etc. Barley and rye were more typically used for servants' bread; oats are rarely named for bread at all.

He also describes regrattiers (resellers or grocers) selling items which a period commentator glossed: placente (usually "pastries" or "cakes") said to be simenians (that is simnel, a very fine white bread still found in England much later); flammicia, or flamiches, today a tart, a regional specialty, but apparently a bread or pastry then; ignacia, said to be fouace, which originally was a hearth bread, but is sometimes cited in ways that suggest it was something finer in this period. (He does not however say which professionals made these.)

If these glosses are accurate, they show that several items were made which were still known in later centuries, but rarely mentioned in documents of this period. It also suggests that bakers sold some items not named in statutes, though Garland's observations also precede Boileau's 1268 statutes, which may simply have eliminated certain items from the bakers' repertoire.

Bread in statutes

Municipal statutes for bakers first record which breads were in standard use in cities. These above all were the ancestors of the baguette, the pain de campagne and other breads found in Paris bakeries today.

When Boileau wrote down statutes for the different trades in 1268, he began by addressing the tameliers (“sifters”) who were the first municipal bakers. At this point, the standard size for a bread seems to have a denier's worth (neither the weight nor the quality of the flour are mentioned). This is sometimes referred to as a denrée ("good", as in "goods"), though the term is also used in a way that suggests a unit or an item. The loaf twice the size, a doubleau, sold for two deniers; one half the size, a demie ("half"), sold for an obole (that is, half a denier). Normally, it was forbidden to make a bread larger than a doubleau, unless it was a gastel (cake) made for special occasions (early uses of the word gastel/gâteau imply a special bread rather than a sweet cake). It is striking that the statute also mentions echaudés, “of which one can give 14 denrées for 12 deniers” (the implication seeming to be that these were roughly the size of a standard loaf, but could be made slightly smaller). This bread/pastry has existed in various forms since this time, but above all is characterized by being poached (like a dumpling). It may be the bread dipped in water referenced at Cluny. It would already become less common under the Old Regime, but at this point seems to have been counted as one of the more common breads.

Note that there is nothing here about the weight, quality of the flour, or degree of fineness (bran extraction) of each bread. The bread in commerce, at least, seems to have been roughly standard in its make-up and the Parisian consumer initially had very narrow choices.

The statute's restrictions on price (the first since Charlemagne) assume a correspondence between weight and price, so the statute, rather than forbidding false weight directly, forbids sales under certain prices. Three doubliaux normally sold for six deniers; they could not be sold for more, nor for less than five oboles (that is, two and a half deniers). Breads normally sold for twelve deniers (presumably in quantity) could not be sold for less than eleven.

The largest of these was sold by three; the denrée was sold by the dozen or half-dozen. In giving a discount of one obole on a half-dozen or a denier on a dozen, the tamelier effectively offered a thirteenth bread for each dozen; that is, what English-speakers would later call a “baker's dozen”.

The price of breads sold in shops was carefully controlled. More leeway was allowed on price on market days, as long as the doubleau did not cost more than two deniers. This marginal freedom resulted in its being called a pote loaf, "pote" being from the Latin word for power or "being able to".

Note that these were the breads in commerce. In households, for instance, servants no doubt still got bread of rye, barley or maslin.

Boileau's statutes also mention bakers from outside Paris. The medieval French word fors (now hors) means “except” or “outside of” and these bakers were called boulangers forains. Parisian bakers objected to these “outsiders” selling bread in Paris and the statutes limit them to selling rejected or damaged bread and then only on Sundays. Some towns beyond Paris had a more specific reputation. The fourteenth century Menagier de Paris mentions bread from Corbeil (today a major metro stop) as inferior (and so dark). Bread from Chilly (today Chilly-Mazarin) was known as “bread of Chailly” [sic] and considered finer and whiter.

In 1305, Philip the Fair established statutes for the bakers. But though these prescribed punishments for making defective bread, they gave no details at all on the proper weight or price of bread. In 1350, John II (John the Good) was the first to do this. These statutes make it clear that in the decades since Boileau's statutes, bread-baking had developed in ways they did not address. Not only had pain de Chailly gained a good reputation, the term was now used for the finest bread made in Paris itself. What is more, bread was now priced by quality.

The new statutes established a hierarchy which would be found, under different names, throughout France and for most of the Old Regime: fine bread, the whitest sold; a good but less fine bread, typically that of the greater part of the population; and a dark bread for the poorest people. The 1350 statutes name these, respectively, as pain de Chailly, pain coquillé and pain bis. Coquille simply means “shell” and the term would later refer to a swollen crust; in the seventeenth century, Cotgrave defined pain coquillé as "a kind of hard-crusted bread, whose loafs do somewhat resemble the Dutch Buns of our Rhenish Wine houses." In this case, however, it seems simply to have referred to a bread of average quality, between the best and the worst; in later centuries this would be called bis-blanc (“dark-white”). Pain bis means “dark bread” and would be the term most commonly used for poor quality bread.

Note that echaudés are no longer mentioned, though bakers were still making these in 1438 (Bourgeois de Paris).

The price of bread would later vary for the same size loaf, but at this point it was the weight of the loaf which varied, while the price (a denier or a multiple of it) remained constant. As an example, when a septier of wheat cost forty sols, the statute specified:
The dough for a Chailly bread of one denier weighs five ounces, and baked four ounces, five estellins [20th of an ounce]. The dough for bread of two deniers [that is, the old doubleau] weighs ten ounces, and baked six ounces, five estellins.
The dough of bread of one denier coquillé weighs six ounces five estellins; and baked five ounces and a half...
The dough of dark bread of one denier weighs nine ounces and a half; and the baked bread eight ounces.
As the price of the septier varied, the weight of a one or two denier bread was to vary with it.

Apparently bakers only approximately followed these guidelines and in 1372 Charles VI issued new statutes. These were very similar, but the three types of bread were now pain de Chailly, pain bourgeois and pain faitis, also known as pain de Brode.

In the eighteenth century, Le Grand d'Aussy wrote that pain bourgeois (city-dweller or burgher's bread) was the same as the pain de ménage (“household bread”), of his own time. Faitis simply means “made”, though it can also mean “fake” or “fraudulent” (like the modern French word factice). Why the term was used for dark bread is not clear, but at any rate pain bis would remain the preferred term over time (pain de Brode may have taken on a slightly different meaning, later being made from a mix of rye with wheat flour). For over a century, however, these were the standard Parisian terms for the three qualities of bread.

An exception appeared in 1420, when times were desperate and Charles VI ordered that bakers only make two kinds of bread: white and brown. The white was to be made of wheat; the brown of wheat combined with “mixed” méteil (maslin) flour which is then explicitly said to contain either rye or barley flour. What is more, these are set at a pound, or multiples or fractions thereof, the white selling at twenty deniers a pound and the brown at sixteen. A similar statute appeared in 1420, but referring to white, brown and rye bread separately. (Rye bread was rarely mentioned in early statutes; its inclusion here shows how bad times were.)

In this same difficult period, a type of bread briefly appeared called pain armé (“armed bread”) which was made from wheat as it came from the mill, without being bolted or otherwise cleaned. Bread of this sort was made at different times from both wheat and rye flour. In 1419, a decree noted that this “bread was not agreeable to the people, because it was brown, and they were not used to using such bread” - an early note of how demanding the Parisian populace could be about its bread, even in hard times.

Otherwise, towards the end of the Middle Ages, the main breads in commerce were fine white bread (pain de Chailly), average quality bread (pain bourgeois) and dark bread (pain bis, faitis or de Brode). These were not the only breads produced in the time. But this trinity was the ancestor of the far more varied selection in today's Parisian bakeries.

Pain de bouche and trenchers

In fine households, two types of bread in particular were used: pain de bouche (“mouth bread”) and trenchers. Pain de bouche may have been nothing more than pain de Chailly (in or near Paris, at least), or it might have been an even finer bread made by the household baker; no details survive to be sure either way. Nor is it sure why the term was used. One source claims it was made at the mouth of the oven, but it seems more likely that it was used to contrast it with the bread that was NOT for the mouth (that is, not to be eaten): the trencher.

The idea of people eating off trenchers is so associated with the Middle Ages that it may come as a surprise to know that the concept only appeared towards the end of the period (and did not persist for long after it); it is very unlikely that Charlemagne or even Hugh Capet ate off trenchers. The English term is a corruption of the French tranchoir; that is, “slicer”, from the verb trancher (“to slice”); a trencher served as surface on which to carve and eat one's portion. A trencher did not have to be made of bread; it could be, for instance, a silver dish. Why or how the idea appeared of using hardened bread for this purpose is unknown.

We have a clear idea of how at least some trenchers were made, thanks to the Menagier de Paris, which says to order bread “a half foot wide and four fingers high, baked four days before” for that purpose. (Note that an order for white bread suggests that it be a day old.) Alternately, it says to use Corbeil bread, which is to say, dark and inferior bread. But a 1336 record for a regional prince says that four small one pound breads are to be used for slicing. A regional record from the early fifteenth century says that rye flour was to be used to make trenchers, but these were for prisoners and appear to have been intended to eat (Aube).

The concept then was varied, but in general referred to hard plates of bread used for slicing. Exactly how hard is open to question; until the late sixteenth century, French bakers generally used sourdough as a leavening and sourdough leavened bread can stay fresh far longer than yeast-leavened bread. (The Menagier specifically contrasts the leavening used for beer – that is, yeast – with the leavening used for bread.) So even a four-day old bread might have remained somewhat edible.

Describing a rich man's meal, a poem from 1475 says that the poor:
get the trenchers of bread
which remain upon the table.

Ils ont tranchouers
Qui demeurent du pain dessus la 
Martial d'Auvergne, Les Vigiles de Charles VII
This brief verse may be the source of the idea that trenchers, soaked in sauce from the food, were given to the poor after the meal. While this was ultimately true, the trenchers may first have been gathered in an alms plate and stored before being distributed. Also, if the breads were indeed as hard as is sometimes thought, it is not clear that they would have imbibed much of the sauces on them.

Shells, wafers and pastries
In this period too, French pastry began to appear as a separate product. As references to things like gastel (now gateau) show, bread-bakers at first made products later associated with sweet baked goods. The Romans and Greeks had had pastries (often made with cheese and/or honey), but the idea seems to have faded in France long before the Crusades. It reappeared from two very different directions: making wafers and making pasties.

Pasties were nothing more than shells of dough which held food. In England, these were known as pies, even if the French word pasté (meaning “doughed”) also became “pasty” in English. For those who know this period, they are so universal a feature of medieval cooking that a question may never arise: how did Europeans have the idea of making shells out of dough? It is tempting to trace this innovation, like so many after the Crusades, to the East. But it is also true that by this period the flan (which had begun as a flatcake) was essentially a pastry shell holding cream or cheese and there is some evidence that over time the flat flan had initially gained low sides (like a pizza) which later rose to form a bowl.

That history remains obscure, but what is clear is that at some point making pastés became known as pastisserie – that is, pastry – and those who made them pastissiers (pastry-makers; or, in English, pie-men). But for a very long time pastry-makers did not make sweets, except incidentally; they made anything (usually meat or fish) served in a pastry shell.

Yet a light (if not necessarily sweet) baked item did exist in this period, and had since before the Crusades: the wafer. This frequently appears on menus, along with or in the place of fruit, as dessert. What's more, by now what had been a simple secular variant of the Communion wafer was made in varied forms which are also cited on such menus. The maistre (“master”) may have been a larger wafer, made with white wine in the dough or it may have simply been a service of wafers. The nieule – known in Latin as a nebula, or cloud – was a lighter wafer (though some texts make it synonymous with the latter).

These humble waffle-like treats (they were made between hot irons) along with the more dessert-like pastry shell dishes such as a flan were the ancestors of what would, over time, become French pastry. But at this point it was the oubloyeurs (wafer-makers) who made oublies (wafers) and so their role in the period was closer to that pastry-makers would hold in the future.

Other innovations
Two references from this period shows that the French were already making what they call “leafed dough” (pâte feuilletée) and what English speakers call “puff pastry” (or, more technically, “laminated dough”). Recall the 1303 mention cited by Du Cange of Panis Foliati. A charter from 1311 mentions gasteaux feuillés. In modern French this would be a “leafed cake”, but gateau still had a more ambivalent meaning at this point and this may still have been a kind of bread. Various explanations have been offered for how this technique – so central today to products like the croissant - first came to France. It might have been an Arab technique which made its way up from Spain. A thirteenth century Andulusian recipe book includes this recipe for “leafy” (muwarraqa) musammana:
Preparation of Musammana [Buttered] Which Is Muwarraqa [Leafy]
Take pure semolina or wheat flour and knead a stiff dough without yeast. Moisten it little by little and don't stop kneading it... until it relaxes and is ready and is softened so that you can stretch a piece without severing it. Then put it in a new frying pan on a moderate fire. When the pan has heated, take a piece of the dough and roll it out thin on marble or a board. Smear it with melted clarified butter or fresh butter liquified over water. Then roll it up like a cloth until it becomes like a reed. Then twist it and beat it with your palm until it becomes like a round thin bread, and if you want, fold it over also. Then roll it out and beat it with your palm a second time until it becomes round and thin. Then put it in a heated frying pan after you have greased the frying pan with clarified butter, and whenever the clarified butter dries out, moisten [with butter] little by little, and turn it around until it binds, and then take it away and make more until you finish the amount you need. Then pound them between your palms and toss on butter and boiling honey. When it has cooled, dust it with ground sugar and serve it.
But in France the brief mentions above only show that it was known, not how it was made or came to be.

In 1365 a church council at Angers forbade the use of milk or butter at Lent, whether in bread or vegetables. This early mention is striking, since the use of milk, in particular, in bread is rarely mentioned until later centuries, when it was associated with luxurious breads and, especially, in the nineteenth century, Vienna-style breads. Unfortunately, this tantalizing reference is the only one of the sort in the period, so we do not know who was making such bread or if it was considered to have a special status. (While it is just possible too that the reference is to using butter on bread and dipping bread in milk, the Latin is specifically in pane.)

A decree of February 17, 1436 mentions several fine breads of “similar whiteness” including “cakes” and échaudés, but also brioches. This may be the first mention of this in French baking history, though there is no way of knowing if it was already the rich bread later known.

The list of words from Du Cange includes a reference to Panis Moly, a corruption of pain mollet. The tax roles for 1292 mention a man named Jehan (John) Pain-Molet [sic].  These sparse references show that the term ("softish bread") existed by the thirteenth century (possibly before, for it to have become a family name). It would remain rare until the sixteenth century when bakers began to use yeast (instead of sourdough) to leaven it, provoking memorable upheavals in French bread-baking. All that can be said about it in earlier times is that it was no doubt a very fine bread, but very likely leavened with sourdough at this point.

The word miche first appears now as well, but its meaning is unclear. Even in recent centuries, this word's meaning has shifted; it typically means the most common large loaf in a given time and region (and so in Paris today it refers by default to large round breads). The word itself is derived from the Latin mica (“crumb”), which also became mie in French. It has been traced back to Chrétien de Troyes' twelfth century Perceval le Gallois: “Mais n'a çaiens que v mices”, though this could arguably refer to “five crumbs”. But the fourteenth century poet Eustache Deschamps (1340-c 1404) has a character say:
You can only give a miche
Or a piece of dark bread.

Tu n'as pouvoir fors d'une miche
Ou d'un morsiau de pain faitis
And a fourteenth century Breton poem, Le combat de trente, says of a man killed in combat: “Jamais ne mangera de miche ni de gastel.” (“Never would he eat miche nor cake.”) The term then was established by the fourteenth century, even if its meaning is uncertain.

As the medieval period ended, then, a number of concepts had appeared which are now taken for granted in bread-making. Not the least of these was the public bakery itself. These had existed under the Romans, but only appeared fitfully just before the Crusades. It was after them that they became standard in cities, as shown by numerous statutes. The idea that they would sell three qualities of bread was established and would endure throughout the Old Regime, even if other breads were to join these later. The regulation of price and quality began in this period and would remain, in shifting forms, well past the French Revolution (and was bitterly resented by bakers).

The variety in types of bread which became typical of French bread began in this period and already went beyond the three official grades of bread. Biscuits and wafers already existed by the Crusades; wafers would grow more varied, forming the major dessert of the period. Pasties, first used primarily for savory dishes, were the first pastry (by that name) in France. Over time, wafer-makers and pastry-makers would join to create what became French pastry.

Several terms came into use during this period, though they may have different meanings than they later would: brioche, simnel, flamiche, fouacemiche, pain mollet, puff pastry, cake. Trenchers of bread appeared but would not remain in use for long after. The term pain de bouche would last longer, though other terms for very fine bread would displace it.

Milk and butter seem to have been used in bread in this period. Soon after, these and other additions like eggs and honey would more typically be used in pastry; but as the Old Regime ended they were again found in bread.

Overall, the fundamentals of French bread and bread-making were established in this period, even if these would evolve, and often in distinct phases, over the centuries to come.


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