Manchet bread was the finest quality of bread made in all great households from the Middle Ages until the seventeenth century. In royal residences, castles and fine houses, it was served only to the lord and his lady and a few of their well-born attendants and their grown-up offspring. It was not usually served in the nursery. Manchet loaves were always moulded by hand (hence the name) and were never very large. This recipe is adapted from the instructions laid down at Eltham Palace.
Put the flour into a large bowl and mix in the salt and sugar. Make a hollow in the centre and pour in the yeast mixture, knocking
Remove the cloth and pour in the milk and water, which should be just blood heat, working the liquid in all the time and kneading in the flour from the sides into the centre. When all the liquid is in, knead for several minutes on a board. Return the dough to the bowl. Cut a deep cross in it, cover and leave for another hour. Remove it from the bowl to the board, knead it again, cut it into quarters and mould each quarter into a round, fairly flat shape.
Put the 4 manchets well apart on a large, flat baking tin, cover lightly with a single cloth and leave in a warm place for a further 20 minutes.
Manchet loaves were sometimes brushed over with milk, or with the white of an egg just before the end of the cooking time and put back into the oven for 2 to 3 minutes.
©1980 The Estate of Elizabeth Ayrton