Jonathan “Seamus” Blackley is not just an iconic figure in the video game industry (he is one of the main architects of the Xbox console). He is also passionate about physical sciences, aviation, jazz, history, and baking. He has recently launched a challenge like no other. Accompanied by the Egyptologist Serena Love and the microbiologist Richard Bowman, the man has indeed begun to bake bread made from a yeast aged 4,500 years, encrusted in ancient pottery.
The three friends explain more precisely that they have been able to collect – thanks to a non-destructive process – yeasts and dormant bacteria inside the ceramic pores of pots used in the Old Kingdom. Relics currently held in the collections of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts and the Peabody Museum at Harvard. These small amounts of yeasts were then mixed with unfiltered olive oil and cereals consumed at the time like barley, Kamut and small bud. The resulting paste, kneaded and lifted, was then placed in the oven. And here’s the result!
“The aroma is amazing and new. It’s a lot sweeter and richer than the leaven we’re used to, “he tweeted. It also evokes a “light and airy” crumb, as well as “incredible” flavors.
And here is the result. The scoring is the Hieroglyph representing the “T” sound (Gardiner X1) which is a loaf of bread. The aroma is AMAZING and NEW. It’s much sweeter and more rich than the sourdough we are used to. It’s a big difference. After this cools we will taste! pic.twitter.com/sYCJ8uP1oj
— Seamus Blackley (@SeamusBlackley) August 5, 2019
The food of ancient Egypt
This kind of little experience, besides the “unusual” side, allows us in passing to understand better the diet of the ancient Egyptians, mainly composed of bread.
At the time, the grains were placed in a large stone mortar, before being pounded with clubs. Then came the sieving operation. The resulting material was then placed in a millstone, consisting of two stone troughs. Women flattened the grain residues by rolling them in one of the troughs and placing the resulting flour in the second trough. The contents were sieved again in order to obtain even more excellent flour. Meanwhile, conical molds were placed in an oven. Once hot enough, they poured in the dough that had just been kneaded with sourdough.
Note also that this is not the first time that researchers have used ancient yeasts to recreate recipes “of yesteryear.” A few months ago, a team from Bar-Ilan University in Israel announced that they had brewed beer from yeast extracted from old jars more than 3,000 years old. What gives us a more precise idea of this ancient beverage appreciated by the pharaohs.