[Sca-cooks] bretzel, bread and lye oh my

Terry Decker t.d.decker at att.net
Mon Aug 23 14:03:45 PDT 2010

> Of course, things like this send my brain off in all kinds of directions.
> I started to ruminate on the statement I read in one of the German
> histories of either cooking or baking that there were multiple kinds of
> bread known in 12th century France.  I can't exactly remember the number
> but 22 is sticking in my head.  I think that reference is in my office, so
> I might have to tell everyone for sure later if there is interest.  What I
> do know is that the statement was not footnoted.

There were at least 80 types of bread known in 1st Century Rome ands since 
many of the bakers came from Gaul, I suspect 22 may be a little low.

> This led me to wonder if the source for that statement was based on
> something in Alexander Neckam's lexicon.  Unfortunately, my latin is
> limited, and I didn't find an obvious list of bready type things (grains
> though!).  I did note that the master cook (archimacherus) had in his
> cabinet 'vel salem panem' along with the spices, amidum and aromatics.
> These sound cracker like to me, but the footnotes say 'sianum (all.
> semmel)' which I think at least later is a white bread roll. I wonder if
> it could be a pretzel? But alas, no word.  (Note to self - check Du
> Cange).  There's also a list of equipment in the kitchen that bears
> translating.

Semmel can be either fine wheat flour or a roll made from fine wheat flour. 
When your're dealing with Latin, it can mean anything made with fine wheat 

> Last question - is there any evidence of the period use of lye in the
> making of pretzels?
> Katherine

IIRC, there is evidence of using lye in baking in germany late in period, 
but not necessarily in the way it is used today and not necessarily on 


More information about the Sca-cooks mailing list