Recipe for Trenchers

It's been a while since I've featured a medieval recipe. I was thinking about trenchers the other day (an insight into just how convoluted my mind actually is). Trenchers were commonly used during medieval times and you can think of them as the modern-day equivalent of bread bowls. Most commonly used by the uber-wealthy in medieval times, apparently they saved the kitchen staff from washing a whole-lotta dishes after a feast. The uneaten trenchers, usually stale, were then distributed to the poor after a big shindig. Guess I know what I'd be eating back then...someone's used, moldy trencher.

On the bright side, when I saw this medieval recipe over at Nemeton, for some reason I thought how good this would be holding a big serving of cream of potato soup (maybe it's just that winter is arriving?). Regardless, if you have culinary inclinations, here's the recipe and I've done the conversions for you:

3 1/2 cups stone-ground wholemeal bread (get creative with this; no need to grind your own wheat)
2 Tbsp sugar
About a cup of warm water
2 tsp active dry yeast
1/2 tsp salt

Dissolve the sugar in the warm water then stir-in the yeast and allow to stand for 15 minutes. The yeast should activate and bubbles will froth to the surface. Mix the flour and salt into a bowl, add the yeast and mix to form a dough. Add more water or flour, as necessary, until the dough is of the correct consistency.

Tip onto a floured surface and knead enthusiastically for at least 20 minutes, or until the dough becomes soft and elastic. Cut the dough into three equal pieces and roll into ovals about 4cm thick. Transfer onto a greased baking tray, pinch the edges of the bread so that you create a raised lip all the way around. Make a deep slash about 3/4 of the way along the center of the loaf and gently part the lips of the slash. This forms the 'trench' from which the bread gets its name.

Cover the bread with a damp cloth and place in a warm spot until the loaves double in size (this can take up to 2 hours). Place the bread in an oven pre-heated to 350 degrees and bake for about 45 minutes or until the bread is nicely browned and sounds hollow when tapped on the base.


  1. Cool!

    I kept reading about trenchers and assumed it was some sort of bread but didn't realize it was a stand-in for a bowl.

    Makes sense! Who wants to wash all those dishes anyway?


  2. I have always wondered how they made these! Do you think the trick was to get them good and stale before use? Dining rooms must have been messy places!


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