Bread Recipes

How to Make 2000-Year-Old Roman Bread from Pompeii | Panis Quadratus

In 79AD, a baker in Pompeii fled for his life as Mt. Vesuvius erupted, leaving his bread to burn. In this episode, I recreate the Panis Quadratus and explore the history and archeology behind this iconic loaf of bread.

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Thermapen –
Bread Cloche –
King Arthur White Whole Wheat Flour –
8-inch Cake Pan –
Baking String –

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– 1 kg whole wheat flour (or a mix of buckwheat, wholewheat and/or spelt)
– 125g – 150g bread starter (this depends on how loose the starter is)
– 700ml tepid water
– 1.5 tsp salt

1. Create a ring of flour on your work surface and pour the starter into the center working in a bit of the flour.
2. Mix the salt into the water and slowly pour it into the ring of flour, mixing as you go. Depending on your flour and starter, you may need a bit more or less than 700ml. Your dough should come together and be only slightly sticky. Once the dough comes together, knead until you reach a stretchable dough.
3. Put the dough into a lightly oil bowl and cover with a towel. Allow to rise until doubled in size, or a bit more. About 90 minutes.
4. Once risen, remove the dough from the bowl and place on a floured surface. Measure out 1316g (4 Roman Pounds) of dough then stretch it and form it into a ball, then place it into a floured 8 inch round cake pan and allow to rise until dough is puffed out over the lip of the pan. About 1 hour.
5. Preheat Oven to 400°F/200°C and set a clean pan on the bottom rack.
6. Flip the cake pan over and let the dough gently fall onto a floured baking sheet. Then, using a wooden dowel or the handle of a wooden spoon, create four intersecting lines across the top of the loaf creating 8 equal triangle segments.
7. Wrap a piece of baking string or twine around the circumference of the loaf, pulling it tight but not breaking the loaf, then tie to hold in place.
8. Add cool water to the pan in the oven to create steam and set the loaf inside. Bake about 45 minutes. (If you are using a cloche, remove the lid 15 minutes before the end of the bake time to allow loaf to darken.) Once baked, set bread on a rack to fully cool.

*For more information on the recreation of the Panis Quadratus, I recommend the excellent blog by Farrell Monaco:

*Tomb of Eurysaces the Baker – Livioandronico2013
*Mt Vesuvius with Pompeii – ElfQrin
*Sepolcro di Eurisace – Byus71
*Buckwheat Flour – Oliwier Brzezinski

*Pompeii Bakery – By Carole Raddato from FRANKFURT, Germany – The Pistrinum (bakery) on Vicolo Storto (Reg VII, Ins 2, 22) belonging to N. Popidius Priscus, Pompeii
*Bakery of Propidius Priscus Oven and Millstones – By Dave & Margie Hill / Kleerup from Centennial, CO, USA – BakeryUploaded by Marcus Cyron
*Pompeii panorama – By Norbert Nagel – Own work
*Pompeii Loaf of Pants Quadratus – User:Beatrice
*Fresco showing bread and two figs – Carole Raddato from FRANKFURT, Germany
*Pompeii Shops and Theater – David Sivyer
*Herculaneum Bakery – Amphipolis
*Quadrireme – Carole Raddato from FRANKFURT, Germany
*Royal Cream Recipe – Lisa Yarost
*Modius – Luis Garcia
*Roman Slaves – Ashmolean Museum
*Vesuvius Pompeii – supergingerale (

*Pompeii Bakery Artifact – By Ad MeskensYou are free to use this picture for any purpose as long as you credit its author, Ad Meskens.Example: © Ad Meskens / Wikimedia Commons

*Black and White Bakery – Joaquim Morelló
*Fresco of man giving out bread – Naples National Archaeological Museum

*Map of Gulf of Naples – MapMaster

Bushwick Tarantella by Kevin MacLeod is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution license (

Bourree 4th Lute Suite & Gigue From 3rd Cello Suite
Exzel Music Publishing (
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0

#ancientrome #baking #pompeii #bread #tastinghistory

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Video Transcription

is there anything more aggravating thanburning a loaf of bread because you leftit in the oven too long well yeah likewhen your bread is burned because ashower of scalding hot gas and ashreaching temperatures of 750 degreesFahrenheit completely envelops yourbakery now that’s a real bummer andthat’s what happened to poor papa deuspre scoops one autumn day in 79 AD as hewas baking in Pompeii lucky for us thatloaf carbonized as it is still existstoday along with many others pulled fromthe ashes of Pompeii and Herculaneum inthe shadow of Mount Vesuvius and todaywe’re going to try our best to recreatethat iconic ancient Roman loaf thePanisse quadratus this time on tastinghistory[Music]now modernizing any recipe whether it bemedieval or even just from a hundredyears ago can be kind of tricky theyusually don’t have measurements or goodbake times or temperatures and justleave out a lot of different things thatyou would normally have in a modern-dayrecipe but at least with those you stillhave something written down not so withwhat we’re making today today all thatwe have to go on is a charred remnant ofa loaf nearly 2,000 years old nowusually I would dive right into therecipe but there is some fascinatinghistory that is going to inform some ofthe ingredients that we’re going to beusing so without further ado GaiusPlinius secundus aka Plenty the elderbest known as an author and aphilosopher and naturalist was also theAdmiral of the Roman Imperial fleetmoored at Misenum north of Naples on theday Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD now hisnephew Pliny the Younger this family wasnot incredibly creative with their namesgives the only eyewitness account of thedisaster a blow-by-blow of the explosionif you will blow by blow but he alsogives some interesting insights into howhis uncle died the day that the volcanoerupted the morning of the explosionplenty the elder received word probablyby carrier pigeon from some friends whowere trapped in stop EA so being thehead of the Imperial fleet he set outwith 12 quadri more warships on a rescuemission they ended up rescuing about2,000 people it’s thought but none ofthem were his friends and unfortunatelywhile leading a group of survivors backto the ships he was like so many peoplethat day overtaken by a cloud ofpoisonous gas and died on the beach andthat is why it’s so fitting that we aregoing to be using the writings of plinythe elder to decide on some of theingredients in this recipe so two of themost important ingredients in any breadrecipe are the meal or whatever grain isgoing to be used and the leavener ifthere is one and luckily for us plentyof the elder had plenty to say aboutboth of them he mentions multiple grainsthat were used in breads in Rome at thistime including spelt barley andhuit and when it comes to wheat he goesinto fantastic in even annoying detailabout every type of wheat that came fromall the different parts of the Empirethe wheat of Cyprus is swarthy andproduces a dark bread for which reasonit is generally mixed with the whitewheat of Alexandria the mixture yieldingtwenty-five pounds of bread to the MOEDias of grain am odious was a roman unitof dry volume about two gallons and hegoes into extreme detail about everytype of wheat and how much they weighforum odious it’s a lot now since hegoes into so much detail about wheatthat’s what we’re going to use for thisloaf you could use buckwheat which wasplentiful in Rome at this time or youcould use white whole wheat which is Ithink going to be the closest thing tothe Alexandria white wheat that hementioned before and it’s gonna be theprobably the most flavorful and theeasiest to find as well now it’s not thesame as all-purpose flour because it’snot actually white it’s still going tolook like a whole grain but I will put alink to my favorite brand down belowwhere you can find that now when itcomes to leaveners plenty said in Gaulin Spain where they make a drink bysteeping corn they employ a foam whichthickens on the surface as 11 hence itis that the bread in those countries islighter than that made elsewhere at thepresent day however the leaven isprepared from the meal that is used formaking the bread and that second one isthe one that we’re going to use becauseessentially he’s talking about sourdoughnow plenty mentions several differenttypes of starter in his writings hetalks about one that is made from boiledwheat and water and one that is madeonly during the harvest time from newwine grapes but unfortunately I don’tlive on a vineyard and it’s not harvesttime anyway so we’re going to just useregular starter sourdough starter thatyou could get at the store or just makeyourself with flour and water over acourse of a few days so for theingredients in this recipe you will needone kilogram of flour between 125 and150 grams of bread starter now it reallydepends on how loose your starter is andhow active your starter is so mine endedup being a little bit more active than Ithought I used 150 grams I wish I hadused25 but you just kind of have to playwith it either way it’s gonna be finethen 700 milliliters of tepid water andone and a half teaspoons of salt thereare also a couple tools that you’ll needthat aren’t quite traditional in normalbread making one is string another is an8 inch cake pan and lastly a woodendowel I used the long part of a woodenspoon but you could just use a regularwooden dowel or even a pencil will workso yeah let’s get started the first stepis to clear a large surface on yourcounter or table and spread the flourout into a ring as if you were going tomake fresh pasta next pour your starterinto the ring of flour and mix in a bitof the flour then very slowly just a bitat a time pour in the water now thewater should actually already have thesalt in it so technically that should bestep 1 put your salt and mix it into thewarm water we’ll call that step 1 a yeahnow as you pour the water mix it intothe flour with your fingers now theamount of water that you’re actuallygoing to use is going to depend on thehumidity the type of flour you use andthe consistency of your starter so don’tpour it all in at once because you mightnot need it all what your on the lookoutfor is a dough that comes together butisn’t too too sticky it’s gonna be alittle sticky but it’s not going toleave huge streaks on the counter oncethe dough comes together you’re going tostart the kneading process now I neededmine by hand which took about 20 minutesor so but you can feel free to use astand mixer or a bread machine orsomething like thatnow one benefit to using a stand mixerhere is that you’re going to have a freehand so you can hit that like button andtap the notification Bell so you nevermiss out on another episode of tastinghistory because that would be such adisaster not Vesuvius but a close secondnow once you’ve kneaded the dough to anice smooth consistency put it into alightly oiled Bowl and cover it with atea towel and let it rise until itdoubles in size or maybe even a littlebit more now going back to the kneadingit’s okay to use the stand mixer becauseactually that is probably closer to whatthey used than doing it by hand becauseeven in 79 ADused machines safe what that sounds likea cue for some history the bakeries orpiece patina of ancient Rome were quitean industry there were 35 in Pompeiialone serving just 12,000 people becausebread was the staple of the Roman dietand they knew it though they knew itthe bakers of the Empire formed anorganization called the Collegium peacetotem and they were powerful membersoften became civic officials orinfluenced local elections maybe byslipping a little dough under the tableand if you weren’t part of the CollegiumPeace totem they better not find youmaking any bread yourself and selling itotherwise you might end up under agrindstone or something capisce now tosee just how powerful and influential abaker could become in the Roman Empireyou only have to look as far as the tombof marcus virgilius yarissa sees who isa baker in rome during the first centuryBC now Marcus was likely a free manmeaning he was born a slave and workedhis way to freedomso it’s impressive that he has such anopulent tomb he even has the inscriptionthis is the monument of Marcus or Juliusyarissa sees Baker contractor it’sobvious now that last part the it’sobvious is up for some debate but it’sprobably a joke because the monument iscovered in reliefs of people baking hahaI want something that clever on mymonument now returning to Pompeii wehave several examples of wonderfullypreserved bakeries but probably the mostimpressive is the piece three knew ofPope Edie’s priests coos that was theguy I mentioned at the beginning he hadhis own mill attached to the bakery withfor massive mill stones made ofironically basalt lava foreshadow muchthe mill stones would have been drivenby donkeys to grind the grain comingfrom the countryside into flour forbaking in the next room is where thedough was prepared and here is wherethere’s some evidence that it’s okay touse your stand mixer because even PopeyDias had a giant machine with paddlesthat would mash the dough together tomix everything andthen they would go to yet anothermachine that was made especially forkneading which was also powered byeither donkeys or slaves in fact theonly part of the process that wasactually done by hand was the shaping ofthe loaf and the stamp that they put onit to let you know this bread came frompoppy Dias now while I don’t have adough stamp though it would be so coolif I did it is time to shape our loafnow once the dough has risen dump it outonto a lightly floured surface nowbecause we all probably ended up usingslightly different amounts of water thelobes are going to be different sizesand in Rome there was a fairly standardsize just like throughout most ofhistory bread was regulated now while wedon’t know the actual size or weight ofa Roman loaf we do have a fairly goodidea based on their depiction infrescoes and the actual loaf that wefound we found that peoplearchaeologists found in Pompeii and thatmeans that they’re between 8 and 9inches round in diameter rather sothat’s why we’re going to use an 8 inchcake pan what’s interesting is to fillan 8 inch cake pan we need four romanpounds of dough which is one thousandthree hundred and sixteen grams now ifyou don’t have a kitchen scale that’sokay just eyeball itit’s basically enough to almost fill theentire pan so go ahead and knock the airout of the dough and give it a littlestretch and shape it into a round loafthen lightly flour the bottom of the panand set the dough inside flattening itjust a bit so it’s almost flat on topthen cover that with a tea towel and letit rise for another hour to 90 minutesor until the loaf is expanding over thetop of the pan now why are we using acake pan to shape this loaf well oneartifact that we’ve had for a long timefrom ancient Rome our bread pans and itwas thought for a long time that thebread was actually baked in those pansbut when they opened the ovens inPompeii and Herculaneum they found thebread right on the floor of the oven sothere goes that theory so a new theorypostulates that these bread pans wereonly used to shape the dough and thenthey were flipped out before bakingwhich would explain the rather bulbousbottom that these loaves haveBalbus bottom so once your loaf isalmost unproven take another pan anempty pan any size and put it into youroven in the bottom rack we’re gonna fillit with water and make steam which willgive a nice crust to the loaf then setyour oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit or200 degrees Celsius now once that’s donesprinkle a little flour on either abaking sheet or if you have a cloche oneof these sprinkle a little flour on thatI actually also use some parchment paperit just makes sure nothing sticks Ialways use parchment paper anyway thenonce that is done flip the pan over andgently let the dough drop onto thebaking sheet or the bottom of the clochenow it’s time for the most important andcontroversial aspects of recreating theponies’ quadratus the first is whatgives the bread its name quadratus fourlines which intersect and cut the breadinto 8 2 different sections but they’reactually not cuts if you look at theoriginal picture of the loaf they’remore indentations so well for a longtime bakers have been recreating this byscoring the breadmore recently bakers have been using adowel to make indentations which is whywe have the spoon so create four linesin the top and press fairly hard Ididn’t press hard enough so I didn’t getquite the definition that I would haveliked so you know give the old collegetrythen take either the dowel or a fingerand make a little hole right in thecenter of the bread that’s going to letthe the steam come out so it doesn’tcrack the final step in shaping the loafis creating that line around the middlewhich kind of reminds me of the linethat is now created whenever I put onpants after a month of quarantine eatingI have addressed this issue by no longerwearing pants now there are a fewtheories about how this line wasachieved and why most historians believethat it was achieved using a string sothat’s what I’m using so cut yourself anice long bit of string and tie itaround the loaf you want to pull itfairly tight again you don’t want tobreak the loaf but you want that loafcinched within an inch of its life nowwhy they tied a piece of string around aloaf of bread is really anyone’s guessbut I’m inclined to agree with PharrellMonaco who believes that it was to stopthe loaf from spreading in the oven asopposed to the other theory which isthat it was used to either hang thelobes or carry the loaves namely becauseI’ve looked at a lot of pictures of thisbread in contemporary art and never isthe loaf hanging never is the loaf beingcarried on a string and frankly never doyou see a string so there’s that maybeit’s something about the name but seemsthat any string theory causes endlessdebate physics joke boom now that yourloaf is shaped go ahead and pour somecool water onto the hot pan you couldeven put ice cubes on it that works aswell and put the loaf into the oven forabout 45 minutes now if you are usingthe cloche take off the top about 15minutes before the bread is done so itdarkens up nicely now if you’re like meknowing when the bread is actually doneis a little bit difficult when you’reusing darker wheats my oven doesn’treally know how to tell temperature it’sterrible so I’m often under baking breadbut if you stick this into the loaf justan inch or so and within a second itwill tell you exactly what thetemperature is and for this loaf youwant between 190 degrees Fahrenheit and210 degrees Fahrenheit so I will put alink in the description to these if youwant to buy one if you’re baking a lotof bread these days they are a lifesavernow once you know the bread is doneremove it from the oven and set it on acooling rack until it’s completelycooled so let’s try it and I suppose itshould be cut kind of like a cake sinceits quartered twice whatever aidid ochdid I don’t know so we’ll do that pouraround a little olive oil because oliveoil makes everything betterhmm it’s rustic it’s a nice textureit’s definitely whole-wheat you havethat kind of heavier flavor it’s afairly dense loaf I think that’s becauseof the 100% whole wheat which makessense but not stodgy at all it’s it’sactually really niceI think it’ll also go well with somebalsamic vinegar just to give it even alittle bit more flavorbut it is quite good it just definitelyfeels healthy you know this healthy isyou can be with bread any way theingredients and all the links Imentioned along with the recipe I usedare down in the description so pleaselike this video and join me next time ontasting history I can do thatyou

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