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Eighteenth Century French Breads

Soup Breads

  • Pain à potage
  • Pain à soupe
  • Croûtes à soupe
  • Profiteroles

  • The existence of several specialized breads for soup reflects the important role it long played in French meals.
    Malouin speaks here of “soup bread” and “pottage bread”. Today, soupe and potage both mean soup. This was beginning to be true in the eighteenth century, but originally a soupe was a bit of bread that was covered or dipped in wine or milk, and then, with time, used to thicken a soup, while a potage was a complex construction which included bread, broth and other elements, making up something closer to a thick stew.

    Pains à soupes of 4, 3, and 2 pounds (A-C)

    Pains à potages of 3 and 2 pounds (D-E)

    Pot and brush for glazing bread (G)

    Pain à potage
    (pottage bread)

    Pottage bread is a round, soft bread, made with the best flour, with ordinary leaven, with a little yeast, with salt, with water, without milk, and well baked.

    To make pottage bread, you must use gruau flour; nonetheless as the mixture of flours, even the mixture of flours of lesser quality, makes better bread than does a single flour, even of superior quality, one must not make pottage bread with a single sort of flour; the gruau flour must predominate, because it is the best in general for making a soft bread, and pottage bread must be a soft bread; it is why it must be kneaded with natural leavens, or put in a little yeast, to make it lighter. But be careful not to put into the making of this bread enough yeast that it can be tasted in the bouillon where it will simmer, which will give the soup a bad taste: a half-pound of yeast is as much as must as is needed for sixty pottage breads of a pound each. A special bread is only made for soups, because with the normal soft bread made in Paris with a lot of yeast, one has bad soups. There is yet another particular reason to make pottage-bread, it is because it must be salted: one must put still more salt in the dough for pottage bread that in that for coffee breads: one needs at least a gross of salt for each pound of pottage-bread; the more salt one puts in, the more it simmers, and the better it dissolves: which is easy to understand, because the more a thing is saline, the more it is insoluble. Salt also supports the dough of this bread, in which one puts a lot of water. If one used milk in preparing pottage-bread, it would be less appropriate for making soups, other than milk soups.

    Pottage-bread must be well baked, and baked equally all over, without being burned: to have a one pound pottage-bread, one must take a pound and a quarter of dough, full weight; one turns this bread like a ball, in the old style; one sets it to rise in a bowl, after having put in flouring, and one puts this bread face down in the bowl, so that it has more color once baked.

    Pain à soupe
    (soup bread)

    (8 pounds)

    Soup-bread is different from pottage-bread; soup-bread, baked properly, is only crust; while the pottage-bread is crust and crumb. The pottage-bread is round, while the soup-bread is a very flat bread, on which one makes further indentations when it is ready to put in the oven, so that it does not make bubbles; one must not make these indentations, nor flatten it before it is time to put it in the oven; only after it has risen.

    One must not make pottage-bread with a soft dough, and one can make soup-bread with all sorts of white dough, but hard dough gives a bread which does not simmer enough, and soft dough has too much yeast: bastard dough has all the qualities required to make a good soup-bread; one must put salt in making the dough for soup-bread, in order to make it easier to dip and to simmer.

    Soup-bread is only good dipped, it is not eaten at all like normal bread; it is for that above all that it is used in houses where the servants are given a set quantity of bread, apart from the bread with which the soup is made.

    Soup-bread does not taste like ordinary bread, because the quality of the flour and of the leaven are, so to say, extinguished in the soup-bread; the baking which, to a certain point, supports and completes in the oven the action of leavening for ordinary bread, destroys its properties when it is more than is needed to only bake it.; this is what happens to soup-bread. As bread which is not baked enough has less flavor, and is less filling than bread which is cooked properly; in the same way bread which is baked beyond what is needed to eat it in the normal way is less filling and has less taste, or has another taste than the proper taste of bread....

    Soup-bread is good for those who like crust in soup, and want the bouillon to be browned. This taste for crusts in soup has inspired soup crusts.

    Croûtes à soupe
    (soup crusts)

    Soup crusts are sorts of biscuits, which are only crust. To make them, one begins by breading soft rolls; then they are cut in half lengthwise, and the crumb removed.

    These crusts, breaded and emptied of crumb, are arranged on a wooden board; they are placed so that the side of the crust to which the crumb was attached is on top, exposed to the heat of the dome of the oven.

    Then this board is put in the oven, from which bread has been removed a few hours ago; and they are left for a quarter of an hour.

    It is commonly thought that there is no method to making crusts; it seems that one has only to dry them, and bake them enough in the oven.

    Note that to make true and good crusts, one must not take bread cooked only to crumb, nor only to crust; that is, neither crumb nor crust is needed: one must remove the crumb from the roll, and grate it to remove the surface of the crust, before making crusts with it. These are semi-crusts after this first preparation, which become crusts in putting them back in the oven; these are biscuit crusts.

    The manner of applying the fire does a lot; crusts exposed during the same time and after to the same heat, do not undergo the same change as those for which this is done in several stages; to make the pottage crusts, the baking, then the drying by another heat, then the drying in the air while cooling.

    To make pottage crusts, bakers normally take stale soft rolls, which remain from the sales of the preceding days. There are those who make sorts of crusts from the very crumb taken out of the roll, and who bake it in the oven; but that never makes good crusts; bread crusts and pottage crusts are two different things, by taste and by quality.

    In later years, “crusts” would become somewhat fancier. In the early nineteenth century, a brief fad favored “crusts” from Marseilles, which could be sweetened confections.


    Malouin does not mention this bread, though perhaps his Pains à potages were meant to be used in the same way, which was to slit the bread's top off, hollow it out, fill it, sometimes fry it, and put it as the centerpiece of a pottage.

    Profiterolles today are filled choux pastry puffs; they began as a small piece of dough cooked in the embers. In the eighteenth century, however, Massialot said they were "milk rolls expressly made at the Baker's" and describes how to cut and hollow them, before stuffing them (in his example with pigeons) and plugging them up with the removed crumb. In his example they are then covered with egg yolk and fried. L'Ecole parfaite des officiers de bouche, which offers a recipe for a profiterole soup, simply says to take a "round roll", so these may not always have been specially made.

    As late as 1900, profiteroles were made to be used in soup (and as a pastry), though they had already shrunk to the size of today's pastry (and were made like eclairs).

    No specific recipe seems to exist for the profiteroles made by bakers for soup, but from the descriptions, it seems that any milk-based roll, perhaps made according to Malouin's instructions above, could be used for this purpose.

    (For a recipe using these, see pages 7-8 of Apres Moi, Le Dessert II: A French Eighteenth Century Vegetarian Meal.)

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