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18th Century French Soldiers’ Bread

This bread is a favourite with visitors to the Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site. Visitors can purchase this bread from the baker or enjoy it with their 18th-century meal in the historic restaurant.

18th Century French Soldiers' Bread

Origin: Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site
Region: Atlantic (Nova Scotia)
Period: 18th century
Course: Breads and Pancakes

Photo of a baker standing with bread loaves and oven, Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site Baker standing with bread loaves and oven
© Parks Canada

In the 18th century, bread was the basis of the French diet, and the largest part of a soldier’s rations. Each soldier received one 6-lb loaf every 4 days, along with salt meat and dried vegetables. No one wanted to eat four-day old bread, so one day one soldier would claim his ration to share with his friends, the next day another would do the same.

Staff at the Fortress of Louisbourg prepare and bake Soldier’s Bread in the reproduction brick ovens in the bakery at the site, shown in the photo above. Visitors can meet the bakers and learn about the ovens and the baker’s tools, how bread was baked, and how the community used the bakery in the 18th century. Warm fresh bread can be purchased from the baker and is also served with meals in the restaurants at the fortress.

18th Century French Soldiers’ Bread

Ingredients

  • ½ tbsp | 8 g of dry yeast
  • 1½ cups | 350 ml of lukewarm water
  • ½ tbsp | 4 g salt
  • 3 cups | 750 ml stone-ground whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup | 250 ml stone-ground rye flour

Directions

  • Follow the yeast package directions to get started. Mix in a large bowl: the yeast preparation, any remaining water and one third of the flour. Beat for at least 100 strokes. Cover and let rise for ½ hour.
  • Beat down and fold in the salt. Add the remaining flour 1 cup at a time until a workable dough forms that is not too stiff. Turn out onto a floured surface and lightly knead until smooth, about 5 or 6 minutes, adding flour as required to prevent sticking. Place in greased bowl, cover and let rise in a warm place until double in bulk. Depending on the weather, this could take between 4 and 12 hours. Punch down, let rise again until double in bulk. (A second rising improves the texture and taste. This step may be skipped). Punch down and turn dough out on floured surface and knead slightly. Divide dough into 2 equal portions and shape into rounds. Let these rise until the surface of the dough yields to the touch, about a half hour. Place on greased baking sheets and bake in an oven pre-heated to 400°F (200°C) for 25-30 minutes.

Credits

Recipe tested by Chef David Fairbanks, Algonquin College of Hospitality and Tourism.

This traditional recipe was submitted by Parks Canada staff.