There’s a new exhibit at Plimoth Plantation, a working bakery that will bring early American baking traditions to life. Located in the newly renovated Craft Center, the bakery (named the Plimoth Bread Company) is ramping up to offer fresh breads and pastries for purchase, tastings, workshops and classes. Plimoth has always had […]
By Amy Traverso
Oct 03 2014
There’s a new exhibit at Plimoth Plantation, a working bakery that will bring early American baking traditions to life. Located in the newly renovated Craft Center, the bakery (named the Plimoth Bread Company) is ramping up to offer fresh breads and pastries for purchase, tastings, workshops and classes.
Plimoth has always had a strong food history program, with staff dedicated to studying both English and Wampanoag traditions. At Plimoth’s on-site cafe, you can eat traditional foods like succotash, Indian pudding, peas cods, and stuffed quahogs. But though staff in the English village and Wampanoag homesite make various breads (mostly corn-based, sometimes mixed other grains) in their own hearths, food safety laws forbid them from giving out samples.
The new baking center is headed by Tani Mauriello, an historian with a professional baking background and a Ph.D. from Oxford University in Victorian foodways. “I had to educate myself on 17th century methods,” she says. “I knew the 19th century methods. But the thing is, they hadn’t changed much in that time.” On the menu: colonial cornbread, the aforementioned cheate bread, a brewer’s bread leavened with yeast from the Mayflower Brewing Company in Plymouth, and Wampanoag ash cakes, cornbread pockets filled with pumpkin or strawberry and roasted in a corn husk. “We can make many of the things that are made in the village and homesite as authentically as possible,” she says, “but within the constraints of food safety so visitors can sample them.” There will also be pies, cookies and biscuits, and other British and Colonial breads.
During my visit, I headed over to the English Village to see what kind of baking was being done on a rainy October day. Goodwife Brewster was guarding the precious remaining hunk of her Cheate bread. Most of our bread is made with Indian corn,” she said mournfully. And over in Mistress Standish’s house, there was no bread to be had. “We plant wheat but it just does not grow well here,” she said. “It does not gladden my heart not to have any bread. I do not consider it a proper meal without any form of bread. But there be no baker in the town…one of the many things we lack in this country.”
Mistress Standish described how she served corn breads with pottage (stew) or in sops (bread soaked in liquid), or topped with eggs. Perhaps their best use, she said, was as teething biscuits for her youngest children.
Back at the baking center, things were decidedly more cushy. Tani was taking a couple of cottage loaves out of the oven.
And fully stocked, the bakery will look more like this, though minus the sausages and patés (the photograph is from the center’s opening celebration).
Expect the baking center to be fully up and running by the end of the month (they’re still working out a few of the kinks with equipment)—just in time for Thanksgiving. It, like English Village and Wampanoag Homesite, is open daily through November 30, then reopens in March. Through the winter, the museum continues to offer special workshops, lectures, dinners, and film screenings.
Plimoth Plantation, 137 Warren Ave, Plymouth, MA. 508-746-1622