Friday, January 8, 2016

Baking Leavened Manna Bread with Shelley Houser

This is a guest post by my friend Shelley Houser of, in which she tries to bake Manna Bread that Hebrews had during the desert wanderings. This is an abridged version, so go to her web site for more details or email her at


Hello Friends,

This is a continuation of my earlier post on Simulated Manna. In the last post, we developed a recipe by looking at Bible passages, and also discussed various ways of cooking or baking the unleavened dough. If you missed it, and would like to read it, click here.

Today, we will focus on developing a recipe and method for making a leavened version of this simulated Manna.  We know that the Children of Israel were familiar with yeast breads, and knew how to make them because of the instructions given in Leviticus 23:15 for the First Fruits bread that was supposed to be prepared from the new wheat harvest.
YLT Lv 23:15 'And ye have numbered to you from the morrow of the sabbath, from the day of your bringing in the sheaf of the wave-offering: they are seven perfect sabbaths;
As discussed in the previous post, we also see from Numbers 11:8 and Exodus 16:31 that the manna was not in a form ready to eat, but needed to be prepared by milling or grinding first, and then either baked, possibly pan-fried, or boiled.
YLT Num 11:7 And the manna is as coriander seed, and its aspect as the aspect of bdolach; 
YLT Num 11:8 the people have turned aside and gathered it, and ground it with millstones, or beat it in a mortar, and boiled it in a pan, and made it cakes, and its taste hath been as the taste of the moisture of oil.
YLT Ex 16:31 and the house of Israel call its name Manna, and it is as coriander seed, white; and its taste is as a cake with honey.
So, we will explore a possible recipe for a yeast version of this simulated manna and see how it may have looked and tasted.

The Flour: 

As discussed above, and in my previous post, the manna seems like it was more like a seed, than a ready-to-eat bread.  It is described as being like coriander seed, but since coriander seed has no gluten and will not stick to itself on it's own, we will use wheat as our seed to grind.  But how much to grind?  

Exodus 16:17  tells us each person gathered an omer. 
YLT Ex 16:17 And the sons of Israel do so, and they gather, he who is gathering much, and he who is gathering little;
Aleksandr has proposed this is equivalent to 1 US cup (see his previous post link), so we will measure out 1 US Cup of wheat berries for our test recipe. There are two types of wheat berries commonly available to grind:  hard red wheat, and soft white wheat.  The hard red wheat has a higher gluten content, and is more suitable for yeast breads.  So, I am going to use that for our yeast bread.  In my previous post, I showed how easily the coriander is crushed in a mortar and pestle, compared with how difficult the wheat is. I took the easy way out, and used my electric mill to grind this wheat.

This produced 1.5 C of wheat flour. Soft white wheat produced approximately 1.75 C (see previous post).

Preparing the Yeast:

Since I now know my amount of flour, the next step is to get the yeast ready. If you are not familiar with baking yeast breads, there are two important things to know about preparing the yeast. The first is that the yeast like warm water, but not too hot. Run the tap water until you feel that it is comfortably warm, but not too hot that you would like to pull your hand out of the stream after a few seconds. They say to use 110 degree water, but most cooks do not have a thermometer handy to use. It's better to err on the side of too cold than too warm. The second thing is that yeast love to eat sugars, and that is what is used to produce the carbon dioxide they expel, which raises the dough. So, put the sugars for the recipe in with the yeast when you are waking them up. If there are no extra sugars in your recipe, sometimes a bit of extra flour is put in with the yeast, to give it something to eat right away. 

To determine how much yeast to use, I went to Yeast & Baking Lessons - Domestic Baking Lessons - Yeast Conversion Table | Red Star Yeast. Since I have 0-4 C of flour, they recommend 2 + 1/4 teaspoons of yeast.

This is the trickiest part of the recipe: Deciding how much water to add to the yeast to activate it, without adding too much to overwhelm the amount of flour you are using. If you have an abundance of water and flour, it doesn't matter quite so much, because you can add a bit more of either ingredient to make the correct texture. However, since we are using a fixed amount of flour, it is more critical we get the water right this time. I made a first guess of 1/4 C, and it was too little.  I added more water, and it overwhelmed the flour, and I had to add about another 1/2 C of flour to compensate. So, on the next trial, I settled on 1/2 C of water, and it seemed to be just perfect (today). Stir to activate the yeast. 

I am using the same 2 Tablespoons of honey used in the unleavened manna recipe, but after tasting it, it doesn't taste very sweet, because the yeast ate a lot of it. The real manna likely had more sweetener in it, and it would increase the calories, too. You can add more honey in this recipe without fear of it overwhelming the structure of the wheat. Add the honey, and stir to distribute.

The Flavorings:

I am including 1/2 teaspoon of salt, mostly for flavor, but it is also worthy to notice that the grain offerings that were supposed to be brought with the sacrifices were to include salt in them. See Leviticus 2:13  
YLT Lv 2:13 And every offering--thy present--with salt thou dost season, and thou dost not let the salt of the covenant of thy God cease from thy present; with all thine offerings thou dost bring near salt.
Since coriander seed is mentioned, we will add some of that, also.  However, the manna may have only resembled the coriander seed in size and shape, ease of crushing, etc., and would not necessisarily have had to taste like coriander, according to these verses.  I added about 1 Tablespoon of crushed coriander seeds. Mix well.

Adding the yeast:

It's time to add the yeast. The yeast should be fully awake now, and starting to produce carbon dioxide gas.  Look at your bowl. If it doesn't look bubbly on top, then your yeast is bad, and you should start over with new yeast. If it looks foamy and smells like yeast, then add the yeast to the dry ingredients. Mix well.

Adding sufficient calories:

Since we know this bread was the main part of their caloric intake, it has to be fairly high in calories. One way to accomplish this, in a fairly small amount of food, is to have it be rich in fats and sugars. We can see that the manna was described in both these ways by looking at Exodus 16:31 and Numbers 11:8
YLT Ex 16:31 and the house of Israel call its name Manna, and it is as coriander seed, white; and its taste is as a cake with honey.
YLT Num 11:8 the people have turned aside and gathered it, and ground it with millstones, or beat it in a mortar, and boiled it in a pan, and made it cakes, and its taste hath been as the taste of the moisture of oil.
So, I am going to add an ample amount of oil. 1/4 C now, and at least 1/4-1/2 C later, in the dough kneading and preparing of the loaves.

Mixing and kneading:

As I mentioned earlier, the water is a tricky part of this recipe. Here is a picture showing the first batch I made. The water and oil I had previously added were too much for the amount of flour in the bowl.  If you see this, then it's too wet, and you should put in more flour. Since I had to add about 1/2 C to get this to the right consistency, I started over with the correct amount of flour, and reduced the water to 1/2 C. Notice the dough will make a scrappy ball, and the characteristic white patches on the outside of the dough, showing there is enough water with the flour for gluten development.

Put the dough ball on a well-oiled surface, and knead 6-10 minutes. Basically, you fold and punch the dough, until you see the ball get more elastic, smooth, and will pass the "window pane test", which I will now explain. 

The Window Pane Test:

This is a quick test to see if you are finished kneading or not. Take a small pinch off the dough ball and flatten it out. If it breaks or is too sticky to do that in your hand, you are not finished kneading. If it looks like this, then it is at least hopeful that you are finished. Next, take your fingers, and start spreading out the disc, like a miniature pizza, and see if it will stretch without breaking. If it tears at this point, you need to knead. You are finished when you can stretch the dough out thin enough that when you hold it up to the light, you can see some light passing through the dough. You can see the light coming through, though, and there are no rips in the dough.  You are ready to let this rise.

Raising the dough:

Put the dough in a well-greased bowl, put a little oil on the top of the dough, and cover. Let rest at least 10 minutes, or let rise until doubled. I usually just let it rest 10 minutes and go on.

Shaping the loaves:

Since this is going to be a high-fat dough, and noting the other loaf shape my brother suggested (see my other post), this dough preparation is going to be somewhat like a croissant.  First, uncover the dough,and put it on a well-oiled surface. Flatten it out with your hand. Take a rolling pin, and roll it to about 1/4 inch thick. Spread a liberal amount of oil on the dough, and fold it in half. Spread oil on the dough, and fold it in half again.Spread oil on that, and fold in thirds. Take the rolling pin, and roll it out to 1/4 inch thick again. Repeat the process described above, and roll out again the third time.  If you want even more flakiness and internal structure in the final loaves, repeat the process yet again. When you've finished this step, you should have a rectangle, that is 1/4 inch thick.

Since we are trying to show the amount of food one could eat in a day from 1 C of wheat berries, I will make 8 little loaves. This will serve as 2 for breakfast, 2 for lunch, 2 for supper, and 2 for snacks during the day. So, I cut the dough into 8 approximately equal pieces.

Take each piece, and roll it out a bit flatter. Spread oil on it, and fold it in half, as you did the larger dough piece. Spread oil on that exposed surface, and fold it in thirds, like you did for the larger dough piece. Place on a greased cookie sheet to rise. 

Continue with the other 7 pieces. Cover, and let rise about an hour, or until doubled. Ours raised about 1.5 hours. 

Bake in 350 degree oven for about 10 minutes.  Reduce heat to 325, and bake another 5-6 minutes, or until the tops are just golden brown, and the bottoms are nicely browned.  

Top will still be soft.

Cool the rolls on a cooling rack.

The structure of these rolls is very soft and springy on the inside. They will compress down, and spring back up to their original size. 

So, the finished rolls or loaves look like this. This is one day's ration.

The finished rolls were of arbitrary size, but they had the following masses:

1.  66 g
2.  45 g
3.  43 g
4.  36 g
5.  60 g
6.  49 g
7.  56 g
8.  68 g

Total:  423 g of food. 

Final Recipe and Nutritional Analysis.

The final recipe is as follows:

1.5 C whole wheat flour
2 + 1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
1/2 C warm water
2 Tablespoons honey
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 Tablespoon crushed coriander (or to taste)
1/4 C olive oil (have 1 to 1 1/4 C available)


Measure out the yeast into a small bowl. Add the warm water, and stir. Add the 2 Tablespoons of honey to the yeast and stir. Set aside.

Measure out the flour into a medium mixing bowl. Add the salt and crushed coriander to the flour and mix well. When the yeast is foamy, add it to the flour bowl and stir. Add the oil, and mix well. The dough should pull together to make a scrappy ball, and be able to be kneaded. If it is too dry, add a bit more water. If it is too wet, then add a bit more flour. Place the dough on a well-oiled table surface, and knead 6-10 minutes, or until ball is smooth and satiny, and will pass the window pane test. (Stretch a small ball of dough thinly enough to see some light through it, without it tearing.). Place the dough into a well-oiled bowl, and put some oil on the top. Cover and let rest at least 10 minutes, or until double, if desired. Put on oiled surface and flatten. Roll out with a rolling pin to 1/4 inch thick. Pour olive oil over the dough and spread out. Fold in half. Spread oil over the surface and fold in half again, to make a long rectangle. Spread oil over the surface, and fold in thirds, to make a folded square that resembles a cinnamon roll. Take the rolling pin, and mash down the folded square, and roll it out to a rectangle that is 1/4-inch thick again. Repeat the process above of oiling the surface, folding in half, in half again, and in thirds. Repeat this again, if desired, for flaky texture. When you have repeated this as many times as you desire, roll the dough out to the rectangle 1/4-inch thick again. Cut into 8 equal parts. To shape each piece, roll it out a bit thinner, and fold it exactly as you did the larger piece of dough. Place folded square seam down on a greased cookie sheet. Repeat for the other pieces. Cover and let rise for 1 hour, or until doubled. Bake at 350 for 10-15 minutes, or until lightly golden brown on top, and browned on the bottom. You may need to turn the temperature down to 325, if it seems to be baking too quickly. Cool on cooling rack. Makes 8 dinner-sized rolls.

Nutritional Analysis: This is a bit difficult to analyze, since I didn't measure the exact amount of oil used in all the kneading and folding. I estimate, though that the total oil was at least 1 C, and perhaps up to 1.25 C. I am using 1 C olive oil in the recipe analysis. The total calories were calculated as 2691 calories, as found at

This would be more than sufficient for a day's ration of calories.  These were delicious, but when eating these, though, they seemed to call out for milk or more butter, so they are not nutritionally complete in themselves.  I'm sure God's bread was better.

Thanks for spending this time with me,

Shelley Houser,
Chemist, enthusiastic cook, and home schooling mom

Popular Posts

Blog Archive