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A manchet is a single serving piece of bread that is sized to fit in the hand. This food has been served in England for hundreds of years, though it is commonly associated with the Tudor or Elizabethan period. The manchet also spread to France, where it is believed to have inspired the modern French roll. In different parts of the world, this bread may also be referred to as a michette or manchette. Modern versions may also be known as the Bath or Sally Lun bun.
The first written record of the manchet dates back to the early 16th century in England. A 1588 cookbook included a recipe for this bread, though earlier documents mention manchet as a regular dish for the royal court of England. A specialty version of this bread known as Lady Arundel's manchet is first recorded in a 1653 cookbook. This recipe requires the use of wheat grown and ground in Sussex, England. Sussex-grown wheat is still used as a traditional ingredient for manchets baked worldwide in specialty shops.
The basic manchet recipe calls for flour, salt, yeast, and hot water. Higher-quality versions of the recipe may also include eggs, milk, or butter, which give the bread a richer flavor and texture. The dough is formed into very small balls, then allowed to rise for several hours before it is baked to a golden brown. The top of the roll is rounded, while the bottom is typically flat. The manchet can sometimes be sweetened with brown sugar or spices like nutmeg and cinnamon for flavor.
Much of the flour produced during the medieval period was of a lower quality than flour produced today. It often contained many types of mixed grains, which led to a courser texture. The manchet requires pure high-quality wheat flour with few impurities, which much be sifted twice to remove any unwanted materials. This fine flour results in a light-colored bread with a soft fluffy texture. Due to the cost of this flour, manchet were historically considered a status symbol that only the very wealthy could afford.
This bread may be served plain, or topped with jam, jelly, or marmalade. It can be stuffed with meats or other fillers to form a small sandwich, or served as a side for soups and stews. Traditional manchets were also made into a bread pudding in England and France.