Foundling rice bread

by Jane Levi

Bread inspired by Sir Thomas Bernard (1795) and Olivier’s Bakery (2016)

You can read about the background to this recipe in my article about bread at the Foundling Hospital. It follows the quantities specified by Sir Thomas Bernard for one small to medium sized loaf. If it’s more practical for you to make several at a time, simply multiply up the quantities, though he advises against making each bread any larger.

Since it is quite a wet dough, Olivier from Olivier’s Bakery has offered some helpful advice on technique which was missing from the original notes, but which allows the non-professional baker to successfully produce a beautiful, open crumbed loaf. His version remains faithful to the free-form shape of the bread in the late-18th century (before the mass-production of metal baking tins). If you’d prefer a more regular sandwich loaf shape, then you could always bake the bread in a tin. Either way, it works beautifully.

You can enjoy this bread, as the foundlings did, with every meal. It’s delicious buttered (though they were only allowed butter once a week, at Sunday breakfast), excellent with cheese (which they had for supper daily), and good for mopping up gravy or dipping in soups (served to the children at dinner/lunch every day). It keeps very well and is excellent toasted—though remember as you crunch on the hot slices that only the staff ever had this treat.

For added 18th century authenticity you could use organic ingredients and raw milk, and when eating it treat yourself to some raw milk butter or unpasteurised cheese.


115g short grain rice
200ml water


265g leftover cooked white rice

350g plain flour
140ml water (used in three stages as 55ml + 70ml + 15ml)
70ml milk (used in two stages as 55ml + 15ml)
15g dried yeast
15g salt


Put the rice in a small saucepan with the water. Bring to a simmer, cover tightly, and cook gently for approximately 20 mins until the water is absorbed and the rice is cooked. Leave to cool. Alternatively, weigh out 265g of leftover cooked rice.

Mix 55ml of warm water and 55ml milk in a small bowl and sprinkle over the dried yeast. Whisk together and set aside for 15-20 minutes in a warm place until the surface is bubbling.

Weigh the flour into a large bowl, mix together with the cooked rice, and add the yeast liquid along with 70ml warm water and the remaining 15ml milk. Mix on medium speed with a dough hook attachment for 8-10 mins, by which time the dough should have become a smooth, elastic mass.

Add the remaining 15ml water and the salt, and continue to mix as before for 3-4 mins. This double hydration or bassinage makes it easier to incorporate a large amount of water into the dough; and adding salt later helps with development of gluten in the earlier part of the process.

Cover the bowl and leave to rise in a warm place for 1-1½ hours. It should double in size.

Gently deflate the dough by folding it over itself a few times in the bowl, and form into a ball shape, still in the bowl. Re-cover and leave to rest for 20 mins.

Flour a metal baking sheet well, and gently tip the dough out of the bowl onto the sheet. Handling as little as possible, form into a longish loaf shape. Set aside to prove for 1 hour.

Place a deep roasting tin filled with water on the floor of your oven, and put a baking stone (if you have one) on the middle shelf. Heat the oven to 200C.

Open the oven door (being careful not to get a face full of steam) and slide the loaf onto the baking stone or place the baking sheet on the shelf. Bake for 35-45 mins.

Remove from the oven when nicely browned and sounding hollow when tapped on the bottom, and cool on a rack.

ALTERNATIVE: If you don’t have a mixer with a dough hook, you can mix everything together by hand for a few mins only. The final bread will be heavier but it will still be good.

Recipe & image: Jane Levi