Ancient Egyptian Spiral Bread of the Pharaoh
Ancient Egyptian Spiral Bread of the Pharaoh
Dense, flavorful, boiled-then-baked bread recreated from the tomb of Ramses III


  • 4 cups (500 g) barley and emmer flour, preferably stone-ground, mixed in whatever ratio you like
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 cup (125 g) sourdough starter, or 1 packet of dried yeast mixed in 1/4 cup (60 ml) water
  • 1 1/4 cup (300 ml) warm goat milk
  • 1/4 cup (80 g) date syrup
  • 2 quarts water
  • 1/4 cup (85 g) honey


  1. In a large bowl, whisk the flours and salt together. Add the sourdough starter, milk, and date syrup. Mix it together until it forms a shaggy dough. You may need to add a bit more milk or some water to get the dough to come together. You want a fairly wet dough. Not loose, but well hydrated.
  2. Once the dough has come together and there’s no dry flour left, cover the bowl with a damp towel and let it rest for 30 minutes.
  3. After the dough has rested for 30 minutes, take it out and knead it by hand for about 10 minutes. You shouldn’t need to flour your work surface. Return the dough to the bowl, cover, and let rest for another 30 minutes.
  4. Repeat this process, kneading for 10 minutes and resting for 30, until you’ve kneaded the dough a total of 3 times. It should be nice and smooth.
  5. After the dough has been kneaded 3 times, return it to the bowl and cover again. Set it aside in a warm place to rise until it has doubled in size. If you’re using yeast, this will probably take about 1 to 1 1/2 hours. If you’re using sourdough starter, it could take hours (mine took 4 hours to double in size).
  6. When the dough has doubled in size, turn it out onto a clean surface and divide it into 4 equal parts. Roll each piece out into a long rope, about as wide as your index finger. Coil each rope into a tight spiral, keeping it as flat as possible, then tuck the outside end under the spiral and pinch the dough together so it won’t come undone.
  7. Set the spirals on a lined baking sheet, cover them with a damp cloth, and let them rise again until they’re nice and puffy. The time for this will again depend on if you used yeast or sourdough starter. Mine (with sourdough starter) took about 2 hours.
  8. When the bread is just about done rising, bring the 2 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot, then add the honey. Use a spider or a large slotted spoon to gently lower one of the bread spirals into the water. Boil for 2 minutes. Flip the spiral after 1 minute if you have the skill to do so (I tried and ended up ruining the spiral), or carefully spoon or splash the boiling water over the bread while it boils. Cook only one piece at a time so you don’t overcrowd your pot. Set the boiled bread on a wire rack to cool.
  9. Preheat the oven to 425°F (218°C).
  10. Place the cooled bread back onto the lined baking sheet and bake for about 15 minutes. When the bread is nicely browned (and registers 190°F or 88°C on an instant thermometer if you have one), take it out, let it cool, and serve it forth.


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