Artos Katharos

(άρτος καθαρός)

Spiced White Bread

“For it is we who must pray for our daily bread, and if He grants it to us, it is only through our labour, our skill and preparation.”- Paracelsus (Swiss 1493-1541)

Many of the staple foods are often not discussed in medieval treatises on cuisine, or given no more than a cursory glance. The following recipe, I found in Flavours of Byzantium by Andrew Dalby, is for a Spiced White Bread, the literal translation is "Clean Bread". According Andrew Dalby, this recipe was found in "De Cibis", a reference to Tractatus de Cibis. As with many other aspects of mediaeval cuisine, here the whitest white flour is sought for the recipe.

According to Harry S. Paris, Zohar Amar, and Efraim Lev in their article on "Medieval emergence of sweet melons, Cucumis melo (Cucurbitaceae)" the Tractatus de Cibis is "an early Byzantine Greek book of foods" written circa 670.

Original Recipe:

Ὁ δὲ ἄρτος ὁ γινόμενος ἐκ τοῦ σίτου ὑπάρχει βελτιώτερος πάντων τῶν βρωμάτων καὶ εὐτροφώτερος μάλιςα δὲ ὁ καθαρὸς ὁ ἔχων συμ μετρον ζύμην καὶ ἅλας καὶ πλασσόμενος μέσον ξηρότη τος καὶ ἁπαλότητος σὺν ὀλίγῳ τῷ ἀνίσῳ καὶ σπέρματος μαλάθρου καὶ μαςίχης ἐςὶ κάλλιςος ὁ δὲ ἔχων θερμό τητα κράσεως ἑνωσάτω εἰς τὸ κατάπλασμα σήσαμον εἰ δὲ θέλει τις προσθεῖναι ἐν τῷ ἄρτῳ πλείονα ὑγρότητα καταπλασσέτω τῷ ἄρτῳ ἔλαιον τῶν ἀμυγδάλων κατά ςατον 

in Greek

in Latin

Translation: by Andrew Dalby
White Bread made from wheat is the best and most nutritious of all foods. Particularly if white, with a moderate use of yeast and salt, the dough kneaded midway between dryness and rawness, and with a little anise, fennel seed and mastic, it is very fine indeed. One with a hot constitution should include sesame in the dough. If wishing to add more moistness to the bread, knead in some almond oil.


6 cups white bread flour

1 Tbsp. Anise Seeds, ground

2 packages active dry yeast

1 Tbsp. Fennel Seeds, ground

1 ½ tsp. salt

1 tsp. gum mastic, powdered

½ Tbsp. Almond Oil

2 cups of water

2 Tbsp. Sesame Seeds


Combine two cups of flour with yeast, salt, seeds, mastic and oil. Heat water to 105°-115°F. Beat flour mixture with water for about 5 minutes. Slowly add remaining flour and knead until bread dough feels elastic. Rest in bowl, covered, for about 1 hour until dough doubles in size. Punch down dough and reshape. Rest again in bowl for another hour until dough doubles in size. Punch down and split. Cut into two equal parts and form round balls. Place balls of dough, seam side down on baking sheet. Bake in preheated oven at 400°F for about 30 minutes or until loaves sound when lightly tapped.


The original recipe doesn't give quantities for the ingredients, I chose the quantities listed based on a modern recipe for rye bread.


Dalby, Andrew, Flavours of Byzantium, Great Britain: Prospect Books, 2003

Scully, Terence, The Art of Cookery in the Middle Ages, Great Britain: The Boydell Press, 1995

Laiou, Angeliki E., Ed., The Economic History of Byzantium: From the Seventh through the Fifteenth Century, Washington D.C.: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, 2002

Ermerins, Franciscus Z., ed. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Anecdota Medica Graeca. Google Books, 3 Oct. 2006. Web. 24 July 2012. <>. A Greek text with the title "Peri trophon"/"De cibis" (on food) with a latin translation by Ermerins 

Paris HS, Amar Z, Lev E. Medieval emergence of sweet melons, Cucumis melo (Cucurbitaceae). Ann Bot. 2012 Jul;110(1):23-33. doi: 10.1093/aob/mcs098. Epub 2012 May 30. PMID: 22648880; PMCID: PMC3380595.  (

Anecdota medica Graeca. Netherlands: Luchtmans, 1840.(