Sometimes we play fast and loose with expiration dates, but 4,500 years might be pushing it even for us.
Not for Seamus Blackley, though. The scientist, who also happens to be the man behind the Xbox, has recently ‘grown’ bread from 4,5000-year-old Egyptian yeast. And apparently it tastes delicious.
Seamus travelled to Egypt with archaeology expert Dr Serena Love and microbiologist Richard Bowman. The team spent weeks collecting ancient yeast samples from the inside of cracked Egyptian pottery that had been used either for bread-baking or beer-brewing (see image below). Seamus took the yeast home and activated it with milled barley and Einkorn flour. Once things started to bubble, he began baking. The result is bread that tastes pretty much like bread would have tasted in ancient Egypt. As best we can tell.
The technique isn’t as weird as it sounds: yeast can lie dormant for millennia, snoozing away comfortably. In fact, microbiologists from Israel’s Hebrew University have even brewed beer using 5,000-year-old yeast.
Seamus carved his loaf with the hieroglyph for bread. “I’m emotional,” he tweeted afterward. “It’s really different, and the crumb is light and airy.” Not bad for a half-baked idea.