Object was integral part of kitchen life

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This week’s object of the week comes from Ryedale Folk Museum and is often mis-guessed whenever it is taken out to the agricultural shows.

Is it a cradle, a bath, an animal trough? No, it is actually a dough trough. This object has numerous other names including dough bin/box or a kneading trough or tray.

Dating to around the 17th century these dough troughs were integral to the making of bread. Not only did the trough provide a good container to knead together your ingredients, as it held flour more tidily than a bowl, but it also provided somewhere to store your dough as it fermented and swelled. Once you had added the yeast you needed to keep the dough nice and warm so it would rise, to create a nice light bread. The trough was used to help with this process and was usually placed by the fire for the dough to rise most efficiently, sometimes being left overnight.

Our wooden dough trough is curved in shape and the designs varied greatly – some with lids and others with legs, but they were all used for the same purpose. If the trough was on legs it didn’t need to sit on a table, and could be moved more easily. The lid was good for keeping in the warmth and it protected the dough from things like mice or ash, where there was no lid a piece of cloth would have been used in its place. Another feature you can see on this example are the tray sides, to make carrying the bread to the oven or fire side easier.

Throughout history bread was the main food that everybody depended upon and it is still a main feature in our diets today. This is quite apparent when you think about the sayings we use, for example, ‘someone’s bread and butter’.

Baking was an important weekly duty for housewives providing food for the whole family - often large families including any farmhands or servants - using small, inadequate ovens. The task was not a quick one either as getting your old brick or stone oven hot enough to bake bread took a few hours and a lot of valuable fuel. In the 1900s to help families larger communal ovens were built, they would serve a specific number of houses and each family would be allocated a day when they could use it. Housewives would prepare their dough at home then take it to the oven to be baked. Much later on they would be able to buy ready-baked bread from these establishments making these communal ovens the beginning of commercial bakeries. The dough trough shows how the trade of the baker is one of the oldest craft in the world, and how far it has developed to today’s bread machines and commercial bakeries.

This dough trough comes from Stang End, the original 17th century building at Ryedale Folk Museum, 
and can be seen there on display.

If you have an enquiry or would like access to the collections please contact info@ryedalefolkmuseum.co.uk.