Bread and Salt & The Sacred Law of Hospitality

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The Rains of Castamere ‘String Quartet’

Happy Game of Thrones Day Week!

I know, I know.. I’m a few days late and I missed all the premier viewing parties, but season 4 just started! You have 9 more weeks to make this and share it with guests!

If you’re not sure what I’m talking about and you don’t watch Game of Thrones, season 4 premiered last night and there is plenty cause for celebration!

If you recall, for season 3’s premier, I posted A Pie of Ice and Fire – an epic beef and bacon pie that is hard to look away from and even harder to not stuff your face with. The recipe was from the Official Game of Thrones cookbook/blog, Inn at the Crossroads, which is authored/ran by, Chelsea and Sariann.

After reminiscing how awesome that pie was and how many people loved it, I started wondering what recipe will I do for this premier. Then I thought – why only do something for the premier?

So I held my breath and I sent a raven to Chelsea, asking if she wouldn’t mind me posting a few of those amazing recipes from Inn at the Crossroads on my blog. To my surprise, not only did she respond, but she was incredibly cool with the idea!

So here we are! My first attempt to honor Inn at the Crossroads and the awesome work they do. I’m going to try and make this a weekly or semi-weekly thing throughout the duration of the 4th season so stay tuned for Game of Thrones related goodness throughout the coming weeks.

So without further ado, let’s talk about Bread and Salt…

It may sound simple and nothing worth dedicating a post to, but I think this is one of the most important foods you’ll find throughout Westeros. Not because of its complexity (which it lacks), presentation or flavor, but because of what it represents.

If you read any of the books and paid attention, you’ll know that food is borderline worshipped throughout the pages. Everything – from the scraps the Nights Watch has to work with to the feasts that grace the tables in King’s Landing – is talked about and described in great details. But there’s one staple that has stood out above all else in Westeros from the times of the First Men.

Bread and Salt.

Bread and Salt are the most traditional provisions used when one wishes to invoke Guest Right.

Guest Right is an ancient and sacred tradition, honored and respected for thousands of years by all known religions and faiths in Westeros. Also known as The Sacred Law of Hospitality, it is a secret bond of trust and honor between a host and his guests that neither shall harm the other. Once the guest has eaten at the host’s table, under his roof, he is under his protection for the duration of the guest’s stay. Breaking these sacred laws is not only considered one of the most heinous crimes one can commit, but is also said to invoke the wrath of both the Old Gods and the New.

If you can recall in season 3, there were two instances where the Guest Right was broken. One was the Mutiny at Craster’s Keep and the other during the infamous Red Wedding.

Looking back, you’ll remember Catelyn and Robb Stark specifically asking Walder Frey to share his bread and salt with them. And during the insane – most social episode of any show in HBO historyThe Rains of Castamere, you can see Stark, his mother, and his men, all standing with Frey as they almost ceremonially shared bread and salt with each other.

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Many thanks to Snark Squad and their awesome gifs!
Click on that link for a great rundown of the episode where all of this took place.

The horrors orchestrated by Frey against his guests who were protected by guest right were heard throughout Westeros. Not only was his house looked down upon with disgust from that moment on, it also destroyed any honor his name had. On top of that, it left the sacred tradition of the guest right in question, with the safety and security in a strange castle no longer guaranteed.

So TL;DR…. Bread and Salt is a huge freaking deal.

I love the aspect of it. A simple thing like bread and salt having so many ties to ancient traditions; an unspoken oath between the host and guest of the house. It’s something that is still being acknowledged in certain cultures, but could be greatly appreciated more throughout the world.

Know how I know? One of the loaves I made for this post was shared between us and house guests we had over for the weekend (their visit was also the reason for this post being late a few days). As we stood around tearing off bread and dipping it in the salt, it almost felt as if we were acknowledging the sacred law of hospitality. It was a great feeling, until I explained the meaning to my wife and her friend who are not fans of Game of Thrones. The eye rolls and the “oh my God, you’re such a dork” I received kinda killed the mood. But still, it didn’t stop the warm feeling inside of partaking in an ancient tradition with friends. It also didn’t stop us from tearing that bread apart.

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I recommend everyone do it at least once, and explain to your guests what it symbolizes. Yes, the best time to do so would be during a Game of Thrones viewing party, but anytime guests visit and stay would be just as good (especially if they’re fans of the show).

Bread and Salt

5 cups ~ All-Purpose Flour, divided
1/2 cup ~ Sugar
2 teaspoons ~ Salt
2 (.25 ounce) packages ~ Instant Dry Yeast
1 1/3 cup ~ Milk
4 tablespoons ~ Butter
2 each ~ Eggs

2 each ~ Eggs, left whole for baking into the dough

1 each ~ Egg, beaten for glaze

Notes:

  • This recipe makes 2 fairly large loaves.
  • As Chelsea pointed out in her post, it’s reminiscent of Easter bread, and when dipped in the salt, will taste almost like soft pretzels.
  • While our guests were impressed with the presentation, they were hesitant about a pool of salt sitting in the bread. After tearing off pieces and dipping it in, the addictive flavor qualities made all hesitation disappear. The loaf was gone in minutes.
  • Kosher salt was used, and is probably best, for dipping.
  • To make the cavities for dipping, 2 eggs are placed in the center of the loaves before baking. These eggs are cooked alongside the bread and are a great accompaniment!
  • No matter what, do not find yourself a guest to or accept bread and salt from anyone named Frey.

Alright lets do it:

  • Get a bowl and combine and stir 1 cup of flour, the sugar, the salt and the yeast. Meanwhile in a small saucepan melt the butter and add the milk then bring it up to about 110-115 degrees. Any hotter and the yeast would be Robb Stark.
  • Take the milk and stir it into the flour mixture, it doesn’t have to be completely incorporated yet. Add 2 eggs and 1/2 cup more flour and now beat well. Add the remaining flour about 1 cup at a time, whisking well after each addition.

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  • Once the dough looks like dough, put it on your favorite floured work surface and knead until smooth and elastic. It should take about a good 5 minutes. Roll it up into a ball when it’s ready.

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  • Get something large enough to fit the dough once it doubles in size. Pour some oil in your container and put the ball of dough in it, being sure to coat the dough itself in some oil. You don’t want it swimming in oil, you just want a coating. Cover the container with a damp cloth and find somewhere warm to let it rise for about an hour until it has doubled in size.

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My oven has a proofing feature. But if yours doesn’t, I used to let it sit on top of a recently used toaster oven, or on top of the refrigerator. I forgot where I read it, so kudos to who talked about it, but the new thing now is to put it on top of the dryer while it’s running. Also, if you live in Florida, just leave it sitting anywhere you’d like and it’ll rise with no problems.

Get it? Because Florida is a giant proofing box..

  • Anyway, when it has doubled, punch it down and plop it on a floured surface. Shape it into a nice even brick and divide it into 3 equal pieces. Take each piece and turn it into a ball. Cover you balls and let them rest for about 10 minutes more since you just got them all worked up again.

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  • Take a ball, flatten it a bit, stretch it out, and start rolling it into a rope. You’re looking for about 1 1/2 inches thick while rolling. Once one is done, set it aside and start rolling the other 2. You’ll be left with 3 ropes of dough.

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You shouldn’t flour your work surface to make the ropes because it’ll be hard to get them to roll and stretch out. I learned that the hard way.

  • Take your 3 ropes and line them up to make a braid. Now I’m not going to lie… I’m a guy and I haven’t the slightest idea on how to make a freaking braid so I had to Google it. Luckily I care enough about you to have done step by step pictures..

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There is one more step I forgot to take a picture of: Putting Rope B over Rope C.

After that just repeat from the beginning until the braid is complete.

  • Once the braid is done, cut it in half. Something I didn’t do that I recommend is gently stretch out the dough a little, then connect the two ends to form a circle, pinch them together, and tuck it underneath to hide the pinch. Do this for the other braid as well.

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I just put them together and tucked which is why my center is towards the side and not in the middle. Either way though, you’re not looking for perfection so it really doesn’t matter.

  • Take the 2 whole eggs and give them a nice coating of oil and carefully slip them into the center of each loaf. The egg is what’s going to create the cavity to fill with salt. As a bonus, the egg cooks along with the bread so you’ll have a nice boiled egg to go with your bread and salt.
  • Place the egged loaves on 2 separate, greased baking sheets (that are not long so they can both fit in the middle rack of the oven), and place them covered with a damp towel in the same warm place until they’ve doubled in size again. It should take about another 45 minutes for the doubling in size.

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  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and brush the risen loaves with a beaten egg. Then bake for 40-55 minutes, or until the loaves are dark and golden.

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When they’ve cooled, pull the egg out and fill the divot with salt and you’re done.

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Congratulations! You are now ready to make your guests feel safe under your roof.

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As I said, the flavor is great, dipping it in the salt is addicting, and you feel this sense of pride when breaking it with friends. It will be perfect for any sort of get together, family gathering – like Easter – or viewing party. Haha.. 2 years in a row you get a Game of Thrones post instead of an Easter post. What kind of a food blog is this?!

A cool one! That’s the correct answer.

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Wherever and with whomever you decide to share this with, just be sure to explain its significance. You may be called a dork but at least you’ll look like a knowledgeable dork. And there is a difference!

Happy 4th season of Game of Thrones! If you’re a fan and you’ll be watching, hit me up on Twitter or G+ so we could talk about it.

Click here if you want to checkout the great
string quartet version of “The Rains of Castamere”
performed by Chris Amaterasu

Click here if you want to check out
the chillingly awesome song version of “The rains of Castamere”

 

4 Comments

    1. Thank you! Sorry it took so long to reply. The bread came out awesomely and I’ve been wanting it again ever since.

      And even though I’m a huge fan, I do admit the show isn’t for everyone. I’m convinced the wife only watches it because I do. But there are episodes that are slower than others so maybe it does deserve another shot.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  1. Rebekkah P.

    I am so excited to try this out! I’ve been obsessed with baking since I started reading A Game of Thrones since fresh baked bread and other goodies are a constant theme within. I am having a similar issue with my obsession since my boyfriend likes the show very much but isn’t keen on the idea of having a themed dinner night or premiere party. I want to have one soooo bad. I’m just a little too nerdy at times…

    1. Awww, c’mon! If you both love the show you HAVE to throw a party! Start small. There are a few things on my blog here that are easy and insanely good. Make them, invite a few friends who are fans of the show and just pop in the blu ray. Consider it practice for the next premiere night.

      I’m in the same boat. I absolutely love the show, love to cook the food, and am willing to put a party together, but the wife would never, eeeeeever let herself be that nerdy. Haha. If you google it and look around for themed parties like that, you’ll see people go all out for premiers. It’s insanely awesome.

      Thanks for commenting!

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