A 4000-year-old piece of Egyptian yeast bread provides evidence of the longevity of leavened bread. The ancient practice of keeping a small amount of leavened “starter” dough continued through the 1800s, when German bakers created the first commercial yeast. Dough tables and troughs used for mixing and raising bread dough sometimes retained a bit of starter dough to mix with the next batch and assure it would rise. Antique dough tables -- also known as petrins -- make interesting additions to present-day kitchens, family rooms or eclectic living rooms. Buyers can recognize specific characteristics of these functional tables.
Look for a table with a lid that lifts or slides to reveal a trough or bin beneath it. Check the dough trough for an unfinished, painted or tin interior and look for a tapered, rectangular or curved shape along the bottom of the exterior of the trough. Some dough tables resemble small dressers.
Examine the wood for signs of wear and check the top of the dough table for evidence of use in kneading dough and forming loaves of bread.
Check the construction details such as pegged joinery or old screws. Antique screws have specific thread characteristics based on age.
Become familiar with the variations from rustic to more refined styles of dough tables or petrins. Some tables started out as dough boxes and had legs added later, while others boast drawers, turned legs and decorative skirting details.
Bakers sometimes mixed the dough by hand in the trough, which also provided a warm, draft-free place for the dough to rise.
The French "petrin" sounds like pay-TRAYN, with the "n" spoken softly.
The French "huche," pronounced "oosh," also means a petrin or dough bin.
Vivienne Lydamore has written professionally since 1978. A retired health-care marketing communications executive, she has also written and produced local television commercials. Lydamore has covered the dedication of Egyptian galleries at the British Museum, published oral histories with underground miners and ghostwritten numerous health-care articles and marketing pieces. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Northern Michigan University.