“Ma was busy all day long, cooking good things for Christmas. She baked salt rising bread…” pg. 62
There is no quicker way into my heart then fresh baked bread. My husband used to make me dinner when we were courting and while it was typical University fare it was his fresh baked bread that won me over each time. Crunch to the crust and a soft interior…throw a sunbeam in there, rereading the Big Woods and I’m set. Years later this love turned into buying two loaves; one for dinner and one to eat on the back porch slowly while reading in said sunbeam with a glass of white wine.
For someone that finds proofing detailed I can’t imagine not having access to yeast for our dinner loaves. Since not having bread at the dinner table isn’t an option, clearly my ancestors, baking pioneers emerged using natural fermentation. Heat and time sufficed for the general store assistance. Instead they used long term warmth and natural bacteria.
Salt rising bread has maintained popularity in the Appalachian states to this day. A modern generation of bakers are continuing this tradition. Susan Ray Brown at Rising Creek Bakery in Pennsylvania specializes in salt rising bread. Her website saltrisingbread.net is a fantastic source of history and recipes. I’ve been combing through her pages reading the stories she’s compiled as well as recipe variations. I’ll be trying a recipe this weekend while I’m pre-purchasing her book off Amazon. She shared the below recipe on her website that comes from a baker in Pennsylvania that has been baking salt rising bread for over 80 years. Look for her book this June at your local bookstore.
“3 tsp. cornmeal, 1 tsp flour, 1/8 tsp baking soda, 1/2 cup scalded milk
Pour milk onto dry ingredients and stir. Keep warm overnight until foamy. After “raisin” has foamed and has a “rotten cheese” smell, in a medium sized bowl, add 2 cups of warm water to mixture, then enough flour (about 1 ½ cup) to make like a thin pancake batter. Stir and let rise again until becomes foamy. This usually takes about 2 hours. Next, add one cup of warm water for each loaf of bread you want to make, up to 6 loaves (e.g. six cups of water makes six loaves of bread). Add enough flour (20 cups for 6 loaves, or about one 5 pound bag of flour + 1/3 bag). Form into loaves; grease tops of loaves. Let rise in greased pans for several hours, maybe 2-6 hours. Bake at 300 F for 30 to 45 minutes, or until loaves sound hollow when tapped.”