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Salt Rising Bread
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Bread made without yeast.

Bread, The Good Cook, Techniques & Recipes--Time-Life 1981

Serves/Makes:2 loaves

  • 8 1/2 to 9-1/2 cups (2250 ml) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup (125 ml) cornmeal, preferably stone-ground
  • 4 cups (950 ml) milk, divided use
  • 5 tbsp (70 ml) vegetable shortening, cut into bits
  • 1 tbsp (15 ml) sugar
  • 1 tbsp (15 ml) salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp (15 ml) milk
  • Starting a day ahead, measure the cornmeal into a heat-proof bowl.
  • Then heat 1 cup (225 ml) of the milk in a small pan until bubbles form around the sides.
  • Pour the milk over the cornmeal and stir until it is a smooth paste.
  • Set the bowl in a warm, draft-free place overnight, or until the cornmeal mixture ferments and develops a strong cheese-like odor.
  • Place the shortening, sugar and salt in a mixing bowl 12 inches across the top.
  • Pour water to a depth of 2 inches into a pot 12 inches in diameter.
  • (The rim of the bowl should fit snugly over the pot. The pot must be deep so that the bottom of the bowl will be suspended above the water.)
  • Bring the water to a boil, then remove the pot from the stove and cover tightly to keep the water hot.
  • In a heavy saucepan, heat the remaining milk until bubbles form around the sides of the pan.
  • Pour the milk over the shortening mixture and stir until the sugar and salt dissolve.
  • When the mixture is tepid, add 3-1/2 cups (825 ml) flour and, after it is incorporated, add the cornmeal mixture.
  • Set the bowl over the pot of water and drape the bowl with a kitchen towel.
  • Let the dough rise for about 2 hours or until surface bubbles indicate it has fermented.
  • The water under the bowl must be kept tepid.
  • Check the pot occasionally and replenish with boiling water if necessary.
  • When the dough has fermented, remove the bowl from the pot.
  • Stir into the dough 5 to 6 cups (1425 ml) more flour, 1 cup (225 ml) at a time, to make a firm ball.
  • If the dough becomes difficult to stir, work in the flour with your hands.
  • Place the dough on a lightly floured surface and knead it for 20 minutes or until it is smooth and elastic.
  • Divide the dough in half and shape each piece into a cylindrical loaf about 8 inches long and 4 inches wide. Place the loaves in buttered 9 inch by 5 inch loaf pans and set them aside in a draft-free place for 2 hours or until the loaves double in bulk.
  • Beat the egg with the 1 tbsp (15 ml) of milk and brush the tops of the loaves with mixture.
  • Bake on the middle shelf of a preheated 400 degree (200 C.) oven for 10 minutes.
  • Reduce the temperature to 350 degrees (175 C.) and bake for 25 to 30 minutes longer or until the bread is golden brown.
  • To test for doneness, turn the loaves out and rap the bottoms with your knuckles.
  • The loaves should sound hollow.
  • Cool the loaves on racks before serving.
According to "The New Food Lover's Companion," salt-rising bread was popular in the 1800s before yeast leavening was readily abailable. It relies on a fermented mixture of warm milk or water, flour, cornmeal, sugar and salt to give it rising power. As printed in the Sacramento Bee newspaper February 2, 2000.

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