Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Vegan MoFo Day 12: Salt Rising Bread

The South has at least two breads which are raised with a fermentation process more dependent on bacteria than yeast: salt rising bread (a wheat bread) and corn light bread (if made in the traditional, time-consuming way). Both have a unique flavor, perhaps best described as cheesy.

I have been doing some recipe research on corn light bread, and I'm fixin' to make a new version for y'all blog readers during MoFo. In the meanwhile, I'm posting my directions for salt rising bread. If you are my friend on Facebook, you've seen this already, but now it is released into the big world.

As the bacteria in the culture is as important, if not more so, than any wild yeast you may have attracted, the key is having an environment which will hold at about 100F for several hours. Happily, my oven's "bread proof" setting will do this. You can also use a dehydrator, crock pot, heating pad, etc. I have used a dehydrator with success, although you need a thermometer to check the temperature, as it may not match the dial. Susan Brown has lots of suggestions on her excellent website. All of the times given below can vary enormously. You have to keep an eye on it. Luckily, it is hard to go "too long" - it is more forgiving than rising yeast dough.

Step 1: Mix 3 T cornmeal (any kind), 1 T flour (any kind), 1/8 t baking soda, and 1/2 c milk (any kind - I used almond milk). The milk should be scalded first and cooled to lukewarm. Put this in a covered mason jar and set it in your warm place for 8-10 hours (overnight).

Step 2: The starter should be frothy and have a funky smell. If you are in any doubt, something went wrong. Seriously. Pour the starter into a bowl and add 2 c lukewarm water, and 1 1/2 c bread flour. Whisk together. Don't worry about lumps. Cover, and put it back in the warm place for 2-3 hours. It should look like the photo above.

Step 3: Add 4 c lukewarm water, and enough bread flour to make a soft, somewhat sticky dough (usually around 10-12 cups). I usually add 4 t salt, 2 T sugar, and 1/4 c canola oil, but none of those are necessary. Turn out on a floured counter, and knead for just a couple of minutes. Traditional wisdom says not to knead it very much. I'm not sure of the reasons, but I have always followed this advice with good results. Divide into four loaves, place in greased pans, brush the tops with oil, cover, and put back in the warm place. In 2-6 hours, the bread will have risen to the top of the pans. It will have a flat top - not rounded like most yeast bread. WARNING: Do NOT taste the raw batter. The bacteria can give you food poisoning. (If you want to make some of the dough into rolls, a muffin tin works well.)

Step 4:Bake at 300F for about 30-45 minutes (or 15-20 minutes for rolls). Turn out on racks and cool. These directions reflect my own experience and tweaking. However, I owe a lot to the advice and recipes on Susan Brown's site - definitely consult it for more detailed guidance, great videos, and trouble-shooting.

Slice thin, toast, apply Vegenaise and sliced tomato. Enjoy a much too rare treat from the past!


Jeni Treehugger said...

AMAZING bread.

panda with cookie said...

This is beyond my current skill but I have heard of salt rising bread and never seen it. Thank you.

JohnP said...

Lisa, given your location,you might be able to find it at a local bakery. There is still one bakery in Nashville which makes it. I've seen it for sale at markets in East Tennessee.

Sarah said...

I've been meaning to try this. Thanks for the play by play!

Monique a.k.a. Mo said...

Lovely! Look at all those loaves.