As requested by one of my readers
Salt rising bread is a relatively flat white bread that has a very fine crumb and a cheese-like flavour. It is found a lot in the Appalachian region in the United States. You can also find pockets of salt rising bread in the state of New York, Michigan, Kansas and California. Originally salt rising bread was believed to be made by pioneer women before commercial yeast was available. It is believed that they knew that they wanted to make bread although they didn’t have any yeast but they found that if they left a little bit of milk and flour in a container overnight in a warm place it would grow. They knew that if they added this batter to flour it would rise and make bread.
This is not the easiest bread to make. It can be tricky, but is worth the effort for one who loves that very different, pungent smell of salt rising bread. On to the recipe…
Makes 3 loaves
For the Starter: For the sponge:
235ml milk 475ml warm water 105 -1150F (40 – 470C)
60g polenta or maize meal 250g plain flour
10g sugar 25g sugar
6g salt 40g butter
For the dough:
2g bicarbonate of soda
15ml warm water 1100F (450C)
750g plain flour
To Make Starter:
Heat the milk, and stir in the sugar, polenta and salt. You will need to maintain the temperature of your starter at 105 – 1150F (40 – 470C) for 7-12 hours or until it shows fermentation. I have used an oven on lowest setting, a saucepan filled with water and a yoghurt maker. You will be able to hear the gas escaping when it has fermented for long enough. The bubble foam, which forms over the starter, can take up to 24 hours. This is important; DO NOT continue until the starter responds. As the starter ferments, the unusual salt-rising smell appears. You must get the foamy and smelly “rotten cheese” smell or it will not work! This is called a “raisin”.
When the starter is ready, you can make the sponge:
Place the starter mixture in a large bowl. Stir in the warm water, sugar, butter or oil and 250g plain flour. Beat the sponge thoroughly to incorporate as much air as possible. Cover the sponge and leave it to rise until it is light and full of bubbles. Keep your sponge at the same temperature as before. It will take 2-3 hours for the sponge to rise.
On to the final dough:
Dissolve the bicarbonate of soda in 15ml of warm water and mix into the sponge. Add 750g plain flour to your sponge. Knead in more flour if required to make a firm dough. Knead the dough for 5-10 min. Divide the dough into 3 and place in 3 greased 9in (23cm) loaf tins. Place covered tins in warm water. Alternatively, place uncovered tins in a warm oven with a bowl of hot water. You need to maintain a temperature of 850F (300C). Leave the dough to prove. It will take up to 5 hours for the bread to rise to twice its original size. The bread should then round to the top of the tins.
Towards the end of proving, preheat the oven to 3750F (1900C).
Bake the bread for 10 minutes, then reduce oven temperature to 3500F (1750C) and bake for an additional 20 minutes or until light golden brown.
Enjoy the fruits of your labour…