Salt Rising Bread

Discussion in 'Camp Cooking' started by Tom A Hawk, Mar 12, 2019.

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  1. Mar 12, 2019 #1

    Tom A Hawk

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    Here is my morning's accomplishment. Salt rising bread is a non-yeast, not really sour sough, Appalachian area bread that uses a cornmeal starter. Its a bit tricky to make and has a narrow temperature window where the fermentation is active. Its makes great toast similar to English toasting bread.

    upload_2019-3-12_14-13-27.png


    Recipe:
    Salt Rising Bread Recipe

    Starter

    · Scald 1 cup milk. Cool to room temperature

    · Add ½ cup corn meal and ½ teaspoon baking soda + 1 tablespoon sugar

    · Mix well and maintain at 105 to 115 degrees for about 8 - 12 hours

    · Starter should be foamy and bubbly

    Sponge

    · To the bubbly starter, add

    o 2 tablespoons sugar

    o 2 cups warm water

    o 2 cups bread flour

    · Mix well and maintain at 105 to 115 degrees for about 2 hours. Should be very bubbly and have a cheesy smell

    Bread

    · To the sponge, add

    o 1 teaspoon salt

    o 3 tablespoons melted butter

    o 5 cups bread flour

    · Knead for 15 – 20 minutes

    · Divide into three loaves

    · Put in greased bread pans and maintain at the same temp as the starter. Loaves should be fully risen in about 3 – 4 hours.

    · Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes
     
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  2. Mar 12, 2019 #2

    Carbon 6

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    I love English toasting bread. Toast is a wonderful thing that has been ruined by the likes of modern toasters and wonder bread.
     
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  3. Mar 12, 2019 #3

    Tom A Hawk

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    Saturated with melting butter...Oh stop..I'm drooling.
     
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  4. Mar 12, 2019 #4

    Spence10

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    Excellent. Beautiful loaves. Nothing better than a good salt rising bread. I've baked it with moderate success, the problem was maintaining the temperature as needed, which is critical. What's your secret for that?

    Spence
     
  5. Mar 12, 2019 #5

    Carbon 6

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    STC 1000 and a incandescent light bulb. Cost less than $20.00

    You could also use a cooler and hot water bottles.
     
  6. Mar 12, 2019 #6

    Nyckname

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    They're getting hard to find, but look for a heating pad that doesn't shut off after an hour. Make a little notch in a Styrofoam cooler for the cord, stick a cooking thermometer through the top, and test what temperature each of the three setting gets to.
     
  7. Mar 12, 2019 #7

    Tom A Hawk

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    I have used a 40 watt light bulb connected to a dimmer switch in a cooler. Most recently I have been making the starter in a crock pot 3/4 full of water also connected to the dimmer switch. This seems to hold the temperature most steady. The sponge and rising loaves are done in the oven. I'll turn the oven on at 200 for a minute then shut it off and monitor the temp.
     
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  8. Mar 12, 2019 #8

    Carbon 6

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    Since the temperature is relatively low (115) you should be able to use regular disposable water bottles without melting the plastic. I save old seafoam bottles, they're metal and will take boiling water.

    With a big enough cooler you could just fill it with warm water and place the starter on something to keep it above the water level.
     
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  9. Mar 12, 2019 #9

    Carbon 6

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    My food dehydrator would probably maintain that temp, but you'd have to cover the starter to prevent evaporation and drying.
     
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  10. Mar 12, 2019 #10

    Tom A Hawk

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    Use a thermometer so you will know when its in the zone.
     
  11. Mar 12, 2019 #11

    Carbon 6

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    That's a given. Just beware of the differentials.
     
  12. Mar 12, 2019 #12

    Carbon 6

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    Tom did you see this that I posted on the raisin bead thread ?
    They are from a 1840 cookbook .


    [​IMG]


    [​IMG][​IMG]
     
  13. Mar 12, 2019 #13

    Tom A Hawk

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    I had not seen it. Sounds a bit like getting a sour dough starter going.
     
  14. Mar 15, 2019 at 4:38 PM #14

    NeilMacleod

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  15. Mar 15, 2019 at 6:00 PM #15

    zimmerstutzen

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    The salt and flour probably using the flour of the day, had lots of wild yeasts on and in the grain and resulting flour. Same as folks did not need a starter to make cider vinegar. I don't know that today's modern store flours have not been treated to prevent those wild yeasts.
     
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  16. Mar 15, 2019 at 6:37 PM #16

    Tom A Hawk

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    In the case of salt rising the micro organism causing fermentation comes from the corn meal. Wild flour and atmospheric yeast makes sour dough.
     
  17. Mar 16, 2019 at 4:50 PM #17

    Loyalist Dave

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    You will want to cover it anyway..., it uses a bacteria not yeast and thus it tends to stink pretty bad. :D

    Horace Kephart in Camping and Woodcraft, more than a century ago wrote:

    "Salt-rising Bread.—This smells to heaven while it is fermenting, but is a welcome change after a long diet of baking-powder breadstuffs. For a baking of two or three loaves take about a pint of moderately warm water (pleasant heat to the hand) and stir in as much flour as will make a good batter, not too thick. Add to this one-half teaspoon salt, not more. Set the vessel in a pan of moderately warm water, within a little distance of a fire, or in sunlight. The water must not be allowed to cool much below the original heat, more warm water being added to pan as required.


    In six to eight hour the whole will be in active fermentation, when the dough must be mixed with it, and as much warm water (milk, if you have it) as you require. Knead the mass till it is tough and does not stick to the board. Make up your loaves, and keep them warmly covered near the fire till they rise. They must be baked as soon as this second rising takes place; for, unless the rising is used immediately on reaching its height, it sinks to rise no more. “

    LD
     
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  18. Mar 16, 2019 at 5:50 PM #18

    Black Hand

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    The salt likely creates an environment that is unfavorable to many/most microorganisms (much like the salt used when making Sauer kraut or certain other fermented products).

    In other words, you are creating a sourdough-type starter from environmental yeast/bacteria. I've done this with Oregon grape berries which are covered with a whitish bloom (supposedly a yeast) and apparently can also be done with Aspen bark.
     
  19. Mar 16, 2019 at 6:14 PM #19

    Tom A Hawk

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    Yes, its smells a bit cheesy or like old gym socks. However, this is only the starter and sponge. The smell of loaves baking is actual rather nice. Its curious why the word "salt" is used to describe this bread as there is only a teaspoon of it that goes into the final stage. I recall reading one theory that suggested hot salt was used to maintain the necessary fermentation temperature.
     
  20. Mar 17, 2019 at 3:24 PM #20

    Carbon 6

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    Here is an interesting article from Popular Science on the subject.

    The Disquieting Delights Of Salt-Rising Bread
    How Clostridium, a nasty pathogen, makes an infectiously delicious confection
    By Harold McGee May 20, 2014
    INFECTIOUS CONFECTION
    Viktor Kerlow

    I've recently come across a fringe fermentation method that, unlike the breads and brews and yogurts and pickles and misos we know and love, isn't run by the usual benign microbes. The engine behind this fermentation method is Clostridium perfringens, a close relative of bacteria that cause botulism, tetanus, and food poisoning. It can eat flesh. It gives gas gangrene its name by causing putrefying flesh wounds that bubble and foam with flammable hydrogen. And it can make something surprisingly delicate and tasty.

    As befits a nasty pathogen, Clostridium perfringens grows aggressively. Its cells can divide every ten minutes, a handful turning into trillions of hydrogen makers overnight. That hydrogen gas can leaven dough just as yeast-generated carbon dioxide does. The result is something known as "salt-rising bread." A century ago, a scientist went so far as to bake bread leavened with Clostridium perfringens drawn from an infected wound, in what the West Virginia Medical Journal called "perhaps the most macabre experiment in culinary history."

    And so I present to you an all-you-can-eat story not about the limits of stomach capacity, but about the far shores of edibility

    The origins of salt-rising bread are unclear but seem to lie in the nineteenth-century American frontier, where it was likely difficult to obtain fresh yeast or keep a bread starter cool and regularly fed. The salt-rising process produces a leavened loaf from grains and water in about eighteen hours. The name is misleading, because salt doesn't play a major role. (Perhaps "salt-rising" was just a way of saying "yeastless-rising.") The real key to the process is heat: scalding-hot liquid to start with, then a feverish but perfringens friendly 100 to 115 degrees Fahrenheit for the starter, sponge, and dough.

    Of course there are many different recipes and contradictory advice on the details, but the basic process begins with making an unusual starter. You boil milk or water, pour it over some cornmeal and/or wheat flour and a little salt, and let the hot mix sit in a warm place overnight until it gets bubbly and smelly from bacterial growth. Cornmeal and milk accelerate the process and help flavor the bread, but they're not essential. You mix the starter with additional flour, water, and baking soda into a batter-like sponge, and keep it warm for a few more hours until it, too, swells with bubbles. Then you add enough flour to make a dough, shape it, put it in a pan, and keep it warm for another few hours until it has doubled in volume, at which point you bake it.

    The result is a tight-grained, dense yet tender loaf with an unusual aroma that's usually described as "cheesy." The social historian J. C. Furnas, who learned to love salt-rising bread as a child in the early twentieth century, wrote that "the flavor was once well defined by my sister as like distant dirty feet," but to his older and more discerning self it tasted "as if a delicately reared, unsweetened plain cake had had an affair with a Pont l'Eveque cheese." In my experience, salt-rising breads made with milk smell like a combination of swiss and parmesan -- sharp rather than stinky. Milk-free salt-rising breads tend to be pungent in their own less cheesy way, though one of them, my all-time favorite so far, came out with a wonderful washed-rind aroma.

    This curious flavor variability in salt-rising breads comes at least in part from variability in the microbes in the flour and cornmeal that we select to do the fermenting. And the selection process is pretty drastic. You notice that the recipe starts with scalding-hot liquid poured onto the dry ingredients. This step kills all of our familiar friendly yeasts and lactic acid bacteria, and, in fact, most microbes of any kind. The survivors are those bacteria that happen to be present as dormant and tough spores, which are actually stimulated by the high heat to germinate when the temperature drops back down to livable levels.

    Does that situation ring a warning bell? It should. The standard recipe for salt-rising bread instructs us to do something we're warned against in the name of food safety: leave thoroughly cooked foods to sit in a warm place for hours. Cooking kills bacteria that are already active, but spores survive and are stimulated to grow -- and grow fast -- when the food temperature drops from piping hot to warm. That's exactly how Clostridium perfringens ends up being a common cause of food poisoning. And yet in salt-rising bread we make a point of encouraging it.

    The realization that the salt-rising bacterium was a form of pathogen came in 1923, when a USDA microbiologist named Stuart A. Koser analyzed commercial salt-rising starters. He found that they were teeming with Clostridium perfringens, then called the Welch bacillus, a microbe already known to be very common in soil, water supplies, and foods, and especially numerous in the human intestine and in sewage. It hadn't yet been connected with food poisoning, but it was implicated in gangrenous flesh wounds. So Koser checked to see whether bakery loaves of salt-rising bread contained any of the bacillus. Indeed they did, but in the form of spores rather than live cells. He tested these bread strains on guinea pigs and found that they didn't cause gangrene.

    He obtained a bacillus culture that had originally been taken from a soldier's infected wound. And he made bread with the wound bacteria.

    Koser then wondered if a known disease strain could grow well enough in dough to leaven it and so pose a hidden hazard to the consumer. So he obtained a bacillus culture from the army that had originally been taken from a soldier's infected wound. It was called the "Silverman" strain, probably after the soldier or his doctor. And Koser made bread with these wound bacteria.

    "The salt rising bread prepared with the Silverman strain compared favorably in size and texture with that prepared from the [commercial] starter," he reported. Regrettably but understandably, he didn't report on the flavor. Less understandably, he didn't test the wound-risen bread for toxicity. But his creepy experiment made clear that there were different strains of the bacillus with different toxicities, and that though the strain in the commercial breads was relatively innocuous, it was possible that other breads might contain a dangerous strain.

    It wasn't until the 1940s and '50s that scientists recognized Clostridium perfringens as a leading cause of foodborne illness as well as wound infections. Since then, they've found that there are at least five major types of the bacterium that produce different toxins and cause different kinds of disease. Their surveys have also found that most samples from the general environment don't produce the toxin that causes food poisoning.

    The safety of salt-rising bread was revisited in 2008 by a physician at West Virginia University and a microbiologist at the University of Pittsburgh. Professors Gregory Juckett and Bruce McClane noted Koser's "macabre" but inconclusive 1923 experiment, and set out to determine whether salt-rising bread "should be viewed as the Appalachian equivalent of fugu, the poison-laden pufferfish of Japanese gourmands."

    They analyzed a number of bread starters and found that all of them contained strains of Clostridium perfringens type A, the group associated with food poisoning rather than wound infection. But none of these strains actually produced toxins. Given that finding, together with the fact that both toxins and active bacteria are inactivated by the heat of baking, and the lack of any known cases of the bread causing illness, Juckett and McClane concluded that "it seems reasonable to continue the consumption of this delicious old-fashioned bread."

    Good! It also seems reasonable to begin exploring new possibilities for this old-fashioned and unusual process. Where familiar fermentations convert food carbohydrates primarily to alcohol or to lactic or acetic acid, Clostridium perfringens produces a cocktail of organic acids that includes acetic and lactic but also butyric -- the characteristic sharp smell of aged cheese -- as well as propionic -- typical of Emmental-style swiss. A hot loaf of just-baked clostridium bread emits enough of these volatile acids to sting the inquiring nose. Milk in the starter seems to boost the butyric, but I've found that even dairy-free breads can sometimes be good and cheesy. It should be possible to select clostridium cultures and starter ingredients to produce distinctive flavors reliably.

    The most useful practical survey for the salt-rising experimentalist is a 2002 article by Reinald S. Nielsen in issue 70 of Petits Propos Culinaires, the quirky small-format journal published in the UK by Prospect Books. Nielsen had started making salt-rising bread in the 1950s, and over the years collected and tested old recipes and sent samples to a microbiology lab for analysis. He discovered that cornmeal is a far richer source of Clostridium perfringens than wheat flour, but that various materials can serve as slow but workable sources of starter microbes. Not just all kinds of grains, milled or flaked, conventional or organic, including packaged breakfast oatmeal and shredded wheat, but even bark from oak and black locust trees. Taste-of-place fans take note: Clostridium perfringens is everywhere. The possibilities are endless.

    If you do give clostridium bread a try, a word of caution: Don't lick the spoon or nibble the raw dough. Just in case. Remember which family of microbes you're playing with.
     
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