We love salt rising bread. Try finding that at your local bread store. Maybe you can but we surely can’t. Kirchoff’s in Paducah makes it but they don’t make it often and this year was the first year I’ve ever been able to get it during the quilt show. When we lived 2 hours from Paducah, I was able to get it more often and there was a bakery in Bowling Green, KY that made it also. Maybe it’s a Kentucky thing!
When I walked into the house with two loaves of salt rising bread last weekend, I thought Vince and Chad were going to knock each other down getting to the kitchen. Thursday I began the process of making a batch. It was just ready to come out of the oven when Chad walked into the house on Friday afternoon. Yep, I do believe a way to a man’s heart is through his tummy!
If you’ve never had salt rising bread, I’ll warn you . . it stinks! Vince, who will eat anything, said “It’s so good once you get past the smell!” It smells like stinky Italian cheese or . . toe jam! But, it makes the very best toast and even better than best (is that possible?) grilled cheese sandwiches.
It isn’t hard to make but it takes a while.
1. Peel and slice 2 medium or 3 small potatoes. There’s no real specific amount because the potatoes get dumped in the end.
2. Pour 1 quart of boiling water over the potatoes.
3. Stir in 1/4 c. non-degerminated cornmeal, 2 T. sugar and 1 tsp. salt. Read the labels to find a non-degerminated cornmeal. Whole grain or stone ground cornmeal should be non-degerminated but you really need that germ.
The cornmeal isn’t going to dissolve or anything . . it will still be there.
4. Place the potato bowl inside another bowl and pour boiling water in the larger bowl.
5. Place the bowls somewhere so they’ll stay as warm as possible. I put mine in my electric oven and leave the light on.
6. Leave the mixture brewing for 24 hours. Replace the hot water in the outer bowl 3 or 4 times during that 24 hours.
After a while, foam starts to appear. The magic is working!
Leave it alone for a little while longer and more foam forms and now it smells like stinky cheese or . . toe jam!
7. Fish the potatoes out, making sure to leave as much of the cornmeal in the liquid as possible. This is you starter. Flush the potatoes down the garbage disposal. They stink!
8. Scald 1-1/2 cups milk. Pour the milk, the starter, 1/4 teaspoon baking soda and 4 cups flour into a large bowl.
9. Stir all the lumps out. I sometimes use a whisk.
10. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Place this bowl back in the warm place and leave it til it looks like thick clotted cream. It will definitely have the stinky cheese (toe jam) smell! Don’t let it sit too long. It can take anywhere from 1-1/2 hours to 3 hours, depending on how warm your area is.
11. This is how it will look. My bowl might have been just a tad small.
12. See how creamy that looks? This is your sponge.
OK . . at this point I forgot to take pictures. I know . . you’re glad! There should be a limit to how many pictures can be in one blog post.
Here’s the rest of the steps:
13. You may need a bigger bowl. I can use my Bosch mixer but my Kitchen Aid isn’t large enough for this. Into 4 cups of flour, stir in 7 T. shortening, 2-1/2 tsp. salt. Use a fork or your fingers, like you would if you were making a pie crust.
14. Stir the sponge into the flour mixture. Continue stirring and adding flour as necessary. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and add more flour as needed. I use a total of about 6 cups of flour in this step. This is a very heavy dough.
15. Divide dough into three balls. I will freeze one or two at this point. I wrap the dough that’s going into the freezer in greased plastic wrap, then seal in a bag using the Food Saver.
Whichever ones you’re going to bake, shape into loaves. Place in greased pans. Cover lightly with greased plastic wrap and return to the warm place. I put mine in the oven with a pan of hot water.
16. When rising is done, remove plastic wrap and bake at 350 for about 40 – 50 minutes.
Try to wait til the loaves cool off a bit before slicing. Sometimes I feel the urge to test the bread . . you know . . just to be sure it’s good before allowing my family to eat it.