Salt-rising bread is a type of bread that is leavened using a mixture of cornmeal, water, and salt, rather than commercial yeast. It originated in the United States in the 19th century and was popular in rural areas where commercial yeast was not always readily available.
Salt-rising bread is known for its distinctive, slightly sweet and tangy flavor, and its light, fluffy texture. It is made by mixing together cornmeal, water, and salt to form a starter, which is then allowed to ferment in a warm place for several hours or overnight. The fermented starter is then mixed with flour, milk, and butter to form the dough, which is then shaped into a loaf and baked.
Because it is made without commercial yeast, salt-rising bread requires a longer fermentation process and more time to prepare than bread made with commercial yeast. It also requires a warm, humid environment to encourage the growth of the microorganisms that are responsible for leavening the bread. As a result, it can be a bit more challenging to make than other types of bread, but many people find the process to be rewarding and the resulting bread to be delicious.
To make old-fashioned salt-rising bread, you will need the following ingredients:
- 3 cups of warm water (110-115 degrees Fahrenheit)
- 1/2 cup cornmeal
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup milk
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
You will also need a large pot or crock, a wooden spoon, a thermometer, a baking sheet, and a 9×5-inch loaf pan.
Here is a basic recipe for making salt-rising bread:
- In a large pot or crock, mix together the warm water, cornmeal, sugar, and salt until well combined. Cover the pot or crock and set it aside in a warm place for about 8 hours or overnight.
- The next day, the mixture should have a sour, fermented smell and small bubbles on the surface. If it does not, wait an additional 8 hours and check again.
- When the mixture is ready, add the milk and 1 cup of the flour, stirring well to combine. Cover the pot or crock and set it aside in a warm place for about 3 hours or until it has risen and is full of bubbles.
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a 9×5-inch loaf pan with butter.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the remaining 3 cups of flour with the butter, using your fingers to mix the butter into the flour until it resembles fine crumbs.
- Add the risen mixture to the bowl with the flour and butter, and mix until the dough comes together in a smooth ball. Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface for about 10 minutes, or until it is smooth and elastic.
- Shape the dough into a loaf and place it in the prepared loaf pan. Cover the pan with a towel and set it aside in a warm place for about 1 hour or until the dough has risen to the top of the pan.
- Bake the bread for about 45 minutes, or until it is golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom. Allow the bread to cool in the pan for about 10 minutes, then turn it out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
Enjoy your old-fashioned salt-rising bread warm, with butter or your favorite spread. It can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days, or frozen for up to 3 months.