What is Salt Rising Bread?

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What is Salt Rising Bread?

49. What is Salt Rising Bread?

Salt rising bread (SRB) is leavened by the bacterium Clostridium perfringens rather than a yeast as used in sourdough.

I have described two reliable recipes in an article presented in Petits Propos Culinaires No.70 (PPC is published in England and focuses on history of cuisines and foodstuffs).

I have improved one recipe to speed the process to deliver two loaves of SRB by mid-day after setting a pre-starter the evening before. If you adhere to the following, you can do the same.

In the early evening, set the pre-starter -
Two cups of scalded milk, immediately after removing from heat,
Stir in two cups of corn meal, and
Three tablespoons of wheat gluten.

Cover the container loosely with plastic wrap or similar and place it in a space that can maintain a temperature between 95 and 105 degrees Fahrenheit. The temperature is important - ten degrees less and action slows dramatically.

First thing in the morning, make up the starter - To the pre-starter, stir in,
One cup hot tap water (~125F),
One-and-a-half cup flour,
One-half teaspoon bicarbonate of soda.

Loosely cover the container and return it to the heat box. In about two hours the slurry will be covered with bubbles or foam and will have increased volume by 10 or 15 percent. When it reaches this state;

Make up the dough, add to the starter -
One tablespoon sugar,
One teaspoon salt,
Three tablespoons shortening (oil or solid), and
Flour enough to make a stiff dough (heat the flour till warm to the touch).

Old age inspired purchase of a KitchenAid mixer; it now does the kneading. When making up the SRB dough, I fit the dough-hook, heat the bowl by rinsing with hot water, and add three cups of flour plus the starter. I let this slurry become somewhat uniform to then continue adding flour until the machine seems to groan (5 or 6 cups, perhaps). I don't have another rule of thumb for judging "enough" for the dough - probably five minutes total time stirring by the time the last of the flour has been added. The finished dough is somewhat sticky and seems tough.

Divide the dough in two, form loaves, and place in greased pans. Oil the surface, if you please. Put the pans into the heat box for about two hours when the dough will have risen to the pan edge. Bake in 350F oven for an hour or until nicely browned.

Any kind of corn meal will be satisfactory (organic, inorganic, white, yellow, stoneground, ripped to shreds by steel, what-have-you). Every grain I have tried has produced a satisfactory starter. Oak bark will inspire a starter in my experience.

The secret to a fast and reliable process is the heat and gluten. Of the two, the heat is probably most important.

-- Reinald

In subsequent correspondence Reinald comments:

I have made SRB for about 40 years with the early years as confused as many people are today. In 1981 I discovered that a fraction of Campden tablet did a much better job of killing yeast than does salt. A couple of years ago, after e-mail exchanges with Susan Ray Brown, I repeated the 1981 experiments with different grains (oat meal, corn grits, barley, etc.) and went on to try just about everything I could find at the local natural foods store (wheat flakes, wheat bran, rye flakes, oat bran, steel cut oats, etc.) Practical SRB starters will develop from all of them.

Venturing further afield, I tried slivers of bark from white oak (Quercus alba) and black locust (Robinia pseudoacaca) as initiators on wheat flour with Campden; again to obtain useful starters. Next was cheddar cheese and blue cheese and, finally, flour alone. All worked.

A professional food chemistry laboratory ran DNA analyses on the Clostridium strains in flour, corn meal, and cheddar cheese mediated starters. The cheese Clostridium was perfringens Type A with an exact match to their reference pattern; flour and corn had patterns quite similar to the Type A, but not identical.

I also monitored pH of various starters as they developed. Perfringens thrives in a basic solution even as it is producing acid which eventually arrests activity. Bicarbonate of soda buffers the acid to facilitate perfringens action; it is not part of the leavening process.

-- Reinald


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