Friday, December 16, 2011

Salt Rising Bread

For years Dan and I have searched for true salt rising bread. Kroger sells it, but we scoff at even labeling the product "salt rising" bread. I love to bake many varieties of bread; however, salt rising bread has eluded me for years and all my attempts were failures.

I called Frank Smarr who owned Frank's Bakery in Weston - it has been closed for years. I loved their salt rising bread. Frank told me how to make it -- "combine corn meal, baking soda, salt, and water. Let it work until it smells like pig slope!" No luck. My mixture never got to the pig slop stage.

Let me give you some background on this bread.

How it got its name: Some attribute the name, salt-rising bread, to the fact that it rises because of salt-tolerant bacteria present in the starter (although not all recipes use salt). Another theory is that in the days of our fore-mothers, before gas and electricity, the women would warm rock salt on their wood stoves or in a fireplace, and then place the hot rock salt in a stone crock. They would then set their jar of rising in the crock surrounded by the warm rock salt and leave it overnight. The rock salt stayed warm all night in the crock, thus keeping the rising at an even and warm temperature, so that by morning, the baker’s rising would have foamed and risen, ready now to make into loaves of salt-rising bread!

Salt rising bread is leavened by the bacterium Clostridium perfringens rather than a yeast as used in most other standard breads. OK- Hold on to your seats- here is the low down on this bacteria. After you read this, you will wonder WHY ?

Clostridium perfringens is a Gram-positive, rod-shaped, anaerobic, spore-forming bacterium, is ever present in nature, and can be found as a normal component of decaying vegetation, marine sediment, the intestinal tract of humans and other vertebrates, insects, and soil.

C. perfringens is the third most common cause of food poisoning in the United States though it can sometimes be ingested and cause no harm. The action of C. perfringens on dead bodies is known to mortuary workers as tissue gas and can be halted only by embalming!

Enough of the gastronomic background!

The reason that I have not succeeded in producing this bread is that it is VERY temperature sensitive. If the solution is not kept at a CONSTANT temperature of 98 to 103 degrees Fahrenheit, then the bacteria will not grow and produce the results needed. Clostridia are able to ferment a wide variety of organic compounds. They produce end products such as butyric acid, acetic acid, butanol and acetone, and large amounts of gas (CO2 and H2) during fermentation of sugars. A variety of foul smelling compounds are formed during the fermentation of amino acids and fatty acids. If your starter does not smell like PIG SLOP, you will have to discard it.

Most breads use yeast as the rising agent. The fermentation process with yeasts produced vast volumes of carbon dioxide gas. Salt rising fermentation produces mostly hydrogen gas which is 22 times lighter than carbon dioxide gas.

After an internet research, I discovered a cheap and dependable way of maintaining the starter at a constant temperature. Using two nesting plastic boxes, water and an aquarium heater were placed in the bottom. The top was used as the actual fermentation chamber. The top was covered with a plastic lid and also a towel for insulation.

Tomorrow - THE RESULTS


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