Salt-Raising Bread

DISCLAIMER:  This practice is a potentially dangerous way to make bread and it is not advised.  This article is for information only

During the 19th Century, when the American Pioneers were moving west across the continent to occupy settlement plots of land, an unusual baking practice became a local common way of baking bread whilst out in the wilderness.

Brewers yeast was normally used to make bread, where the yeast breaks down sugars and starch, producing Carbon Dioxide as a waste product.  With the CO2 trapped in the dough by the gluten molecules, the bread dough rises, increasing in volume.

However, out in the American Mountains and Plains, brewers yeast cannot be easily obtaind, so a method of rising was found that gave the same type of bake.  The pathogen, Clostridium perfringens, which can cause vomiting in diarrhea and may also lead to gangrene was used as a raising agent.  This organism uses salts and other chemicals to produce hydrogen gas, which will leaven bread.

Provided that the bread was well baked, all of the bacteria would be killed and eating the bread would be safe.  Of course, there is little evidence from those times to show if any problems occured from this baking method as records were not generally kept, or accurate.

To produce a starter, use cornmeal or chopped potatoes in water and add salt, sugar and milk. Boil the mix and allow it to cool in a warm place (next to fire) for more than 8 hours.  Add flour to produce a "sponge" mixture and leave for a few hours to ferment.  When the surface is foaming and the sponge smells of unwashed bodies, it is readu to use.  Add to a flour and water mix and kneed.  rest the dough to allow it to rise and bake as normal in a hot oven.

The bread was said to have a cheesy smell and have a dense and fine crumbed texture.





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This part of the Bread Pages looks at the sharp practices recipes that were used in different periods of history.