Colonial America bread baking
Thirded Bread --- from Ella Shannon Bowles and Dorothy S. Towle, Secrets of New England Cooking, M. Barrows, New York, 1947.
4 Cup White flour
4 Cup Yellow corn meal
4 Cup Rye flour
1 Cup Yeast, or 2 yeast cakes
1/2 Cup Brown sugar
2 Cup Milk, scalded
Mix the ingredients, adding enough lukewarm water to make a dough that can be molded. Let it rise until it cracks open. In the morning shape into loaves, place in brick-loaf pans, and let loaves rise for 45 minutes. Bake in a slow oven, 325 degrees F., about one hour. This large recipe makes a number of loaves. (If you use yeast cakes, dissolve in one half cup of lukewarm water.)
This one requires explanation. Jo and I went to a lecture on early New England cooking, and copies of parts of this book were available - we took the bread item. Xeroxed of course, with a copy of the cover, and an illustration of an Indian with a basket of corn greeting a colonist in his field.
Now, history. In early New England, there was no wheat, not a New World grain - it was eventually brought from England. So bread was made with rye and cornmeal, and in fact the rye was meal not flour. When wheat became available the colonists moved to a bread more like what they were familiar with. But wheat was still a luxury, so the "thirded" method. That "white flour" I take to be wheat, and "white" seems to mean similar to the usual flour we use today - I debated using whole wheat flour but decided no. Now yeast - nothing like the packages of yeast we have now. I made in fact a 1/4 recipe, and used 2 yeast packages, added to the dry ingredient mixture. Brown sugar - used dark brown, almost certainly what the colonists would have used.
The rising instructions are confusing. "Let it rise until it cracks open" - and then "in the morning". I took that to mean make the loaf in the evening, although now "until it cracks open" is irrelevant - except to see that it actually does crack open. But go on as soon as it cracks open? but the instruction is "in the morning".
What I did was to make the dough in the afternoon. As a note, it took about 1/2 cup of lukewarm water to make a dough for the quarter recipe. It did in fact rise, and crack. To bed, and in the morning more cracked, but not any great rising. Shaped to a loaf (remember, I made 1/4 of the recipe, a single loaf). At the 45 minutes, it had risen a bit more. Into the oven at the specified temperature for an hour.
That loaf was not thick and heavy as I feared it might be, but firm and, while not soft, clearly risen. It was however very crusted, i.e., the crust was hard. That made it difficult to cut. The taste I found great, very tasty. Jo found it with a bitter aftertaste, and, while pleased, was not as enthusiastic as I was.
Colonial bread in 21st century Maine, and I declare it a success.