The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Salt Rising Bread Revisited

  • Pin It
Ford's picture
Ford

Salt Rising Bread Revisited

   I like salt rising bread, especially for toast, but in the past, I have had so many failures, I had given up making this bread.  It is NOT sourdough, quite the opposite.  The microbes prefer a nearly neutral medium.  The aromas from the starter, the bread, and the toast are like a strong cheese, though it contains no cheese.  Someone asked for suggestions for a good toasting bread and this was my suggestion.  It also prompted me to do a little Internet research on the topic.  I am now reasonably certain I can produce the product at will.  The critical conditions are 1/ maintain a relatively high temperature (95 to 110°F or 35 to 43°C) for the growth of the bacteria, 2/ add baking soda to control the pH, and 3/ have patience.

   I would like some of you microbiologists to give me some answers on the metabolites of the little beasties and for anyone to chime in on their salt rising bread experience.

   For reference here is my recipe and some notes on my research.


SALT-RISING BREAD, TRADITIONAL
(This is NOT a sourdough bread, but does use a naturally occurring bacterium to make the leavening)
[1/2" slice: 62 g, 148 cal, 4.3g prot, 2.3g fat, 27.2 g carb.]

STARTER (S. R. BREAD)
 
2 medium, raw, peeled, thinly sliced potatoes (~8 oz,)
1 quart (32 oz.) boiling water
1/3 cup cornmeal (1.5 oz.)
1 Tbs. (0.5 oz.) sugar
2 Tbs. (0.5 oz.) unbleached flour
 

   Put the thinly sliced potatoes in a large bow (about 2 1/2 quarts), and then pour in boiling water.  Sprinkle on the sugar, salt, and cornmeal.  Do not stir.  Cover the bowl.  At this point, the temperature of the mixture will be about 150°F.  Place the bowl in a warm (about 100 to 110°F) spot where the temperature remains fairly steady.  Let it sit undisturbed for about 20 hours.  The starter should then be foaming, with some corn meal and perhaps even a few slices of potato floating.  It should have a strong cheese-like aroma.  Remove the potato slices and discard them.

SPONGE (S. R. BREAD)
 
starter from above, without the potato slices
1 1/2 cups (12 oz.) scalded, tepid milk
1/2 tspn. baking soda
3 1/2 (14.9 oz.) cups unbleached, bread flour
1/2 tspn. (0.1 oz.) sugar
 

   Scald milk (190°F) then cool to 110°F.  Remove the potato slices from the starter and pour the rest into a large mixing bowl.  Stir in baking soda, milk, sugar, and unbleached flour, some lumps may remain.  Cover with a plastic wrap and again set in a warm (100 to 110°F) place, and let the sponge rise.  This may take as long as 4 hours, or as short as 1 1/2 hours.  When ready, the sponge have doubled in volume, will appear creamy, foamy, and still have the strong cheese odor.
If insufficient rising at this point, the dough probably will not rise sufficiently.  Cut your losses and start over.

DOUGH (S. R. BREAD)
 
all of the above sponge
~9 1/2 cups (40.0 oz.) unbleached bread flour
1 tspn. (0.2 oz.) sugar
1 1/2 Tbs. (1.0 oz.) salt
1/4 cup (2.0 oz.) melted and cooled butter
butter or solid shortening for greasing pans
melted butter for brushing dough
water in a sprayer
 
77% hydration

   Put 4 cups of flour, 1 tspn. sugar, and 1 1/2 Tbs. salt into bowl containing the sponge, and blend.  Stir in the melted butter. Then add enough flour (4 - 5 cups, or more) to make a soft, manageable dough that you can knead.
   Turn dough onto a floured surface and knead for a minute or two, adding flour as necessary.  Let it rest for ten minutes.  Resume the kneading until the dough is smooth and elastic, adding flour as necessary.  Divide into three loaves (about 2 lb. 1 oz. each), and shape each piece to fit the loaf pans.  Place each into a greased loaf pan, brush with melted butter, and cover with plastic wrap.  Set loaf pans in a warm place (100 to 110°F) to rise.  This final rise takes about 2 hours, and the loaves should double the original volume.  Let the loaves rise until just above the top of the pan, and do not slash the loaves.

BAKING (S. R. BREAD)
   Preheat oven to 450°F (with a pan of boiling water on the bottom shelf) and the middle shelf reserved for the bread pans.  When the dough has risen, spray the dough with water, and place immediately into the oven.  After 15 minutes reduce the oven temperature to 350°F.  Bake until the interior temperature of the loaves is 195° to 200°F.  There will be little or no oven spring.  They should sound hollow when thumped with a finger on the bottom, about 40 minutes.  It is better to overbake than to risk underbaking.  Turn out on to a cooling rack, brush with butter, and cover with a damp cloth until cooled.  Bread may then be packaged and frozen.

NOTES (S. R. BREAD)
   This is NOT a sourdough bread.  On the contrary, the organism responsible for the leavening prefers a near neutral pH, slightly on the basic (alkaline) side.  The baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) is added is to obtain that pH not to leaven the dough.  Were the baking soda not added, the acid produced by the bacteria would greatly slow the growth of the bacteria, if not kill them.  Another difference is that this organism prefers a much higher temperature, 100 to 110°F (38 to 43°C).  This temperature would kill the sourdough yeast and lactobacteria.  The bacterium responsible for leavening salt rising (SR) bread is anaerobic, i.e., it thrives in the absence of air, whereas the yeast and lactobacteria of sourdough can metabolize their nutrients either aerobically or anaerobically.
   Clostridium perfringens is reported to be the bacterium responsible for the leavening of salt rising bread (1, 2) ,    Apparently, the spores of this bacterium are wide spread and present in all grains and other vegetable mater.  Nielsen (2) has reported making salt rising leavening from many different starting materials viz., various grains, cheese, and even the bark of white oak, and the bark of black locust.  Apparently, it is the high temperature of the milk or water that activates these spores and then the continued temperature of about 105°F that promotes the metabolism of the bacteria.  The gas produced is said to be mostly hydrogen. (3)
   A proofing oven is ideal for the various rising steps.  One can be made of a large cardboard box with a light bulb for heat.  (Do not let the bulb touch the box.)  Our oven with the oven light on gives a temperature of about 105°F, perfect.  A gas oven with only the pilot light on may work.  Be sure to measure the temperature of the proofing oven (or area) — too high a temperature kills the organisms and too low (below 95°F) will not permit fast enough growth.  A temperature of 105 to 110°F seems to be about ideal for proofing.  This organism likes a higher temperature than does yeast.
   As the dough matures it looses its elasticity.  The risen dough in the baking pan will jiggle like a bowl of jelly as it is placed in the oven.  This is probably due to the bacteria having metabolized the gluten and thus destroying the network that retains the gases and gives structure to other breads.  The metabolites of this nitrogenous compound may well be the source of the cheese-like aroma.
   Do not use any product that has a live culture in it such as sweet acidophilus milk, yogurt, or buttermilk.  Or, at least scald (190°F) such a product to kill any active organisms.  The organisms may be antagonistic to the leavening organism.  Do not add any acid product at any stage.
   Be careful of preservatives that may be in the various ingredients.  They may kill the leavening organism.  Salt is a preservative; too much will slow or stop the leavening process.  Since the bacterium is anaerobic, avoid beating air into the starter, the sponge, and the dough.
   If at any time in the process the product does not appear to be working, i.e., generating the gases needed for proper rising and having a cheese-like aroma, discard it, and start over.  The starter must generate a good deal of foam, the sponge must also foam, and the dough must at least double in bulk.  The most likely cause for failure is either too high or too low a temperature during proofing.
Do not overproof the loaf – let it rise until it is just above the top of the loaf pan.  Do not slash the top of the loaf.
   Jenny Bardwell & Susan Brown, eHow Presenters, made a good video on methods for making sourdough bread.  See: http://www.ehow.com/video_2340947_salt-rising-bread-recipe.html

Ford


foot notes:


(1)  H. A. Kohman,1953 Baking Industry: http://home.comcast.net/~petsonk/SRB03.10a_files/Page416.htm


(2)  Reinald S. Nielsen, http://www.nyx.net/~dgreenw/whatissaltrisingbread.html


(3)  http://home.comcast.net/~petsonk/SRB03.10a_files/Page416.htm

Doc Tracy's picture
Doc Tracy

I realize this is a fairly established cultural bread. Are there any reported intestinal illnesses with it? The reason I ask is that I once had both a potbelly pig and a dog who had a chronic diarrheal illness. The pig died and the dog was sick for quite awhile with the disease. They both had C.perfringens. The pig, on autopsy, had necrotic(dead) patches and ulcerations throughout her small bowel.


Clostridum difficile is a terrible gastrointestinal disease, which I've had the pleasure to experience myself. It now mutates and has become a "super bug", often resistant to antibiotics.  Clostridium botuli is botulism. Tetanus is also a clostridium, as is gangrene. (I think maybe gangrene is c. perfringens but I can't remember for sure).


As a health professional, I really don't like the clostridium species. They're pretty nasty little spore forming bacteria. Highly resistant to very high temperatures, able to become resistant to drugs and love anareobic environments. Tend to really like dirty places like our bowels too.


I'm glad you like this bread and hope you find a way to produce it reliably. Somehow, cheesey, stinky clostridium filled bread is just not that appetizing to me. I just can't get that excited about it. I am, however, going to do some research on the process.


Thanks for sharing.


Tracy

Ford's picture
Ford

As you reported at the above site there are no cases reported where anyone has contracted any disease from eating or making salt rising bread.  The above site also refers to a publication from the West Virginia University School of Medicine stating the same thing, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18646681/.  I urge everyone who has reservations about the safety of this bread to read the abstract of that publication.


The bacteria is so common that apparently a large number of vegetative products contain the spores of this bacterium.  See:  Reinald S. Nielsen
http://www.nyx.net/~dgreenw/whatissaltrisingbread.html.  With the bacteria being so prevalent, we should all be dead, were  it dangerous.


 

Doc Tracy's picture
Doc Tracy

Although it is not linked to salt rising bread per se, this bacteria does cause necrotiizing enterocolitis, which is what my pot belly pig died from and what I treated my scotty dog for.


As was explained to me by Colorado State Vet Hospital, this is not a terribly common disease and most people/animals have c.perfrigens to some extent in their bowels. However, if you for whatever reason have an upset in your normal flora or lowered immune system (and I have no way to explain what happened to the pig and dog), or you happen to run across an especially virulent strain of the bacteria, you can succomb to this horrible disease. I also watched a horse die from sepsis with C.perfrigens after an abscess had been opened on his hindquarters. The suffering that he went through from the toxic overload was the most horrible death I'd ever seen in all of my farm/small animal experience. (which is pretty extensive)


Since neither my pig or dog had been on antibiotics, had cancer or any other immune disorder and hadn't eaten any salt rising culture the only explanation was that they picked up a super virulent strain from the environment/kennel or food. Pretty scarey when you think about it. I could have gotten the same, considering they were in the house, eating table scraps and handled by me daily. (not to mention cleaned up after)


Personally, growing any sort of clostridium on purpose is not something I plan on playing with, although I would be curious to try some of the bread if baked by someone else. I just don't want the culture in my house. I'll stick to my botox injections if I want to play around with clostridium. I feel pretty safe with c.botulism injected into my skin. I like to keep the botox/perfrigens and tetani family out of my food stores as much as possible.


I realize sometimes I come across as Nervous Nelly when it comes to food safety and I'm really not that way. I mean, I eat my tomatoes and peas while standing in the garden, hands covered in dirt. I'm not always perfect when it comes to putting food away immediately and sometimes I even (gasp) thaw meats on the counter-top. I might (double-gasp) use my common sense and can a high acid-low pH recipe that has not been "approved" by Ball or the USDA. But, there are some things that just don't pass my common sense screen. Growing things on purpose in the kitchen, be they salmonella, e.coli, staph, strep or clostridium cultures are something I tend to stay away from. Especially when I've personally experienced the badness of their diseases. (or seen the illness in my patients). I've personally experienced clostridium difficile (a bacteria which is becoming a powerful superbug) and hope never to be sick with something like this ever again.
Between that and my experiences with c.perfrigens I'll steer clear. Besides, something about "stinky-cheese bread" is something I can probably live without. I guess it's probably an eastern thing, acquired taste or something.


I did read somewhere that folks who'd grown up with salt-risen bread probably have some antibodies to c.perfrigens, which I thought was interesting.

Debra Wink's picture
Debra Wink

That's a pretty typical initial reaction for those of us who have worked in a health care profession, but salt-rising bread doesn't seem to pose any real threat, because these C. perfringens are not toxigenic strains.


 



C. perfringens is present throughout the natural environment, including soil (at levels of 1,000 and 10,000 CFU/g), foods (e.g., approximately 50% of raw or frozen meat contains some C. perfringens), dust, and the intestinal tract of humans and domestic animals (e.g., human feces usually contain 10,000 to 1,000,000 CFU/g). The widespread distribution of C. perfringens has been considered an important factor in the frequent occurrence of C. perfringens as an agent of foodborne illness. However, recent studies revealed that the ubiquitous distribution of C. perfringens in nature is not especially relevant for understanding the reservoir(s) for this foodborne pathogen. Notably, several independent surveys have revealed that <5% of global C. perfringens isolates harbor the cpe gene [cpe stands for Clostridium perfringens enterotoxin]. Only CPE-positive C. perfringens isolates cause foodborne illness; hence, the fact that most C. perfringens isolates are cpe negative indicates that determining the specific locations where the small minority of enterotoxigenic C. perfringens isolates exist in the natural environment is essential for identifying the reservoirs of C. perfringens type A foodborne illness.


~ Food Microbiology Fundamentals and Frontiers



 


Apparently, the usual materials (often potatoes or cornmeal) used to inoculate the starter simply are not among those specific locations. This bread is certainly not new, so if there were a real danger, I think it would have been well-documented by now.


-dw

swtgran's picture
swtgran

Quart size yogurt makers provide the perfect environment for cultivating this starter.

ezarecor's picture
ezarecor

Do you have any photos of your bread?  I'm curious to see the results as I've never seen, nor eaten salt risen bread.

Ford's picture
Ford

Here are some shots of my bread.  It was slightly overproofed as you can see from the sliced bread.


Salt Rising Bread proofed


Proofed and in the oven.


 



Baked and sliced.  The dough spilled over the pan slightly showing it was slightly overproofed -- still good.


Ford


 


 


 

Doc Tracy's picture
Doc Tracy

Is the texture sort of like wonderbread? Very dense, closed? There was someone on here recently looking for a substitute for wonderbread. Perhaps would be good for her? I can see why it would be a good toast as it would hold all the goodies on it.

Ford's picture
Ford

The texture is more like a heavy cake, e. g. pound cake.

greg sutherland's picture
greg sutherland

I have a question about the starter recipe. In the ingredients, there is no mention of salt but in the written process instructions you mention adding salt along with the sugar and other ingredients. How much salt?


 


greg

Ford's picture
Ford

I noticed the same thing as I was starting my culture this morning.  The amount of salt is minimal at this point -- 0 to 1/4 teaspoon. This morning I used 1/4 teaspoon of soda instead of salt -- just to keep the culture on the basic side of neutral pH.  I wish you luck.


Ford

greg sutherland's picture
greg sutherland

Well, after 6 previous attempts using other recipes, I finally used yours and got a great starter, and sponge. I placed the 3 loaves in the pans following instructions and they rose to the top of the pans. About 10 minutes into the baking I could see the tops were browning too fast and they started to develop cracks. I have to assume that the 450 deg. oven might be too high a temperature. I got almost an 1" of oven spring on each loaf. Is this normal. Any suggestions on how to prevent the cracking and premature browning?


Thanks for getting me this far.


Greg


 


 

Ford's picture
Ford

I think you were right in lowering the temperature.  Check your oven with a thermometer, dial settings and temperature do not always agree.  Also be sure you have waited at least 15 minutes after coming to temperature before adding the dough.  There is usually a lot of temperature swing in the initial heating.  Also you might want to spray a little water on the top of the dough during the first five minutes of baking, say once every two minutes.  This might help the cracking of the crust.  I do not usually have a problem with cracking with salt rising bread.  Could you have used too much flour?  I use the conversion that one cup of AP or bread flour weighs 4.3 oz (~120 gram).


Ford

carowby's picture
carowby

I've attempted this recipe with rather mixed results, and so would like to give it a try once more.  After reading the recipe through for my second go, I've noted some discrepancies between the ingredient list and the starter instructions.  The ingredient list reads: 


2 medium, raw, peeled, thinly sliced potatoes (~8 oz,)
1 quart (32 oz.) boiling water
1/3 cup cornmeal (1.5 oz.)
1 Tbs. (0.5 oz.) sugar
2 Tbs. (0.5 oz.) unbleached flour


 ...and the starter instructions read:


Put the thinly sliced potatoes in a large bow (about 2 1/2 quarts), and then pour in boiling water.  Sprinkle on the sugar, salt, and cornmeal.  Do not stir.  Cover the bowl.  At this point, the temperature of the mixture will be about 150°F.  Place the bowl in a warm (about 100 to 110°F) spot where the temperature remains fairly steady.  Let it sit undisturbed for about 20 hours.  The starter should then be foaming, with some corn meal and perhaps even a few slices of potato floating.  It should have a strong cheese-like aroma.  Remove the potato slices and discard them.


 Now to my confusion:  flour is mentioned in the ingredient list, but never mentioned in the instructions....   and, salt is never mentioned in the ingredient list, but is mentioned in the instructions.  So, to my question...  what am I to do with the salt and the flour and at what amounts??? 


Thank you in advance...


Carowby


 

Ford's picture
Ford

Hello Carowby,


I did make those omissions, and I apologize.  The recipe is undergoing some revisions. 


Add the flour at the same time as the cornmeal, sugar and salt.  The salt is not really essential.  I have been having trouble, myself, with getting the starter going.  It is not as easy as the following video indicates.


http://www.ehow.com/video_2340947_salt-rising-bread-recipe.html


This does require more patience than sourdough, but the toast from the bread is great!


Ford