Trying to build another skill today. Don'tcha just love it when the instructions give you all the steps, but leave out vital information about the particular ingredients needed?
 
Salt rising bread. Most people do not even know what it is anymore. A bread that took up residence with the settlers in the hills of eastern US, and followed the pioneers across the plains. A bread that required nothing more than heat, and the most basic ingredients, and which did not require that you keep a pot of sourdough from getting too warm or too cool.
 
Salt rising bread is named for the warm salt that it was set into in order to maintain a warm temperature to raise it. It raises much warmer than yeast breads.
 
It is an old bread. A slow bread. One that weaves itself into the rhythm of the day. It takes its time, and requires that you give it just what it wants to raise properly. Overall, NOT difficult to do, and not really finicky, though it now has a REPUTATION for being finicky because of how INGREDIENTS and EXPECTATIONS have changed.
 
The instructions I read sounded suspiciously like the person who was writing it had never done it, and wasn't quite sure why it worked sometimes and not other times. "If it doesn't work, throw it out and start over." No suggestions as to WHY it might not work.
 
 
A little additional research resolves the mystery. Industrial progress. An age old traditional recipe stops working, so someone adapts it, and the tradition goes on. Until it is swept away by the sands of progress, and everyone forgets why someone added another ingredient. And then it is revived. And people forgot why the original recipe no longer works. Well, most people forgot. But someone remembered. And recorded it. And I found the notes about it in two places. But dozens of recipes neglect this one vital fact.
 
You have to have grains to start the yeast, that have NOT been processed for extended shelf life. The germ still needs to be in the grain.
 
The recipe calls for cornmeal. All the traditional recipes do. A few add potatoes - the compensation when commercial cornmeal, and commercial flour, no longer had the germ to spark the microbial growth necessary to leaven the bread. But the potato recipes tend to be stinkier, so I wanted the original.
 
This thing, with a reputation of "finicky" because "sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't", really isn't finicky at all, you just have to have traditional ingredients, not the modern interpretation of those ingredients.
 
The contemporary recipe that I found also alters one vital element in the recipe - instructing you to cool the milk before adding it to the flour or meal - something that sounds perfectly reasonable to someone who does not understand the science of the bread, but which means the recipe ends up being far more unpredictable. No, they do not understand this bread.
 
 
This is a slow bread. People have no patience for it anymore. A three part recipe. Mix this. Keep it warm overnight (like yogurt). Add these ingredients. Keep it warm for several more hours. Mix some more ingredients in. Knead it. Shape it. Keep it warm until it has risen and is ready to bake. Bake it. Then keep it cool. So people do not understand it, in a world where bread comes from the store, and keeps indefinitely on the counter because of the preservatives. And if you do make bread, it takes 2 hours with fast rise yeast. Slow bread is unappreciated.
 
But I want to learn to make this, and help keep it from being lost. I want to gain something from it, because, like probiotic foods, this one can sometimes help with digestion.
 
The only cornmeal I have is commercially milled. Degermed. Lifeless. Useless for creating the essential starter. I have a mill, I can mill corn.
 
But I have no corn. I cannot GET corn out here except animal feed, and I don't trust it for human consumption. So I cannot do a cornmeal starter salt rising bread recipe without ordering corn online - and I don't want to wait 2 weeks. (Someone has since suggested that I mill some popcorn - I need so little for this, that it will be an acceptable solution so I can try the cornmeal starter next time.)
 
More searching to find even one example of a recipe that used only wheat flour, no corn flour.
 
 
I HAVE THIS!!! I have FRESH MILLED whole wheat flour, WITH THE GERM! And now I have the recipe. A little from this recipe, and a little from that recipe, because other than the basic procedure, the ingredients are flexible, like they are with all breads. Once we are past the yeast dependent parts of it, I'm on familiar ground. I have this. I will work it out. Somehow or other, I will find a way to get this bread made in my house!
 
It is currently incubating in my dehydrator, on a low temp, because that is the best environment that I have to maintain a temperature somewhere near 100 degrees, that does not have chicken dander in it!
 
Hopefully, in the dark of the bowl in the dehydrator, something good is awakening.
 
 
UPDATE: In the morning, a swollen mass of puffy stuff was in the bowl. I mixed up the starter with more ingredients to create a sponge, and let that raise - it was pretty moist so it raised quickly, and spilled out of the bowl in a gooey mass onto the bottom of the dehydrator. More cleanup later - I was only able to get at part of it. But the process is definitely working, it has a smell that is distinctly NOT like yeast bread, but more of a savory funk.
 
More flour, lots of butter, and some more salt were added, and the mass was kneadable. I had just barely enough flour milled to finish it without having to mill more. The dough was able to be handled without sticking to my hands. It is now in two greased breadpans, back in the dehydrator, and hopefully I will catch it before it raises into the top of the lid. The incubation chamber that I can create in my dehydrator is only about 5" in depth, so it has little room for error!
 
 
RESULT: A dense loaf of bread with a nice crumb, and a flavor that is the mild version of what we smelled when it was cooking. While cooking it smells somewhat cheesy, richly buttery, and a little sweet - yes, sometimes you CAN smell sweet!
 
A little flat. The flour I used was low in gluten, so it kind of went flat on top. Next time I will knead it more.
 
 
The Recipe
NOTE: The recipe below turned out a nice loaf. I have not tested it with degermed flour and just the wheat germ, and I have not tested it with fresh milled (germ in) flour and without the wheat germ either. Theoretically it should work either way, as long as you have wheat germ somewhere, but I'm not sure if the commercial wheat germ I used is "active" in the way it needs to be. Eventually I'll test and note it, but have not done so yet.
 
Whole Wheat Salt Rising Bread
 
 Starter

    1 cup milk
    1/2 cup fresh milled flour (Mine had germ intact. Have not tested without)
    1 tbsp wheat germ (I used Kretchmers)
    2 teaspoon sugar
    1/2 tsp salt

Sponge

    1 1/2 cups hot water
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1 teaspoon baking soda
    1 teaspoon sugar
    2 1/2 cups Flour (type of flour not picky here)

Dough

    1/2 cup  soft butter
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    3 to 4 cups Flour (type of flour not picky here)
 


Instructions
   
To make the Starter: Scald the milk - Heat it until it's nearly but not quite boiling; small bubbles will form around the edge of the pan (or microwave container), and you might see a bit of steam.
   
Put the flour, sugar, salt, and wheat germ into a non-reactive bowl, mix them together, and whisk the milk into it. Do it kind of fast with a wire whisk and it really doesn't lump.
   
Cover the bowl, and place it somewhere warm, between 90°F and 100°F. A turned-off electric oven, with the light turned on for about 2 hours ahead of time, holds a temperature of 95°F to 97°F, perfect for this starter, or a gas oven with a pilot light will do so, but I used a dehydrator set to 105 degrees.
   
Let the starter incubate overnight, or for 8 to 12 hours. This should rise up and be kind of lumpy rounded on top when it is ready. It'll also smell a bit odd.
   
For the Sponge: Combine the salt, baking soda, sugar, and flour, stirring to blend, and add water and stir until smooth.

   
Stir Starter into Sponge.
   
Cover the bowl again, and put it back to incubate again. Let it rest until very bubbly and doubled in size, 2 to 4 hours. This one is pretty runny, so if your bowl isn't big enough it may overflow!
   
Transfer your bubbly sponge to a larger bowl, or the bowl of a stand mixer.
   
Stir in the soft butter, salt, and flour. Knead until smooth, adding flour as needed, until the dough is somewhat stretchy - this dough may feel different than yeast bread dough.
   
Divide the dough into 2 parts, and shape each piece into a log, and place in a greased bread pan.
   
Put the pans back in your incubation environment to raise. Let the loaf rise until it's crowned about 1/2" to 3/4" over the rim of the pan, which takes 1-3 hours. The top will end up shaped differently, flatter than yeast breads.
 

   
Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 350°F. Because of the lower temperature, you do want to pre-heat the oven, otherwise the top may darken too much on the bread.
   
Bake the bread for 35 to 45 minutes, until it's nicely browned. It will raise less during baking than yeast breads.
   
Remove the bread from the oven. Wait 5 minutes, then turn it out of the pan onto a rack to cool.

Brush top with butter if you want.

Store cooled bread at room temperature for 5 to 7 days; freeze for longer storage.

Makes 2 loaves.