“Home Made Yeast” Pt. 2

Note: we are currently cooking through the Woman Suffrage Cook Book. You can find a PDF version here. You can read my introduction on it here.

To begin with, I really need you guys to know that I am writing the word “homemade” as it is written in the recipe. I spend a lot of my time proofreading my writing, and this has been getting under my skin.

Before I decided on experimenting with yeast, I found a recipe for oatmeal bread I wanted to try. I realized I was quickly nearing the end of the breads section, and if I wanted to try out the yeast with one of these recipes, it was now or never. I decided to combine the recipes and bake two versions: one using the potato yeast and the other using active dry. Looking back, it may have been better to use a recipe I already understand, but I am not a scientist, and I have no clue of what I’m actually doing.

I used the yeast the day after it was supposed to be ready, and while it separated quite a bit, it smelled like bread! This gave me hope that a) this might actually work and b) I wouldn’t poison myself. Like Lucy Stone suggested, I stirred it well so it was all incorporated before scooping it out.

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Now on to the bread! The recipe reads:

Oatmeal or Rice Bread
Two cups cooked oat meal, or rice, salt to taste, two tablespoons of sugar, one cup of sweet milk, one-third cup yeast, flour to make it stiff.
S. Louise Simonds.

I decided this would be a good recipe for the yeast because the measurement didn’t seem standard. It was a little more believable to imagine people using homemade yeast for it.

I made six servings of old-fashioned oatmeal on the stove following the instructions (I would include pictures, but it quickly went from a rolling boil to a volcanic eruption, and I had to shut that down pretty quickly). I let it cool for a few minutes and put it in a bowl and stirred in the milk.

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With the yeast, I added a little more than a third of a cup because I had no faith.

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I then put the bowl on the scale and started adding the flour. Six hundred grams seemed to be the right amount. At that point, it was “firm,” or workable. Once it was well-combined and smooth(ish), I set it aside.

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And then, I started to repeat the process only with active dry yeast. I warmed the milk and added the yeast until it started to bubble. This took around ten minutes.

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I combined the rest of the ingredients, used the same amount of flour again, and kneaded. I cleaned two bowls, buttered them, added dough, and used a dry-erase marker to note where each dough started.

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I set a timer for twenty minutes so I could check on their rise. As expected, the active dry had a good start.

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I used the finger-dent test from Ken Forkish’s book, Flour Water Salt Yeast, to check when it was ready. As he writes, “To do the test, poke the rising loaf with a floured finger, making an indentation about 1/2 inch deep. If it springs back immediately, the loaf needs more proofing time. If it springs back slowly and incompletely, the loaf is fully proofed and ready to bake. If the indentation doesn’t spring back at all, the loaf is overproofed.”[1] At around two hours, the active dry was ready to go. It had doubled, and the loaf sprang back slowly. The homemade version? Ehh…not so much.

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I took it out of the bowl and placed it on our floured table (side note: Bryce built me this beautiful table, and I think I’ve filled every crook and cranny with flour. He’s the best, and I’m a slob).

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I formed it into a loaf, placed it in a buttered loaf pan (I used a glass 1.5 Pyrex) and placed it under a towel to rise again. Meanwhile, I preheated the oven to 375°.

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It was ready to go thirty minutes later.

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I set a timer for twenty-five minutes, and about halfway through, I had that “oh, shoot!” moment of realizing I hadn’t added butter to the top, so I threw it on real quick. The bread took maybe forty minutes, and I baked it until it was a nice golden brown on top and sounded hollow when I knocked on the top.

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We sliced it up. It was admittedly a little under-baked, but it still tasted great with some butter on top. It was a hearty bread that, with some tweaks, would be good with breakfast.

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So, that was the control loaf. At this point, the homemade hadn’t seemed to improve at all. It seemed like a bust, honestly, but I had resolved to give it twenty-four hours before giving up. We went on with the rest of our night. After putting the kids to bed, we hung out a bit, watched some Netflix, and made some cocktails (Friday nights when you have two young kids are lit). At some point, I went in to look at the bread, and IT SPRANG BACK SLOWLY AND BEAUTIFULLY!!! This was eight hours after the original start. While it hadn’t risen much, it did bulk out and fill the bowl.

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I repeated the earlier process. Again, it felt fully proofed within a half hour.

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This took a long, long time to bake. I started the timer for twenty-five minutes and had to keep putting it back in. It took around fifty minutes total. But hey, look at that lift!

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Okay, so on to the taste test. We sliced this loaf open only to realize it was so doughy on the inside. This is totally user-error. But it did throw off the taste a bit. The potato starter didn’t seem to negatively affect the flavor, however.

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Final Thoughts

I don’t think this was the right recipe to test this with, and I should have realized this from the beginning. I do think it was successful based off rise alone. But I’m too much of a novice breadmaker to really have a handle on going rogue with a starter. As I stated earlier, I plan on doing a final post to address what went well and what could be improved. I have a recipe I’ve done maybe a dozen times for a sourdough bread that I will substitute this yeast with before I go live with that post. That will give me a better handle on all the rise and bake times, and I think that will let me gauge the taste a little better. I kind of hate leaving it on this note because the failures with this experiment were all mine, but I guess that’s the point of this blog.

So, I’m going to say this was a success, but I’ll give the final verdict by the end of this week.

Sources:

Ken Forkish. Flour Water Salt Yeast: The Fundamentals of Artisan Bread and Pizza. (New York: Ten Speed Press. 2012). 74.

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“Home Made Yeast” pt. 1

Note: we are currently cooking through the Woman Suffrage Cook Book. You can find a PDF version here. You can read my introduction on it here.

You guys, I am really excited about this post! Because it’s going to be a longer one, I’ll break this into three parts. This first post will look strictly at the recipe and the steps taken, the second will compare the results with a recipe using active dry yeast, and the third will look at why it may have been successful/unsuccessful and how it all works.

In the Woman Suffrage Cookbook, there is section in the middle of the breads with homemade yeast recipes. After browsing through several of them, I picked one and checked the name beneath. It was from…..

…Lucy Stone Blackwell! This is our first submission from a big name from the suffrage movement. As Elizabeth Cady Stanton said, “Lucy Stone was the first speaker who really stirred the nation’s heart on the subject of woman’s rights.” Stone served as an editor for the Woman’s Journal (the publication through which this cookbook was distributed) and a lecturer on suffrage and abolitionism. [1] She was kind of the OG.

History lesson is over. Let’s get on to the recipe!

Home Made Yeast.
Boil a heaping quart of loose hops (or if they are pressed, two ounces) in one gallon of water, strain it, when it is cold put in a small handful of salt, and a half pound of sugar, then take a pound of flour and rub it smooth with some of the liquor, after which make it thin with more of the same liquor, and mix all together, let this stand twenty-four hours; then boil and mash three pounds of potatoes and add to it, let it stand for twenty-four hours more; then put it in a bottle or a tight vessel, and it is ready for use, Shake the bottle before using. It should be kept in a warm place while it is making, and in a cool place afterward.
Lucy Stone.

So, first stop was finding the hops. Bryce has done some homebrewing in the past, so I went to one of his favorite shops: Happy Hop Homebrew and Gourmet in Belleville, Illinois. I explained this project to the owner, and he was super helpful. He asked what region this would have been centered in so he could get me a more authentic variety. I’d like to think this gave him an opportunity to nerd out over something he’s passionate about. In the end, he recommended the Kent Golding Whole Hops from the company, Artisan Hops.

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When I got home, I measured out a little more than a quart and put it in a gallon of water and then brought it to a boil. The recipe didn’t specify a time, so I judged it by the color of the water. When it reached a deep amber about fifteen minutes later, I pulled it off the heat, let it cool for maybe fifteen minutes more, and then strained it into a big bowl.

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The hops were weirdly beautiful.

After this, I let the “liquor” cool for around two hours while I picked up my toddler from preschool and made dinner. Then, I measured out a “small handful of salt” as well as half a pound of sugar. I whisked them all together.

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And then, I completely ignored the directions!

With this blog, I try to measure and note everything. I originally thought that I was taking some of the liquor, mixing it with flour until it became a doughy consistency and then thinning it out more. I added two cups of flour to a bowl, mixed in some liquor, and stirred. While I was working on it, it looked like a sourdough starter. I figured I could use as much of the liquor as needed and discard the rest. After it was all mixed and put aside, I reread and realized it actually called for a pound of flour to be incorporated with the entire mixture. I mumbled to myself and backtracked by taking the weight of two cups of flour. Thankfully, it was half a pound, so I was able to add this to the rest and mix it together. And that’s how I got this vomit-looking mixture!

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Pretty.

My guess is that you gradually add the liquid to ensure it mixes properly. Unfortunately, my more renegade method left it a little lumpy. My fault. I know.

After this, I was done for the night. The next morning, I checked on it, and there were a few bubbles going.

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Nothing crazy. I had covered this with a towel over the night, and I realized that once I took the towel off the next day while getting everything else ready, it went crazy,

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Right before I did the rest.

Then came the potato part. This was weird to me, but I looked it up, and potato starters are totally a thing. Emeril had a tutorial that I consulted for extra guidance. I went with Idaho Russets and peeled them. I then quartered them and added them to boiling water. Once they were tender (maybe fifteen minutes later?), I took them out and used my handy dandy Dutch whisk to mash them up (you guys, I love this thing). I stirred them all together, and voila.

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It was weird. It was much more watery than I expected. Like almost completely liquid. Because the mixture was so large (I seriously need to just halve all these recipes), I had to replace our original bowl with a stockpot. Side note: I would like to see the bowls women used in the 1880s because they must have been huge.

Then, I let it sit overnight.

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The next day, it was incredibly bubbly…and incredibly stinky. It reminded me of the time I walked into lab following our teacher boiling a cabbage for an experiment. At the time, I was certain it was the worst smell on earth. This starter wound up being a strong competitor.

This worried me a little. The starter didn’t smell rancid, but it was pungent. I know there’s the whole rationale of “well, people did it this way for years and were just fine!”, but I take issue with that. People did die of botulism and foodborne illness. I didn’t really want to subject my family to food poisoning, especially since we’re down to one bathroom currently.

I looked more into similar starters. Most potato starters stayed at room temperature for at least a day. There didn’t seem to be anything immediately perishable with it. I know I’m probably overly paranoid about all this. but it stresses me out. I don’t know a ton about food science, so I would much rather err on the side of caution. Anyway…

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You guys need to know I use this joke regularly and think I’m hilarious.

I used a ladle and put what I could fit of the mixture into the biggest mason jar we had, constantly stirring because of the separation. I put on a lid without the neck and stuck it in the fridge until I was ready to use it the following day.

Initial thoughts: I documented it all on my Instagram stories and received a message about how much of a process it was. It was a little labor intensive, and it did require a trip to a specialty shop, but it took less time from start to completion than a standard starter. The sourdough starters I’ve made in the past required lots of diligence and took several weeks to produce a decent loaf. This was done within two days.

Now, we’ll just have to see whether or not it actually works!

 

 

References:
[1]Louise W. Knight. “Review: Rediscovering Lucy Stone.” The Woman’s Review of Books. Vol. 21, No. 3 (Dec., 2003). 16.

Brown Bread

Note: we are currently cooking through the Woman Suffrage Cook Book. You can find a PDF version here. You can read my introduction on it here.

Following the last recipe, the cookbook had five recipes for brown breads. These recipes tend to use cornmeal (listed as Indian meal), rye meal, baking soda, and molasses, and they all are steamed. I had never heard of steaming bread before. There is a method in bread making where you put either ice cubes or water on the rack beneath the dough to improve the crust, but these are soft breads that don’t use yeast, so I figured that probably wasn’t it. I looked up 19th century steamers and learned a lot about steam engines but still had no clue. Finally, I found this article that gave a bit more background as well as an easy tutorial on making your own version using things around the house. I had planned on making some pizza this weekend anyway, so I bought two giant cans of San Marzano tomatoes, dumped the contents into a Tupperware container, beat down any sharp edges, and washed them out.

Now, on to the bread. I chose the following recipe:

Brown Bread.
Two cups of Indian meal, two cups of rye meal, one cup of flour, one large cup of molasses, one teaspoonful of soda. Mix soft with warm water. Steam for five hours.
Mrs. Zilpha H. Spooner

So, easy enough. I decided to halve the recipe this time because a) we do not have ten kids and b) there’s a note on the bottom that stated three cups of flour/meal would fill two twenty ounce cans, and I wanted to make sure we weren’t getting too crazy. I also used cornmeal with a medium grind and dark rye flour, both from Bob’s Red Mill.

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I added the ingredients in the order they were listed. While it didn’t seem to be too consequential, I should have mixed the dry ingredients, including the baking soda, together first. Once the molasses was in (which, by the way, took about twenty minutes to measure and add. I totally get the phrase “slow as molasses” now), it was so hard to stir. It was like a paste. And it smelled so bad. Maybe if you like black licorice, it’s fine, but I am not one of those people, and I gagged a little.

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Three weeks later…

I then added warm water until it was batter(ish?). This wound up being about a half a cup.

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I’m just not going to comment on what this looks like…

Now on to the jerry-rigging! I was actually excited to try this. The site I mentioned earlier commented on how this was a common way to cook because not everyone had stoves. That made sense, and I might look into this more later. Anyway, I used the rings from mason jar lids to prop up the “bread pans,” boiled water separately, and once the water boiled, I added it to the stock pot and covered it. And then, I waited.

 

 

The recipe said to steam for four hours, but it was ready in an hour and twenty minutes (I found this out by sticking in a toothpick and making sure it came out dry). And after five minutes, I was ready to test it. I slid it out of the can while my three-year-old watched. We both tried a piece together, and oh my gosh, it was so bad. Just…horrid. It was dense (maybe I needed more water), gritty (maybe I should have used a finer grind or cornmeal), and the taste was terrible.

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Fresh-canned goodness.

Bryce came home right at this time, so like a loving wife, I made him try it. He agreed with me on the texture, but he didn’t mind the taste, and my son ate maybe four pieces. I think it really comes back to the licorice thing. Molasses is a common ingredient in black licorice, and apparently, Bryce likes the taste (and apparently, I married a monster). While they kept eating it, I could barely stomach one bite. I’m literally grimacing as I write this.

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Thank the Lord my hair is hiding the face I’m making here.

Maybe I just don’t like brown bread? I don’t know. But honestly, I don’t think it’s something I want to try again. I know, I know. If I do an experimental food blog, I should like experimenting with food. And I will. But I think this area has been sufficiently tested. We’re done. Pack it up.

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So final verdict: This recipe was an easy one to replicate with the proper sources, and I’m sure you could make it in a buttered bread pan and bake it at 350 similar to a banana bread. The lack of detail made it hard to gauge how much water was necessary. The texture wound up strange, and the taste was…you know what, don’t ask me about the taste.

Now, if you don’t mind me, I’m going to sneak my kid’s Easter candy and just forget about tonight.

 

On Flour

One of my first questions when it came to these bread recipes was what kind of flour to use. I wasn’t sure what flour would have looked like at this point, and Bryce suggested using a mill attachment we have for our KitchenAid. We figured this would have been more authentic, but in the end, I decided to use all-purpose. As it turns out, this was a good choice because it is likely what would have been used by bakers in the 19th century. Point one for me.

So, if you came for that simple answer, you can go home now. But if you’re interested in the process of it, read on, because we’re about to get really nerdy.

To understand a little more about what this process would have been like, let’s first break down how flour is produced today. We’ll do this using a book I cannot recommend enough—Harold McGee’s On Food and Cooking. A wheat kernel is made up of three parts—the bran, the germ, and the endosperm. The endosperm is full of protein, which allows for a stronger gluten to form. The endosperm is essentially what we are buying when we buy your average, white, all-purpose flour. Conventional mills break apart the kernels and separate them, and the process of refining the flour puts the endosperm through a sieve to ensure that not even particles of the germ or bran remain. While all-purpose is easier to bake with, whole wheat flours, which are made up of all three parts of the kernel, contain far more nutrients and provide a richer flavor. If we were to use the attachment I mentioned earlier, this is what we would end up with.[1]

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Diagram of a wheat kernel courtesy of King Arthur

Mechanized mills have been in America since before the Revolution. To give you an idea, George Washington had one near Mount Vernon that his father built in 1734[2] (if you’re interested, the Mount Vernon YouTube channel has a video demonstration. It’s long, but it’s also interesting to see this technology). Another word for this mill is a “grist mill,” and if you’ve ever seen a huge water wheel next to a picturesque stone or wooden building, you’ve seen one. People would commonly come and have their own grain milled, and the owner of the structure would keep a portion of this flour as payment. In the late 1700s, a man named Oliver Evans came along and revolutionized mills by publishing a book entitled The Young Millwright and Miller’s Guide. This included a patent for an automated mill and provided detailed instructions, allowing flour makers around the young country to step into the future.[3] His work was significant because it dramatically cut down on labor, and the instructions cut out so much of the trial-and-error mills typically experienced when starting out.

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Oliver Evans’s mill design courtesy of Penn State

As the country grew, so did the number of mills. Flour became a top commodity in general stores. As one study of Baltimore shows, often these merchants would be millers themselves. They were able to treat the flour with care and find ways to improve the quality, such as drying the flour to increase its shelf-life.[4] The invention of the railroad only added to the availability of milled flour.

So, I know this is getting a little boring, but I swear, we’re almost done. Americans kind of took the easy way out with their methods at this time. We were concerned with how much we could produce. Meanwhile, those snobs over in Europe were a little more careful, milling their flour more than once, leaving a better flour. The French purifying method was brought over by Cadwallader C. Washburn in 1871. This “new-process” method was popularized by the Pillsbury family and purified the flour by passing the broken kernels through several screens, removing more of the bran and the germ.[5] And if you recall from the beginning, that means the Pillsbury family introduced America to refined flour.

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Washburn Flour Mills. The original structure burnt down in 1878. Postcard courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society.

Milling has faced several changes since then, but we are now at the bottom of our question. Women in the 1880s would have likely used mass-produced, refined, all-purpose flour. The crumb from our test would have been what theirs would have looked like.

There’s more information than you probably ever wanted to know about American flour milling. Take this and go be the life of the party.

 

Sources

[1]Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen. Scribner, New York. 2004. 529.

[2] Peterson, Arthur G. “Flour and Grist Milling in Virginia: A Brief History.” The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography 43, no. 2 (1935): 97-108. http://www.jstor.org.ezproxy1.lib.asu.edu/stable/4244636.

[3] Del Sordo, Stephen G. “Work in Progress: Eighteenth-Century Grist Mills: Some Chester County, Pennsylvania Examples.” Perspectives in Vernacular Architecture 1 (1982): 65-78. doi:10.2307/3514268. 65.

[4] Sharrer, G. Terry. “The Merchant-Millers: Baltimore’s Flour Milling Industry, 1783-1860.” Agricultural History 56, no. 1 (1982): 138-50. http://www.jstor.org.ezproxy1.lib.asu.edu/stable/3742305.

[5] Gage, Fran. “Wheat into Flour: A Story of Milling.” Gastronomica 6, no. 1 (2006): 84-92. doi:10.1525/gfc.2006.6.1.84.

 

Breads

Note: we are currently cooking through the Woman Suffrage Cook Book. You can find a PDF version here. You can read my introduction on it 

The introduction of the Woman Suffrage Cook Book states that the recipes are “thoroughly tested and reliable.” Notice how they didn’t state they were “descriptive” or “easy to follow.” Many of these recipes rely on the audience’s ability to fill in missing information. In the late 19th and early 20th century, this was a fair assumption. Women were raised to know how to cook so they could someday take care of their own families. For the home cooks of today, however, it’s a different story. Our recipes are filled with information, and many blogs have picture after picture so that there’s little guesswork. I’ve spent an embarrassing amount of time wondering what the heck to do when I stumble on a missing step. I’m sure it’s similar to how the Israelites felt wandering through the desert.

While I’m still a novice, I’ve practiced bread making over these past few years and have learned a few things. For starters, precise measurements are vital for good results. I’ve started measuring my ingredients by weight because even volume measurements can be unreliable. Secondly, time is everything. Too long or too short of a proof can result in a poor rise. That’s why these recipes are so frustrating for a modern cook. They seem to be written as a suggestion rather than a rule. “Well, I guess you can, like, add the yeast or whatever. Just follow your heart.”

But people have been making bread for thousands of years. Even women on the trails included snippets in their journals about baking bread over a fire for their fellow pioneers. Our current access to scientific and precise recipes are a bit of a luxury at the end of the day.

The first recipe in the cook book attests to this. It instructs the reader to pour boiled milk over an unspecified amount of flour and stir until it has the consistency of “what our grandmothers called ‘popped ribbons.'” (I googled this phrase. It took me to videos of people popping zits. Don’t google this phrase…unless you’re into that sort of thing. And if that’s the case, I’m kind of judging you). It states to complete two rises without stating how long they should take.

In the end, I settled on the second recipe in the book on page 1. It reads as follows:

Bread.
Dissolve an ounce cake of Fleischmann’s, or some other good compressed yeast, and a teaspoonful of salt, in a quart of lukewarm wetting–either milk, or water, or milk and water in equal proportion–and gradually stir in flour with a wooden spoon until the dough is of sufficient consistency to be turned or lifted from the bowl in a mass. Add flour as desired, until it can be worked without sticking to the molding board or the fingers, then put in a warm earthen bowl, well greased, cover with a bread towel and blanket, and set to rise till light, which, if kept at a temperature of 75 degrees, will be in about three hours. As soon as sufficiently light, form into loaves or rolls, put into greased pans, cover as before, and again set to rise for an hour, or until light, and then back. The surface of the dough should be lightly brushed with melted butter before it is set to rise, to keep it from becoming dry and hard, and the oven should be at the proper temperature when the bread is put in it, and should be kept so during the entire period of baking. If this recipe is strictly followed and the yeast and flour are of good quality, it will invariably produce sweet, nutty-flavored, delicious bread and rolls.
Mrs. Emma P. Ewing

The first obstacle I had was to figure out what was meant by an ounce cake of yeast. Most recipes today use a packet of active dry or instant yeast which is 2 1/4 teaspoons. I decided to go by weight, but after pouring in spoon after spoon, I decided to re-evaluate. According to this page from Bob’s Red Mill, compressed yeast is still around today and is far more perishable than active dry and provides a sweeter taste. An ounce cake would be equivalent to a packet of active dry yeast, so I went with the latter since I had it on hand.

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For the “lukewarm wetting,” I went with the combination. I heated two cups of milk on the stove until it was body temperature and combined it with two cups of warm water in the biggest bowl we had. Then, I sprinkled the yeast on top and waited five minutes.

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Check out those bubbles! I added the salt after this because I looked over at the salt on our shelf in a panic and realized I had forgotten it. Never forget the salt in your bread. Trust me. I’ve done it, and it made me hate everything.

So, here was the hard part. I grabbed our flour bin, put the bowl on the scale to try to gauge an accurate weight, and started adding cup after cup…after cup…after cup of flour. It was an obscene amount. After each cup, I used my Dutch whisk to incorporate it all. After around ten cups, I gave up measuring the weight and started add flour gradually as needed until it became workable.

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Can you see why this setup didn’t quite work out?

I literally emptied out our flour bin. It took around eleven-and-a-half cups in total. I then cleaned this bowl, buttered it, and put the monster back in.

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I did appreciate the rise times. Thanks, Emma! Within an hour, the dough was to the rim of the bowl. Halfway through, I punched it down a few times (this releases gasses and allows for a better crumb).

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Behold! I cut the dough in half, formed it into loaves, and put them in two greased loaf pans (I used Wilton’s 12×4.5×3.125 inch), then brushed melted butter on top.

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Okay, so here’s a bit of user error. The loaves were not perfect halves, but I figured the difference wasn’t big enough to matter. I was wrong. I tucked the loaves under a damp tea towel and let them go for an hour.

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At least one of them looks good! At the start of the rise, I had preheated the oven to 375° (this was a temperature I had found on multiple soft bread and roll recipes). Once the hour was finished, I added a bit more butter on top to help with the browning and set a timer for twenty-five minutes. At this time, I put our three-year-old to bed. When I came back downstairs, the house smelled wonderful. I may have done a happy dance. I just really love bread.

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They wound up baking around thirty-five minutes total. I added even more butter on top, partially because I like the finer things in life, but mostly because adding butter on top of cooling bread allows the top to soften.

In the end, I really liked this recipe! It was a great sandwich bread and tasted wonderful with…well…butter (I have a problem). Choosing to use some milk added a nice dimension. It gave it a bit of sweetness without making it unbearable. Before I share a finalized version, there are some things I would like to tweak. Firstly, it did need more salt. A teaspoon for eleven cups of flour just isn’t sufficient. I might also lessen how much I make at a time considering it’s more bread than we will ever eat as a family of four. Considering this was written for women prior to birth control, though, it does make sense why it made so much.

For a first recipe, it was semi-easy to follow and translated well to today! Good job, Emma P.!IMG_0325 (1)_edited-1

And we’re back

About a year ago, I decided to finally start on something I had dreamt about for awhile: I would cook through historic cookbooks and share the results as well as the history behind each item. I found a book entitled The Woman Suffrage Cookbook and was ready! That election night of 2016, I settled into my kitchen with my friend and some NPR so we could listen to our own piece of history play out. I tried to make croquettes and failed terribly, leaving only a mess. And I found no solace in the election results. It ended with me laying on the couch watching Parks and Rec until around 2 AM. The post never went up, and I forgot about it for a long time.

Looking back, that was probably okay (well, the blog part anyway. I’m still not okay with that election). I had just found out that the baby we had tried for for over a year was now growing in my belly, and I was applying to grad school. Now, Calvin is asleep upstairs and the last of my projects for this semester has been submitted. It’s still hectic, but I’ve accepted that.

Oddly enough, one of the projects I just submitted was a paper on the American suffragist movement–the same movement I was going to feature a year ago. While I was shifting through dozens of suffragist newsletters, I found a recipe collection in a 1918 publication of The Woman’s Journal, a paper started by Lucy Stone and her husband in the late 1800s. It was a series of recipes on how to create vegetable marmalades. And while putting that much sugar with those many green peppers sounded a little…I don’t know…unappetizing, it made me long to come back to this blog.

A lot has changed in this year, not just in my house but also in me personally. I’ve gotten better at cooking. I’ve been challenging myself to make a new bread each week, and while finals threw that out of whack, I’ve been doing pretty well. And I’ve learned a lot more about how to research. Even looking back at that first cookbook makes me laugh a little since I can correct several things (like calling American suffragists “suffragettes.” Don’t do this. I’m sure we’ll go over it later).

So I’m restarting this now. I understand it may not be as consistent as I would like, and that’s okay. I have one semester left of school before I can commit to this fully. Until then, it may be at most a recipe a week, but it’s still better than nothing (plus, I get unlimited access to my school’s library. Got to cash in on that!). I also hope to share more about my bread making adventures since I make a ton of really dumb mistakes and want to laugh about them.

So, be patient with me, I suppose. And we’ll see how this turns out.

Cooking through: The Woman Suffrage Cookbook

I’m excited to announce the first cook-through!

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Yes, yes, I know. We are all so tired of this election. But the second I saw this cookbook, I knew I had to do it. The name seemed a little like a contradiction. I don’t typically associate cookbooks with a feminist movement, but after reading this article from NPR’s Nina Martyris, it made a lot more sense. According to the article, suffrage cookbook were published as a way to spread propaganda in a way women of the day could access. Beyond this, the idea of suffragettes cooking meals for their families as well as the community’s sick counteracted the negative stereotypes passed along through images such as this:

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Image found in this delightful article

The cookbook was passed through The Woman’s Journal that featured famous contributors such as Louisa May Alcott and Lucy Stone. Some of the recipes were submitted by well-known feminists of the day, humanizing a group that was often seen as cold.

In honor of this crazy election season, I’m so excited to cook through these and learn more about the history of the suffragette movement.

If you’re interested in reading through this book a bit, here is the PDF. I’m a little anxious to see all of the dense breads that might accidentally result from this. Oh well! I guess what this is entire thing is for.

Welcome!

As a history lover, I’m forever trying to find different ways to connect with our past and make it relevant for our future. As it turns out, one of my other loves–food–is the perfect bridge. Vintage cookbooks served as a way to bring a community together. Women would use these as a tool to take care of their families as well as the sick and less fortunate. The women who used these were incredible. Whether it be the pioneers who devoted every waking second to those around them or the suffragettes who used these books as a rallying cry, women have long used food as a means to unite community around them.

The Chipped Plate will work to look through these books and tell their stories. The historian in me is going to love digging through the research to accurately tell their tale while the amateur cook will just want to give you something really fantastic to eat. I hope I can marry these together in an interesting way. The name serves to remind us that not everything old is tired and not everything imperfect is bad. These women knew what they were doing. Measurement information was not always needed, and ingredients have changed names as time has gone on. This is going to be my place to experiment in hopes of giving you a recipe that’s both delicious and unique. Join me as I bring these recipes to the present.