Salt Rising Bread
This bread was widely made by the early settlers in the Appalachian Mountains. It is uniquely delicious in taste, texture, and aroma. Be sure to maintain the starter, sponge, and rising dough at 100°F - 105°F.
For the potato starter
- 1 large russet potato, cut into 1/4-inch slices
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon table salt
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- Boiling water to cover
For the potato water "sponge"
- 1 cup warm (100°F) water
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
For the dough
- 3-4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
For greasing the bread pans
- butter, shortening, or vegetable spray
Making the starter
Put the potato slices in a clean, quart-size mason-type jar. Use only enough slices to reach halfway up the sides of the jar. Add the sugar, baking soda, salt, and 3 tablespoons of flour. Then pour on enough boiling water to cover the potatoes. Use a chop stick or the handle of a spoon to lightly mix the ingredients. (Don't worry if clumps remain.) Add additional boiling water, if necessary, to insure potatoes are fully submerged. Cover the jar with cling film, cut a slit in the film, and place in a warm (100°F-105°F) location until the jar fills with foam -- 8-12 hours.
Making and Kneading the Dough
Generously flour a work surface.Gradually stir in 1 or 2 cups of flour into the sponge to create a rough, sticky, or "shaggy" dough. Scrape the dough onto the prepared work surface, and sprinkle more dough -- 1/2 cup or so -- onto the surfuce of the dough. Knead by hand just until the dough softens and becomes less sticky -- about 5 minutes.
Forming the loaves
Cut the dough into 2 equal pieces. Take one piece, and pat it out into a rough 9-inch rectangle. Roll the long edge into a cigar shape, and place it, seam-side-down, in a greased 9-inch bread pan. Repeat for the remaining piece of dough. Cover the pans, and let rise until the dough reaches the rim of the pans -- about 2 hours. About 20 minutes before the loaves are fully risen, center the oven rack and preheat the oven to 400°F.