Pioneer Bread recipe ... anyone try it?

vieja_gwFebruary 9, 2012

I got the Pioneer Bread recipe from 'Country' magazine recently & tried it as it sounded so strange & unique! Has no yeast, but instead a salt-rising formula using salt, corn meal, white flour,soda, etc. & was wondering if anyone else has tried it? It was a bit time consuming for me as I had never tried this recipe before & it took two days til ready to bake so was hesitant as to how it would turn out but I was surprised to find the bread (made three large loaves) really was good! Guess in pioneer days it would be so simple to make.

Curious if anyone else has tried this old recipe?

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What you describe sounds like Salt Rising Bread. It's one of my favorites. I'd love to see the recipe.


    Bookmark   February 9, 2012 at 7:37PM
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Nancy: yes, I think it was also referred to as: 'Salt Rising Bread'! The recipe that I downloaded is rather long but would be glad to give it to you ... but probably too long for this site. 'Country Magazine' ( may still have it under 'recipes'. I love to make the old fashioned yeast bread with three risings that my grandmother made (used bacon grease in it too... great flavor!)but she was able to get the fresh cake yeast back then which I have to use the dry packs. This new (old) recipe I tried was rather long & taking two days but I think as I get used to making it it will go faster. Really odd (to me at least!) the steps done in making it!

    Bookmark   February 9, 2012 at 8:54PM
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I have made numerous recipes for Salt Rising Bread, including one that was about the same as in your article.

The most important thing I've learned, use cornmeal that includes the germ. That is why she is saying to use a grist mill type.

Here is the recipe I've had the most success with.

Salt-Rising Bread


This makes the most incredible toast.

Recipe as written makes 4 loaves. I was successful with cutting it in half.

1 cup milk
1/2 cup sifted cornmeal
4 cups milk
1 tablespoon sugar
14 to 16 cups sifted all-purpose flour
3/4 cup shortening
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon salt
melted butter to brush tops of loaves

Scald 1 cup milk. Add sifted corn meal and cook until thick. Place in a quart jar with top and place in warm place to sour overnight. (Starter can be stored in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 weeks.) When bubbles form, it is ready to use. (I placed it in the oven with the light left on overnight, about 12 hrs)

In a saucepan, combine 4 cups of milk and 1 tablespoon sugar and heat to scalding. Cool slightly and add to the cornmeal mixture in a large mixing bowl. Gradually stir 6 cups of flour. Set in warm place to rise until double (approximately 2 hours). Next, add shortening, 1/2 cup sugar and salt. Mix well. Gradually add 6 cups of (warmed) flour and work in. Put a generous dusting of flour on board and turn dough mixture onto board. Work in more flour and knead for about 20 minutes. Divide into four equal parts and put in greased and floured 9 1/2 X 5 1/2 X 2 3/4-inch loaf pans. Brush tops of loaves with shortening and place in warm place to rise double (takes approximately 2 hours). Place in preheated 200� oven. Gradually turn heat up to 300�. Bake for 45 minutes. Take loaves out and brush tops with butter. Continue baking until done. Loaves will sound hollow when lightly tapped on bottom. Turn out on rack to cool. Total cooking will be approximately 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes.

My Notes: I had success using Bob's Red Mill organic corn flour and the AP flour I used was King Arthur's Unbleached.
Somewhere I read that making sure you used corn meal with the germ was important, much of the corn meal today is degermed.
I warmed the flour before adding it in the last part by placing it in a pan on the stove after measuring it.
The cooked corn flour was very thick, I placed it in a qt. jar with lid, then in to the oven right away for the night. This develops the wild yeast and it is important to keep between 80� and 120�.


    Bookmark   February 9, 2012 at 9:27PM
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A quick search for 'pioneer bread country magazine' and the recipe is yours to print out.
As I studied the recipe a steady, warm temperature is necessary for success.

To experiment I will use my plant starting heat tape which stays at a constant 70 degrees set on the inside bottom of a Styrofoam cooler with the bowl of rising dough placed on top of the tape. This should perform as a perfect incubator. Might be necessary to stand a cup of 80 degree water in the cooler also for additional heat if dough doesn't begin to rise. Or, those without a heat tape could just keep changing glasses of hot water in a cooler to keep a constant temperature. Once you read the recipe you should understand what I am trying to explain. Have a hunch it may work and should make the whole process easier than what is described in the original recipe.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2012 at 9:55PM
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I had a friend who made Salt Rising Bread all the time and he used his Yogourmet Yogurt Maker for the constant temperature.

I've used the recipe from "Recipes from the Old Mill" by Sarah E. Myers and Mary Beth Lind and it resembles pound cake in texture and makes lovely toast. It seems people either love this bread, or hate it.

I mill my own dent corn for the cornmeal to assure it has the germ. Fresh is best.... You'll never forget the wonderful smell of cornbread made with freshly-milled cornmeal. Even cornmeal from Bob's Red Mill can't duplicate that smell and taste.

It's been a long time since I made any, but this discussion may inspire me to make it again.


    Bookmark   February 10, 2012 at 5:21AM
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Thanks for all the suggestions! Here is the one x 'Country Magazine' (it also calls for 'soda' which I don't see mentioned in the recipes here). Also, I use a heating pad for my old yeast recipe but tried one of those long heating plates/trays w/ a thermostat for this recipe & it works great ... no dipping out cooled water & adding hot, etc.! Was funny to read the original old recipe, old phrases & the way quantities were named; I can just see a woman making this outside her covered wagon or sod hut!

DAY 1 Starter:
8 T. cornmeal
'pinch' of salt
'pinch' of 'soda'
1 tsp. sugar
Put all in pint screw cap jar (I used a Mason 2 C.jar), mix well & 'fill' (no quantity mentioned here?) with scalding water, stir well, cover & let set overnite in a warm place (I put it in a pan of warm water on the heating tray rather than having to keep dipping out cooled water & adding warm water, etc. as the original old recipe called for).

DAY 2:
In large bowl, add:
1 qt. milk (or 1/2 milk & 1/2 water)
add starter
1/2 tsp. salt
white flour to make stiff batter
Stir well & cover & I placed it in pan of warm water on the warming tray 3-4 hrs. (if slow to rise,stir again & place back on warmer)

when dough rises: add 1 tsp. salt ( again!thus I guess: 'salt bread'!)
3-4 T. shortening (I used bacon grease... probably what the pioneers used also!)
flour to make stiff dough, knead 10 mins.,put in greased loaf pans (makes 3 large loaves for me), let rise to double in size.
Bake 375 degrees 30-40 mins.; remove from oven & butter crusts well.

I hope with repeated use this recipe will be quicker for me to make!

I liked the texture but kinda missed my grandmother's bread with the 'yeast' aroma!

This made 3 large loaves for me.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2012 at 12:27PM
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Vieja, I can get the cake yeast here at a local market, both 1 and 2 oz sizes. They do need to be kept cold, but I do have a way to do that to ship to you if you like. Problem would be the cost of postage, I think. Dad gets his insulin in foam coolers with hard ice packs. It would easily hold over night UPS shipment. We've done it with Lake Erie Perch to a cousin in Simi Valley, CA, from Ohio. If you want some let me know!

    Bookmark   February 11, 2012 at 12:00PM
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Thanks so much for your offer Tami, but I will first try locally once again!

If you are able to buy it in the markets there I guess I should try again here in Albuquerque, esp. some of the health food places. How do you use the cake yeast if -say, the recipe calls for 2 pkgs. of the dry yeast? I got rid of all my cake yeast recipes since I could no longer find the cake kind.

I was surprized at how I liked the Pioneer Bread.... imagined it might taste more like sour dough but it didn't at all & does make great toast! I guess some of the 'starter' could be kept in the refr. & kept going like the Amish bread recipes?

A bit off the subject, but I have bought the frozen rolls where you put them frozen in the oven (don't need to thaw & let rise first).... how do they rise in the oven when they are put in in the frozen state & they rise & brown like the other types? Just curious!

    Bookmark   February 11, 2012 at 7:52PM
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The first trick in most commercial frozen doughs - they add more yeast than normal recipes. Recipes for home use for frozen dough also tend to have more-than-average yeast in them. As the rolls warms in the oven, the yeast doesn't die until the rolls internal temperature reaches around 140-degrees F., which will take quite awhile even at baking temperatures. So there is some time where the dough will still rise.


    Bookmark   February 12, 2012 at 6:44AM
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Thanks 'Grainlady', that extra yeast & slow warming from frozen state in the oven now makes sense to me! The recipe from 'nancy' didn't have 'soda' as one of the ingredients ... why does the one for 'Pioneer Bread' list it? Is the over night warming produce a fermentation like a sourdough? My recipe didn't taste like a sour dough! I'm new at different bread recipes other than that of my grandmother's; her's also called for scalded milk & she would only use her big crock that had a crack in the bottom.. said the bread wouldn't turn out good if she used another bowl (without a 'crack'!). My microbiology professor thought her old cracked bowl had some yeast that survived in the cracks after repeated washings & it really did make better bread for her! I love those old recipes from the past (& trying to decipher the way they described the amounts to use!).

    Bookmark   February 12, 2012 at 1:55PM
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The soda is there to neutralize (or buffer) the acidity, not for leavening like we would normally consider it. It's about the pH of the starter and something called perfringens action, which develop best in a neutral medium, not an acidic medium. The more you study bread and the science, the more there is to study....

Both salt-rising and sourdough are a type of naturally-leavened bread (which is the proper term for these kinds of breads because there are so many versions and variations), and the difference between so-called "sourdough" bread and salt-rising bread is the incubation temperatures.

Sourdough doesn't have to taste "sour". Most of commercial sourdough breads have flavor enhancers so they get a consistent-flavored product. Most commercial "sourdough" breads are made with bakers yeast, not starter, and you can buy "Instant Sourdough Flavor" from King Arthur Flour. During my grandmother's day (she was born 1890), when the naturally-leavened bread they made became "sour" tasting, they did something called "sweetening-the-pot". The bread was never called "sourdough" as it is today. Sweetening-the-pot was done by taking a small amount of starter (1 or 2 tablespoons) and building it up again by repeatedly feeding flour and water without making bread with it, until it was no longer "sour". The pH of naturally-leavened breads is more acid than bread made with bakers yeast.


    Bookmark   February 12, 2012 at 3:47PM
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grainlady: just finished making my third batch of the 'Pioneer Bread' recipe; I find the amt. of milk (liquid- one quart) in the recipe requires a lot more flour than the approx. 4 cups suggested in the recipe to make a kneading dough & I wind up getting at least four big loaves from it. Could I add less milk without other adjustments? Also, why is scalding water added to the first day mix in the jar? And what is in the recipe now for the bread to rise the next day?

I have learned so much from you on this Forum & hope my ?? don't seem too basic! When you write that even you are still learning about the science of bread making I don't feel so bad! I only want to make my grandmother's common down-to-earth Iowa farm style yeast bread but this salt-rising recipe is a 'keeper' for me too! I find using the elect. warming tray sure makes the dough rising a cinch: I have a big metal pot of the warm water on it & then just add the bowl of dough inside the pot over the warm water & cover it with a towel & the heat stays great. I also use a regular heating pad to place the bowl of dough on sometimes (when it is not being used on my aching arthritic back!!!!) but I now prefer the heating tray. In winter I used to use the warming oven on top of our ancient woodburning cookstove (had a water resevoir too!) we have but converted to a pellet stove ... cleaner, no wood to chop but no warm top for the teakettle or dough to rise either!! I have a small toaster oven that makes the best thick slices of toast from the recipes!

Thanks again for all of your help! A thick slice of the 'Pioneer Bread toasted with some groundcherry preserves from last summer would 'hit the spot' right now!


    Bookmark   March 3, 2012 at 8:30PM
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What kind of flour did you use? Gluten soaks-up hydration like a sponge and the time of year, moisture level of the flour, and the protein level are going to affect the liquid/flour ratio. When it comes to bread, recipe amounts are just a good (or bad) guess. We still need to adjust liquid/flour according to the "feel" of the dough. If you are using all-purpose flour instead of bread flour, you could adjust the liquid down a little.

Examples of amount of flour to absorb 1 c. of liquid to form a sticky dough ball in a food processor. This might help give you a general idea of how to adjust the ratio using different flour types.
(source: CookWise)

-Bread flour containing 14g protein - 2 c. + 1 T.
-Unbleached flour - 13 g. protein - 2 c. + 2 T.
-All-purpose - 12 g. protein (King Arthur, Robin Hood) 2-1/4 c.
-All-purpose - 11 g. protein (Pillsbury, Gold Medal) 2-1/3 + 1 T.
-All-purpose - 10 g. protein - 2-1/2 c.
-Southern All-Purpose - 9 g. protein - 2-1/2 c. + 2 T.

What a nifty method for dough-rising - necessity is still the mother of invention; and where there is a will, there's a way :-).


    Bookmark   March 4, 2012 at 4:26PM
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