Funny how things come together all at one time. No sooner than I start talking about salt rising bread than some just about falls in my lap. You may remember from previous posts that salt rising bread is a peculiar hill country foodstuff leavened with a pathogenic bacteria called clostridium perfringens. Well, since it’s on every food inspector’s bad bugs list I assumed it would be illegal to produce it commercially. Turns out that ain’t so.
I was at a park with the family Saturday afternoon, watching little Josephine Pastry run through the fountains, when I happened to overhear a conversation between two women who were…well they were…oh why mince words, they were hillbillies. Anyway, I heard one say to the other “…an they makes the best salt risin’ bread.” My head snapped left: “Who makes salt rising bread?!” I asked. After a short but awkward silence they told me: a bakery not three miles from the house. My mother-in-law and I dove in the car, hit the road and snapped up a loaf five minutes before closing. Heading to the car I couldn’t wait to break some out. It looked like sandwich bread. I opened the plastic bag and took a long, deep sniff. It smelled like cheese: rank and enzymey. Cool! We each grabbed a slice and stuffed it in our mouths. It was dry, almost stale, so it took a bit of chewing to taste. But then there it was: white bread, only with an undercurrent of runny old camembert. Wild.
The thing that really caught my attention was that it tasted just like my starter smelled on the second day of fermentation. So that’s what was growing in the bowl that day. A sobering thought. Yet now it’s all been out-competed by tangy, familiar-smelling yeast and lactic acid bacteria. This stuff really works!
I can’t say I liked the bread enough to want to make it (or maybe I’m just chicken), but I did stash it in the freezer, where it will wait for next Sunday’s brunch. I’m told it makes spectacular toast.