Good morning. It’s me, Renee Ryan, taking a break from yet another deadline. I have a giveaway, more on that below. In the meantime, I left my heroine in the kitchen. She’s attempting to make bread in that dang new oven of hers. What she doesn’t know yet, and what I only just discovered as I researched for this blog, is that until a baker became used to the new cooking gadget in the ranch house (AKA the oven), her attempts at baking bread often went astray. First attempts were often described in personal diaries as well-done bricks and were nearly impossible to cut with a knife.
Today, my heroine is attempting to make Sylvester Graham Bread. In the mid-1800s, Sylvester Graham advocated the use of whole grain in baked goods. His reasoning was that the whole berry contained nutrients, so why sift it out? His product was called “graham flour” and was only sought out by those rare few seeking healthy foods. Fashion dictated “pure” white flour, even though most couldn’t afford it.
Although similar to whole wheat flour, it’s not completely the same. Graham flour is still available in health food stores. The special milling of this modern-day version is more true to the Old West, and produces a denser loaf of bread. So, if you want to try this recipe and wish to stay authentic to the Old West, you might want to hop over to the health food store and purchase a sack of graham flour.
Here’s my favorite recipe for Sylvester Graham Bread from the Old West Baking Book by Lon Walters.
BAKING TIME: 30-35 minutes
OVEN TEMPERATURE: 375 degrees
2 cups warm water
¼ cup molasses
1 cup sourdough starter
2 cups graham flour
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups graham flour
Mix sponge ingredients. Stir well, place in a nonmetal bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Set aside until mix is bubbling, about 8-12 hours.
To make bread, add salt and flour to the fermenting sponge. Knead the dough for about 10 minutes until elastic, or until the dough bounces back when poked. Let rise in a warm spot until double in bulk. Punch down dough. Knead lightly a few times more to get the remaining gas out. Divide the dough in half ad form into round loaves. Place on a well-greased cookie sheet and let rise again until double in bulk. Slash the top gently with a very sharp knife. Place in preheated oven for 30-35 minutes until loaves are brown and sound hollow when “thunked” with your finger.
Wow, that’s a lot of work, right? Can you imagine going through all that and then having to start over because your first attempt was a well-done brick? Anybody willing to try out this recipe? I might, when my book is done. Or maybe I’ll drive across town to my favorite bakery. Seems way easier.