Every once in a while, I like to add some very old “receipts”(recipes) of how our ancestors prepared foodstuffs. I have been blessed with hundreds of hand-written notes left me by my Yankee ancestors as far back as the 18th century.
The Bailey’s were a literary lot. Not published, distributed or even shared, just kept within the family in order to teach their offspring how to “keep house”. but to hand down from one generation to another.
For so long ago, lard was used in all things pastry. From cakes and pie crusts to bread. “Trim the fat from the hog and intestines. Cut up and put in big brown kettle in the fire in the yard, Keep stirrin till its like water. Let the meat turn brown. Pour threw the oil linene into cracks I have in cellar”. Charlotte Bayley, 1820. This was the lard recipe for bread using her own rendering of hogs’ lard. The meat she is referring to are the bits of meat that was still clinging to the fat of the hog.
My, how the bread prepared with this hogs lard must have smelled and tasted back then. Coming in a close second is this recipe for…..
French Bread- makes 1 loaf
One (1/4-oz. pkg.) active dry yeast
1 T. sugar
1 c. warm water (about 110 degrees F.)
1 T. salt
2-2 1/2 c. flour
3 T. yellow cornmeal
1 egg mixed with 1 T. water
Using an electric mixer with a dough hook, combine the yeast, sugar and warm water and mix for 2 minutes to dissolve the yeast. Add the salt and 2 c. of the flour. With the mixer on low, mix until the dough starts to come together. Increase the speed to medium-high and mix until the dough comes away from the sides of the bowl and crawls up to dough hook. You may need to add the remaining 1/2 c. flour.
Grease a mixing bowl with the oil. Place the dough in the greased bowl and turn once. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in a warm, draft free place until the dough doubles in size, about 1-2 hours.
Remove the dough from the bowl and invert it onto a heavily floured surface. Pat into a large rectangle, about 3/4-inch thick. Roll up the dough, beginning with the short side and stopping after each full turn to press the edge of the roll firmly into the flat sheet of dough to seal. Press with your fingertips. Tuck and roll so that any seams disappear into the dough.
Sprinkle a baking sheet evenly with 1 t. of the cornmeal. Place the loaf on the baking sheet. Cover the loaf with a cloth and let rise until double in size, about 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. With a sharp knife, make diagonal slashes, about 1-inch apart, on the top of loaf. With a pastry brush, brush the egg wash evenly over loaf. Bake for 45 minutes, or until the bread is golden brown. Remove from the oven and cool on a rack. Slice to serve.