Ricordo quando?(Remember When?)

Remember when our parents or grandparents made bread at home? I even remember my grandmother baking bread in her wood kitchen stove as a kid and I will never forget the smell. Those memories reminded me of some old, family notes I have regarding bread making I would like to share with you.

As I have mentioned in previous articles, our forefathers and mothers were, no doubt, much smarter than we are in the kitchen today. Everything was made from scratch, and if they were out of a certain ingredient or couldn’t jump in the car and run to the nearest store for yeast, they either went without or made their own. My ancestors were careful to hand-right much of their lives, from the planting, sowing, reaping, mending, soap making, child rearing and cooking. Living in solitude on Bailey Hill in Maine, if they wanted bread they started from scratch. And I mean true scratch. With no yeast around, they made their own leavening. I have 3 entries for a leavening agent that were hand written by Charlotte Bailey(1780-1869) and Bertha Bailey(1812-1887). There are a lot of misspellings(much like when I don’t proofread) and I have copied them verbatim.

“Jug Yeast”-Boil a pownd of hops in 2 galons water until strong. Strane and stir in hand full of malt flour and rub thru a cloth. Boil a a quarter longer and cool down some. Stir in a cup ful of molasses and put away where it is warm to work. Then when fizzin, bottle up tight and put away.”

“emptyins-mix a spoon of ground wheat with a half spoon molasses and 2 cupfulls of warm milk right from the cow. Puit up in crock and leave alone for a few days until it clabbers. ”

“ma biskits are made with 4 handfuls wheat mixed with 1 handful clabber’d emptyins. mix and bake.”

Italian Bread
Makes 1 loaf.

1 c. warm milk
One (1/4-oz.)envelope active dry yeast
1 c.  semolina flour
1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1 T.  brown sugar
1 T. olive oil
1 T. salt
1 egg, lightly beaten
Cooking spray
1 t. yellow cornmeal

Place the milk and yeast in the bowl of an electric mixer and allow the yeast to bloom for about 5 minutes. Using a dough hook attachment, add the both flours and sugar to the milk and mix on low speed until a dough starts to form. Drizzle the oil and salt into the dough and beat on medium speed for 8 to 10 minutes, or until a smooth, firm, elastic dough is formed.

Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl and spray the dough with a thin coating of cooking spray. Wrap the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside to proof in a warm, draft-free place for 1 1/2 hours or until doubled in size. Remove the plastic wrap, punch down and flatten the rounded dough with the heel of your hand. Roll the dough up tightly, sealing the seam well after each roll. The dough should be elongated and oval-shaped, but not as long as French bread, with tapered and rounded (not pointed) ends. Place the dough on a baking sheet dusted with yellow cornmeal. Allow the dough to proof, loosely covered with a damp towel, for 60 minutes, or until doubled in size. Brush the dough with the egg. Using a razor blade or sharp knife, score 3 (1/4-inch deep) slashes across the top of the dough at a 45 degree angle.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Bake the dough for 35-45 minutes, or until nicely browned. Allow the bread to cool slightly before serving.