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Old 11-11-2007, 06:38 PM   #1
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Making bread dough ahead of time...

I wonder if it would be possible to make bread dough up ahead of time and store it in a cellar at around 50 degrees??

I'm writing a book about my parents growing up, and I'm trying to figure out how my dad's mother managed to feed all the farm workers at harvest time. Family and neighbors joined to help each other, and all the women brought dishes, but it was up to the lady of the house to provide the bulk of the food, two meals a day for as long as the job lasted.

I'm also trying to figure out the other things she could made in advance, with no refrigeration available except the cave (cellar) and the deep well, neither of which was below 40 degrees. I know she made cookies, pies, homemade noodles and bread, but can any of you think of other things that would keep?

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Old 11-11-2007, 07:04 PM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Constance
I wonder if it would be possible to make bread dough up ahead of time and store it in a cellar at around 50 degrees??
Yes - it's technically called retarding, which extends the time it takes a yeast leavened bread to proof (double in size) before baking ... the lower the temp the slower the yeast's metabolism - thus the slower it rises. And, the slower the proofing - the more yeasty flavor the bread develops.

I hope this helps some ....
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Old 11-11-2007, 07:35 PM   #3
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Thank you, Michael...that's kinda what I thought, but I'm not a bread maker, and I didn't know for sure.
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Old 11-11-2007, 09:08 PM   #4
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Bakeries have retarders which is really no different than your fridge.Of course your grandma may have baked the day ahead the same for pies.Who knows those women in those days seemed to have alot more energy than I do.Maybe she used a starter the day before mixed up bread the next day and baked it.I cant imagine they had access to yeast very easily Im geussing it had to be fresh which doesnt keep long.Did they have dry yeast in those days?
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Old 11-12-2007, 12:30 PM   #5
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Delving into the deep recesses of my mind. There were they didn't necessarily always make yeast bread - soda breads have been quite common. The other way to keep yeast going to have a starter mix - you keep the yeast alive in a brew and take some out for the bread each day.
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Old 11-12-2007, 12:34 PM   #6
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You brought up some good questions, jp. I did some research, and found that dry yeast wasn't available until WWII, so Grandma would have used cake yeast or sourdough. Cake yeast will last 4-6 weeks when refrigerated, and probably half that time in her cave, but since she baked bread every day, using it up wouldn't have been a problem.
Their town was tiny, but they were close to Des Moines, so availability wouldn't have been a problem.
Being Amish, though, it seems to me she would be more self-sufficient, and have had a sourdough starter. I just don't remember my dad ever saying anything about sourdough, even when I used to keep a starter myself.
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Old 11-12-2007, 02:12 PM   #7
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It will definitely keep at a cooler temperature. In fact, I do this often for a more tasty bread. It is called a slow rise. What you do is knead the dough and then leave it in a greased bowl with plastic wrap and "punch" the dough down maybe once a day. Repeat each day. The yeast should have enough starch from the flour to feed on for awhile if you keep punching it down. If you dont, the yeast will die from their own waste products and lack of food (flour). Not sure how this fits with your research, but hey!

Also, jpmcgrew, they may not have needed dry or fresh yeast. Sourdough is made from yeast in the air (think SanFran). Natural leavener. This is how it was done way back when and what some of us diehard homebakers do to feel special :) My sourdough starter is 18 months old from natural yeast from the Berlin air! Can also get yeast from fermenting grape skins, among other sources.
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Old 11-12-2007, 04:36 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Constance
... Being Amish, though, it seems to me she would be more self-sufficient, and have had a sourdough starter. I just don't remember my dad ever saying anything about sourdough, even when I used to keep a starter myself.
LOL ... I think that I could probably say with 99% certainty that it was a sourdough bread - especially if she was Amish (but I'm sure my German and Scottish grandmothers did the same thing). In that case - she could have made enough starter a month in advance of the harvest - and have enough to make a large quantity of bread each day. Of course, soda bread is always another option ...

Your Dad probably didn't make a big deal out of sourdough bread because it was probably the normal everyday bread he grew up on ... and it's only in the past few years that sourdough has become something "new" and "exceptional" and "artisan".
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Old 11-12-2007, 04:38 PM   #9
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From what my mom says, her mother baked once a week--it took her all day long--for 12 kids. By the end of the week, the bread was hard, but they dipped it in their coffee or milk to eat it.

I doubt very much that a farm wife would have baked on a threshing day. She had lots of other cooking to do.

They probably didn't do much ahead, except for canned goods--beans, pickles, relishes, jam.

Constance, you might want to read Hunter's Horn, by Harriette Arnow. It is about a family in the Kentucky hills--no electricity, no running water, in the thirties and forties. Lots of good info on how food was put on the table.
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Old 11-12-2007, 06:18 PM   #10
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Flukx, I kept sourdough for years, all the time my kids were growing up, and used it for biscuits and pancakes, but when I tried to make bread with it, my ex teased me about my 5 lb. loaf of bread. Even the beagle dog wouldn't eat it.

Michael, I think you're right. Dad probably wouldn't have noticed.

Sparrowgrass...dear me, twelve children! I remember being exhausted with my two, and told my dad I wondered how mother's with big families ever managed. He said the big ones helped take care of the little ones. And of course, a big family meant more hands on the farm.
Thank you very much for the book recommendation. I will look for it.
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