Sunday, November 22, 2009

Scotch Raised Bread

To quote my childhood friend Tootie Ramsey: “We are in trou-ble!”

With Thanksgiving approaching, I see no need to do a huge shopping trip for the week. So, for dinner I figured we could have minestrone soup that I put in the freezer a few weeks ago. Why not contrast it with the Scotch Raised Bread, I thought. I found the recipe for that within a newspaper clipping placed in the pages of the 1908 Lowney’s Cook Book. Mrs. Edna T. Jackson says it goes well with beans, and I had cans of baked beans in the cupboard to use if the soup did not thaw in time for dinner.

This recipe appeals to a seasoned baker, which I am not. I had yeast, but I did not have a yeast cake. I hoped that one yeast cake is the equivalent of 2 and 1/4 teaspoons of yeast. I was very skeptical that ¼ cup of water would be enough for all of the dry ingredients. Then again, I thought, one cup of molasses might make up for the dearth of water. And I knew neither what constitutes “enough bread flour to the thickness of regular white bread sponge” nor how to finish that sponge in the “usual way.” I was aware, however, that a sponge could take many hours to rise. At the very least, I figured, the recipe would make copious use of the jar of molasses that sits like a wallflower in my pantry.

Not knowing exactly how to proceed, I decided to just see what happens and hope that I do not wind up like Lucy Ricardo with more bread coming out of the oven than I have apartment.

I also turned to (or, Retro-Stalker, as I like to call it) to do a little searching on Mrs. Edna T. Jackson of The Willows in Centre Harbor, New Hampshire. Judging from the image of a woman on the reverse of the instructions, I suspected that my great-grandmother clipped this recipe in the 1930s. The 1930 census told me that Mrs. Edna T. Jackson and her husband George lived at 54 Main Street in Centre Harbor with an English-speaking, Canadian-born housekeeper named Mary A. Allen. George was a New Hampshire native, but Edna was born in New Brunswick, Canada around 1878. The census also described her as the “manager” of a “boarding house,” which I imagine was called The Willows.

Perhaps Edna T. Jackson served Scotch Raised Bread to guests or residents at The Willows. It is also conceivable that she brought this recipe with her from New Brunswick, as various Scotch breads are popular in the Canadian Maritimes. I cannot find another recipe called “Scotch Raised Bread,” but I have found references on the web to Scotch Oatmeal Bread. Mrs. Jackson, or whoever named this bread, probably called it a raised bread to distinguish it from Scotch shortbread, which is also popular in Atlantic Canada.

Back to the baking, to the molasses and oats mixture I added raisins and a little shy of 4 cups of sifted flour, which I kneaded in my Kitchen Aid. (This is not 1930 and I do not have the requisite board.) Basically, I put in as much flour as I thought the wet ingredients could handle. The dough turned out to be a lovely caramel color. After I let it sit for the first rising (one and a half hours—until it doubled in size), I noticed that Mrs. Jackson tells us to put the dough into “pans” for the second rising. How many pans? I went with two, as that is all I have. I allowed 30 minutes for the second rising, although I cannot say much of anything happened in that interim. I baked the bread at 400 degrees for 30 minutes, not really knowing what to do on that front either.

To my surprise, the recipe worked—or worked well enough. Both of the loaves burned on the bottom, so I baked them at far too high a temperature. But they tasted fine with the molasses flavor very pronounced.

Served it with the baked beans for a change.

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