From the kitchen of One Perfect Bite...I had hoped to share a salt-rising bread with you tonight, but as my loaf rose and fell and my frustration grew, I could hear James Beard, speaking from the grave, clearly reminding me that I had been warned. Indeed I had. Salt-rising bread is an "iffy" thing and years ago he unceremoniously warned anyone who would listen, that it failed as often as it succeeded. Mine failed, but I still wanted a bread recipe to help round out the "Beans, Biscuits and Bread" series that I've been featuring lately. Fortunately, a play on words helped save my bacon. Years ago, salt-rising bread was also called Pioneer Bread. It was not, however, the only bread that was given that name. The quick bread I'm featuring tonight, also called Pioneer Bread, has a history that can be traced back to the westward movement and the days of the covered wagons. I found the recipe in Christopher Kimball's cookbook, America's Best Lost Recipes. As you might suspect, this is a very easy bread to make, and, if it's allowed to ripen for a day before it's served, I think you'll be really pleased with the results. The loaf is dense and mildly sweet and it keeps extraordinarily well. It makes wonderful toast, and it's a great snack when topped with a schmear of cream cheese. It also happens to be great with baked beans. I hope curiosity will lead you to try this bread. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised. Here is how it's made.
Pioneer Bread...from the kitchen of One Perfect Bite courtesy of America's Best Lost Recipes by Christopher Kimball
3 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
2 cups buttermilk
1/2 cup corn syrup
1 cup walnuts (or pecans), chopped
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup dried dates, chopped
1) Move an oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 300 degrees. Grease two 9-by-5-inch loaf pans.
2) Whisk flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt together in a large bowl. Beat egg in a medium bowl, then stir in the buttermilk and corn syrup. Stir egg mixture into flour mixture until just combined (a few streaks of flour should remain), then stir in nuts of choice, raisins and dates until just incorporated.
3) Divide batter evenly between prepared loaf pans and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of bread comes out clean (about 1 hour). Cool on a rack for 10 minutes, then turn out onto rack to cool completely (at least 45 minutes). Serve. Yield: 2 loaves (10 slices each)
Cook's Notes: Bread will keep at room temperature wrapped in plastic wrap for up to 4 days. It can also be wrapped in 2 layers of aluminum foil and frozen for up to 2 months.
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