The breads of the Lowcountry have changed dramatically in the past hundred years. A piggin (a small wooden pail) of fresh yeast made from homegrown hops was commonly kept in the cool storage area under the “big house” on plantations. As baking powder became available to the homemaker, yeast breads gradually disappeared in the aftermath of the Civil War. Rice continued to be grown locally up until the 1920s; it was cheaper than wheat and was often added to bread made with wheat flour, extending its shelf life. Fresh breads made with rice and rice flour were common; The Carolina Housewife (1847) includes thirty recipes. Rice bread was the daily bread of the Lowcountry, but no one I have ever met remembers it. A rice- enriched yeast bread is the first recipe in The Carolina Housewife after directions are given for making yeast at home. It has become my daily bread—my favorite bread from my favorite book.
Making your own bread takes little actual working time. Even yeast doughs require only about ten minutes of mixing, then ten minutes or so of kneading. Plan to make yeast breads when you’re going to be home anyway. The half hour of work is relaxing and satisfying, and the bread is nourishing for days after the baking. Baking staples are described.
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