The first of these recipes is Anne Sinkler Fishburne’s “rusk as defies modern shortcuts” (c. 1919). These sweet rolls were split, buttered, baked a second time, then served at tea on the plantations along the Cooper River north of Charleston, where so many Scots had settled. The second recipe, also from Mrs. Fishburne’s collection, is a modern muffin-like sweet bread which she classifies as a dessert.

Ophir Plantation was the country seat of the Porcher family, French Huguenots who first spent time in London before moving to the Lowcountry in the 1680s. Robert Wilson, a surgeon and Episcopal priest, wrote of the area in Lippincott’s Magazine in January 1876: “To understand the home and life of the wealthy Carolina planter we must remember that he was the most contented man in the world. . . . [He had] no expensive tastes except for rare old Madeira and racing stock.” At Ophir there were stables for those horses, domesticated ducks and geese, and houses for the chickens, turkeys, dogs, and hogs. In the storeroom, a basement held flour, sugar, and salt by the barrel; the meat room was filled with hams, sausage, and liver pudding.

Ophir, famous 150 years for its breads, was lost to the floodwaters in the late 1930s when the massive Santee-Cooper hydro-electric project was completed. Baking with fresh yeast had all but disappeared throughout most of the area, however, long before the dam was constructed. Fresh yeast made from home-grown hops was kept in a piggin, or small wooden pail. A gill, or half-cup, of yeast was a common measurement for home-baked breads. As Fleischman’s two-ounce, compressed yeast cakes became readily available, we see the gill of liquid yeast being replaced by this soft, compressed product or by “yeast powder,” which is just homemade baking powder. Mrs. Fishburne gives the following formula: ½ pound cream of tartar, ¼ pound soda, and ¼ pound flour, all sifted together. She notes that “One gill yeast is equivalent to ¼ Fleischman’s yeast cake or 1 teaspoon baking powder.” Baking powder may cause the breads to puff up, but it will never replace the natural richness of yeast.

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