Babcia’s Bread Experiment, part 3: reconstituted, and more of the story

Tonight, the plan was to continue with my attempt to recreate bread, as much as possible, in the way my mother remembers my grandmother baking.

I spent some time doing research on the method, but there is nothing out there that quite matches what my mother describes. I gave her a call today with more questions, and got more of the story. 🙂

This video was the closest I could find to what my mother described, but it left me with a lot more questions.

Obviously, my babcia didn’t put the piece of dough into a jar and stick it in the refrigerator. They didn’t have refrigeration. The dough in the video is almost a batter. Also, did my babcia use rye flour? Since she baked only once a week, she had to have been making a LOT of bread. How much did she bake, and how much of the dough did she set aside for that much baking?

My mother had difficulty understanding some of my questions – and she’s at a loss as to why I am even bothering with all this! Using commercial yeast is just so much easier. 😀

So it took a while, but this is what I was able to find out.

My babcia’s weekly baking was for about a dozen round loaves. This was all one big batch. Her dough bowl must have been huge! She worked up the dough, using the old dough that was reconstituted overnight for leavening, then left it to rise. She then punched the dough down and left it to rise again. After the second rising, she would punch it down again, then knead and shape her loaves, laying them out on a flour covered surface. The shaped loaves would be left to rise one more time before baking in their masonry oven.

It would have been when she was forming the loaves that dough was taken out for the next batch, and all the scrapings from the wooden dough bowl and leftover bits of flour, would be incorporated into the ball. My mother says the ball of dough was about the size of a loaf of pumpernickel bread that she sometimes buys at the local grocery. That would make it about 3 – 4 cups of dough, before proofing, though I do take into account that, given her age at the time, her memory of the size might be distorted by her own small size.

Still, it’s enough information to assure me that my egg sized lump of dough is probably about the right size for a 2 loaf recipe.

I also learned that my babcia did use rye flour, as well as the wheat flour and corn flour my mother had already mentioned. Basically, whatever they had on hand. Or whatever was left, after either the Russians or the Nazi’s came through and took everything again.

It was a rather precarious existence for them!

I also confirmed that my grandmother’s dough was NOT a wet, almost batter like dough, like the one in the video above. My mother described it as being more like the sort of bread she used to bake all the time, when I was a kid. Considering that I helped her with bread baking for many years, that gives me a very good idea of what I will be looking for.

Armed with more information from my mother, I started on reconstituting our bread dough “egg” in preparation for baking with it, tomorrow.

Here is how it looked, when I dug it out of the flour.

It was most definitely larger than when it first went in! Not extremely so, but enough to really notice.

It also felt a lot lighter than when it was first put in. I was very interested in seeing how it looked on the inside!

Ooooo!!! That looks amazing!

The outer shell was almost flaky in texture, and was clearly doing a great job of allowing the yeasts to continue to ferment without contamination.

It actually rather reminded me of the sourdough in this video, minus the fire.

It’s interesting to note that, historically, people did conserve their sourdough starters while traveling by putting it into their bag of flour and allowing it to dry out. What I am making now will certainly result in a sour dough, eventually, though it is not at all the same as maintaining a sourdough starter.

Since I will be making another 2 loaf recipe, I decided to reconstitute the dough ball in the full 2 cups of water that will go into the recipe. I could probably have used half that amount, without any issues, but I figured, why not sue the full amount? I wouldn’t use the full amount of water if I were, say, making a dozen loaves, like my grandmother did, but for a small batch of bread, it should be fine.

I used water that had been boiled, first, as a precaution with using our well water. Once the water had cooled down enough, I put it in a small crock style canister that I have, then added the broken up pieces of old dough.

After that, it just got a quick stir, to make sure all the pieces were thoroughly immersed.

I don’t expect this to overflow as the yeast develops but, just in case, I placed the covered container on the lid of a large mixing bowl.

Now, it just sits for the night. 🙂

I am very interested in seeing what this looks like in the morning!

The Re-Farmer

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