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DSCF3765I downloaded The Community Cookbook from Project Gutenberg.  It lists a copyright date of 1914 and was originally compiled and sold by the Winter St. Baptist Church in Haverhill, Massachusetts.

One recipe, for French Bread, caught my eye.

French Bread

After softening 1 cake of compressed yeast in 1/2 c. lukewarm water, stir in enough flour to make a very stiff dough.  Knead well, shaping into a ball.  Make 2 cuts on top about 1/4″ deep.  Place in a pan of tepid water until it swells and floats.  When very light put into a bowl containing 1/2 c. salted water, stir in enough flour to make a stiff dough.  Let stand in a temperature of 68 – 70 degrees Farenheit until light.  Shape into a loaf, let lighten again, and bake.

It’s a strange mix of specific and vague, but the thing that I find really unusual is that the first ball of dough rises in a bowl of water.  So I wanted to try it.  It’s a good way to demonstrate the way that yeast produces gas as it multiplies, because the dough ball goes from sitting on the bottom of the bowl to floating in the water.DSCF3763

I used 1/2 cup sourdough starter instead of the compressed yeast.  I didn’t add any water, just enough flour (about 1/4 c. plus a tablespoon) to make a stiff dough.  After I did this, I realized it would result in a smaller loaf than if I had followed the instructions using commercial yeast and 1/2 cup of water.

I let it rise in the water for close to three hours, I think.DSCF3764

I used about a teaspoon of salt for the “salted water”, and ended up kneading in 1 1/4 cup flour, which made the dough stiff, actually stiffer than I prefer.  If I do it again, I’ll aim for a softer dough.

I don’t remember what temperature I baked it at or for how long.  I forgot to take any more notes after kneading the dough.

It did have a very good flavor.  French bread is best eaten the first day, anyway.  It always loses the flavor after the first day, though it isn’t inedible after that, just not as good.  There was almost no sourdough flavor at all, just a hint of the scent of it.