Easy Salt - Rising Bread



2 medium-size potatoes peeled and sliced thin

1 quart boiling water

1/4 cup non-degerminated cornmeal, such as Bob's Red Mill coarse grind cornmeal.

2 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon fine sea salt


1 1/2 cup milk

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

4 cups all-purpose flour


6 cups all-purpose flour

2 1/2 teaspoons fine sea salt

6 tablespoons vegetable shortening

For the starter

Put potatoes in a bowl, pour boiling water over, then stir in cornmeal, sugar and salt. Place the bowl in a larger bowl of hot water and set in a warm place where the temperature remains fairly steady (a gas oven with just the pilot light on, or an electric oven with the interior light on, or on top of a refrigerator.) Replace hot water two or three times, or whenever you think of it and it's convenient, over the next 24 hours. Then remove the potato slices from the bowl and make the sponge.

To make the sponge

Heat milk until it is comfortably warm to your finger, then add it to the starter, baking soda and 3 1/2 cups flour. Beat briskly until smooth, a hand rotary beater helps to smooth out the lumps. Cover with plastic wrap and again place in a larger bowl of hot water. Set in a warm place and let the sponge double in bulk, this usually takes 2 to 3 hours, but check it after 1 1/2 hours. When doubled, it will look creamy and light. Don't let it sit longer after it is creamy and light or it will lose its "cheesy" flavor and become sour.

To make the bread dough

Put 4 cups of flour in a large bowl. Add salt and mix lightly with a fork. Drop in shortening and blend it in with your fingers, as though you were making pie dough, until the mixture looks like fine meal. Add flour mixture to the sponge and beat until well mixed. Add enough more flour, 1 or 2 cups, to make a soft, manageable dough you can knead. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead for a minute or two, then let it rest for 10 minutes.

Resume kneading until the dough is smooth about 10 minutes. Divide in thirds and shape each piece into a loaf. Place in greased loaf pans. Cover with plastic wrap, set pans in a larger pan of hot water and again set in a warm place to rise. This final rise will take about 3 hours and the loaves should increase in volume by about one third, this is less than the usual doubling in bulk. Bake in a preheated 350 oven for 45 to 55 minutes, until golden brown. If in doubt, better to bake a few minutes longer than under bake. Turn out of the pans and cool on a rack. Slice after the bread has cooled.
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