Carolina Rice & Wheat Bread
(Makes one large round or two nine-inch pan loaves)Translated for the modern kitchen in Damon Fowler’s book New Southern Baking (Simon & Schuster, 2005)
- 1/2 lb. raw long-grain white rice
- 1 qt. water
- 2 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. active dry yeast
- 32 oz. (about 7 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour
- Rice or semolina flour for the baker’s peel (if not baking in pans)
Wash the rice in several changes of water and drain well. Put it in a large stainless steel or enameled pot with the water and salt. Stir and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until the rice is soft and most of the water is absorbed, about 18 minutes. Let cool until it is just lukewarm.
Dissolve the yeast in a quarter-cup room temperature water and let stand 10 minutes. Gently stir into the rice and stir in half the flour. It will be sticky. Gradually work in more flour by handfuls until the dough is too stiff to stir.
Lightly flour a work surface, turn the dough out onto it, and knead in the remaining flour, then knead for an additional eight minutes. It will still be slightly sticky. Gather the dough into a smooth ball and put it in a large bowl. Cover with plastic wrap or a damp, double-folded kitchen towel. Let it rise until doubled in volume (this will take at least four to six hours).
Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface, punch down, and knead one minute. Lightly flour and shape into a single round or into two ovals. For the round, dust a baker’s peel with rice or semolina flour and put the loaf onto it; for pan-loaves, lightly grease two nine-inch loaf pans with butter or oil and put in the prepared dough.
Cover with a damp towel and let double again (about one to one and a half hours).
Position a rack at the bottom of the oven and put a baking stone on it. Preheat the oven to 450°F for 25 minutes. Uncover the dough and slash the round in a tic-tac-toe pattern or the loaves down the center. Slide the round loaf onto the stone and remove the peel, or put the pan loaves directly on the stone. Use a clean spray bottle to mist the oven with water and bake bread for 15 minutes.
Without opening the oven door, reduce the heat to 400°F and bake 15 minutes longer. If the bread is browning too much, reduce the heat to 350°F. If bread is browning unevenly, rotate the loaves. Bake until golden brown and hollow sounding when thumped on the bottom, about 15 to 25 minutes longer.
*Writer’s Note: This recipe is half the volume of the Carolina Rice & Wheat Bread recipe Sarah Rutledge published in her 1847 classic The Carolina Housewife. Most households in her day were larger, and bread making was not a recreation, but a necessity. The size of this recipe makes it more manageable for today’s smaller households.