Historic Carolina Gold Rice Bread RecipesDavid Shields
Two families of rice bread recipes date from the early 19 th-century: a mixed grain loaf combining wheat flour and rice in approximately a 4 to 1 ratio, and an all rice recipe. Since rice contains no gliadin or glutenin, so cannot form gluten when hydrated, there must be enough wheat flour (which does contain these elements) in the dough to form the sort of crumb we expect in a classic loaf. When rice exceeds ¼ of the matter of dough, the gluten effects break down. The Carolina Housewife contains the classic recipe for this mixed grain bread:
Simmer 1 pound of rice in 2 quarts of water until quite soft; when it is cool enough mix it well with 4 pounds of wheat flour, yeast and salt as if for other bread. Of yeast 4 large spoonfuls. Let it rise before the fire. Some of the flour should be reserved to make the loaves. If the rice swells greatly and requires more water, add as much as you think proper.
Several features of this recipe deserve comment: why rice boiled into a paste rather than rice flour? Why so much yeast? What is meant by reserving flour for loaves?
Boiled rice conveys substantially more rice flavor than rice flour when mixed with wheat to form a mixed grain loaf. It is also cheaper in terms of its processing cost. Often in earlier recipes one sees descriptions of making rice flour from boiled rice that is dried and beaten to a powder—presumably a means of avoiding high milling costs. The reason that rice was added to wheat in making breads in the 18 th-century Atlantic world was because rice was cheaper, and the cost of the loaf lessened. Only in South Carolina and certain of the West Indian islands, such as Surinam, did the taste of rice bread become preferred to entirely wheaten bread. Today rice bread made from a mix of boiled rice and wheat flour is sold on the streets of Surinam. It is a substantially denser bread than the classic European loaves now favored. In S. C. the density was counteracted by upping the percentage of yeast in the mix and performing a quick rise in a warm place. The Carolina Housewife recipe is concerned that enough water is used in boiling the rice so that the grain integrity breaks down. It doesn’t want soft cooked rice, but something more pudding like in consistency—a “pap”. One final note: in early 19 th-century America, the tendency was to work with a wetter dough than we are now used to until the degassing/shaping stage of bread production, at which time reserved flour from the initial allotment was added for the final fermentation-benching of the bread. One method frequently used in enhancing flavor of bread in the 1800-1845 period was to employ “workings”—a fermented wheat dough prepared ahead of time in the manner of a “biga” or “poolish” in current baking practice. Given the general wetness of early dough, the poolish is the preferable pre-ferment for making a mixed grain rice bread. The intensity of using “workings” and employing pureed cooked Carolina Gold rice instead of rice flour will counteract the favor of the ample yeast employed.
A note on ingredients:
Wheat Flour: I use King Arthur select Artisan 100% organic all-purpose flour. I use Instant Yeast (much more active than dry packet yeast), and Anson Mills Carolina Gold Rice. Because I tend to downplay salt in the dough mix to encourage the chemical-taste transformations in the fermentation process, I will scatter grains of sea salt on the exterior of the loaf before baking.
Workings: [fermented dough made a day ahead as flavor enhancement]
2 ½ cups flour
1 ½ cup tepid water
¼ teaspoon instant yeast
Mix together, let sit in bowl for two hours in a warm spot until the mixture is frothy, cover w/ plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight.
Next day cook rice in ample water until it is soft enough to puree. Let cool. Puree when at room temperature.
In an ample bowl mix the workings, the pureed rice, and wheat flour sufficient so that the workings & wheat weight 3.5 times the weight of the rice. Mix in light salt. Add water to obtain proper consistency. (In theory water should approximate 55-60 percent of the weight of the dry ingredients to enable glutinization of the dough. The rice retains substantial water. So do the workings. So the water added during the mixing should be governed by dough feel. Is the mix hydrated enough for glutinization?) Kneed thoroughly. Cover with towel and let rise 2 hours in a warm area. Punch down (degas) and divide dough into loaves. Allow to rise again for 40 minutes. There was no standard shape in 19 th-century hearth cookery. I prefer rounds. These are not placed in pans but cast free onto an oven stone.
Heat oven with baking stone floor to 500 degrees f, score & put in loaves and hydrate oven w/ a spritzer to form steam. When loaves enter oven reduce heat to 450. Bake for 20 minutes, turn, steam oven again, and cut off oven so the remainder of the baking will take place in falling heat. At 40 minutes the loaf should be thoroughly prepared. Check with thermometer to see if interior is thoroughly cooked. 190 degrees at least. Remove from oven, letting it cool.
ALL RICE BREAD
Just as Japanese soba noodles lack glutenin yet manage to hold shape and consistency, rice can be manipulated to form fermented loaves that have crumb and structure. Most recipes used pans. The early all rice recipe I published in the Fall 2004 issue of The Rice Paper can only be cooked on a hearth because the initial heat of a home oven is not hot enough to set the loaf in the manner described. The most successful of the classic recipes that make no use of wheat flour is “Weenee Rice Bread”:
A tablespoon of rice boiled to a pap. While hot stir into it a large tablespoon of butter. Then had a gill & a half of milk or cream, four tablespoons of very light yeast. Stir these ingredients well together and rub in two quarts of beaten rice flour gradually. Salt it to taste. Turn the mixture into a well greased pan and set it to rise. When light bake in a moderate oven until quite brown. Almost an hour is required for the baking of this bread. If the rice flour manufactured for sale is used, a smaller quantity will be necessary. The mixture must be just so stiff that a spoon will stand in it.
Ingredients: I use half and half, unsalted butter, and Anson Mills Carolina Gold Rice flour (approximately 1 & 3/4s quarts). There is only one rise with this recipe. By moderate oven, 400 degrees is meant. Baking is done when bread reaches 185 degrees internal temperature. Later in the century more enrichments were added to this basic recipe (2 eggs for instance). The purity of this earliest version I consider preferable. It came to be considered too austere in taste in the 1870s & 80s.