Have you ever thought about how people baked bread before the convenience of modern electric ovens? You might think they used a brick oven or maybe even a bake kettle. But actually, most American farmers of the 17th century didn’t even have those luxuries. Instead, they used a large cast iron pot.
How do you use a cast iron pot to bake bread? That is the topic of this video by Townsends, a Youtuber who is an expert at primitive cooking and pioneer living. In this video, he walks you through the process of baking bread the way early Americans did.
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For this demonstration, he makes a rye and Indian bread. In early America, these ingredients were inexpensive and fairly easy to acquire. Here’s what to do.
Step 1: Mix equal parts Indian cornmeal and rye flour.
Step 2: Add a handful of salt and mix it all up.
Step 3: Soak some yeast in warm water and add it to the rest.
Step 4: Add some water, then mix it up. No need to overwork it.
Step 5: Now form it into a ball. It should hold its shape but still be pretty moist.
Step 6: Put the dough somewhere warm and let it rise for 4 to 8 hours.
Step 7: Get a cast iron pot that can hold about 5 gallons. Something like this:
Step 8: What you need now is a hearth, which is a floor of bricks. It could be the bottom of your fireplace, or it could be a hearth you built outside. Build a fire on the hearth to heat up the bricks, and set the pot by the fire to heat it up, too.
Step 9: Check to see if your dough is ready. It should look something like this:
Step 10: Use a shovel to remove all the ash and coals from your hearth.
Step 11: Once you’ve swept away all the ash, place the bread directly on the hearth and put the cast iron pot upside down over it:
Step 12: Place some straw, twigs, and leaves on the pot in order to build a slow fire that will keep the pot nice and warm.
Step 13: Bake the bread for 45 minutes to 1.5 hours. Check on it regularly. When it’s done, it should look like this:
Watch the video below for more details and advice on cooking this bread.
This video is just a small sampling of the old world cooking techniques on the Townsends Youtube channel. Be sure to check out his other videos.