Old-Fashioned Muffin Recipe Made with Bread Sponge

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An 1877 cookbook compiled from original recipes teaches that the first step in making delicious bread is the sponge. My earlier article, “My Second Try at Making Bread Sponge,” showed my attempt at sponge.

I also used the second batch of sponge to make muffins. The recipe was based on one submitted by Mrs. Gib Hillock of New Castle, Indiana, for the 1877 book, Buckeye Cookery and Practical Housekeeping.

Two cups of sponge were combined with one teaspoon of baking powder. I interpreted “a little salt” as a ½ teaspoon of salt.

I separated two eggs. The egg yolks were beaten with a half cup of milk, my interpretation of “one tea-cup of sweet milk or cream.” Butter “half the size of an egg” became two tablespoons of melted butter added to the egg yolk mixture.

The sponge was added to the egg yolk mixture. Egg whites were stirred briskly with a whisk, added to the dough, and then well-beaten.

Mrs. Hillock used gem-pans, which are similar to muffin pans. A simple instruction to bake in a “hot oven” didn’t quite give me a suggested temperature so I baked them at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes.

The muffins tasted good and incredibly moist. These muffins tasted best warm from the oven.

I noticed the same texture difference as in the pumpkin bread. Next time I will use half sponge/half dry flour ingredients to see how it affects the texture.

I look forward to our next cooking adventure from the past. Happy cooking!

-Sandra Merville Hart

 

Sources

Compiled from Original Recipes. Buckeye Cookery and Practical Housekeeping, Applewood Books, 2011.

 

 

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My Second Try at Making Bread Sponge

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An 1877 cookbook compiled from original recipes teaches that the first step in making delicious bread is the sponge. My earlier article, “Sponge is the First Step in Making Good Bread,” gave the recipe and suggested that sponge worked nicely for breakfast-cakes and muffins.

While completely guessing at quantity sizes, I made something that probably resembled sponge as outlined in my article, “My First Try at Making Bread Sponge.”

I made the dough “rather thick” as suggested by original writer of the recipe. “Rather thick” is an example of the type of descriptions found in early recipes that made perfect sense to cooks of the period but isn’t descriptive enough for current bakers.

So my thick dough ended up being too stiff. This became clear when I tried to mix it into a pumpkin bread batter.

IMG_1713Starting over, I made the sponge again. I used 4 cups of flour and 2 ¼ cups of scalded milk that cooled to lukewarm.

This time a tablespoon of yeast was dissolved in ¼ cup hot water before adding it to the dough. These small changes made a world of difference in the elasticity of the sponge – both before and after rising. The appearance and feel vastly improved over the first batch.

The dough rose for two hours.

To maintain control over experimenting with the sponge, I again made the same pumpkin bread recipe. I added two cups of sponge. The first batch had to be combined using my hands; a wooden spoon and pastry blender easily blended the second batch.

Much encouraged by the differences, I baked the bread at 350 degrees for sixty minutes. When it was not done, I increased the temperature to 375 and baked another 25 minutes. Perhaps the oven should have been at 375 for an hour, so this is a difference encountered.

It didn’t rise at all during baking because I forgot to add baking powder and salt. Along with a flat top, the texture was twice as moist as bread made with dry flour. It tasted delicious. I also noticed one slice satisfied my hunger.

Making bread this way took about three hours longer than my normal recipe. The moist pumpkin dessert required an extra 25 minutes in the oven. The sponge affects the texture of the finished product.

The second attempt at making old-fashioned sponge and using it in a pumpkin bread recipe was far more successful than the first.

I’d love to hear from you, especially if you try this sponge in one of your recipes. Good luck!

-Sandra Merville Hart

 

Sources

Compiled from Original Recipes. Buckeye Cookery and Practical Housekeeping, Applewood Books, 2011.

My First Try at Making Bread Sponge

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An 1877 cookbook compiled from original recipes teaches that the first step in making delicious bread is the sponge. My earlier article, “Sponge is the First Step in Making Good Bread,” gave the recipe and suggested that sponge worked nicely for breakfast-cakes and muffins.

The jury is still out on that claim, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Since measurements weren’t supplied, I began by scalding four cups of milk. After that, it took about an hour before it cooled to lukewarm temperature.

Then I measured four cups of all-purpose flour into a mixing bowl and added a little milk at a time to figure out how much was required. The author stated that the sponge should be “rather thick” when using for breakfast cakes.

IMG_1700Since I had decided to make pumpkin bread, I made stiff, thick dough with 1 ¾ cups of milk.

The recipe called for a “small teacup of yeast” for three pints of “wetting.” Three pints is six cups; that seemed like a lot of dough for my experiment. I compromised with 1 tablespoon of yeast, which I mixed directly into the dough.

The stiff dough was covered tightly with a plate. I followed the original cook’s suggestion to place a blanket over the covered bowl.

An hour later the dough had barely risen. There were no guides given on how long to allow the dough to rise so I recovered it and waited another half hour before starting the pumpkin bread.

My plan for replacing flour, baking powder, and baking soda with the sponge didn’t work as well as I hoped.

It started out well.

Once the sugar and butter were creamed, the eggs, pumpkin, and cinnamon added, I measured two cups of the sponge – the amount of flour required by the recipe.

That may have been too much sponge.

The dough had risen almost twice the original size and smelled like pizza. It also didn’t mix well with the pumpkin mixture. I finally resorted to using my fingers to combine the ingredients.

The texture was completely different from my original bread recipe when combined. It baked fifty minutes. When cooled, my husband and I ate a slice.

The pumpkin bread tasted good but had a strange consistency so I did something wrong.

Then I remembered a friendship cake that made the rounds a few years ago. Friends passed around “starter” dough for a friendship cake. Each person used part of the dough for a cake, added to the original dough, and passed it on to the next person.

That “starter” dough was wetter and thinner than mine. Maybe the sponge should be somewhere in between the two.

We’ll see what happens with the next batch when using more milk and yeast in the sponge.

Stay tuned!

-Sandra Merville Hart

 

Sources

Compiled from Original Recipes. Buckeye Cookery and Practical Housekeeping, Applewood Books, 2011.

Sponge is the First Step in Making Good Bread

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Making homemade bread from scratch is a lost art for most of us. I make a variety of fruit breads like banana, pumpkin, cranberry orange, but rely on my bread machine for homemade white bread and rolls.

I’ve always wanted to learn how to make bread from scratch like colonial women did. Writing historical novels increases my desire to place myself in my heroine’s shoes and cook with the same challenges and knowledge she does.

A cookbook from 1877 teaches that the first step in making delicious bread is the sponge.

Sponge was made with flour, yeast, and warm milk or water. Some bakers added mashed potatoes. The cookbook author cautioned these early cooks to consider both the weather and the time of time when preparing the sponge.

In the summer, the sponge shouldn’t be set before eight or nine at night. Thick batter was made with lukewarm liquids. Scalding the milk and allowing it to cool first prevented it from souring.

In the winter, liquids were added at “blood warmth.” The temperature was determined by the baker’s finger and made as warm as the cook could stand. Adding the flour cooled the liquid enough for the yeast. The sponge was stored, covered,  in a warm area to rise.

The author suggested placing a clean, folded blanket over the cover.

A small tea-cup of yeast and three pints of “wetting” made four ordinary loaves. (My guess is that the “wetting” referred to is the flour and milk mixture since yeast was always added last.)

Bakers used this sponge in their bread, but it also worked well on the griddle for breakfast cakes or in muffins.

I’ll have to guess at the measurements, but plan to try this sponge in muffins, pancakes, or fruit breads. I’ll let you how it turns out. If you try the recipe, I’d love to hear about it.

-Sandra Merville Hart

 

Sources

Compiled from Original Recipes. Buckeye Cookery and Practical Housekeeping, Applewood Books, 2011.

“Lukewarm,” Thesaurus.com, 2015/06/09  http://www.thesaurus.com/browse/lukewarm.