by Rose Mary Keller Hughes,
14 May 2005
Here is how it was done in Semlak .
. . an excerpt from the family history I am writing . .
moment, consider the process a Semlak woman had to
follow to bake her bread. The flour for the bread was
placed in a large dish which held approximately 25
liters of ingredients. Salt, yeast, and sourdough was
added to the flour along with water. A kind of paste was
created which was called Oimachteig which roughly means
"making dough." Over the dish they placed a wooden frame
and covered it all with a white cloth so that no dirt
would fall into the dough. The paste rested overnight in
a warm area (most likely near the oven). The dough would
have worked and risen through the night. Early the next
morning, the lady of the house would rise in order to
bake the bread. She would place the dough on her noodle
or bread board and knead the dough. During the repeated
kneading, more flour and warm water would be added. Then
there was another resting/rising period. The dough would
be divided and placed in cooking pans - mother and
grandmother always baked their bread in an oversized
cast-iron skillet. A piece the size of an apple would be
cut from the dough (sour dough starter) to be used for
the next bread baking.
The oven would have to be prepared. First the ashes had
to be removed. The wood would be placed in the
furnace/oven and lit. Great care needed to be given
because if the wood did not burn completely, the
furnace/oven would smoke and make the bread inedible.
The wood had to be burning with a "beautiful glow" and
distributing the heat evenly. The dough was placed into
the furnace/oven and after about two hours the marvelous
bread came out with its wonderful crust. I don't know
how my grandmother tested for heat in her furnace/oven
but another lady used the feather of a pigeon. The baker
would hold the feather into the hot furnace and if it
shrank, the furnace was still too hot for cake dough.
When the bread was removed from the furnace, it was
washed off with water. They were cooled and in Semlak
they were put in the cellar on a wooden rack which hung
from the basement ceiling. No rodents could get to this
rack and the bread was kept in the cellar because it was
cool and the temperature and humidity were fairly
constant. In the summer, canning glasses filled with
preserves would be placed in the still hot oven for
sterilization. Or a neighbor might appear and ask if she
might use the oven heat for baking.
[Edited by Rose Mary Keller Hughes, Recipe Coordinator.
Published at DVHH by
Jody McKim Pharr, 14 May 2005]