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"A pinch of this, a dash of that, a few cupfuls" was how our mothers and grandmothers told us to prepare a family recipe." ~RMKH

Remembering Our Danube Swabian Ancestors


Baking the Bread

by Rose Mary Keller Hughes, 14 May 2005

Comment:  Here is how it was done in Semlak . . . an excerpt from the family history I am writing . . .

For a 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]


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