The basic recipe for one loaf of yeast bread is 1-2 cups water or milk, 3-5 cups plain flour, 1-4 Tbs. sugar or honey, 1 tsp. salt, 1-3 Tbs. lard or butter, and 2 tsp. dry yeast. The sugar causes the bread to rise faster. The salt inhibits wild bacteria and fungi. Butter or oil makes the dough less sticky and the bread less crumbly. Let the dough rise, punch down and knead, form loaves, let rise again, and bake (325 deg F for 30-35 min). Our ancestors began with a dishpan half full of flour. They made a hole in the flour, and poured in 4 cups of water or buttermilk mixed with ¼ cup sugar or honey and 2 tsp. salt; the liquid was covered with dry flour and left overnight. If the batter was bubbling next morning, they added 2-4 Tbs. of melted shortening or lard, stirred a dough, made 2-3 loaves, let rise, and baked. If the batter was not bubbling, they added yeast or left the liquid exposed to the air another 8-16 hr. Good bread can be made with any white wheat flour. Bread can also be made with 60% white flour and 40% of any other flour, rolled oats, or mashed potatoes. Using canned fruit or cottage cheese for part of the liquid makes moist, tasty loaves. Eggs support the gluten. Raisins, chopped apples, or mashed nuts (½-1 cup per loaf) can be added as a treat for visitors. Brush the top of baking bread with oil for a soft crust; brush with water for a crisp crust. Sliced bread fried in bacon drippings was an old breakfast favorite in the south.
Baking powder or a combination of a weak acid (buttermilk, molasses, or sourdough) and a weak alkali (baking soda or wood ashes) can be used instead of yeast, but the bread must then be baked immediately. Our ancestors added baking soda to flour and sourdough starter for quick-rising biscuits, but the soda was omitted in bread, which was set aside to rise slowly.