Molasses bread is another favorite of early Indiana settlers. Since molasses is one of the main ingredients, this bread has a sweet, hearty flavor, that would be a nice change of pace from the usual cornbread, beans, and pork that made up most of a Hoosier’s diet in 1836.
2 ½ C wheat flour
1 t salt
1 ½ t soda
½ C dark molasses
1C sour milk (milk with a splash of vinegar)
¼ C butter
Mix dry ingredients. Mix milk, molasses, egg and butter into dry mixture. Mixture will be wet. Be sure to knead this bread until the dough is smooth. This will give it a more even texture and flavor. Molasses bread likes a relatively hot oven for a quick baking, so pre-heat the oven to 400° F. The bread can be placed on a baking sheet and baked in a round loaf.
Just like cornbread, this is a ‘quick-bread,’ meaning that you don’t have to wait around for yeast to rise. However, molasses bread does take a lot of work – you have you knead the stiff dough thoroughly to work all the ingredients through equally, and that’s a tough job. Once you are done, you will find that this recipe gives you a very dense, chewy bread, with a lovely sweet flavor that can fill you up pretty quickly and stick with you for a long time. Its density and flavor made it perfect for feeding hard-working farmers, who could easily burn thousands of calories in a single morning of scything grass or wheat. Wives and mothers would constantly be looking for things to serve that could keep them, their husbands, and children full and happy throughout the day, while not having to spend too much money on food.
Molasses is a favorite flavoring agent for pioneers because it could stretch farther than sugar, which meant that it was cheaper to buy. As we have mentioned before, molasses and sugar come from the same plant, but molasses is less processed than sugar, which is why it isn’t as sweet, and has a richer, more distinct flavor. The American Frugal Housewife (1833) recommends that it be boiled and skimmed before use, stating that, “It takes out the unpleasant raw taste, and makes it almost as good as sugar.” Molasses also blends well with other spices, especially ginger, cloves, and nutmeg, which would also allow a cook to work more flavor into a meal that might otherwise be pretty bland.
Best of all, by using molasses in bread, cooks could get several meals out of one type of food. Truly frugal housewives would want to make sure that they could use any leftovers over and over until they had all been eaten. Leftover bread from the first meal could be toasted with butter for the next meal, or made into ‘pan purdy’ – a type of French Toast. Any other leftovers might even be made into a bread pudding later in the week.