Early baking

Since I haven’t seen a workman for my kitchen for ten days (and counting) and I still am missing doors, knobs, and my new refrigerator, I am moving on in my blog.

I began to think about how cooks baked in the past. They had yeast but what leavener did they use for what we term quick breads.

There was no baking powder. They had yeast but that requires rising. Beer dregs can also be used – I;ve made beer bread but you would not want cookies made from beer.

So what did the cooks use? Pearlash. Wood ashes when soaked in water yield lye. Lye is used to make soap. Lye was also used to soak hominey and for other cooking purposes. Some where in 1780 some enterprising cook used it to make cookies and bread.

I’ve read, however, that it left a bitter alkaline taste in the mouth. The use of pearlash was short-lived. After 1840 a precursor of baking powder was produced.


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