Baking Bread in Upper Canada

Editor's Note: This description of the complexities of bread-making in Upper Canada is excerpted from A Gentlewoman in Upper Canada: The journals of Anne Langton (published in Toronto, by Clarke, Irwin and Company, 1950).

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Baking is almost a daily operation, but not such a troublesome one in Mary's hands as it was with our former bakers. The usual plan in this country is to mix flour with warm salt and water, and set it by the fire to rise. But it must be carefully watched, the temperature must be kept even, no easy matter in cold weather. They usually put their vessel within another closed vessel of warm water, but even then it requires great attention, for if the fermentation is too long delayed it becomes sour. Moreover, whenever the right degree of fermentation is attained, then and there you must mix your loaf at whatever inconvenient season it may happen to occur. If the operation is successful you have very good bread, but there is great uncertainty in it. Our Mary's method is to boil hops in the water before mixing her rising, and to add a little maple sugar. This has the effect of making the rising keep a week or ten days, and there is not the necessity of the fermentation taking place soon. You may therefore bake several loaves in succession from the same rising, and the last will be as good as the first. In case of failure there is always a frying-pan cake to resort to, namely, unfermented dough baked in one cake about half an inch thick. I fancy it is bad taste, but I am very fond of these cakes, and were I keeping house for myself alone should occasionally have one as a variety. At present we bake in a bake-pan, but an oven is one of the things we intend to have next year.


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