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Apr 20, 2006 02:27 PM

Salt-rising bread - what does it smell like?

  • r

The Bread Garden in Berkeley has been making this old-fashioned bread for 30 years.

Salt is not what makes the bread rise and is not necessary. The name may have come by keeping the bowl of starter on a warm bed of rock salt to maintian a consistant temperature.

The bread may have originated in pioneer days when yeast was not readily available. Or it may go back even further and have had its start in the West African bread kenky. For more information about the background, in the link below read "salt-rising bread - a continuing conundrum"

Epicurious says it is

"A bread popular in the 1800s, before yeast LEAVENING was readily available. It relies on a FERMENTED mixture of warm milk or water, flour, cornmeal, sugar and salt to give it rising power. Salt-rising bread has a very smooth texture with a tangy flavor and aroma."

Anyway, the bread is known for a cheesy aroma, especially the starter. I really love the bread for its rich texture but I wasn't getting the cheese smell, it smells super bready and even yeasty to me.

So, I was wondering ... what kind of cheese smell?

It is all over the place. The best description was

"Salt rising bread is, when at it's best, as if a delicately reared, unsweetened plain cake had had an affair with a Pont l'Eveque cheese." - J.C. Furnas

Swell, now I have to go out and buy Pont l'Eveque and see what that smells like.

Other descriptions:

soft ripe cheese


a mild odor--like that of good Italian cheese

Clara Kirby of King Arthur Flour wrote "the starter and dough will smell like ... dirty socks? Old sneakers mixed with Parmesan cheese?"

Craig Claiborne, called it "malodorous."

In fact, in the 1930's one N.Y. bakery was cited as a public nuisance for making salt-rising bread.

It seems it is the starter that has the worse odor which is more or less changed for the better in the finished product.

I'm thinking the aroma has to do with what is a part of the starter ... corn ... potato ... cow's milk ... one guy even used bark. These days you can use a commercial starter.

Needless to say, this bread is said to make excellent grilled cheese sandwiches.

I decided to put this on Home Cooking since it seemed this question would lead to recipe requests. There are a number of recipes in the link below.

Any personal experience would be appreciated.

Oh ... one more thing ... Pepperidge Farm sells croutons from self-rising bread. The bread itself reminded me in texture of a loaf that Pepperidge Farm once produced called "Daffodil Farm Bread". Don't know if they still make it. However, the last time I ate this Pepperidge Farm bread was prior to Campbell Soup taking over the company, when Margaret was still running the company. Anyone know if this could have been a salt-rising bread?

Another good link:


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  1. I'm on day 10 of my sourdough starter, and it does in fact smell slightly cheesy and slightly beery. I plan on baking my first loaf using the starter this weekend, i'll keep you posted.

    2 Replies
    1. re: eLizard

      I'm new to this, but I don't think it is the same as sourdough starter. I could be wrong and I couldn't tell you the difference.

      1. re: rworange

        It may not be exactly the same, but I think they may share some similarities. It's a self levening starter made without commercial yeast....mine is just flour and water. But I, too, am new to the whole experience. And please let me know if my slightly cheesy smelling starter is completely wrong and poisonous and should be discarded!!!

    2. This is a Southern bread. Most bakeries don't like to make it because the dough is so hard to clean off the equipment and it contaminates the mixers etc. Some bakeries only make salt risin' bread one day of the week.

      Yes it has a very strong aroma, some say smell. I don't relate it to cheese, just very strong and sour. But it is a wonderful bread, dense, heavy, thick and wonderful.

      The starter is milk, soda, sugar, salt ( must have salt) and cormeal. A few recipes call for potatoes in the starter.

      1. Thanks for starting this thread! Salt rising bread is something that most people have never heard of, much less tasted. I grew up in a small Missouri town where the main commercial bread baker also made salt rising bread on Friday nights, which meant that we had it for Saturday morning breakfast toast. I still remember that smell and taste. It was dense and also a bit dry. I think homemade versions aren't so dry, but toasted and with butter who cares.

        I've tried several internet-ordered versions and only one was the "real thing" to my taste, but that Michigan bakery has been closed for a few or several years. From time to time I try others on my list, but haven't for a while. Last time I looked, my list had more sources on it than the list on the Salt Rising Bread Project site (I sent her some additions once but they didn't get onto the site). If anyone wants my list, complete with my notes, email me at showed.mwrmwt (at)

        5 Replies
        1. re: Mick Ruthven

          That link you provided was great about people trying every single variation they discovered to make salt-rising bread. Interesting conclusions about what worked, what didn't and why.

          Have you ever tried to make this bread yourself?

          I hate that question, but given your interest and the lack of sources I'm wondering if you gave it a shot.

          1. re: rworange

            No, I've never tried, but then I'm not much of a cook or baker except I do a pretty good barbecue...

            1. re: Mick Ruthven

              Well, maybe you should give the House of Bread a try. They do say they will make bread on request. The new one in Albany is a little too new to try that stunt. But there is one in Fremont. You could give them the recipe you would think best approximates what you want.

              Don't know how this actually works though. There is probably some minimum order.


          2. re: Mick Ruthven

            Where you from Mike, I make salt rising in Western NY state.


            1. re: Tim Bowley

              Wow, I'm a month late seeing your posting, Tim. If you see this, I'm in the San Francisco area.

          3. Wow, salt rising bread, haven't heard about it for years. When I was a child I had a bad allergy to yeast therefore couldn't eat regular bread. If you're from the midwest you might remember the Manor Bakery and the Manorman that delivered to you house once or twice a week. Well, Manor had salt rising bread and that was the only thing that got used to make me a sandwich. Ate it for years.

            Thank goodness I finally outgrew that yeast thing.

            1. I've loved Salt rising Bread since I was a kid,
              but it STINKS!
              My thoughts have always been more along the lines of the stuff Janitors used to
              clean up the throwup in Grade School.

              1 Reply
              1. re: bbqboy

                My experience with salt rising bread comes from when I was 16 and worked in a family owned bakery. Then as an adult, I managed a bakery. It smells like vomit. It tastes so good.

                I know this is an old post, but thought I'd bump it up as I'm going to make some salt rising bread. I'll start the 'sponge' tonight, and finish it up tomorrow. Still haven't decided if I'll use the potato starter or the cornmeal method. In the bakery, we didn't use a potato started, I remember using cornmela and dry milk powder in the starter and putting it into the proffer overnight in a 5 gallon pail. It would really be awful to be the one who had to open it on the following day!

                Any one make it here?