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.
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: