I was most intrigued when I came across the idea of using snow as a leavening agent. The concept is impossible for me to test, as I live in the sub-tropics, so I will have to rely on the advice of those of you who live in the cooler parts of the world.
It seems that the idea captured some interest in the 1850’s and 1870’s, in the United States. The Water Cure Journal (an early ‘healthy lifestyle’ publication) in 1854 had this to say:
Snow Bread. - All persons where snow abounds, are not, perhaps, aware of the value of the "fleecy flakes" in making light, delicious, and wholesome bread. There is no "raising" in the world so perfectly physiological as good, fresh, sweet snow. It raises bread or cake as beautifully as the best of yeast, or the purest acids and alkalies, whilst it leaves no taint of fermentation like the former, nor injurious neutral salt like the latter. Indeed, it raises by supplying atmosphere wherewith to puff np the dough, whilst the other methods only supply carbonic acid gas.
During the late snow freshet with which our city has been favored, (for all other uses in a city snow may be regarded as a nuisance,) "our folks" have experimented somewhat extensively in the matter of snow-raised bread and cakes. One of our kitchen amateurs gives us the following recipe as the result -the eureka - of his numerous mixings and minglings of the "celestial feathers" with the terrestrial meal:
"Snow Bread.—Mix equal parts of light, dry snow and flour or meal quickly together, (using a strong spoon or stick to stir with.) When well mixed, pour the mass into a pan, and bake immediately. A rather hot, "quick" oven is essential. Bake from twenty minutes to one hour, according the thickness of the loaf."
Many forms of bread and cake can be made by slightly varying these proportions, according to the other ingredients: the rule being to have a due degree of moisture. If too much snow is used, the bread or cake will be heavy.
A little corn meal and pulverized sugar may be mixed with dry flour, and then the snow stirred in, if a short and tender, as well as light sweet cake is desired.
Apparently the method works well for corn bread too. I give you a snippet from the
A contributor to the English Mechanic And World Of Science in 1879 wrote of his experiences with snow bread, briefly described how it was made, and attempted a scientific explanation:
I have this morning for breakfast, partaken of a snow-raised bread cake, made last evening as follows: The cake when baked weighed about three quarters of a pound. A large tablespoonful of fine, dry, clean snow was intimately stirred with a spoon into the dry flour, and to this was added a tablespoonful of caraways and a little butter and salt. Then sufficient cold water was added to make the dough of the proper usual consistence (simply stirred with the spoon, not kneaded by the warm hands), and it was immediately put into a quick oven and baked three quarters of an hour. It turned out both light and palatable. The reason appears to be this: the light mass of interlaced snow crystals hold imprisoned a large quantity of condensed atmospheric air, which, when the snow is warmed by thawing very rapidly in the dough, expands enormously and acts the part of the carbonic acid gas in either baking powder or yeast. I take the precise action to be, then, not due in any way to the snow itself, but simply to the expansion of the fixed air lodged between the interstices of the snow crystals by application of heat. This theory, if carefully followed out, may perchance give a clue to a simple and perfectly innocuous method of raising bread and pastry, and stop the discussion as to whether alum in baking powders is deleterious to health or otherwise.
OK, you food science geeks out there. Is this it? Does it work? Is snow bread simply a form of soda bread? Please, do let me know if you try this.
Quotation for the Day.
Nothing on Earth is as beautiful as the final haul on Halloween night.