Rye and Indian Bread

Jonathan Townsend

Posted on September 28 2017

Rye And Indian Bread

This is called Rye and Indian bread, because it’s made of part rye flour and part Indian meal or sometimes we call it cornmeal. You can use just those two grains to make the flour, or you can add wheat flour.


Adding wheat flour is a good way to make it stretch as well as adding a different texture, allowing the bread to bind together better and making it a bit sturdier.

  • Yeast Sponge (made from barm)
  • ½ teacup Molasses (to taste)
  • ¾ cup Water
  • 1 cup Indian Meal
  • 1 cup Rye Flour
  • 2 cups Wheat Flour
  • 2 tsps. Salt


Add all of your ingredients together and stir until it becomes a ball. Resist the urge to add any more water to the mixture until you really get your hands into it. Knead your dough for about 10 minutes until it becomes nice and strong and doesn’t stick to your hands quite as much. Keep in mind that due to the molasses, it will continue to be at least a little bit sticky.


The yeast sponge used in this recipe is much like the sponge made in an earlier post, Making Leaven. To start this leaven, we used barm and instead of storing the yeast cake in salt, we are using cornmeal to dry it out and store it.


For this bread, you can reconstitute this yeast cake by simply crumbling it up and adding some water to it. It should be ready to use within a few hours.

Once your ball of dough is stiff but slightly sticky to the touch, line a bowl with a towel, then sprinkle a generous amount of flour onto the towel. Place your dough onto the towel good side down and allow to rest until it’s about 50% larger.


This mixture will not be as dense as cornbread but it will still be a pretty dense bread.

Make sure that your oven is preheated. When you are using an Earthen Oven to bake your bread, you will need about 2 hours to get your oven up to temperature.


When you can toss some cornmeal in and it doesn’t burn immediately, but only toasts, it’s at the correct temperature. If your oven is too hot, allow it to cool a little.


When it’s done, this bread has a wonderful texture to it. It would go great with a little bit of butter or molasses added on top.

Transcription of Video:

We’re here today at Connor Prairie in Fishers Indiana. It’s a premier living historic site and we’ve got a wonderful recipe for you. Thanks for joining us today on 18th Century Cooking.

[Jon] I’m here today with Ms. Barker and we’re going to talk about Rye and Indian bread. So, explain to me a little bit about what we’re cooking here today.

[Ms. Barker] We call it rye and Indian bread because it’s made of part rye flour and Indian meal or sometimes we call it cornmeal and you can use just those two grains to make the flour or you can use wheat flour. We’ve actually put some wheat flour into it because it’s a good way to stretch your wheat if you don’t have a whole lot. See, here in Indiana, we have a lot of corn and we grow rye very easily too and wheat is more of a second crop, so we have much more abundance of corn, so this is a bread that’s good for stretching since we eat bread three times a day, but it’s very similar to a cornbread but more of a mix between a cornbread and an Indian pudding.

[Jon] Tell me the difficulties that we’re going to have with corn and making bread. Why can’t we just make bread with corn?

[Ms. Barker] Well, you could, but it would be quite dense and a little bit crumbly, so a lot of folks, especially with making rye and Indian bread, they’ll say to scald the meal, which adds boiling water, but I find that that makes a very pasty bread. Very dense. If you like that, then that’s what you should do, but we’re just going to put plain water into in and then we’re also going to put in the wheat flour in there to give it a little bit more chew, it’ll bind together a little bit more. It’ll be a little bit sturdier.

[Jon] Well, let’s get started. What do we need to make this?

[Ms. Barker] Well, first you need to start off with some sponge. Now this is just a regular old sponge. It’s got lively yeast into it. We’ve broken down one of our yeast cakes which we’ve made recently. But it’s basically just about a cup of lively yeast, and then we’re going to add to that about a half a teacup of molasses. You can add more or less to your taste. It makes it quite dark if you add a lot of it, but if you like it sweeter, then you just do what you please. Now I’m going to add maybe ¾ cup of water and then what we have in our bowl is 1 cup of Indian meal, 1 cup of rye flour, 2 cups of wheat flour and 2 teaspoons of salt. If you want to put that in here, I’ll stir while you pour.

[Jon] Okay.

[Ms. Barker] And once it comes to a ball, you’re going to have to start kneading it and kneading it is important. Really resist the urge to add water until you really get your hands into it. So, I think it’s really important to get at least one hand into it, because the spoons not going to do you any good from this point and I come from a potter’s family, so I like to knead in a bowl.

[Jon] Mmhm.

[Ms. Barker] So you’re going to want to knead this for about 10 minutes or so until it becomes nice and strong and it’s not sticking to your hands too much. Now don’t ever look for it to never stick to your hands. Because of that molasses, it’s going to stick.

[Jon] Oh, yeah. So, tell me a little bit about the leaven that you’ve used in this. You just had a sponge, but what was this sponge made out of?

[Ms. Barker] Well, you can get it from lively emptyings, which is whenever you go to your brewer, you ask for some beer barm and that barm is what you can use to start your bread and you can start a lively yeast that you can keep at your house as long as you keep feeding it. So basically, that was a little teacup full of barm and feed it some flour and some water, equal parts and then you stir it up and that’s that. I would let it set for a bit and then that will make your bread, and if you wanted to preserve that, you could make your yeast cake, and so to that mixture that I just told you, you should add some cornmeal until it becomes a very stiff batterlike biscuit, cut them into biscuit shapes and then you just lay them out to dry.

[Jon] Right and then that’s what you’ve used here to make this.

[Ms. Barker] Yes indeed, so to reconstitute this, you just crumble this up and add some warm water to it. Two of these will make a nice loaf of bread.

[Jon] And it’ll get all active and alive again after a few hours or half a day.

[Ms. Barker] Yes, and in the summertime, you know, it’s a lot faster to make bread than in the winter.

[Jon] How’s our ball doing?

[Ms. Barker] It’s good and strong now. It’s very, very stiff, it’s still sticky to the touch, so when it gets to that point, when you’ve kneaded it about 8 or 10 minutes or so, you want to put it into a ball shape and, you see, it’s very dense.

[Jon] Yeah, that’s tough.

[Ms. Barker] But that is going to keep you going throughout the day. So, I’m going to put, we’ve got a bowl here, I’m going to line it with a towel and then sprinkle a generous amount of flour, whatever flour you please really, and then you want to put the good side down.

[Jon] So that will be the top of the loaf when we’re done?

[Ms. Barker] Yes, and then we’re just going to let it rest until it, it’s never going to get double in size, when it does get that size it’s going to be too deflated, so just let it get 50% larger. Well, we’ve got one that we made earlier, and as you see, it’s not very tall, but it’s going to be just enough chew and rise. It’s not going to be as dense as cornbread.

[Jon] So these were the same size?

[Ms. Barker] Yes, indeed.

[Jon] Okay, so it has grown a little bit, it has flattened out and we’ve got, you can see that it’s grown some.

[Ms. Barker] Mmhm, yeah and it’s light to the touch, it’s not near as dense as this. It’s got some air into it.

[Jon] That looks great.

[Ms. Barker] Earlier I prepared the oven with some hot coals from the hearth. We cheated a little bit. Every cook knows, don’t ever let your fire go out, so add some little sticks and then some larger sticks and we put them in there and with a little bit of some wood shavings, we got the fire going. It was a small fire. We let that burn down a little bit and then we pushed it to the middle and then made another small fire and let that burn down and then we put the hot coals and distributed them around the bottom to let the bricks really soak up that heat, and then I push them to the back and put my door on to really keep the heat in. Now we’re just going to wait until the coals die down completely and I’ll rake them out.

[Jon] So exactly how long does it take to get this oven up to temperature?

[Ms. Barker] It depends on how long you want to use it. Since we’re only baking a couple loaves of bread, it’s only about 2 hours. If you wanted to use it all day long, I would suggest maybe at least 3 hours.

[Jon] So tell me about the oven in the setting that we have here with your house.

[Ms. Barker] Well, this is the Zimmerman’s bake oven and they asked Doctor Campbell if they could put it on their property and this is the Inn so if you’re needing a place to stay they’ve got a really nice facility, but it’s managed by Doctor Campbell and this is a wonderful tool now that Mrs. Zimmerman has to use and we actually, my family being potters, we provided the clay. It’s mostly made out of clay, sand, and straw in different ratios and so it’s about 11 inches thick and 30 inches in diameter

[Jon] From the inside?

[Ms. Barker] Yes, so it could fit 6 loaves of bread very comfortably and it can keep heat for 6+ hours. So, once the oven has been swabbed out, we’re going to cast on some corn meal to see how hot the oven is. If the oven is too hot, the cornmeal will burn immediately and if that’s the case, just let it cool down some, but if it just toasts, then it’s ready to use.

[Jon] So the loaf is done, the bread smells amazing. I can’t wait to try this. I’ll let you cut into it.

[Ms. Barker] Yes indeed.

[Jon] Mmm, that’s wonderful. It’s got a great texture to it. What comes out for the most for you flavor wise?

[Ms. Barker] Definitely the cornmeal, and I would say I would put molasses on it instead of butter. More in it or more on it or both. That’s how I take my bread.

[Jon] Well, I really want to thank Ms. Barker for showing us this wonderful rye and Indian bread. Great recipe and not very difficult to do.

[Ms. Barker] Not indeed.

[Jon] And I really want to encourage everyone who is in this area to come and check out Connor Prairie. It is an amazing site. It really is something that if you are anywhere close, you really should try to come and visit it, there’s so many things here. I really want thank you for coming along with us as we savor the flavors and the aromas of the 18th and early 19th century.

I want to give a special thanks to all the folks at Connor Prairie and make sure to check out their website. If you’re new to our channel, I want to welcome you. You can subscribe by clicking the button right up here. Also, check out our related videos. Thanks so much for watching.

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