1 qt. milk
3 tbs. [homemade] yeast
1 tbs. butter, melted
2 eggs, well beaten
1 tsp. salt
[Mix the milk, yeast and salt, then add enough] Flour to make a good batter. Set the rest of the ingredients as a sponge over night, and in the morning add the melted butter and eggs.
From Common Sense in the Household by Marion Harland, New York, 1871
Comment: Mrs. Harland was even more cryptic than usual with directions here, so we have added the part in brackets. Like many recipes of the time for breakfast breads–essentially pancakes– a careful balance had to be sought. Baking powder as we know it today had not yet been invented, and the product they used instead, known as “saleratus,” frankly tasted pretty nasty. This recipe uses a very small amount of yeast for the quantity of other ingredients, since it was to be left out overnight to save the cook a bit of time in the cold morning. That amount of yeast would induce just enough rising to make the dough light, without causing such an expansion as to engulf half the kitchen. If you try this today, seek out the coolest part of the room for the batter to spend its overnight stay, but do not refrigerate as this will keep the yeast from functioning at all. If homemade yeast is not available, try to find the moist cake form of the product rather than the dry powder in packets.