Traditional Native American Bread Baking

While visiting the pueblos in New Mexico, you'll probably notice outdoor ovens (they look a bit like giant ant hills), known as hornos, which Native Americans have used to bake bread for hundreds of years. For Native Americans, making bread is a tradition that links them directly to their ancestors. The long process of mixing and baking also brings mothers and daughters together for what today we might call "quality time."

Usually in the evening, the bread dough (made of white flour, lard, salt, yeast, and water) is made and kneaded, and the loaves are shaped. They are then allowed to rise overnight. In the morning, the oven is stocked with wood and a fire lighted. After the fire burns down to ashes and embers, the oven is cleared, and the ashes are shoveled away. These primitive ovens don't have thermometers, so the baker has to rely on experience to judge when the temperature is right. At that point, the loaves are placed into the oven with a long-handled wooden paddle. They bake for about an hour.

If you would like to try a traditional loaf, you can buy one at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center in Albuquerque, among other places.

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