Agave Squaw Bread

Agave Squaw Bread

What is agave squaw bread?  For that matter what is squaw bread?  In researching this recipe I have come to one conclusion.  There is no one thing called squaw bread.  The Navajo prepare a bread called Squaw Fry Bread.  It is unclear as to whether this is a traditional recipe or if it is something that was made up to sell to tourist.  Several bakeries in the west sell a raisin-rye bread in loaves and call it Traditional Squaw Bread.  After some extensive research and review of many recipes, my conclusion is that while there may have been some ancient corn-based bread called squaw bread none of the modern incarnations are in the least bit a traditional recipe.  Rye is at the heart of almost all squaw bread recipes and as such, the origin of this bread is most likely German.  Now, don’t be surprised.  Germans are responsible for another decidedly American/Texan/Mexican dish, Chili. (What about the agave? I’m getting to it.  Just be patient).

Throughout the 19th century Germans poured into America.  They came to America with aspirations of grandeur.  They got to America and found the same type of dirty, stinky cities they had left in Europe (remember the car and modern plumbing were yet to be invented).  So the Germans followed John B. L. Soule and  Horace Greeley’s advice and they went west.  But, they did not go empty handed.  They took with them seeds to plant and recipes from their homeland.  Along the way the Germans met and lived in the same areas as the Native Americans and when traditional German spices and ingredients could not be obtained they looked to the natives for  substitute ingredients.  

My heritage includes both German and American Indian.  So in that same tradition of my ancestors, I have decided to take tradition and the new ingredients around me and develop what I hope will be a memorable recipe even if it is not traditional.  That is where the Agave comes into play.  In Germany, a rye bread will often include honey as a sweetener.  I like to imagine that Germans venturing deep into Mexican territory might have stumbled upon a local sweetener called Agave Nectar.  For thousands of years this sweet nectar has been regarded as more valuable than honey and a gift from the gods.  Agave is best know as the main ingredient in tequila.  In fact the technical name for the blue agave plant is Agave tequilana.  

The agave plant is a close cousin to the aloe vera plant.  It takes about seven years for the plant to grow to maturity.  At that seven year mark the plant is harvested and the central core called thepina is refined into a sweet syrup called agave nectar.  It comes in several grades just like maple syrup.  This recipe uses amber agave because the lighter colored versions of agave are flavor neutral.  The amber and dark varieties are refined at slightly higher temperatures and therefore bring a hint of caramel flavor to the party.  Agave is about 40% sweeter than sugar and when it is used in recipes this needs to be taken into consideration.  If you decide to make this bread with honey you might need to increase the amount of honey and decrease the amount of water used in the recipe. 

Onto the bread.


Note: This recipe makes three loaves of bread.Click here for the recipe or article...