Batter Bread for Juneteenth in Tribute to Edna Lewis, the Grande Dame of Southern Cooking

Batter Bread for Juneteenth in Tribute to Edna Lewis, the Grande Dame of Southern Cooking

Abigail's Oven offers Chef Edna Lewis's Batter Bread Recipe for Juneteenth. This batter bread may be the easiest and softest sourdough bread you every bake. 

But first, let's explore what Juneteenth holiday is all about.

What is Juneteenth?

Though The Emancipation Proclamation had been issued two and a half years earlier, it was not until June 19th, 1865 when federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas, that all enslaved people were freed. Juneteenth commemorates the anniversary of that event.

Since that day, formerly enslaved people, celebrated their newfound freedom with parades, speeches, and feasts. And last year, in remembrance of that day,  President Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act, making it a National Day of Observance and a Federal Holiday.

Chef Edna Lewis and Juneteenth

Lewis who was dubbed, “Grande Dame of Southern Cooking” by Les Dames d'Escoffier International in 1999, had a profound impact on American cuisine. She helped to popularize Southern cooking, and she showed that it could be both delicious and sophisticated. Her recipes are still enjoyed by people all over the world, and they continue to inspire new generations of chefs.

Edna Lewis, Grand Dame of Southern Cooking

Lewis, who though lived until 2006, remained mostly unknown across the Country. And yet she became one of the most beloved American food figures among food industry luminaries. According to, she "earned the praise of the food literati of her era."[1] 

In her lifetime, she owned and operated several restaurants and was distinguished not only as a Grande Dame, but was named in “Who’s Who in American Cooking,” received an honorary Ph.D. in Culinary Arts from Johnson & Wales University in 1996, and was awarded The James Beard Living Legend Award in 1999. She wrote four cookbooks that captured the flavors of the deep South, that might otherwise be lost.

Her best known book, The Taste of Country Cooking, chronicles the seasons of cooking a fresh harvest. It was based on "her rural upbringing, taking readers through a year in the farming community with menus and recipes shaped by the particular offerings of each season. She writes of storing hand-churned butter in the cool water that ran beneath the springhouse, picking wild watercress from the streams and walking behind the plow to sow seeds. In the kitchen, where everything was prepared on a wood-burning stove, Lewis was an apprentice to her mother, under whose guidance she learned how to prepare three meals a day, every day… Lewis’s menus celebrate Emancipation Day and Juneteenth rather than Thanksgiving."[2]

"Bread, to me, should be a part of every meal. It is so good, so satisfying."—Edna Lewis, In Pursuit of Flavor, 1988 [3]

In her cookbooks, she mentions batter breads several times. Making it was probably just an everyday experience for her, but this is one recipe she would have surely included in any Juneteenth celebration.


No-Knead Sourdough Batter Bread

"Batter bread is bread made with a substantial liquid-to-flour ratio, so that the dough is a batter. It is known for its ease of preparation. [and] is a staple food of the American South. Batter bread can be made with wheat flour, cornmeal or corn flour, or both"[4]

🕐 Prep Time: 20 minutes

🕒 Ferment Time: 6-8 hours

🕙 Bake Time: 45-55 minutes

 🍴Yield: two 1 lb. loaves


  • Two 8.5 x 4.5 inch ( 21 x 11cm) bread pans



  1. Weigh your flour (or measure it by gently spooning it into a cup, then sweep off any excess).
  2. Combine all the ingredients in a large mixing bowl, or a large (6-quart) food-safe plastic bucket. Mix and stir everything together except the salt and ¼ cup of the water to make a sticky, shaggy dough. If you are using a stand mixer, run it at medium speed with the paddle attachment for 30 to 60 seconds, otherwise mix it well with your fingers and hands or dough whisk until everything is combined.
  3. Let this rest 30 minutes. Then add the salt and remaining water.
  4. Attach the dough hook. Run the mixer until the dough is smooth and elastic, for 6–8 minutes (Or if by hand, add the salt and water, poking it into the dough with all your fingers and then slide your hands down the side of dough, pull it up and over itself. Rotate bowl and repeat three times.) 
  5. When the dough has doubled (3-8 hours), lightly grease two 9x5-inch loaf pans (or use 2 well seasoned Dutch Ovens lined with parchment).
  6. Thirty minutes prior to baking, preheat your oven to 400°F (205°C)
  7. Gently split and shape the dough for baking. A light hand is needed to keep from degassing the dough. (You may even find pouring the dough into the bread pans the best way to split this dough.)
  8. Place the dough in the prepared pans and bake for 45–55 minutes, or until golden brown and the internal temperature is 195-205°F (95°C).
  9. Let the bread cool in the pan for 10 minutes before removing it to a wire rack to cool completely for two more hours.

And enjoy!


  • For a more flavorful bread, use a mature sourdough starter.
  • If you don't have a 9x5-inch loaf pans, you can bake the bread in seasoned Dutch ovens.
  • To test if the bread is done it should have a hollow sound when thumped on the bottom after baking, or insert a thermometer into the center of the loaf. It should read 195-205°F (95°C)
  • Let the bread cool completely before slicing it. This will help the bread hold its shape and prevent it from becoming gummy.


  1. Kinfolk, Food, Issue 25
  2. Phil Audibert, Local folks, A collection of stories about people: Edna Lewis
  3. Edna Lewis, In Pursuit of Flavor, 1988
  4. Batter bread,Wikipedia

Other Resources


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