Bread, the staff of life, must be palatable and good if we are to be satisfied with it when we eat.
Can you think of anything that will spoil a meal more quickly than poor, over moist, doughy or heavy bread?
Bread may truly be called the staff of life, as it will maintain life longer than any other single food.
Yet many women think bread-making is a simple task; that the ingredients can be thrown together helter-skelter and good results obtained; or that any kind of flour will make good bread. This is a great mistake. To make good palatable bread it requires good materials, a reasonable amount of care and attention. But first of all must come the knowledge of the flour.
A good blend of hard winter flour is necessary and it can easily be tested by pressing a small quantity of it in the hand; if the flour is good, it will retain the shape of the hand. Graham or whole wheat flour and rye flours can be used for variety and to advantage in making bread.
Other cereal flours do not contain gluten to allow them to be used alone for making the yeast-raised breads. Keep this in mind and thus prevent failures. The yeast is a single-cell plant and must be given the proper temperature, moisture and food for its successful growth. When this is supplied, each little cell multiples a thousand times, thus pushing and stretching the dough. This makes it rise or become light.
When the yeast cells have absorbed or consumed all the food that they can obtain from the sugar, flour, etc., the dough will recede or fall. Now, if the dough is carefully handled at a given time, this will not take place, and so for this reason the dough is permitted to stand only for a given length of time before it is worked and then placed in the pans.
Few utensils will be required for making bread, but they must be scrupulously clean, if the bread is to have a good flavor. Potatoes and other cooked cereals may be used with good results. Compressed yeast will give the best results, and either the sponge or straight dough method may be used.
Bread made by the sponge method will require a longer time to make than the bread that is made by the straight dough method. Sponge dough consists of setting the sponge and letting it rise until it drops back, usually in two and one-half hours, and then adding sufficient flour to make a dough that can easily be handled.
The straight dough method consists of making a dough at the start. To make bread successfully, do not set the dough over the range, do not set it on the radiators and do not place it where it will be in a draft, to rise. Cold chills the dough and retards the yeast. Yeast grows successfully only in a warm moist temperature from 80 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit.
DOUGH BOXI would like to tell the housewife about a dough box that I have found to work very successfully. The baker's success in making bread is founded on the fact that he can regulate the temperature of his shop and thus prevent drafts from chilling the dough. This box is just an ordinary cracker box with the lid hinged on it. It is then lined with thick asbestos paper on the inside and then covered with oilcloth on the outside. The bowl with the dough is then placed in the box to retain its temperature and to be free from drafts while it rises. In cold weather this box can be heated by placing a warm iron in it when starting to mix the dough, and then removing the iron before placing the dough in the box. This box will easily pay for the time and cost in a few weeks, and then, too, it will prevent failure.
Now to get the proper temperature—always use a thermometer. Remember that you cannot successfully gauge the correct temperature of liquids that are used for making bread by testing with the finger or by testing them from the spoon. Any plain thermometer that can be found in the house will do for this work. Scrub it with soda and water to remove the paint. Remember, in cold weather to heat the mixing bowl. See that the flour is not lower than 65 degrees Fahrenheit.
All water or half water and milk may be used in making bread. When the milk is used it must be scalded and then allowed to cool. Evaporated or condensed milk does not require scalding. Simply add the hot water to acquire the proper temperature.
POINTS THAT WILL MAKE FOR SUCCESSFUL BAKINGEarthen mixing bowls or clean cedar pails make the best utensils to set the bread dough in. These utensils will retain the heat and are easy to clean, and when they are closely covered, prevent a hard crust from forming on the dough.
Do not fail to give the dough plenty of proof—that is, let it rise for a sufficient length of time as given in the recipes.
Use a good grade of blended flour.
Use the ball of the hand, near the wrist, to knead and work the dough. Kneading is most important and should be thoroughly done. Do not be afraid of hurting the dough; you can handle it as roughly as you like. Heavy, active kneading distributes the yeast organisms and develops the elasticity of the gluten and gives body and strength to the dough.
Now, a word about the baking. Bread is baked to kill the fermentation and to hold the glutinous walls of the dough in place and to cook the starch and thus make it palatable and easy to digest.
An oven 350 degrees Fahrenheit is necessary. Do not have it any hotter than this. Too much heat browns the loaf before it has time to bake in the centre.
SALTSalt controls the action of the yeast. It also retards or delays the proper fermentation if too large an amount of it is used. Then again, if not enough salt is added to the mix, the yeast becomes too active and thus produces an overlight loaf of bread. One ounce of salt to each quart of liquid in summer, and three-fourths of an ounce in winter will give the best results to the home baker.
BAKING THE BREADNow turn on a moulding board and cut into five parts or loaves. Allow about nineteen ounces to each loaf. Take the dough up between the hands and work into a round ball. Place on the moulding board and cover for ten minutes. Now with the palm of the hand flatten out the dough and then fold halfway over, pounding well with the hand. Now, take the dough between the hands and stretch out, knocking it against the moulding board, fold in the ends and shape into loaves. Place in well-greased pans and brush the top of each loaf with shortening. Cover and let raise for 45 minutes. Bake in a hot oven for 45 minutes and brush with shortening when removing from the oven. Let cool and then the bread is ready to use.
Generally speaking, the sponge method produces a lighter and whiter loaf than the bread made by the straight dough method. Bread made by the straight dough method has the advantage over bread made by the sponge method in flavor, texture and keeping qualities.
One quart of water or half water and half milk, 80 degrees Fahrenheit, Two yeast cakes, Two and one-half quarts or two and one-half pounds of flour, One ounce of sugar.
Work to a smooth elastic dough. This takes usually about ten minutes, after the flour is worked into the dough. Place in a greased bowl and then turn over the dough to coat with shortening. This prevents a crust from forming on the dough. Set aside to raise for two hours and then pull the sides down to the centre of the dough and punch down. Turn the dough over and let raise for one and one-quarter hours.
THE CARE OF THE BREAD AFTER BAKINGThe jar, crock or box in which the bread is kept should be scrupulously clean. It should be scalded and aired one day every week in winter and three times weekly during the spring, summer and early fall. Keep the fact in mind that the bread kept in a poorly ventilated box will mould and spoil and thus be unfit for food.
Place the freshly baked bread on a wire rack to thoroughly cool before storing. Do not put old bread in the box with the new baking. Plan to use the stale bread for toast, dressings, bread and cabinet puddings, croutons and crumbs.
THE FOOD VALUE OF BREADWheat contains the sixteen needed elements for nutrition, and when made into palatable bread, it forms about 40 per cent. of our total food requirements. Stale bread digests much easier than fresh bread for the reason that when thoroughly masticated in the mouth the saliva acts directly upon the starchy content. Fresh bread, unless thoroughly chewed, so that it may be well broken up, becomes a hard, pasty ball in the stomach, which requires that organ to manufacture the additional gastric juices to break up this dough ball.
Bread from one to three days old easily digests. Graham and whole wheat breads contain a larger percentage of nutriment than the white breads.
OVEN TEMPERATUREMany housewives feel that it is impossible to secure accurate results in baking in the gas range; this is due to the fact that few women really understand the principle of baking with gas.
To secure a slow oven, light both burners and let them burn for five minutes; then turn both of them down low, turning the handle that controls the flow of gas two-thirds off. This will maintain a steady even heat. A slow oven requires 250 to 275 degrees Fahrenheit of heat. A moderate oven is 350 to 375 degrees Fahrenheit of heat. It can be obtained by burning both burners of gas range for eight minutes and then turning them down one-half to maintain this heat.
A hot oven requires 425 to 450 degrees Fahrenheit and will need to have the burners burning twelve minutes and then turned off one-quarter.
This heat is intense and entirely too hot for breads, pastries and cakes. Meats require this heat for one-half of the length of time in the period of cooking. This heat is also necessary for broiling, grilling, etc.
Now, also try to utilize the full oven space when baking by cooking two or more dishes at the same time. Vegetables may be placed in casseroles or earthen dishes or even ordinary saucepans; cover them closely and cook in the oven until tender. This will not injure other foods baking in the oven.
Do not place breads, cakes and pastries upon the top shelf; rather, place them on the lower shelf and cook in moderate oven. Do you know that there are still among us women who firmly believe that placing other foods to cook in oven with cake will surely spoil it? This is a mistake; utilize every bit of oven space.
An oven thermometer soon pays for itself. Pay strict attention to heating the oven; if the oven is too hot, the heat is wasted, while it cools sufficiently. This wastes gas. When food is first placed in the oven, keep oven door closed for first ten minutes and then open when necessary.
Placing food in oven will materially reduce the heat. Do not try to increase the heat; just as soon as the mixture acquires the heat, the baking will begin in the usual manner and the dish will be ready to remove from oven in given time.
Never keep the oven waiting for the food; rather let food remain in cool place while oven is heating.
Before mixing materials select the pans that will best fit the oven. This does not mean that you must discard your present equipment. It means that you should place in groups such pans that entirely fill oven space without crowding. Keep this fact in mind when purchasing new utensils.
The best and whitest rye flour is milled from the centre of the grains in a manner similar to wheat flour. When only the bran is removed from the milling, we have the darker flour, carrying a heavy pronounced flavor. The rye meal is used for making pumpernickel, a Swiss and Swedish rye flour bread.
HOME-MADE YEASTWash four potatoes and then cut in slices, without peeling, and place in saucepan, and add three pints of water. Cook until the potatoes are soft and then add One-half cupful of hops.
Cook slowly for one-half hour. Rub the mixture through a fine sieve and then pour hot mixture on
One and one-half cupfuls of flour, One tablespoonful of salt, One-quarter cupful of brown sugar.
One yeast cake dissolved in one cupful of water, 80 degrees Fahrenheit