Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management/Chapter XLVI
Cereals.—Among the large variety of vegetable products yielding articles of food for man, the " cereals " undoubtedly hold the first place. They are so-called after " Ceres," who, in Roman mythology, was the goddess of corn and tillage, or more generally speaking, of agriculture. The best-known cereals are wheat, rye, barley, oats and maize. Of these wheat comes first, and in this country scarcely anything else is employed at the present time for bread-making, although at different times other grain and vegetables have been pressed into service, generally, however, in times of scarcity and famine, when the quartern loaf has risen in price to 2s. There is a vast difference in the price of bread now and at the beginning of the eighteenth century, when also the quality was decidedly bad. In the early days of the nineteenth century the country was no doubt in a very bad way, and we whose lot is cast in the present day have much to be thankful for. A quartern loaf made at the present time from the finest flour the world produces is within the reach of almost all, for to-day the average price of bread for the country is 5d. per quartern.
Rye is used for the purposes of bread-making in some continental countries, but in England it takes more the form of a luxury than ordinary every-day food. It is hard, and less easily soluble by the gastric juices, and is less rich in nutritive properties than wheatmeal or flour. Flour or meal produced from barley, maize, or rice, cannot be employed satisfactorily for the manufacture of bread unless a considerable portion of wheat flour is added, and in countries where these grains are the staple food of the people they are as often eaten as porridge or mash as in the form of bread.
On examining a grain of corn from any of the numerous cereals used in the preparation of flour, such as wheat, rye, barley, etc., it will be found to consist of the husk, or exterior covering, which is generally of a dark colour, and the inner part, which is more or less white. That is what is seen on a superficial examination, but looked at through a microscope there is a centre white part, consisting almost entirely of starch cells, and 5 or 6 layers of different-shaped cells surrounding the starch, each less starchy and less white than the centre, each containing more phosphates and getting browner as it is nearer to the outer covering of all, the bran. The gluten or flesh-forming material is in a row of brick-shaped cells near the starch. In grinding, these two portions are separated, and, the husk being blown away in the process of winnowing, the flour remains in the form of a light-brown powder. In order to separate the brown from the white, it undergoes a process called "bolting." It is passed through a series of fine sieves, which separate the coarser parts, leaving behind fine white flour—the "whites" or "supers" of the millers, flour dealers, or factors. It will thus be seen that the finest white flour comes from the centre of the grain, and contains a considerable proportion of starch. "Households," or "fines," is somewhat darker in colour because it takes in some of the cells rich in gluten, it is therefore more nourishing and, as a rule, stronger and more elastic in the dough, and will make a larger though sometimes a very holey loaf. "Sharps," "tails," "tippings" and "pollard" are all names given to the intermediate products between white flour and bran. These latter products are generally used to feed stock upon, but might with some probable advantage be added to bread, as they are very nourishing, and not indigestible like bran. This was the process generally in vogue for the production of flour fifty years ago, but at the present time a totally different process is followed, and the old-time stones have been replaced by steam rollers; hence the term now generally met with of "roller process flour," meaning that the wheat has been reduced to flour by rollers instead of ground as before described. There is also a good deal of difference in the products of the two systems, for although flour is the result of both, the roller flour is the better. The principal difference between the two processes is that by the roller process the flour is manufactured after the impurities have been got rid of, while in stone milling, as before stated, the whole grains are ground down into a general mass, and a portion of the impurities removed or taken out in the subsequent dressings or bolting of the meal.
The process of roller-milling can be divided into 5 stages:—1st. Cleaning the wheat; 2nd. The break-roller process; 3rd. Purification; 4th. Smooth-roller process; 5th. Flour dressing.
The first process consists of cleaning the grains and freeing them from foreign matter, and many ingenious machines are used for the purpose which need not be discussed here. The grain being cleaned, dried, or whatever preliminary operation is necessary, is fed into the break rolls. These are constructed of steel, fluted longitudinally, with a slight spool, and as the grains pass through they are crushed, and semolina middlings flour and offal are produced. Usually there are seven sets of rolls to each break, and the products from each break are sifted by sieves with different sized meshes, and the product is termed "through," while that which does not pass through the sieves is termed "tails," and forms the feed for the second and subsequent breaks, until the last break is reached, and the "throughs" are reserved for gentler treatment.
The first break reduces the grain to rather large particles, and as the "tail" passes down to the lower breaks it becomes more branny, until, at the last break, very little but bran is left. The grain having been passed through the rollers and sieves gives several different products that need not be particularised here; then comes the purification process, which is done with machines termed "purifiers," fitted with horizontal sieves of "Swiss-silk," through which the currents of air are passed. By the motion of the sieves and the action of the air the light and impure particles are lifted to the top, the lightest are blown away, and the medium floated to the tail to be repurified, the heaviest and best semolina only passing through the sieves. The "throughs" from the different breaks are now run through smooth rollers that run at slightly different speeds, and afterwards comes the dressing, which results in 1st Patents, 2nd Patents; 1st Bakers, 2nd Bakers, which are more than equivalent to the whites, supers, households, and No. 28 of the old-fashioned miller. Of course, the middlings, sharps, pollard and bran are taken out during different stages of the process.
Wholemeal and Brown Breads.—In ancient times, down to the Emperors, bolted flour was unknown. In many parts of Germany the entire meal is still used for bread, and in no part of the world are the digestive organs of the people in a better condition. But the principal grain used is rye, and not wheat, as in England. Brown bread has of late years become more popular, and many physicians have recommended it to invalids with weak digestion and people of sedentary habits with great success. Nevertheless, it is questionable whether wholemeal bread would prove an advantage to the mass of the people, for the bran is not digestible, and indeed, its value, in the physician's hands, depends upon that. Decorticated bread, from which the bran only is absent, is not open to the same objection, and will afford a pleasant change, occasionally, from the white bread which is so popular. Unfortunately brown bread is sometimes made from white flour and bran, leaving out all the central products, and, therefore, cannot be of so high a dietetic value as wholemeal or decorticated wheatmeal bread. Bran contains a large proportion of phosphates and mineral matter, and the ferment peculiar to wheat flour, said to assist in its digestion; hence it will be seen why brown bread is more nourishing than white bread; indeed, we may lay it down as a general rule, that the whiter the bread, the less nourishment it contains. At the same time, the white loaf still flourishes, and the colour of the crumb is a sure indication of the quality of the flour used in its manufacture.
Bread-making is a very ancient art. The Assyrians, Egyptians and Greeks used to make bread, in which oil, with aniseed and other spices were elements, but this was unleavened. Every family used to prepare the bread for its own consumption, the trade of baking not having then taken shape. It is said that somewhere about the beginning of the both Olympiad, the slave of an archon at Athens, made leavened bread by accident. He had left some wheaten dough in an earthen pan, and had forgotten it; some days afterwards he lighted upon it again, and found it turning sour. His first thought was to throw it away; but, his master coming up, he mixed this now acescent dough with some fresh dough, which he was working at. The bread thus produced, by the introduction of dough in which alcoholic fermentation had begun, was found delicious by the archon and his friends, and the slave, being summoned and catechised, told the secret. It spread all over Athens, and everybody wanting leavened bread at once, certain persons set up as bread-makers, or bakers. In a short time breadmaking became quite an art, and "Athenian Bread" was quoted all over Greece as the best bread, just as the honey of Hymettus was celebrated as the best of its kind.
In our own times, and among civilised peoples, bread has become an article of food of the first necessity; and rightly so, for it constitutes of itself a complete lite-sustainer—the gluten, fibrin, fat, phosphates, starch and sugar. which it contains, representing all the necessary classes of food; and when the question of cost arises, it is one of the cheapest foods supplied to man. In towns and large centres of population, bread is cheapest, and if not of the highest quality, as a life sustainer it is more valuable than the whitest of flour. But, comparatively speaking, bread by itself contains too little fat, and too little flesh-forming material to be used as a sole article of diet.
Different kinds of Flours.—The finest, wholesomest, and most savoury bread is made from wheaten flour. Rye bread comes next to wheaten bread; it is not so rich in gluten, but is said to keep fresh longer, and to possess some laxative qualities.
Barley bread, Indian-corn bread, etc., made from barley, maize, oats, rice, potatoes, etc., "rise badly," because the grains in question contain but little gluten, so that the bread is heavy, close in texture, and difficult of digestion; in fact, wheat flour has to be added before panification can take place. In countries where wheat is scarce and maize abundant, the people make the latter a chief article of sustenance, prepared in different forms.
Yeast is a living plant, consisting of a vast number of minute cells, which multiply by budding off other cells, and sometimes by spores, and most of the mistakes in its use would be avoided if this were understood. Extremes of heat and cold kill it, and a temperature that it does not like prevents it from growing actively at the time, even though it may not be hot or cold enough to put an end to its growing in future under more favourable conditions. Under a microscope each plant can be readily defined. If a few be put into flour and water, potatoes and water, or any suitable mixture, they grow and multiply, producing more yeast plants like themselves, and in growing they give out carbonic acid gas and water, with a little alcohol. Cooks talk about keeping a little yeast in sugar and water, but it is kept only as this year's corn is kept when it is sown to make next year's bread. It does not grow freely in sugar and water only, it requires something more. Flour and sugar is easy and convenient, or potatoes. The better the food suits the yeast the faster it grows; in some mixtures, carefully prepared on purpose, it grows so fast that as much as will lie on a shilling fills a cup in an hour or two. It must always be kept warm, at blood-heat, during the process of fermentation, unless you desire to check its growth or vigour, in which case the temperature must be considerably reduced.
Growth of Yeast.—One practical use of these facts is that, given a little good yeast, any amount more may be made. A second is, that if Brewer's yeast is bitter, a little of it will always yield some new yeast that is not bitter.
Rough usage or shaking will also prevent its growth,
Before making any quantity of bread, it is wise to test the yeast and see if it yields, by mixing a little and setting it near a warm stove for an hour, but on no account must it get hot, for that would effectually kill it.
Home-made Yeast is sometimes made of malt and hops, and no yeast is added by the maker. If the solution begins to ferment, yeast has certainly got into it some way or another, and yet, exposed to the air, it is almost sure to ferment sooner or later, and will probably ferment very soon if there is yeast anywhere near.
Choice of Yeast.—In this country the choice of yeast is almost unlimited, for besides Brewer's and Baker's "Patent," there is an immense quantity imported from the continent, and vast quantities are also supplied by the spirit factories or distilleries of this country. All kinds of leavening matter have, however, been, and are still used in different parts of the world: in the East Indies, "toddy," which is a liquor that flows from the wounded cocoa-nut tree; and in the West Indies, "dunder," or the refuse of the distillation of rum. The dough then undergoes the well-known process called kneading. The yeast produces fermentation, a process which may be thus described:— The dough re-acting upon the leavening matter introduced, the starch of the flour is transformed into saccharine matter, the saccharine matter being afterwards changed into alcohol, water, and carbonic acid gas. The dough must be well "bound," and yet allow the escape of the little bubbles of carbonic acid which result from fermentation, which in their passage cause the numerous little holes which are seen in light bread.
To Choose Flour.—The quality of wheat varies much with the weather of each season at home, and also with the weather and soil in countries that differ more from each other than our wettest season from our driest. So much flour is now imported that we always have a good supply. If one country fails, another succeeds. In bygone times, when there was little or no foreign corn, if the corn sprouted in shock there was bad bread for the community until a better season came round, for sprouted corn and bad flour cannot be made into good bread, even with all the skilful manipulation of the modern baker.
Good Flour is Dry, and does not lose more than 12 per cent, in weight when heated in an oven. To grind corn damp, and so increase its weight, is not an uncommon practice. Every cook knows that the same weight of flour will not always mix with an equal quantity of water, and that the better the flour the more water it takes up. It should be white, with a yellowish tinge, household flour being always less white than "firsts," or fine Hungarian, used for pastry, adherent, so that a handful squeezed keeps its shape; neither acid, nor soon becoming acid; and it should, above all, make a good loaf. This last is the best of all tests, and before buying any large quantity of flour it is always wise to apply it on a sample. From 1 sack of flour (280 lbs.) from 90 to 100 (4-lbs.) loaves may be made. The average is about 95. If the flour is remarkably good and dry, a greater weight of water is taken up, and consequently a larger number of loaves are made from the same amount of flour. Cloths are sometimes thrown over bread hot out of the oven to retain the steam and prevent the loaves from becoming dry.
Loss of Weight in Baking.—Dough loses about 1⁄6 of its weight in baking. Potato is sometimes added in small quantities with no evil intent, because yeast acts more quickly on potato starch than that contained in the flour; but of late years Malt Extract has largely superseded the use of potatoes, as being more cleanly, a true yeast food, and more adapted to modern processes. The skill of the baker is applied so to mix the flour that it may produce the best bread, as regards its colour, flavour, and keeping quality. It is usual to use strong American flour for setting the sponge, and afterwards to knead in some of the sweet flour grown in our English counties. About ⅔ of our flour comes from abroad, and it is generally used to mix in with and fortify our home supply, though every one who has tried new English flour, grown in a good season and on good soil, will agree that none can equal it for sweetness.
Daily Consumption of Bread.—It is usual to allow 1 lb. of bread per diem to each person. Two people would eat a half-quartern loaf between them. This is an ample allowance, even if there is not a very abundant supply of other foods, and if more than this is used in an average household there is probably some waste going on. The poorer housekeepers, who fetch their bread, get it weighed, and receive an extra slice thrown in if the loaf is under weight, but bread brought to use is not weighed by the baker. Fancy bread is never weighed, brown bread is usually made and sold as fancy bread, it is consumed as a luxury.
When the Dough is well kneaded, it is left to stand for some time, and then, as soon as it begins to swell, it is divided into loaves. After this process it is again left to stand, when it once more swells up, and manifests for the last time the symptoms of fermentation. It is then put into a hot oven, where the water contained in the dough is partly evaporated, and the loaves swell up again, while a yellow crust begins to form upon the surface. When the bread is sufficiently baked, the bottom crust is hard and resonant if struck with the knuckles, and the crumb is elastic, rising again in its place if pressed with the fingers. It will take from 30 to 45 minutes to bake in an ordinary oven, according to the size of the loaves, but a full 2-lb. loaf will never bake in less than 45 minutes, and if the oven is not over-hot a much longer time is necessary.
New Bread.—One word as to the unwholesomeness of new bread and hot rolls. When bread is taken out of the oven it is full of moisture; the starch is held together, and the bread, instead of being crushed so as to expose each grain of starch to the saliva, is formed by the teeth into leathery, poreless masses, which are highly indigestible. Bread should always be at least a day old before it is eaten; and, if properly made, and kept in a cool place, ought to be perfectly soft and palatable at the end of 3 or 4 days; and so firmly was this believed to be the case, that an Act of Parliament was once passed making it illegal to sell bread that was less than 24 hours old.
Baking-powder is largely used to vesiculate bread and cakes. The carbonic acid gas in this case is formed by the effervescence of bicarbonate of soda with some acid, usually tartaric, but sometimes hydrochloric. Many different kinds are sold, but each differs but slightly from the other. Some are coloured yellow and are known as egg-powder; some go by the name of yeast-powder; but the action of all is practically the same. A common recipe for home-made baking-powder is 10 ozs. of ground rice, 9 ozs. of carbonate of soda, 5 ozs. of tartaric acid, well mixed and sifted together; the rice is merely used to increase the bulk, and so to facilitate its mixing with the flour. If a teaspoonful of this or any other baking-powder is put in a tumbler of water, if effervesces rapidly; presently the effervescence subsides, and there remains water, with the rice undissolved, and some tartrate of soda. In the same way it effervesces in a cake, or in dough, and bubbles up exactly as in the case of the water. As the water soon subsided, so will the dough, the gas will escape, and there will remain flour, water, and tartrate of soda settled down into a solid mass. Such is the action of baking-powder on bread or pastry, if the latter is not baked at once. The whole value of the powder is lost. But if it is put in the oven while the gas is held in the dough, it will rise still further, because gas or air always expands with heat, and long before the gas escapes the dough will be baked into shape with all the bubbles in it, and is then called "light." It is not a good word, for whether a loaf is "light" or "heavy" it weighs the same, except in so far as it may be too wet if it is not sufficiently baked; the difference will consist in the size and relative weight of the two, and not in the actual weight. A "light" loaf is puffed up to look larger.
All goods, therefore, made with baking-powder, should be put into the oven as soon as possible after the moistening ingredient is added, or the result will be a very indifferently aerated cake or loaf. This rule applies generally to all kinds of baking-powders, cakes, pastry, or bread.
Another rule is to use the coldest water and to mix it in a cold place. We have seen that the rising of a loaf depends on the sudden expansion by heat of the air it contains, and the greater the difference between the coldness of the air as it goes into the oven, and the heat of the oven itself, the more it will rise, always provided that the oven is not so fierce as to scorch and stiffen the crust before the inside has had time to be heated. Cakes can be made light with snow instead of water, even with no baking-powder, because of the extreme coldness of the air that is mixed into them.
In this kind of bread-making the gas is formed in the dough, but not of it, as with yeast, and, therefore, the taste of the wheat is more perfectly preserved.
Other Acids used.—When hydrochloric acid is used, instead of tartaric acid, or cream of tartar, it combines with the soda to form chloride of sodium, better known as common salt. It is more difficult to mix than the dry acid, but it has the advantage that common salt is always harmless, while tartrate of soda is an aperient, having exceptional action upon a few constitutions. There are persons who cannot eat bread made with baking-powder; this is probably the reason. Such an idiosyncrasy is, it must be confessed, very rare; and the commercial acid (hydrochloric) often contains arsenic in small quantities, which is a very undesirable element for bread-making purposes, and at the present time it is very seldom used for aërating bread or anything else. A commoner objection to baking-powder is that it leaves a soapy taste, resulting from an excess of soda. Excess of acid is far less objectionable and less common. Other acids may be used, as, for instance, sour milk, or butter-milk, which makes excellent bread with bicarbonate of soda. Liebig recommended acid phosphates of lime, chloride of sodium, and bicarbonate of soda, which very gently and slowly evolves the gas, and, therefore, makes better bread than substances that effervesce quickly and are soon still. Sesqui carbonate of ammonia is also used by bakers to make cakes. It is extremely volatile, and must be kept in a tightly-stoppered bottle.
Eggs act in two ways. They increase the tenacity of the dough, so that it better retains the air, and when they are beaten to a froth, they carry a good deal of air into the cake.
"Graham" Bread is also made of brown meal and water, without any ferment other than the small amount of cerealine contained in the wheat grain itself. It has not come into very general use in this country, but in America a considerable quantity is consumed.
Aërated Bread.—As a matter of fact all bread is aërated, but at the present day there is a special bread that is known to the public as "Aërated Bread." It is made by a company in London, and has been on sale for a considerable time. The bread is rather close, but very sweet and white in colour, and is made by a process patented by Dr. Dauglish, of Malvern. The flour is first put in a spherical vessel with the salt, and the vessel is closed up, the atmospheric air is exhausted, and then water and carbonic gas are forced into the globe, and a series of beaters or arms revolved by steam power convert the raw material into dough. This, when thoroughly mixed, and of course aërated, is discharged into tins, or long loaves, which are immediately put into the oven, where they are allowed to bake in the same way as other bread. It will be noted where the chief points of difference come in. It is made entirely by machinery, and is untouched by hand during the whole process, and this is one of the inducements held out to the public to purchase it.
Machine-made Bread.—At the present time the process of bread-making is worked upon more scientific principles than hitherto, and with the attraction of a capital to the baking-trade, the endeavour seems to be made to keep well up to date as regards machinery, so that to-day there is scarcely a town of any importance without a bakery supplied with the most modern machinery and appliances. Machine-made bread is probably not any better than the hand-made variety; but, although there may be many who prefer the hand-made, there can be no doubt that in the near future all bakeries will be equipped with machinery.
From a hygienic point of view, machine-made bread is to be preferred to hand-made, and as the public appreciate the fact that the heavy labour of dough-making is more effectively done by machine than by hand, there is no doubt they will eventually insist upon having it.
At the present day, bakehouses in all parts of the country are periodically visited by an inspector. There is therefore very little likelihood of bread being manufactured under insanitary conditions; in fact, the tendency is all the other way—to gradually raise the sanitary standard, and thus blot out many of the old-fashioned bakehouses that were sanitary enough in the old days, according to their theories, but are altogether old-fashioned and behind the times now. If there is any dark spot in the baking-trade it is truly the fault of the local authorities and their inspectors, who have power of entry under a variety of Acts of Parliament to inspect, insist upon alterations, or close any bakery that is, in their opinion, in an insanitary condition, and if they fail in their duty, it is for the public to interfere for their own protection, and insist upon the law being properly carried out.
Mixed Breads.—Rye bread is hard of digestion, and requires longer and slower baking than wheaten bread. It is better when made with leaven of wheaten flour, rather than yeast, and turns out lighter. It should not be eaten till 2 days old. It will keep a long time. A good bread may be made by mixing rye-flour, wheat-flour, and rice paste in equal proportions; also by mixing rye, wheat and barley. In Norway it is said that they only bake their barley bread once a year, such is its "keeping" quality. Indian cornflour, mixed with wheat-flour (half-and-half) makes a nice bread; but it is not considered very digestible, though it keeps well. Rice cannot be made into bread, nor can potatoes; but ¼ potato-flour in ¾ wheaten flour makes a tolerably good loaf. A very good bread, better than the ordinary kind, and of a delicious flavour, is said to be produced by adopting the following recipe:—Take 10 parts of wheat-flour, 5 parts of potato-flour, 1 part of rice paste; knead together, add the yeast, and bake as usual. This would not prove any cheaper than ordinary wheaten bread at the present day, because the potato-flour and rice are dearer than flour. In times of great scarcity, when the people of this country depended chiefly upon their own productions for their food, nearly all the vegetable products of the garden were used for the purpose of making bread, and mixed breads were as often met with as brown or wheaten breads; this was, however, before the abolition of the Corn Laws, when wheat was over 100s. per quarter, and the quartern loaf cost 1s. 4d. But at the present day, with every country in the world anxious to supply our markets with the best of their products, there does not seem much likelihood of Englishmen being reduced to such straits again, and being compelled to feed on the so-called mixed breads.
It will be seen by what has been previously stated that a very considerable amount of care and skill is requisite to produce a sweet wholesome loaf. If the instructions given in the following pages are carefully carried out, there should be no difficulty in making a palatable and satisfying loaf, whose merits will be appreciated by all who partake of it. In making bread, no matter how large or small the quantity, it is of the first importance that everything should be scrupulously clean, sweet and dry. If these precautions are omitted the bread will not turn out as desired. Before commencing, see that everything is in readiness, so that it will be unnecessary to leave off in the middle. Have a sufficient quantity of water at hand for the purpose, and also some flour in a tin or basin in which to dip the hands and rub them clean when necessary. When you have finished with it, run the flour through a sieve, and any pieces that may have fallen from the hands should be added to the dough and well kneaded in. If no more than ½ a bushel of flour (8 quarterns) is being worked, a large red earthenware pan will answer admirably to mix it in. It should, after being thoroughly washed out and dried, be set out on a strong kitchen chair (from which the back has been removed) in front of the kitchen fire; then turn the flour into the pan, cover it over with a clean cloth, and allow it to stand until the chill passes off before commencing. This is of course more necessary in winter than in the summer, and as there is only a small quantity of dough it will very soon get cold and be spoilt if it is not properly taken care of; and, since much depends upon the warmth, the whole process should be performed in front of the kitchen fire if the weather is at all cold and chilly. At the same time, under no consideration must the dough become too hot, for heat will kill the yeast sooner than cold, and the result in each case would be the same—heavy and unsatisfactory bread. Heavy bread is the result of insufficient fermentation, and sour bread is caused by over fermentation; it will therefore be seen how desirable it is to adopt just the happy medium—to have the water neither too hot nor too cold, to give the yeast sufficient time to work or ferment properly, but not long enough to work itself sour. This happy medium will soon be arrived at by experience. On no account must the pan containing the dough be placed close enough to the fire for the heat to penetrate and form a crust on the inside of the pan, for that would presently be mixed into the remainder of the dough, and result in dark, heavy patches in the bread. Care must also be taken by keeping the dough sufficiently well covered to prevent it from becoming skinned over, producing a very unsightly appearance should it get on the outside of the loaves when they are moulded or shaped up ready for the oven; such loaves are known generally as "slut's farthings." When making the dough, it is of the greatest importance that it should be thoroughly well kneaded; in fact, up to a certain point, the more kneading given to the bread the better it will be, while if it is not kneaded sufficiently the dough may run flat in the oven, and not spring as it should. When freeing the hands of paste after the dough has been made, very particular notice should be taken that the scraps are first well rubbed into the dough, and then kneaded into the mass, leaving the finished dough perfectly smooth and clear.
When making the dough, keep all the flour in the pan, and do not get it all over the sides of the pan on to the floor, for, besides being wasteful, it is a very dirty and slovenly proceeding.
Another Word about Yeast.—In making bread for household purposes, residents in towns will find no difficulty in procuring fresh yeast from the bakers or corn-chandlers, and most probably the yeast obtained will be the distillery, French, or German article. There is no very great difference between these yeasts, and either, or all of them, may be depended upon for being effective. As a general rule the distiller's yeast would be the most vigorous and the sweetest for the purpose. Of late years the great distillery companies have made some special efforts to meet the bakers' requirements in this particular, and have succeeded in turning out some of the best yeast that can be produced, and it is certain that the yeast that the baker considers good enough for his bread would be good and reliable enough for domestic use.
On the other hand, if resident in the country and far distant from a town, there may be some difficulty in procuring suitable yeast for bread-making purposes, in which case it would be advisable to make it, and thus be practically independent. Instructions will be found for making yeast suitable for bread-making and other purposes for which yeast is required, and as it improves if properly kept, there can be no objection to brewing the yeast once a month; but it must be stored in a cool place, and some of the old yeast saved to start the new brewing each time, for if some yeast has not been reserved for this purpose, suddenly the supply of yeast may fail, with no means of making a fresh stock. Malt and hops for the purpose can be procured from the corn-chandlers.
In the past brewer's yeast was very extensively used for home-baking, but, principally because it was not always to be depended upon, was often bitter in taste and dark in colour, it has dropped almost out of use. As brewer's yeast may possibly, in some cases, be the only available supply, it will be necessary to cleanse it, or remove the bitterness and dark colour. This can, to some extent, be done by washing the yeast in a little water, in the following manner:—Put the yeast into a large jug, add a small pinch of carbonate of soda, and fill up the jug nearly to the top with clean water, stir it up well to mix it thoroughly with the water, and then stand it aside in a cool place to settle.
The yeast will settle at the bottom in a thick sediment, and the liquor poured off will take away a considerable portion of the dark colour and bitter flavour. If this process is repeated 2 or 3 times, it will result in a very good-flavoured yeast being left behind, eminently suitable for bread-making purposes.
Many of the brewing firms make a practice of cleansing their yeast in this fashion, and then, after all the moisture has been pressed out, it is sold as Brewer's Compressed, and is used largely for bread-making purposes by bakers; but, as this yeast is somewhat slow and sluggish in action, it is not used for any other purpose to any very great extent. It makes a very sweet-eating loaf, and is generally appreciated.
Final Advice about Flour.—Although the finest flour procurable may be used, it will not always turn out the perfection of bread, for various reasons. But at the same time good bread cannot be made from bad or indifferent flour; it is, therefore, always advisable to use the best flour which can be obtained for the purpose. Of course the sine quâ non of home baking is to make bread cheaper than it could be procured from the bakers, but if a worse article than the tradesman supplies is produced, nothing is gained by home baking. The finest flour procurable in this country is "Vienna," or "Hungarian," as it is more generally called, and it is always the dearest flour on the market, sometimes as much as 14s. per sack (280 lbs.) dearer than the best town-made whites. Of course the price of flour fluctuates according to the law of supply and demand, and all kinds of flour are governed by the standard of Households. Thus when Households are quoted at 24s. per sack, the better qualities will be correspondingly dearer. Whites, for instance, would be 24s., and the Patents probably 28s. 6d. to 29s. 6d.; Vienna would then be sold at about 40s. With the cheaper flours, which are also inferior in quality, the drop in price is not at so large a rate, and the flour coming next below "Households," and known as No. 2's would cost from 21s. 6d. to 22s. 6d. This is one of the cheapest flours milled by English millers, or, strictly speaking, the lowest grade they put upon the markets. The country-milled flour would then be about 2s. per sack cheaper than town flour of the same grade, but not of the same quality, for the town miller will have a wider field to select his "grist" or wheat from than the country miller, and in that way will use some of the choicest foreign wheats along with the best-grown in this country, while the country miller will depend largely upon local growths, which practically give the characteristics to the flour produced. If the miller grinds with the idea of supplying the town bakers, he will add in some foreign wheat to give tone to the flour, and in all likelihood will mark it under a special brand; but his principal aim would generally be to give good colour and sweet flavour, while the town miller would combine these two characteristics, and add "strength," which is of the utmost importance for bread-making purposes. The loaf produced from the country flour will almost invariably be small in size, close in texture, and pleasantly sweet, besides being good in colour; the outside crust also would be pale and somewhat tough. On the other hand, the loaf made from town flour of the same grade, if a similar process has been followed in turning it into bread, would be large and bulky, with a well-aërated, yet smooth cut in crumb, and sweet, but not quite so sweet, as the loaf made from the country-milled flour; the outside crust would also be slightly browner in colour, and crisp. Vienna flour, if made into bread, will have, to some extent, the characteristics of both these flours combined, but the colour of the crumb will be considerably whiter, and the texture will be very silky and even. The outside crust will be tough. In this connection it must be remembered that although Vienna flour has been used that does not constitute "Vienna Bread," which is made by a special process and baked in specially constructed ovens. Reference has been made to Vienna flour to show its superiority in baking it into ordinary bread.
American and Canadian flour is imported into the country in vast quantities, and the supply, generally speaking, governs the markets of the world. When there is an abundance of flour from those countries bread will be cheap, provided, of course, that all other countries growing wheat have their average crops, and do not need to import to any great extent; but should one or two of the wheat-consuming countries be "short," the market will be correspondingly influenced, and the price will be raised all round. The finest flour imported from America is known as "First Patents," and usually commands about 2s. per sack more than whites; but in years of plenty it will be almost as cheap as "Households," and being better than "Whites," its influence upon the home markets is apparent. The next grade is termed "Second Patents," a cheaper quality than "Straights," or commonly termed "First Baker's"; then follows "Second Baker's," which is lower in quality than the other three; the last of all, a very low grade, known as "Red Dog"; although it is very strong from a baking point of view, it is very dark in colour, and is used principally in poor neighbourhoods, in conjunction with cheap country flour, for the purposes of making cheap bread. This flour is the basis of the cheap and, to some extent, nasty bread of our poor neighbours, but none of it will be wanted in better households, for the better the bread the less is required, and thus even the dearest is the best and cheapest in the end. In procuring a supply of flour for home baking it is advisable to purchase it in respectable quantities, and let it be a standard brand, one that the miller will do his best to maintain, whether it is English or foreign stock. The brands are sufficiently numerous, and there should be little difficulty in making a selection that would be suitable for the purpose. Usually the tradesman would recommend a flour that would answer admirably, and would doubtless keep up the same standard of excellence all the year round, for, having a large field to select from, he will, as a general rule, keep his flour up to a certain standard of excellence. He would thus be able to supply flour suitable for bread-making and other purposes, and by taking it in regular quantities at stated intervals, it would be to his own interest to study the requirements of his customers in exactly the same way as the larger merchant millers are attentive to the requirements of their baker customers.
The Oven.—At a not very remote date almost every house in the country was equipped with a brick oven and conveniences for making and baking bread, and even at the present time, in out-of-the-way districts, they are still to be found, but only in localities where the baker is not easily accessible. But, generally speaking, these ovens have disappeared, and where they do exist they have been annexed by a villager who, as a matter of course, constitutes himself the village baker, supplying the requirements of his neighbours to their mutual advantage. Usually the oven is rather a primitive affair, but very solidly built of bricks and heated with wood, which is put directly into the oven, set on fire, and allowed to burn itself out, the smoke passing away up the chimney placed just outside the oven door. When the fire has burnt out, or, more properly speaking, after the oven is heated, all the embers are raked out, and the oven swabbed out with a piece of coarse sacking tied to the end of a long pole, and dipped into cold water. In this way the oven is cleaned, and when the bread is ready it is "run" or put into the oven with a "peel." The door is closed, and is allowed to remain undisturbed for at least 45 minutes. The heat of the oven, if it could be tested with a thermometer, would be found to vary from 400° to 500° Fahr., and when the bread is done the oven would not register more than 200° to 250° Fahr., the heat having been practically used up in baking the bread, part of it passing off into the atmosphere.
There is no doubt that the "wood oven," so-called, from the character of the fuel consumed, turns out the sweetest bread, which certainly has a flavour peculiarly its own, and not to be produced by any other means, proving conclusively that wood is the best fuel for baking bread. But the scarcity of wood and limitations of space in large centres of population have prohibited its use, and resort is had to coke, coal and gas, which are burnt in a variety of ways to produce the heat necessary to bake bread. Many so-called improvements have been made in the construction of ovens since the oven described came into use, and at the present time the baker has a large number of systems to choose from, each of these claiming some points of excellence over the others; it should be no trouble, therefore, for the baker to select an oven that will meet his requirements. In a private house this is of course different, and the oven usually found in the kitchen of the generality of houses is totally unfit to bake a full 2-lb. loaf of bread, although it will answer well enough for small rolls and fancy loaves. The unsuitability of the modern oven is principally due to thinness of the sides and the fact that it is not airtight; consequently all the steam escapes, rendering the bread dry and the crust hard and chippy, and not moist and crisp like baker's bread or bread baked in a large brick-built oven. For it should be remembered that it is absolutely necessary to keep all the steam in the oven when baking bread, for the vapour assists the crust to assume the brightness and gloss seen on new bread, known as "bloom." The ordinary kitchen oven, constructed of iron, and being also very thick, in some cases becomes red-hot, and thus not only scorches and burns the bread, but dries up the steam as fast as it is given off from the dough, with the result, as before stated, that a very dry crust and not a very well baked crumb is produced.
This is also the cause of the very thick tough crust so generally met with in home-made bread. The crust is so quickly formed by the fierce heat to which it is subjected, that it does not allow the steam with the gases generated by baking to escape from the loaf, and they are in a measure evaporated inside the skin or crust. Then when the bread is drawn from the oven and cools, the steam is absorbed into the crust, making it tough. It is very necessary that the oven be sufficiently hot to bake the bread thoroughly, and under no consideration should bread or other goods be baked in a slack oven, or the result will be a very unsatisfactory loaf of bread, and most probably other goods will also be spoilt. Although the modern oven is generally unsatisfactory for ordinary loaf bread, it will bake small bread and fancy bread to perfection, the cause of failure with large loaves proving the success of the small. Generally speaking, this small bread requires a quick, sharp, flash heat that will bake the loaves quickly and well. Therefore there should be no very great difficulty in supplying the family table with dainties for either breakfast, luncheon, dinner or tea, and where it is necessary to bake bread in a town where gas can be procured, there is nothing that will be so satisfactory as a gas oven, failing one specially constructed for the purpose of baking bread. Usually the gas companies let out these stoves on hire, and so great has been the advantage from this arrangement that it will be found more economical to use a gas oven than an ordinary kitchener for the purpose. It should, however, be remembered that there are many different styles of gas ovens, and it is therefore advisable to state what is required to the gas company, and let them supply a suitable stove for the particular purpose required. In using a gas oven it should be remembered that it must be thoroughly heated before the bread is put in, and then kept at a good heat during the time the process of baking is going on: the oven door must be kept closed. Some gas ovens are provided with a tiled "sole," or bottom, and these ovens bake excellent cottage and other breads that are desired to have a sweet crusty bottom. Usually bread baked in and on tins or metal has a tough crust that is not generally liked, and to avoid this defect it is advisable to procure some new red house-tiles and fit them into the bottom or shelf of the oven. By this means a more satisfactorily baked loaf will be obtained than by baking it on the iron. With the generality of kitchen ovens it will be very desirable to bake the bread in tins, as better results will be obtained than by putting the loaves direct upon the iron of the oven, for if the oven is used for all kinds of domestic purposes, there will be every probability of some dirt remaining upon the oven from burnt fruit-juices, or boiled-over fat, which would be very undesirable on the bottoms of the loaves, and would sometimes add a very disagreeable flavour to the bread. Of course it is possible to take the shelves out and scour them, but there is always the liability to forget these little things until the last minute, when it is undesirable to do them, and they are neglected, with unfortunate after-results. It is most necessary to practise the utmost cleanliness, for bread is very sensitive, and will very soon absorb a very undesirable flavour from anything that has been or is being baked with it. No matter whether the flavour is pleasant or obnoxious, it should not, under any consideration, be allowed to impart it to the bread. On all occasions bake bread by itself.
To Keep Bread.—One of the most important points in connection with home baking is to keep the bread in good condition for the table after it is baked. To do this it is necessary to commence at the beginning, and when the bread is drawn from the oven stand it upon racks to cool, the air can circulate freely and gradually cool it, and then when perfectly cold, to wrap each loaf up separately in a sheet of white greaseproof paper, and then in a sheet of thick brown or other waste paper, and set the loaves in rows upon a shelf in a room or pantry free from dampness or draught, where the room is dry, without fire, or artificial light. This room or cupboard should be in a shady position and well protected from the sun's rays. Bread preserved in this way—provided, of course, it has been properly made and baked—will keep good, sweet and moist for 10 days, and the last loaf should be just as good as the first, although it will be somewhat drier, but not to any appreciable extent. But very particular attention must be paid to the preparation of the bread, otherwise it will not keep in condition for any length of time. If bread is not required for keeping longer than a week, it can be stored in a clean earthenware pan furnished with a lid, but if a pan or crock is used for the purpose, it must be thoroughly scalded and rinsed out every week, and then wiped with clean cloths and dried before the fire, and allowed to become quite cold before storing the bread in it. If required to be kept only for 2 or 3 days the bread will not need very special treatment, but will keep quite well on shelves in the larder, the only precaution necessary being to protect the loaves from the sun and draught. Bread can also be kept wrapped in clean cloths for a few days, but in all cases, no matter how it is kept, it must be perfectly cold before being packed away. It is a fact that should not be lost sight of, that the larger the loaf the longer it retains its moisture, and as loaves decrease in size the drier they will become; all kinds of small bread and rolls should therefore be freshly made as frequently as possible. As a rule the capacity of the oven will be limited, and where the number to be provided for is large, it will be necessary to bake more than once a week, and where this is the case no very extraordinary precautions will be necessary, as all the bread will be consumed comparatively fresh. It is an excellent plan to arrange the baking so that there is always one batch in hand; it will not then be necessary to serve hot bread at the table, which is a very uneconomical practice. A loaf may be somewhat freshened by being warmed through in a slack oven, but it must be remembered that this is only a very primitive method of toasting, and that the loaf will be the drier for the extra baking. Upon no consideration be persuaded to dip the bread into water of any description before placing it in the oven, for the crust will crack all over, and peel off in flakes, and the result will be most unsatisfactory.
INGREDIENTS FOR CAKES.
Butter is of the first importance in cake-making, and where a rich cake is desired of fine flavour and keeping qualities, only the best butter should be used. But in most instances it will be desirable to use a somewhat cheaper fat for the purpose of cake-making. especially where the family is large and the means limited. In this case lard, dripping, or good margarine may be used with advantage, and there are also several vegetable fats procurable that answer very well for these purposes; but although they are more economical in price, and some of them are richer where flavour is the first consideration, nothing better than pure butter can be used. So-called cooking butter is in too many instances nothing but margarine, but there should be no compunction in buying margarine under its right name, and paying a corresponding low figure for it. In this connection it should be said that the very cheapest that is offered should not be purchased; but for about 6d. per lb. a good sweet perfectly wholesome margarine can be procured that is eminently suitable for all purposes of cake-making, and will give results almost equal to pure butter. Of late years so many improvements have been introduced into the manufacture of margarine and other butter substitutes that almost an expert is required to tell the difference, and if a mixture of half butter and half margarine is used, there are few who could tell that it was not made with the best butter; and a good sweet margarine is to be preferred to a bad or indifferent butter.
Eggs.—After butter the eggs next claim attention. At the present time eggs are imported into this country from all parts of the world. Formerly they were imported from France only, but the supply being unequal to the demand, other countries soon began to forward their surplus eggs to the English market, and the result is that a good supply of the finest eggs for cooking purposes is always obtainable. For making cakes, eggs that are from 7 to 14 days old, provided they have been properly kept, are best, and the reason is apparent. The longer an egg is kept, up to a certain point, the less moisture it contains, for the shell of a new-laid egg is perfectly full, and if shaken no sound emanates from it; but if the egg is kept for a few days and then shaken, it will give out a rattle increasing in sound as the egg gets older. This is caused by a certain amount of the water in the albumen, or white, drying out into the shell and air, and thus the albumen is stronger and the yolk more solid for being kept; and the reason these eggs are better for cake-making is that the ingredients will only take a limited quantity of liquid, and the deficiency must be made up with milk, which is richer than the water that has evaporated from the eggs. Nor is this the only advantage. The whites will whip up better and give more body than fresh eggs, and therefore more lightness to the cakes, for the white being more solid and stronger in every way retains the air better after it is beaten in. But when eggs are used for these purposes, it is important that each egg is broken into a cup, and carefully tested by its smell, to guard against any egg that may be bad, and especially a musty one, which, were it added to the cake, would spoil the whole of the work and render it uneatable. When breaking the eggs make sure that they are useable, turn them into a basin or other suitable vessel, and cover them over with a sheet of paper to keep out all dirt, until they are required for use.
Sugar.—Refined sugars can now be procured at so low a price, already ground and pulverized, that it is more economical to buy it in this form than to use loaf sugar and pound it, for, besides the trouble, it also involves some waste and loss of time, for powdered sugar is no dearer than loaf sugar, and if it cannot be procured from the grocers, a baker who makes small confectionery goods would be willing to supply the quantity required.
Fruit.—With the introduction of machinery for fruit cleaning purposes, currants can be procured comparatively clean, and need only a rub in a dry cloth, and picking over to remove any larger sprigs and stones that may have escaped the machine, to render them fit for use. In almost every case washing is not at all necessary; in fact, washing the currants deprives them of some of their goodness, and, therefore, is not only a waste of time, but waste of material, and makes the cake heavy. Sultanas, although they are no doubt cleaned, require carefully picking over, and a good rub on a coarse sieve will remove almost the whole of the sprigs, which are a very objectionable ingredient in a cake. Raisins should in all cases be stoned, and if a large quantity has to be prepared, a small machine suitable for the purpose can be procured from the household stores or ironmongers for a few shillings. It is very effective in its operations, and frees the raisins from stones in an incredibly short time, and, contrary to the general opinion, does not take out more of the flesh of the raisins than hand-picking. Glacé cherries, pineapple and ginger are used in cake-making. They are procurable from the grocers in quantities as required, but as the price is rather high, they are used but sparingly. Cocoanut, almonds, walnuts, and other nuts, are sometimes used in cakes, but with the exception of almonds and cocoanuts, very small quantities of the others are used.
The Almonds, before use, require to be blanched. This is done by putting the almonds into a basin and pouring boiling water over them. When they have scalded for a short time their jackets are easily removed. When blanched they should be dried in the oven. There are very many varieties of the almond. The largest and dearest are the Jordan, and the cheapest are termed Barbary. There are both sweet and bitter almonds, the latter being used but sparingly for flavouring purposes. Almonds can be purchased already blanched, either whole, shred, chopped, or flaked, as desired, and if large quantities are required it is cheaper to procure them already prepared. Ground almonds are used for icings, paste, macaroons, ratifias, and biscuits, and are procurable prepared all ready for use. Cocoanut is sometimes liked, and for all purposes desiccated nut can be used. It is sold in shreds, strips, and either fine or coarse, also sugared and plain.
Flour for cakes should always be of the finest quality procurable, and for best goods Vienna is the most suitable for use, and will also give the best results. But for all ordinary purposes of the household, what is termed "Whites" is suitable. But in any case let the flour be dry to the touch and sweet to the smell, with some colour and strength.
Manufacture of Biscuits.—Since the establishment of the large modern biscuit factories, biscuits have been produced both cheap and wholesome in almost endless variety. Their actual component parts are, perhaps, known only to the various makers; but there are several kinds of biscuits which have long been in use, most of which belong to the class of unfermented bread, and are perhaps the most wholesome of that class. In cases where fermented bread causes dyspepsia, biscuits may be recommended; in many instances they are considered lighter, and less liable to create acidity. The name is derived from the French biscuit, or "twice-baked," because, originally, the method of baking entirely deprived them of all moisture, to ensure their keeping, but although that process is no longer employed, the name is retained. The use of this kind of bread on land is general, and some varieties are luxuries; but at sea, biscuits are articles of the first necessity. Fancy biscuits contain butter, eggs, milk, and various flavourings. They are sold in enormous quantities. Sea or ship-biscuits are made of wheat flour, from which only the coarsest bran has been separated. Dough is made up as stiff as it can be worked, and is then formed into shapes, and baked in an oven; after which the biscuits are exposed in lofts over the oven until perfectly dry, to prevent them from becoming mouldy when stored. Captains' biscuits are made in a similar manner, but of finer flour. Particulars of the different kinds and prices will be found in the marketing portion of the book.