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Page:Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management.djvu/1567

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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"