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Page:Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management.djvu/1568

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1402
HOUSEHOLD MANAGEMENT

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