To make biscuit, take a part of the dough left from bread-making when it is ready to mold into loaves, work in the lard and any other ingredients desired, such as butter, eggs, sugar, spice, etc., also using a little more flour; let rise once, then mix down and let rise again, turn out on the bread-board, knead a few minutes, roll, and cut out with a biscuit-cutter or mold with the hand. Place in a well-greased dripping-pan, and when light bake in a quick oven from fifteen to twenty minutes. To make them a nice color, wet the top with warm water just before placing in the oven. To glaze, brush lightly with milk and sugar, or the well-beaten yolk of an egg sweetened, and a little milk added.
Biscuit may be baked in eight minutes by making the oven as hot as can be without burning, and allowing it to cool off gradually as they bake; this makes them very light, but one has to watch closely to keep them from being scorched. Any kind of bread or pastry mixed with water requires a hotter fire than that mixed with milk.
Biscuit and rolls should be allowed to rise one-half longer than bread loaves, because the loaves of the former, being smaller, are penetrated sooner by the heat, and, of course, the fermentation is stopped sooner, and the rolls do not rise so much in the oven.
Biscuit for tea at six must be molded two hours before, which will give ample time for rising and baking. Parker House rolls for breakfast at eight must be made ready at five. Many think it unnecessary to knead down either bread or biscuit as often as hero directed; but if attention is given to the dough at the right time, and it is not suffered to become too light, it will be much nicer, whiter, and of a finer texture if these directions are followed.
The almost universal custom is to set the sponge at night, but many excellent bread-makers differ widely from this in practice, and their objections deserve candid consideration in this nineteenth century, when so much is written of dyspepsia and its causes. Some medical authorities assert that cancer in the stomach has its origin in dyspepsia, which, in the beginning, is caused by the use of indigestible yeast bread, in which the process of fermentation has been allowed to go so far that a certain amount of actual decomposition has taken place. This is not the fault of such recipes as are given, in this volume, but from failure to mix the bread at each successive rising at the proper time. The objection to setting sponge at night is, that it stands too long. Bread, to be white, sweet, and digestible, must be mixed immediately after the sponge has risen to the proper point, which may be known by its puffy appearance, usually rising higher in the middle than at the sides of the crock; if it sinks in the center, it has stood too long.
The process of bread-making discovered by Prof. Horsford, of Harvard College, deserves the attention of all housekeepers. It is claimed, and with good reason, that the Horsford process prevents all decomposition, saves all the nutritious properties of the bread, and, by the addition of acid phosphate, renders it more easy of digestion. Besides this, the use of Horsford's Bread Preparation saves times, simplifies the whole process of bread-making, saves labor, and reduces the chances of failure to the minimum. These are considerations of great moment, especially to inexperienced housekeepers, leaving entirely out of consideration the fact that this bread may be eaten with impunity by persons whose delicate digestive organs are impaired by the use of ordinary yeast bread. It is certain that for rolls, biscuits, griddle-cakes, and the whole list of "Breakfast and Tea Cakes," the "Bread Preparation" is superior to yeast or soda, or any of the baking-powders in common use.
(with sweet milk use baking-powder or soda and cream tartar, with sour milk soda alone), so that the effervescence takes place in the mixture. One tea-spoon soda and two of cream tartar, or three tea-spoons baking-powder, to every two pints of flour, is about the right proportion. Bake in a quick oven as soon as made, and they rise more quickly if put into hot pans. Gems of all kinds require a hot oven, but the fire should be built some time before they are put into the oven, and allowed to go down by the time they are light, as the heat necessary to raise them will burn them in baking if kept up.
All biscuit and bread, except brown and Graham bread, should be pricked with a fork before putting them in the oven.
Soda and raised biscuit and bread or cake, when stale, can be made almost as nice as fresh by plunging for an instant into cold water, and then placing in a pan in the oven ten or fifteen minutes; thus treated they should be used immediately.
Waffle-irons should be heated, then buttered or greased with lard, and one side filled with batter, closed and laid on the fire or placed on the stove, and after a few minutes turned on the other side. They take about twice as long to bake as griddle-cakes, and are delicious with a dressing of ground cinnamon. Muffins are baked in muffin-rings. In eating them, do not cut but break them open.
The success of these recipes, and all others in this book in which soda and cream tartar are used, will depend on the purity of these ingredients. Always buy the pure English bicarbonate of soda, and the 'pure cream tartar. They are higher-priced, but cheaper in the end, and are free from injurious substances. When not found at the grocer's, they may generally be had at the druggist's.