Many people who had declared that there was very little harm in eating very white bread changed their opinions after the publication of this outspoken report, and even bitter opponents of a change realised that they could no longer rely upon the statements made on behalf of the very white bread by the men who had been producing these chemicalised flours from which so much of it was made. They turned, therefore, to the "cranks," and asked them why a more wholemeal bread was better for everyone than the bread made from white flour alone.
This was a question easily answered. If you look at a diagram of a wheat-grain, you will find in it one portion called the germ and another called the inner layer of the bran. Neither of these portions is found in white bread, and both are an essential feature of standard bread. When they are present in the flour they give to the bread made from it the sweet, nutty flavour and delightful odour of the old-fashioned country loaf. They are rich in fat, phosphates, and mineral salts. The constituents of the germ have the singular property of enabling the body to make a right use of the starch and protein contained in the white flour which forms the bulk of the wheat-grain. Without the germ the white flour is not properly assimilated by the body. It may make fat or it may be used up in doing work, but it does not make those strong bones and well-knit sinews which everyone wants to see in children. So, too, with the mineral salts and other substances found in the inner layer of the bran, and in the cells of the white flour nearest to the bran, which disappear when all the bran is taken out by the roller process. The phosphorus in the bran is essential to brain nourishment, the lime and fluorine are essential to good teeth, the iron compounds are essential for the blood.
Read an analysis of good standard bread, and you will find in it all those substances which people buy in the form of "tonics" and give to weak and anaemic children. Is it not better that children should get their iron and phosphorus tonics in the natural form in good bread than in periodic "doses" of patent medicine?
So much, then, for the reasons why the standard bread campaign was started, and why it proved so wonderfully successful. It was not only right, but it was proved to be so by its results. It is not, of course, ended. The end can only come when Parliament declares that bread shall by law contain all those nutritive substances and tonic salts of which it has been deprived by the millers, and shall, moreover, be unbleached and unadulterated.
Until Parliament thus establishes a standard for bread, the housewife must ask her flour-dealer or baker for a written guarantee that the flour is genuine and unadulterated, or buy it direct from a mill which grinds nothing but the old-fashioned flour from good, well-cleaned wheat.
Those who cannot get reliable bread from their bakers will find that home bread-making is both interesting and economical. The best and sweetest bread is baked in the old-fashioned brick ovens fired with wood, but very good bread can be made in kitchen range or gas-oven. The size of each baking must be proportionate to the size of the oven if economy is to be studied in the latter case. It is also worth remembering that in many of the large towns the gas companies will give special assistance and instruction in the art of bread-making in order to encourage householders to use gas ranges.
Cream the yeast and sugar together until smooth, add the teaspoonfuls of flour and the tepid water. Cover this with a cloth, and set to rise in a warm place for about twenty minutes. Mix the flour and salt, pour in the yeast, and mix the dough, adding more tepid water, if necessary. Knead the dough until it is quite smooth, form into a loaf, and put this on to a greased and floured tin. Set this to rise in a warm place until the loaf has doubled its size. Bake in a hot oven for about an hour.
The following recipe is intended for those housewives who wish to use barm, or brewers' yeast. It is often said, and probably with a good deal of truth, that this yeast produces a loaf which keeps better than bread made with German yeast. Some baking experts declare that a standard loaf well made with brewers' yeast will keep fresh and moist for a week. Here is the recipe:
Make a well in the middle of seven pounds of flour, mix three tablespoonfuls of brewers' yeast and three ounces of salt with a pint and a half of warm milk-and-water. Pour this into the flour, and with a wooden spoon make a batter. Cover with flour and a cloth, let it rise for twenty to thirty minutes, then add more milk-and-water, to make three and a quarter pints altogether, to make the whole a stiff, smooth sponge. Let it stand another hour, then knead till quite firm. Divide it into three loaves, and bake, with or without tins, for an hour and a half in a properly heated oven.
As bread made from standard flour resembles so closely the old-fashioned cottage or country loaf, besides these modern recipes may be placed a description of home bread-making written by William Cobbett, the famous agriculturist, nearly one hundred years ago. For the instruction of cottagers, who even then had abandoned the baking of bread at home, Cobbett wrote:
"Suppose the quantity be a bushel of flour. Put this flour into a trough that people have for the purpose, or it may be in a clean smooth tub of any shape, if not too deep, and sufficiently large. Make a pretty deep hole in the mddle of this heap of flour. Take (for a bushel) a pint of good fresh yeast, mix it and stir it well up in a pint of soft water, milk-warm. Pour this into the hole in the heap of flour. Then take a spoon and work it round the outside of this body of moisture so as to bring into it by degrees flour enough to make it form a thin batter, which you must stir about well for a minute or two. Then take a handful of flour and scatter it thinly over the head of this batter, so as to hide it. Then cover the whole over with a cloth to keep it warm; and this covering, as well as the situation of the trough as to distance from the fire must depend upon the nature of the place and state of the weather as to heat and cold. When you perceive that the batter has risen enough to make cracks in the flour that you covered it over with, you begin to form the whole matter into dough, thus: you begin round the hole containing the batter, and pouring in, as it is wanted to make the flour mix with the batter, soft water, milk-warm, or milk, as hereafter to be mentioned. Before you begin this, you scatter the salt over the heap at the rate of half a pound to a bushel of flour. When you have got the whole sufficiently moist, you knead it well. This is a grand part of the business; for, unless the dough be well worked, there will be little round lumps of flour in the loaves; and, besides, the original batter, which is to give fermentation to the whole, will not be duly mixed. The dough must, therefore, be well worked. The fists must go heartily into it. It must be rolled over, pressed out, folded up and pressed out again, until it be completely mixed, and formed into a stiff and tough dough. This is labour, mind. I have never quite liked bakers' bread since I saw a great heavy fellow, in a bakehouse in France, kneading bread with his naked feet! His feet looked very white, to be sure; whether they were that colour before he got into the trough I could not tell. God forbid that I should suspect that this is ever done in England ! It is labour; but what is exercise, other than labour? Let a young woman bake a bushel once a week, and she will do very well without phials and gallipots.
"Thus, then, the dough is made. And, when made, it is to be formed into a lump into the middle of the trough, and, with a little dry flour thinly scattered over it, covered over again to be kept warm and to ferment; and in this state, if all be done rightly, it will not have to remain more than about fifteen or twenty minutes.
"In the meanwhile, the oven is to be heated; and this is much more than half the art of the operation. When an oven is properly heated can be known only by actual observation. Women who understand the matter know when the heat is right the moment they put their faces within a yard of the oven-mouth; and once or twice observing is enough for any person of common capacity. But this much may be said in the way of rule, that the fuel (I am supposing a brick oven) should be dry (not rotten wood, and not mere brush-wood, but rather fagot-sticks. If larger wood, it ought to be split up into sticks not more than two or two and a half inches through. Brush-wood that is strong, not green and not old, if it be hard in its nature and has some sticks in it, may do. The woody parts of furze, or ling, will heat an oven very well. But the thing is to have a lively and yet somewhat strong fire, so that the oven may be heated in about fifteen minutes, and retain its heat sufficiently long.
"The oven should be hot by the time that the dough has remained in the lump about twenty minutes. When both are ready, take out the fire and wipe the oven out clean, and, at nearly about the same moment, take the dough out upon the lid of the baking-trough, or some proper place, cut it up into pieces, and make it into loaves, kneading it again in these separate parcels; and, as you go on, shaking a little flour over your board, to prevent the dough adhering to it. The loaves should be put into the oven as quickly as possible after they are formed; when in, the oven lid, or door, should be fastened up very closely; and, if all be properly managed, loaves of about the size of quartern loaves will be sufficiently baked in about two hours. But they usually take down the lid, and look at the bread, in order to see how it is going on.
"And what is there worthy of the name of plague or trouble in all this? Here is no dirt, no filth, no rubbish, no litter, no slop. And, pray, what can be pleasanter to behold? Talk, indeed, of your pantomimes and gaudy shows, your processions and installations and coronations! Give me, for a beautiful sight, a neat, smart woman heating her oven and setting in her bread !
"And what is the result? Why, good, wholesome food, sufficient for a considerable family for a week, prepared in three or four hours. '