Every cook, and we might almost say, every woman, ought to be perfectly acquainted with the mode of making good household bread; and skill in preparing other articles of food is poor compensation for ignorance upon this one essential point. A very slight degree of attention, moreover, will enable any person to succeed in. it, and there is, consequently, small excuse for those who neglect to render themselves properly acquainted with the process.
The best flour will generally be found the cheapest in the end; it should be purchased if possible from a miller who can be depended on for supplying it good and unadulterated. Let it be stored always in a dry place, as damp is very injurious to it; if kept habitually in a chest, this should be entirely emptied at intervals, cleaned with great nicety, and not filled again until it is perfectly dry. The kneading trough tub, or pan, with every thing else indeed used for the bread, or for the oven, should at all times be kept scrupulously clean.
The yeast of mild home-brewed beer is the best that can be procured, and requires no purifying; but it should be strained through a hair-sieve after it is mixed with a portion of warm milk, or water, before it is added to the flour.
Very rapid fermentation, which is produced by using more than the necessary quantity of yeast, is by no means advantageous to the bread, which not only becomes dry and stale from it, but is of less sweet and pleasant flavour than that which is more slowly fermented. In winter it should always be placed near the fire, but never sufficiently so to become hot; nor should it ever be allowed to become perfectly cold. Put half a bushel (more or less, according to the consumption of the family) of flour into the kneading tub or trough, and hollow it well in the middle; dilute a pint of yeast as it is brought from the brewery, or half the quantity if it has been washed and rendered solid, with four quarts or more of lukewarm milk or water, or a mixture of the two; stir into it, from the surrounding part, with a wooden spoon, as much flour as will make a thick batter; throw a little over it, and leave this, which is called the leaven, to rise before proceeding further. In about an hour it will have swollen considerably, and have burst through the coating of flour on the top; then pour in as much more warm liquid as will convert the whole, with good kneading, and this should not be spared into a firm dough, of which the surface should be entirely free from lumps or crumbs.
Throw a cloth over, and let it remain until it has risen very much a second time, which will be in an hour, or something more, if the batch be large. Then work it lightly up, and mould it into loaves of from two to three pounds weight; send them directly to a well-heated oven, and bake them from an hour and a half to an hour and three quarters.
Flour, 1/2 bushel; salt (when it is liked), 4 to 6 ozs.; yeast, 1 pint unwashed, or 1/2 pint if purified; milk, or water, 2 quarts: 1 to 1 1/2 hour. Additional liquid as needed.