A species of unleavened bread. There are several sorts of biscuit, each having a distinguishing name; but the most important, from its very great consumption, is the sea biscuit, destined for the use of shipping. A new baking establishment having been recently formed at the Royal Clarence Victualling Establishment, at Weevil, near Portsmouth, upon a scale of magnitude nearly sufficient to supply the whole royal navy with biscuit, and that of a very superior description, the following account, taken from the United Service Journal will, we trust, be acceptable to our readers. " It having been discovered that the flour supplied to government by contract had, in many instances, been most shamefully adulterated, the corn is ground at mills comprised within the establishment, and by which means the introduction of improper ingredients is prevented, and precisely the proportion of bran which is requisite in the composition of good sea-biscuit is retained, and no more. The flour-mill is furnished with 10 pair of stones, by which 40 bushels of flour may be ground and dressed, ready for baking, in an hour.
These are each heated by separate furnaces, so constructed, that a blast of hot air and fire sweeps through them, and gives to the interior the requisite dose of heat in an incredibly short space of time. The first operation in making the biscuits consists in mixing the flour, or rather meal and water; 13 gallons of water are first introduced into a trough, and then a sack of the meal, weighing 280 lbs. When the whole has been poured in by a channel communicating with an upper room, a bell rings, and the trough is closed. An apparatus, consisting of two sets of what are called knives, each set ten in number, are then made to revolve amongst the flour and water by means of machinery. This mixing lasts one minute and a half, during which time the double set of knives, or stirrers, make twenty-six revolutions. The next process is to cast the lumps of dough under what are called the breaking-rollers - huge cylinders of iron weighing 14 cwt. each, and moved horizontally by the machinery along stout tables. The dough is thus formed into large rude masses, 6 feet long, by 3 feet broad, and several inches thick. At this stage of the business the kneading is still very imperfect, and traces of dry flour may still be detected.
These great masses of dough are now drawn out, and cut into a number of smaller masses about a foot and a half long by a foot wide, and again thrust under the rollers, which is repeated until the mixture is so complete that not the slightest trace of any inequality is discoverable in any part of the mass. It should have been stated that two workmen stand one at each side of the rollers, and as the dough is flattened out, they fold it up, or double one part upon another, so that the roller, at its next passage, squeezes these parts together, and forces them to mix. The dough is next cut into small portions, and being placed upon large fiat boards, is, by the agency of machinery, conveyed from the centre to the extremity of the baking-room. Here it is received by a workman, who places it under what is called the sheet-roller, but which, for size, colour, and thickness, more nearly resembles a blanket. The kneading is thus complete, and the dough only requires to be cut into biscuits before it is committed to the oven. The cutting is effected by what is called the cutting-plate, consisting of a net-work of 52 sharp edged hexagonal frames, each as large as a biscuit.
This frame is moved slowly up and down by machinery, and the workman watching his opportunity, slides tinder it the above described blanket of dough, which is about the size of the leaf of a dining-table; and the cutting-frame, in its descent, indents the sheet, but does not actually cut it through, but leaves sufficient substance to enable the workman at the mouth of the oven to jerk the whole mass of biscuits, unbroken, into the oven. The dough is prevented sticking to the cutting-frame, by the following ingenious device; between each of the cutter frames is a small flat open frame, movable up and down, and loaded with an iron ball, weighing several ounces. When the great frame comes down upon the dough, and cuts out 52 biscuits, each of these minor frames yield to the pressure, and are raised up; but as soon as the great frame rises, the weight of the balls acting upon the little frames thrusts the whole blanket off, and allows the workman to pull it out. One quarter of an hour is sufficient to bake the biscuit, which is afterwards placed for three days in a drying room, heated to 85°, or 90°, which completes the process." The following statement of the performance of the machinery is taken from actual experiment: in 116 days, during 68 of which the work was continued for only 71/2 hours, and during 48, for only 5f hours each day, in all 769 working hours, equal to 77 days of 10 hours each, the following quantity of biscuit was baked in the 9 ovens; viz. 12,307 cwt.=l,378,400 lbs.
The wages of the men employed in baking this quantity amounted to 273f. 10s. 91/2d.; if it had been made by hand the wages would have been 933l. 5s. 1Od; saving in the wages of labour, 659l. 7s. 01/2d. In this is not included any part of the interest of the sum laid out upon the machine, or expended in keeping it in order. But in a very few years, at such an immense rate of saving, the cost of the engine and other machinery would be repaid. This admirable apparatus is the invention of T. T. Grant, Esq. Storekeeper of the Royal Clarence Victualling Establishment, who, we believe, has been rewarded by a grant of 2,000f. from Government.