It is certainly a poor investment to buy cheap flour for bread baking. Nearly all brands of bread flour, made from healthy, straight, hard spring wheat, are controlled by about the same market price; and if any flour is offered below these figures, you should be careful and have it thoroughly tested before laying in a stock of it. While the strongest flour takes the most water, it is cheapest even if higher in price. But for home made bread, milk bread, etc., it is advisable to mix it with one-fourth to one-third of winter wheat flour (pastry). Do not buy a mixed flour, as it will cost you more than if you mix it yourself. To test your flour, put a handful on a clean pasteboard, take a dry, smooth knife, and slide over the flour, pressing it down solid. If the knife is free from any particles, and the flour is smooth and does not show any dark streaks in it, it is all right for a good spring patent; still it should have a granulated appearance, not too much like powder. Compare different brands in this way, and you will understand it.
Flour should never have a reddish or dark look when examined in the light, unless it is common flour which you have bought cheap for molasses work. It is also a mistake to set sponge or dough with one kind of flour as you would with another. If you have a good, straight, patent flour, one cake of compressed yeast is sufficient for three quarts of flour in summer, or two quarts in winter; but if you have to use up cheap, poor flour, always set sponge first and do not set too warm.
In warm weather set your dough at nine o'clock in the evening, and in cold weather set it two hours earlier. Dissolve three to four ounces of compressed yeast in three quarts of warm milk, then add ten quarts of water, one-fourth of a pound of salt, six ounces of sugar, four ounces of lard, a little butter, and sufficient flour to make a stiff dough. In the morning cut up in pieces, and after greasing your hands with lard, mould up round; let it rest a little while and then mould over into long loaves to fit the tins. Do not let it raise too much, and bake about thirty minutes.
Set warm sponge with four ounces of yeast and ten quarts of water (in winter five ounces of yeast). Set softer than ordinary sponge; let it raise the second time, which should not take more than three hours. Then add four quarts of warm milk, two quarts of water, one-half pound of sugar, six ounces of salt, one-half pound of lard, a little butter and sufficient flour to work soft; let it raise well, in summer about one and one-half hours, in winter two hours; the bench should be greased before using; then proceed as above. This makes a very fine round loaf of bread.
Prepare sponge as for cottage bread, only use the following formula: One-half of a pound of yeast, six quarts of milk for dough, three-fourths of a pound of lard, no sugar, 10 ounces salt. Let the dough stand one hour; roll out about fourteen inches in length; point both ends; set in cloth, each separate, well dusted; wash before baking; cut three times across. Bake on bottom of oven, or, if you have to bake on pans, dust them first with corn meal and heat them.