By Claribel Nye
. The making of yeast bread has a certain fascination because success depends largely on the proper control of living organisms, or yeasts. If dough is left for too long or is kept too warm, the yeast plants become weakened; then the bacteria that may be present grow and produce an acid, making the bread sour. The milk is scalded in order to kill any bacteria present. Proper baking of bread kills all bacteria, yeasts, and molds, and insures its keeping, if it is carefully handled and stored afterwards.
The essential ingredients for yeast bread are flour, yeast, liquid, and salt. Other ingredients often added for flavor, texture, or keeping quality are sugar, shortening, and potatoes. In place of the customary wheat, corn, barley, oats, rice, potatoes, peanuts, or breadcrumbs may be used. In place of some of the wheat ordinarily used, corn, barley, oats, rice, potatoes, peanuts, or breadcrumbs may be used.
The cereals may be ground and added with the flour, or they may be cooked to a mush before they are added to the batter.
The best bread flour is called strong flour and is made from hard spring wheat. This wheat is grown in the Dakotas, Minnesota, a part of Iowa, Nebraska, northern Kansas, northern Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana. A strong winter wheat is grown in a limited number of states, notably Kansas. A strong bread flour is slightly granular, has a creamy color, and gives bread of maximum volume.
Wheat and rye flours are particularly adapted to bread-making because they contain materials which, when moistened, form an elastic substance, called gluten. The gluten expands with the pressure of heated gases in baking and forms a framework surrounding the other ingredients. A good yeast bread generally contains some wheat or rye flour, although other cereals can well be used to a certain extent.
The present complex standardized process of milling wheat is the result of a gradual remarkable development which began in the days when women were millers, the mill consisting of two stones between which the grain was ground. The patent, or roller, process now used produces a flour different in color, composition, and bread-making qualities. Although wheat milled by the roller process yields a flour that gives a white loaf and consequently makes its appeal to the eye, the flour contains less of the entire wheat kernel than that produced by the other method.
The patent reduction, or roller, process is so named because the wheat is reduced to flour by being put through a series of steel rollers. The wheat is first cleaned, and then gradually reduced to flour as it passes through a series of steel rollers, each pair adjusted to give a finer product than the preceding. As the wheat passes through each set of rollers, a little of it is reduced to flour and the remainder is called middlings. The middlings are then carried through the next roller; each time the result is flour and middlings. The bran cannot be reduced to flour but is flattened by the steel rollers and separated from the flour. The quality of the flour that results from the blending of the flours obtained from the different rollers depends on the skill of the miller.
Flour is sometimes said to be 80 per cent patent. This usually means that 80 per cent of the flour obtained from the wheat in the different stages of milling has been blended for market. The term " patent" flour came into use when the roller, or patent, milling process was introduced; its meaning at the present time is not uniform throughout the country.
Graham, from whom graham flour received its name, believed that the entire wheat kernel should be used for food and developed a milling process by which all the kernel, with the exception of the outer inedible coats, was used. At the present time, most graham flour is made by combining bran and white flour.
Whole-wheat flour does not contain so large a percentage of the entire wheat kernel as does graham. However, graham, because of its coarseness, may be irritating to the digestive tract of some persons.
White flour contains less of the wheat kernel than does either whole-wheat or graham.
Yeasts are very small plants, having a diameter of about 3/1000 inch. In bread-making, yeast serves two functions: (1) by its action on the sugar of the flour it forms carbon dioxide gas, which makes the dough light; (2) it gives the characteristic flavor which is found in bread only when yeast is used.
Before yeast was sold commercially, women used to obtain it by exposing batter to the air for several hours. The difficulty with this method was that various yeast plants, as well as other organisms present in the air, might enter, whereas only one type of yeast is best for bread-making. Thus the flavor of the bread was not always desirable. Old-fashioned liquid yeast, or potato yeast, represents the housekeeper's method. The yeasts grow and multiply rapidly in potato water to which salt and sugar have been added. This mixture is then kept in a cool place until needed for bread-making. The disadvantage of liquid yeast is that other yeasts and organisms find their way into the mixture and may give the bread a peculiar flavor.
For the commercial product, one form of yeast is grown under very carefully standardized conditions. The yeasts are mixed with cornmeal and the mixture pressed into cakes and dried; or the yeasts are mixed with starch or tapioca flour, pressed into cakes, and sold in the form of compressed yeast. In the dried form they will keep in fairly good condition for months; compressed yeast keeps for only a few days, but the yeast is much more active than it is in the dry cakes and, therefore, bread can be made more quickly from it.
The liquid used in bread-making may be water, whole milk, skimmed milk, whey, potato water, rice water, or the like. Increased nutritive value, as well as better flavor and texture, are points in favor of using milk in some of its forms instead of water.