Pare and slice five large potatoes, and boil them in one quart of water with a large handful of common hops (or a square inch of pressed hops), tied in a muslin rag. When soft, take out the hops and press the potatoes through a colander, and add a small cup of white sugar, a tea-spoonful of ginger, two tea-spoonfuls of salt, and two tea-cups of common yeast, or half as much distillery. Add the yeast when the rest is only blood-warm. White sugar keeps better than brown, and the salt and ginger help to preserve the yeast.
Do not boil in iron or use an iron spoon, as it colors the yeast. Keep yeast in a stone or earthenware jar, with a plate fitting well to the rim. This is better than a jug, as easier to fill and to cleanse. Scald the jar before making new yeast.
The rule for quantity is, one table-spoonful of brewers' or distillery yeast to every quart of flour; or twice as much home-made yeast.
Potato Yeast is made by the above rule, omitting the hops. It can be used in large quantities without giving a bitter taste, and so raises bread sooner. But it has to be renewed much oftener than hop yeast, and the bread loses the flavor of hop yeast.
Hard Yeast is made with home-brewed yeast (not brewers' or distillery), thickened with Indian meal and fine flour in equal parts, and then made into cakes an inch thick and three inches by two in size, dried in the wind but not in the sun. Keep them tied in a bag in a dry, cool place, where they will not freeze. One cake soaked in a pint of warm water (not hot) is enough for four quarts of flour. It is a good plan to work in mashed potatoes into this yeast, and let it rise well before using it. This makes the nicest bread. Some housekeepers say pour boiling water on one third of the flour, and then mix the rest in immediately, and it has the same effect as using potatoes.
When there is no yeast to start with, it can be made with one pint of new milk, one tea-spoonful of fine salt, and a table-spoonful of flour. When it is worked, use twice as much as common yeast. This is called Milk Yeast or Salt Risings, and bread made of it is poor, and soon spoils.
When yeast ceases to look foamy, and becomes watery, with sediment at the bottom, it must be renewed. When good, the smell is pungent, but not sour. If sour, nothing can restore it.
Take four quarts of sifted flour, one quart of lukewarm water, in which are dissolved two tea-spoonfuls of salt, two tea-spoonfuls of sugar, a table-spoonful of melted butter, and one cup of yeast. Mix and knead very thoroughly, and have it as soft as can be molded, using as little flour as possible. Make it into small loaves, put it in buttered pans, prick it with a fork, and when light enough to crack on the top, bake it. Nothing but experience will show when bread is just at the right point of lightness.
If bread rises too long, it becomes sour. This is discovered by making a sudden opening and applying the nose, and the sourness will be noticed as different from the odor of proper lightness. Practice is needed in this. If bread is light too soon for the oven, knead it awhile, and set it in a cool place. Sour bread can be remedied somewhat by working in soda dissolved in water - about half a tea-spoonful for each quart of flour. Many spoil bread by too much flour, others by not kneading enough, and others by allowing it to rise too much.
The goodness of bread depends on the quality of the flour. Some flour will not make good bread in any way. New and good flour has a yellowish tinge, and when pressed in the hand is adhesive. Poor flour is dry, and will not retain form when pressed. Poor flour is bad economy, for it does not make as nutritious bread as does good flour.
Bread made with milk sometimes causes indigestion to invalids and to children with weak digestion.
Take loaves out of the pans, and set them sidewise, and not flat, on a table. Wrapping in a cloth makes the bread clammy.
Bread is better in small loaves. Let your pans be of tin (or better, of iron), eight inches long, three inches high, three inches wide at the bottom, and flaring so as to be four inches wide at the top. This size makes more tender crust, and cuts more neatly than larger loaves.
Oil the pans with a swab and sweet butter or lard. They should be well washed and dried, or black and rancid oil will gather. .
All these kinds of bread can be baked in biscuit-form; and, by adding water and eggs, made into griddle-cakes. Bread having potatoes in it keeps moist longest, but turns sour soonest.