Dissolve the yeast in a portion of the liquid, stir this mixture into the remaining liquid, add half the flour, and beat the mixture thoroughly at this stage. Add the sugar if any is to be used. When this soft mixture, called the "sponge," becomes full of bubbles, add the salt, the shortening if used, and the remain- ing flour. Knead the dough by the hand, or by the machine, for about ten minutes, or until it is smooth and elastic. Put it into a greased bowl, cover the bowl, and allow the dough to remain until it doubles its bulk. Some bread makers knead in all the flour at the first, and obtain a good result. The first rising is more rapid, however, and experience seems to prove that the results are better on the whole with the sponge. Cut the dough down, knead again, using as little flour as possible. Shape into loaves, place the loaves in greased pans, cover, and leave again until the loaves double their bulk, when they are ready for baking. If left too long, the bubbles of gas become too large.
Temperature and time are important, in this matter of mixing and using. The process may be shortened to five or six hours, including the baking, or lengthened to twenty-four by the choice of the amount of yeast and the temperature. The shorter process is the better, on the whole. After reading over the sections of the chapter on preservation of fruit, performing the yeast experiments, and discussing the results, you will be able to answer these questions:
1. What should be the temperature of the ingredients when the bread is mixed ?
2. If milk is used, how may the souring of the milk be prevented ?
3. What temperature will you secure for the bread while it is rising ?
4. If an emergency occurs, and the dough cannot be kneaded or baked at the moment it is ready, what can be done? Can you think of two expedients?
The kneading stretches the gluten and long kneading gives a fine grain. In such a recipe as that for the making of Parker House rolls, a very delicate quality results from a protracted process; one old-fashioned housekeeper recommends a half hour's kneading three times. Fortunately a sufficiently good bread or roll may be made by ten or fifteen minutes' kneading at a time.
Bread dough may be cut or stirred with a large knife in place of the kneading, and this is a good method to teach to those who live in crowded space and find it difficult to have a perfectly clean kitchen and proper utensils. With this method the dough must be softer, and it remains in the bowl until it is turned into the baking pan. The resulting loaf is somewhat moist, and not fine-grained, but the flavor is good.
Brushing the surface of the dough in the bowl or pan with water or milk will prevent the formation of a dry crust on the top.