This section is from the book "The American Woman's Cook Book", by Ruth Berolzheimer. Also available from Amazon: The Domestic Arts Edition of the American Woman's Cook Book.
1. When the color is a rich golden brown.
2. When the loaf shrinks away from the sides of the pan.
3. When the sides of the pan sizzle when touched with a damp finger.
4. When a clean toothpick inserted comes out free from any particles of the dough.
5. When the loaf gives a hollow sound on being tapped.
Characteristics of a Good Loaf of Bread
Size and Shape - A medium-sized loaf made of dough weighing from one pound to one and one-quarter pounds costs less to bake and is more likely to be thoroughly baked than a very large loaf. A moderate-sized loaf is about four or five inches deep, eight or nine inches long, and four or five inches wide.
The careful shaping of the dough is the first step necessary in making a well-shaped loaf of bread.
Color - Bread should have a good bloom and be golden brown in color with a depth of crust on top, bottom and sides. The crumb should be cream-white in color with no dark streaks through it. A grayish color indicates poor flour or poor handling of the dough.
Texture - Nothing is more difficult to describe than texture, nothing more indicative of quality. Perfect texture of the crumb depends on kneading the dough until it is smooth and elastic and until it can be kneaded on an unfloured board without sticking. It depends on having the dough rise to double or treble its size once or twice before it is made into the loaf, and once in the tins. It depends on careful baking. To determine the texture of the crumb, cut the loaf in two. The holes should be small and uniform with no streak near the bottom of the loaf and no lumps through the loaf. Press the center of the loaf with the knuckles; if the elasticity and moisture are right, the loaf should spring back to shape.
The crust should be smooth without large holes on the bottom and without a split on one side of the loaf. If the top crust is rough it may be due to insufficient kneading or to putting the dough into the tins before it is perfectly smooth.
Flavor and Odor - A well-made, well-baked loaf will taste slightly sweet, neither too fresh nor too salty, and will have no suggestion of acidity, rawness or mustiness.