This section is from the book "Economical Cookery", by Marion Harris Neil. Also available from Amazon: Economical Cookery (1918).
"I won't quarrel with my bread and butter."
In selecting flour choose not only that which is rich in albuminoids, but see that the gluten is of first quality. To test, make a piece of dough from one half a cup of flour and sufficient water to moisten; knead and work well; form it into a biscuit; then quickly break it into halves. If strong, it will break with a crack; and this is good flour. If soft, poor flour, it will stretch apart and break without a sound. If it is impossible to make a ball of dough to test the flour, take a portion of flour in the hand and press it firmly; if, when the hand is opened, it falls apart, is rather " grainy " or granulated, and does not pack, it is good bread, muffin, or biscuit flour.
A rich creamy yellow flour should be used for bread, rolls, and biscuits of all kinds, and a lighter tint for pastry. Avoid flours of a grayish tint; they are poor and cheap.
Genuine pastry flour is a pale yellowish-white, fine and starchy, easily retaining the form of a hand upon pressure. In making fine pastries and cakes, the best results are obtained from real pastry flour. It is cheaper to make bread than to purchase it. The prime object in bread making is to secure a nutritious, attractive and palatable form of food. Various changes are wrought in converting wheat into flour and flour into bread. The process of bread making is accomplished by the addition of a liquid - water, milk, or milk and water - and yeast to the flour. Usually salt, sugar, and fat are added also. The flour, by the addition of the liquid, is converted into dough. Yeast is a vegetable organism, a mysterious little plant, which lives and grows in the presence of suitable nourishment, moisture, and moderate heat; extreme heat kills it. When yeast is added to dough, the cells are separated and distributed throughout the mass. The yeasts multiply and grow, and in the process of their growth some of the starch of the flour is changed into sugar; alcohol and carbon dioxide are formed from the sugar. This gas (carbon dioxide), forms bubbles in the dough, thus increasing it in size and making it light and spongy. This growth, and consequent formation of gas, must be checked at the right time, or the dough will become too light, and later sour.
When the loaf is baked, the heat of the oven causes the gas to expand, the alcohol to be driven off, the proteins to set and coagulate, forming a framework for the loaf. Some of the starch is changed into dextrin. Thus the crust is formed. It is the dextrin which gives the crust its glazed appearance.
The oven temperature and time required for baking depend upon the size of the loaf. A loaf should begin to brown after it has been in the oven fifteen minutes; continue browning for twenty minutes, the heat then being reduced for a final fifteen minutes. Small loaves can be more perfectly baked, and are therefore preferable to large. If the loaf, on being knocked, sounds hollow, it is said to be well baked; if the sound is heavy and leaden, it is underbaked. A crust that is elastic and springs back after pressure is considered another sign of well-baked bread.
There are several excellent bread mixers on the market.