HIGH authorities frequently make the statement that many of our physical ailments are due to poor bread. This being the case, why then do we not compound good bread, when it is just as easy to make as bad bread? Some cooks advise pure, lukewarm water in mixing breads to the exclusion of potato water, milk and water, milk alone, or milk and whey. Mrs. Rorer, the well-known Eastern instructor, advises the leaving out of sugar and eggs when making the every-day bread and biscuits. She says "it is not a matter of mere chance, how this dough is to be made. Into the pan with the water is to be stirred flour enough so the whole mass can be set on a well-floured board. The hands are to be covered with flour also. The dough farthest from the operator is to be turned over into the middle of the mass a number of times, and then moved half-way around. The former procedure is gone through with, taking the dough farthest away and pressing it down into the center, either with the fingers or the ball of the hand. A rocking motion adds to the efficacy of the kneading.
"At the outset flour is to be dusted on the board from time to time, until the sticky stage has been passed. As soon as the dough does not stick to the clean board, even when pressed down, the process is finished. It should take not less than a quarter of an hour, at the least." She approves the compressed yeast made in the cities, but insists on its being freshly made. "Salt-rising bread," she says, "is made with the wild yeast of the air and is never so wholesome, as the odor it gives out in baking goes to show."
Another suggestion she makes is that it is best to make bread in the morning rather than to set it over night. The sunlight has a good effect upon it, the kitchen is of a more equable temperature and better ventilated, and it is easier to take the bread at just the right moment, "when it has doubled its bulk and is very light." A useful idea to be adopted in case it cannot be given attention on the minute is to stir in a handful of flour and beat it in thoroughly, letting the dough stand thirty or forty minutes more. The baking remains, and this is as important as any other process. It is better to mold the dough into the pans at once and let it rise in them. The oven should be above the boiling point of water, at least, otherwise the yeast plant will not be killed and the process of fermentation will be carried too far.
On the other hand, too high a temperature cooks the outside of the bread so quickly that the inside remains unpenetrated by the heat. One way of finding if the oven is sufficiently heated consists in holding the hand inside it while twenty is counted slowly. If positive discomfort makes it necessary to withdraw the hand the oven is too hot; if no discomfort is felt at all it is too cool. Bread in shallow French pans must go into a quick oven and be browned at once; larger loaves should be kept in an oven cool enough to keep them without browning at least ten minutes.
Flour should be kept dry, as the least dampness will affect it. Where milk is used the milk should be boiled, not simply heated, and not allowed to be below a luke-warm temperature. An earthen vessel should be used in preference to wood or tin, as it can be kept cleaner and will preserve the temperature of "the sponge" better than the latter. If the flour is white, with a slightly yellowish or straw-colored tint, it is a sign that the flour is good. If it is very white, with a bluish cast, or with black specks in it, the flour is not good.
In the making of biscuit, rolls, gems, griddle cakes, etc., where baking-powder is used, the dough must never be kneaded, as the leavening properties of the baking-powder supersede the necessity for such work. The general rule of proportion is two heaping teaspoonfuls of the powder to each quart of flour, sifting the powder and flour well together in a dry state.
Six medium potatoes grated, add twenty tablespoonfuls of flour, two tablespoonfuls of sugar, one tablespoonful of salt, one tablespoonful of ginger; stir the above smooth; add boiling water, the same as you make flour starch, only not quite as thin, then add yeast; when little bubbles appear stir it well and stir well every one-half hour all day, then bottle for use. Mrs. D. R. Parsons.
Take a good pinch of hops and tie in a cloth; put over this one quart of water, add three good-sized potatoes pared and put all in a kettle to boil until potatoes are done. Take out the hops, mash the potatoes, and stir in about one quart of sifted flour, to which add one-half of a cupful of sugar. Have some prepared yeast ready, soaked, and, when cool enough, stir it into the other ingredients. Set to rise and then stiffen with corn-meal. Dry in the wind or shade. When dry cut in thin cakes, or leave in lumps. Mrs. L. A. Hall.
To one large or two small potatoes one pint of hops, one leaf of tansy, one-half of a pint of catnip leaves, add three quarts of water. Boil until potatoes are soft. Strain while hot over one pint of flour. When cool add one pint of home-made yeast (previously soaked). Stir in flour to form rather a stiff batter. Let rise from ten to fourteen hours. Thicken with corn-meal, form in small cakes and dry in a cool, airy, place, never in the sun. Harriet Malott.
Peel and wash three large potatoes throwing them into cold water.
Put one-half of a teacupful of flour into a bowl with an equal amount of sugar and a tablespoonful of salt; over these grate the potatoes quickly and stir the whole well with a wooden spoon. Pour a pint of boiling water into the bowl, stirring it into the mixture, and add enough more of the boiling water to make the mixture of the consistency of thin starch.
Should the preparation refuse to thicken put in a double boiler over the fire and stir it until it does thicken; then pour it through a fine sieve into a bowl and let it cool. When lukewarm stir in a breakfast-cupful of yeast, cover the bowl and set in a warm, but not hot, place and let it stand until light and covered with a white foam. When it commences to rise beat well and when it has thoroughly risen pour it off into wide-mouthed earthen jars, letting it remain for twelve hours, then cover the jars tightly and put in a cool place. One-half of a pint or so of the yeast should be put into a glass jar for making the succeeding lot of potato yeast. The jars should always be well shaken before the yeast is used.
M. E. K.