BREAD holds an important place in the diet of every normal person, and as home-made bread is infinitely more palatable and more nutritious than baker's bread it is worth while to spend some time and effort in its preparation.
The three essentials in bread-making are flour, yeast and liquid. The yeast plant grows best in a temperature of 86° F. Bread should therefore be set to rise in a warm place, free from drafts. On the other hand too great heat must be avoided, as it will kill the yeast plant and make the bread sour. Two risings are sufficient if the ingredients have been well mixed. Dough permitted to rise until too light will be full of holes; bread baked before it is sufficiently light will be heavy.
The use of the patent bread-mixers is to be recommended, both because they save a great deal of labor and because they make for cleaner and better bread.
Bread must be well covered while rising to prevent a crust from forming on the top of the dough. Several thicknesses of clean towels are best for this purpose if a covered bread-raiser is not used. The bread in the pans must also be covered until it is put in the oven
To knead the oread push the dough with the palm and draw it forward with the fingers. Use as little flour on the board as possible as a soft dough makes better bread than a stiff dough. The more it is worked the finer will be the grain; but if a great deal of flour is worked in it will become hard. Knead until the dough is smooth and elastic to the touch: about twenty minutes is the usual time: about three minutes in the patent bread-mixer.
Bread should be baked in a hot oven, but not in one that is too hot, as it should continue rising for the first fifteen minutes and if a hard crust is too quickly formed the rising is rendered difficult. The crust may be buttered ten minutes before the bread is removed from the oven: this will make it softer and more palatable.
The best pans for baking are made of Russia iron and are four inches deep, four and a half wide, and ten long. The bread is done when it leaves the sides of the pan. The usual time allowed is fifty minutes.
Biscuits require less time, but more heat. They should be baked in fifteen or twenty minutes.
Yeast is a mass of microscopic plants, the conditions of whose growth are moisture, warmth and sugar. Where the conditions are right these plants multiply very rapidly, giving off in the process alcohol and carbon-dioxide. When added to warm water and flour the plants feed upon the sugar in the flour and grow and spread throughout the dough. The carbon-dioxide causes bubbles, making the dough "light."
The strength of any yeast depends upon the care with which it is made and preserved. Ordinary liquid yeasts are apt to be full of bacteria which set up lactic or other fermentations and produce an unpleasant flavor. Compressed yeast is on the whole much purer and much more uniform in strength.
Compressed yeast is commercially made from grain in factories equipped with highly specialized and complicated machinery. The grains most used are corn, rye and barley malt. The grain is ground in a mill, mashed with water and the mash, cooked and allowed to cool, and finally fermented with yeast of a previous making. The result is the growth and multiplication of yeast cells.
When the fermenting process has been carried to the proper stage, the yeast is separated from the fluid containing it, thoroughly washed with water, filtered, pressed, cut into cakes and wrapped. Every yeast cake contains millions of tiny yeast plants.
This is the oldest and surest method of yeast-making. Many varieties of the method have been introduced, but it would take volumes to go into the details of the subject. Suffice it to say that the processes are extremely complicated and that the greatest amount of care and regulation is required in order to produce the compressed yeast which goes into our daily bread.