Hot breads - comprising griddle-cakes, biscuits, muffins, Sally Lunns and crumpets - may not be wholesome for everybody. I seriously incline to the belief that they are not, especially in warm weather, and if partaken of too freely.
But the best types of these are good, and their appearance upon the board where John had looked for stale bread, or charred toast, is a means of breakfast grace not to be underrated by the wise housewife. She is a canny woman who runs down into the kitchen for ten or fifteen minutes on a stormy morning, or when the bread is especially dry, or John is "a wee bit blue," and tosses up (always by rule and measure) ingredients that come out of a quick oven, puffy, hot, delicious, to gladden the boys' hearts and give their father pleasanter food for consideration than business worries. If the men of any family were called upon for their opinion of what a dietetic crank, better versed in anatomy and chemistry than in courtesy, once anathematized at my breakfast table as "rank poison, madam! and nothing short of a sin!" they would say of his tabooed hot breads - "Naughty! but nice!"
One John - who hankers for the buckwheat cakes and sausage of his boyhood as the wanderers in the wilderness, their souls a-weary of manna, lusted for Egyptian flesh-pots - maintains, upon fairly tenable hygienic principles, that warm bread is made unwholesome because it is not masticated properly.
"We chew stale bread," he says. "We bolt griddle-cakes and muffins because they are soft and easily swallowed. Give the salivary glands a chance to act upon them and they will not harm you."
The prescription is easily tried.
Sift a quart of flour with a half-teaspoonful of salt and a tea-spoonful of sugar, rub into it a tablespoonful of butter, add a cup of warm milk and a third of a yeast-cake that has been dissolved in three tablespoonfuls of warm water, and knead this dough for twenty minutes. Set to rise for six or eight hours, make into rolls, put these into a greased baking-pan, and let them rise for half an hour longer before baking.
Sift a quart of flour and stir into it a saltspoonful of salt, a teaspoonful of sugar, a cup of warm milk, two tablespoonfuls of melted cottolene or other fat, and two beaten eggs. Dissolve a quarter of a cake of compressed yeast in a little warm milk and beat in last of all. Set the dough in a bowl to rise until morning. Early in the morning make quickly and lightly into rolls, and set to rise near the range for twenty minutes. Bake for about an hour.
One cup of scalded milk (not boiled) left to cool until a little more than blood-warm, one-half yeast-cake dissolved in four tablespoonfuls of warm water, one tablespoonful of butter, three cups of flour, or a little less, one even tablespoonful of sugar, one-half teaspoonful of salt.
Melt the butter in the milk, add salt, sugar and yeast with rather less than half the flour. Make a sponge of these ingredients, beat hard for five minutes and set in a warm, sheltered place to rise.
It should be quite light in an hour and a half in winter, an hour in summer. Work in the rest of the flour until you have a soft dough. Knead three minutes and set to rise with a folded cloth over the bowl to exclude the air. When it has doubled its original bulk, turn out upon your kneading-board, and work quickly, but lightly, with fingers, not fists, for one minute. Roll with quick strokes and few into a thick sheet, rub over with melted butter (not hot). Roll up and knead one minute longer to incorporate the butter. Pull off bits of the dough three times as large as a walnut, and roll on the board into the desired shape. Arrange close together in the baking-pan. Cover and let them rise for half an hour, again doubling their size; then bake in a brisk, steady oven. Twenty minutes should suffice. When they have been in five minutes cover with whitey-brown grocer's paper. Five minutes before the time is up take this off! and brown.