Baking is the art of converting flour, or other farinaceous substances, into bread. - As we propose to treat more fully on this subject, under the article Bread, we shall here only explain what relates to a proper method of preparing it.
In domestic life, the baking of bread is frequently mismanaged ; which may be ascribed to the following circumstances. Some women do not use a just proportion and temperature of water, so that th - bread turns out either pasty, or too firm and heavy ; others do not use a proper quantity or quality of leaven, or barm, whence the bread acquires either an unpleasant bitterish taste, or the dough cannot rise, and consequently becomes tough and viscid; again, others do not understand the due degree of heat required in the oven, so that it will be either under, or over-baked. All these particulars deserve to be attended to, otherwise a bad and unwholesome bread will be produced. To survey, therefore, the whole process, which is one of the most complicated in chemistry, we shall here communicate a few general directions.
1. The flour, whether made of wheat, or rye (which two are doubtless the best and most whole-some species of grain), ought not to be used immediately on coming from the mill, as in a fresh state it is too moist for making good and palatable bread ; but it should be kept in a dry place for several weeks, stirred every day in summer, and at least every other day in colder seasons, till it has acquired such a consistence, as renders it loose and yielding between the fingers.
2. As the dough will not rise, without giving it a proper leaven or barm, this ought to be a principal objectt in families, as well as to bakers. If leaven be employed, it should on tire preceding evening be deprived of its hard crust, and dissolved with a little, scarcely milk-warm, water; then carefully mixed with about a third part of the flour to be used for baking. and kneaded into a soft dough, by adding more tepid water. A small quantity of flour is put on the top j and, thus prepared, it will be necessary to cover the trough with blan ets, and suffer it to stand in a moderately warm place till the following morning, that it may rise and duly ferment. The remaining -thirds of the flour must then be added, with a proportionate quantity of luke-warm water, and the whole kneaded into such an elastic dough as will draw into Strings without breaking, and not adhere to the fingers. In this state it is again covered, and allowed to stand (while preparations are making in the oven), and not disturbed till it begins gently to rise, when it should be formed into loaves.
3. A proper degree of heat is an essential requisite to the baking process. When the inner arch of the oven appears entirely white, it is generally considered as suffi-cientiy heated. But this being a fallacious criterion we would recommend the following: Place a handful of flour before the aperture of the oven, and if it turn of a brown colour, the heat is then nearly of the degree required; but it' it become black, or remain white, in the former case the fire must be considerably reduced; and in the latter, more fuel must be added. Lastly, all parts of the oven should be uniformly heated; and though we cannot enter into farther particulars, yet the attentive house-wife will easily, from her own observations, regulate the degree of heat, with the same effect, as it might be done by Mr. Wedge-wood's Pyrpmchr for the baking of earthen-Mare.
Remark. - Musty flour, when baked into bread, is not only extremely detrimental to health, but it also imparts a bitter and nauseous taste. When such flour is not too strongly tainted, it may be correct-cd by first kneading it with leaven or sweet barm, then making iarge holes with a wooden cylinder indie dough, filling up the cavities with flour that is perfectly sweet. suffering it to remain in this preparatory state till the next morning, then removing the dry flour carefully with long spoons or simi-lar implements, and afterwards converting the dough into bread, with the addition of such flour as is not musty. By this simple process, the flour first mixed up will be sweetened, but that which has been left over night in the dough, is said to become so corrupted, that it can be given only to animals.
It has frequently been attempted; and not without success, to bake good, wholesome bread, with little or no barm. In consequence of a dispute between the brewers and bakers of Dublin, concerning the price of yeast, in the year 1770, the latter carried the point, by making their bread without it. As this process, however, could not be readily imitated in domestic life, we shall here state a method of rois ing a huhel of flour with a tea-spoonful of harm ; first practised by James Stone. It is as follows: Put a bushel of flour into the kneading-trough or trendle; take about three-quarters of a pint of warm water, and thoroughly mix with it a spoonful of thick, sweet barm; then make a hole in the middle of the flour, large enough to contain two gallons of water; pour in your small quantity, and stir it with a stick, so that it may, with some of the flour combining with it, acquire the consistence of batter for pudding ; then strew a little dry dour oarer it, and let it stand for about one hour, when you will find the small portion so raised, that it will break through the dry flour scattered over it. After this, pour in another quart of warm water, while you are stirring in more flour, till it become as thick as before; then again shake dry flour over it, and leave it for two hours longer - repeat the same method about twice more, always suffering it somewhat longer to be at rest, and the bread will become as light as if a pint of barm had been used. Nor does this method require above a quarter of an hour "more time than the usual way of baking; and the author of it asserts, that his bread has never been heavy nor bitter.
With respect to the difference of seasons, J. Stone directs that, in summer, the water should be used blood-warm; in winter, or cold frosty weather, as hot as the hand can bear it without pain; while in the former season the dough should be covered up very warm, and strewed over with dry flour every time tepid water is added, to keep in the heat: after using six or eight quarts of such water to every bushel of flour, in the gradual manner before described, it Vill be found that the whole body of flour which is mixed with the warm water, by means of a single tea-spoonful of barm, is brought into considerable agitation, so that it waxes or ferments without difficulty.—See also Yeast.
Having already, on a former occasion, alluded to the adulterations practised by bakers, a subject we propose to resume under the head of Bread, we shall conclude this article with a quotation in point, abridged from the XXIVth volume of the Monthly Review, for January 1/51.—"Heaven gives us good corn, but our bakers, it is said, have sought out many inventions. Alum is no proper ingredient in the composition of this great su port of life; and lime must be still worse:—we tamely permit a few ignorant mechanics to mingle poison with our daily food, and gradually to ruin and destroy our health, the greatest blessing of all; under the idle pretence of humouring a ridiculons prejudice, in favour of a fashionable but artificial hue, in opposition to the sweet, wholesome, natural complexion of the corn