Many would-be bread bakers are deterred by the fear of failure and waste. Bread dough is perceived to have a mind of its own, and the end result is far from predictable. In the discussion yesterday, both in the post and the discussion that followed, is that salt-rising bread is particularly tricky, and the results very inconsistent. No-one wants to waste several pounds of flour, not to mention the time involved in the making and cleaning up, so most of us, most of the time, default to the easy purchase.
In previous times this of course would not have been an option. Bread was a household staple, made in the household, and it is a sure thing that experienced housewife-bakers had fewer bread failures than we who are occasionally enthusiasts. Another sure thing is that even if there was a failure, several pounds of hard or otherwise unpleasant bread would not have been binned – an act that would have been extravagantly wasteful, and a sin to boot. The family would just have to have gnawed their way through it and hoped for a better batch next time.
Alternatively, the crafty housewife could have recycled the bread – into more bread! Here is a brilliant idea from yesterday’s source, The Manual of Home-making, (1919)
8 cups flour
4 cups breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons molasses
5 teaspoons salt
2 cakes compressed yeast.
4 cups water (or milk and water)
(1) Grind the bread in a chopper, adding 3 cups of lukewarm water
(2) Combine the breadcrumbs, the salt, and the sweetening, stirring the mixture often enough to avoid the formation of any film, until it has cooled to blood heat.
(3) When it is lukewarm, add the yeast which has been softened in 1 cup of water, reducing the yeast one-half and increasing the salt one-fourth if the bread is set overnight.
(4) Add the flour, and knead the dough thoroughly, using as little flour on the board as possible.
(5) Let the dough rise for 3 ½ hours, or until it has doubled in bulk at the approximate temperature of 75oF
(6) Work it down, and let it rise again for 1 ½ hours, or until it has increased its size by one-half.
(7) Mold it, place it in pans, and let it rise until it has almost doubled in bulk
(8) Bake the loaves for 50 to 60 minutes in a moderately hot oven, or at a temperature of 360o to 400o F
(9) Remove the bread from the pans at once, and cool it quickly.
On account of the reduced amount of gluten in these breads, they must be molded and handled with great care.
Quotation for the Day.
Nothing in the whole range of domestic life more affects the health and happiness of the family than the quality of its daily bread.
Mary Johnson Mrs. Lincoln’s Boston Cook Book (1884)
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