Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Bread, Tea And Coffee

Below is a section from Household Hints, 1881. The book is written to help the new housewife with the various details of her life. I personally love reading the author's insights/opinions that help me as an author of historical fiction get a feel for the people of that time, so I've included the entire chapter rather than selecting a few recipes.


Almost every young housekeeper starts out with the conviction that she will be obliged to bury or throw away the first barrel or two of flour which her husband will buy, and which she will make up into uneatable bread. She has heard so much of the importance of having good bread, and the mysterious difficulties in the way of making it, that she fears it is something beyond her, and expects to succeed only after repeated failures. Now, this is all wrong; it is not difficult to make good bread; and there is no reason why the first loaf she makes should not be creditable, if she takes the precaution to use good flour and good yeast. She can easily ascertain what flour is used by some good cook of her acquaintance, and the yeast she can make herself.
Of course, if she is wholly inexperienced, she will have to use a great deal of care in making and baking the bread; she will have to watch the oven closely, and learn to keep a steady fire.
Bread will not bake itself, as she may be inclined to think from having noticed the ease with which older cooks manage the baking. For a time she will be obliged to give undivided attention to every little detail.
Start the bread the night before it is to be baked. Take a six-quart pan a little more than half full of flour, make a little hollow in the center, take (for three loaves, or for two loaves and one tin of biscuits) a small cupful of yeast—if the yeast is fresh, less will do—and a pint of lukewarm water; stir in and make a sponge in the hollow in the flour, cover the pan with a clean paper, and a cloth over that; in winter set it in a warm room, in summer in a cool one. In the morning, early, mix the whole of the flour with the sponge, adding enough lukewarm water to make the dough the proper consistency; knead it thoroughly with your knuckles, not with the ends of your fingers; let it rise, and when very light mold it quickly, and with light touches, into loaves, and put into pans which are warm and buttered. An ordinary-sized loaf needs baking about forty-five minutes; the last five minutes the oven door may be left open, if there is the least danger of the bread being browned too much. When you take it out of the oven turn the loaves topside down in the hot tins, and allow them to stand a few minutes, and you will find that the crust is tender and cuts easily. If you like potatoes in the bread, mash about two for the quantity of bread spoken of here, and put in when you start the bread-sponge. Biscuits need baking about twenty minutes; add a little lump of butter to the bread-dough and knead longer. They may be turned in the hot tins, or be rubbed over the top with butter.

Potato Yeast.—Take six good-sized potatoes, about a quart of water, a large handful of hops in a little bag, a tablespoonful of sugar, and one of salt; put all together and cook till the potatoes" are soft enough to mash readily; then take them out, mash the potatoes, and stir in with them a pint of flour; when the flour is thoroughly mixed with the potatoes, so that there will be no danger of lumps, put this into a clean tin pan and set on the stove; then pour over it the hot water in which the potatoes and hops were boiled; put it in a little at a time. If the water has boiled away so that you haven't enough to make nearly a quart, pour in boiling water from the tea-kettle (which, by the way, should always be on the stove with plenty of hot water in whenever you are cooking anything). Have, when the yeast is done, nearly two quarts; cook it until it is as thick as boiled custard. This will be ready for use in a day or two.
Warm Weather Yeast.—Take a handful of hops and put into a pint of cold water; let the water come to a boil, but do not let it boil, as an undesirable substance is then extracted from the hops. Put two large potatoes into a pint of water, boil until soft, then take out and mash thoroughly; stir two tablespoonfuls of flour and one of sugar into the potato, then add the water the potatoes were boiled in, and the hop-water; if less than a quart, fill from the tea-kettle, stir well, and when cool add three tablespoonfuls of yeast; put into a jug, cork, and' set in a convenient place in the pantry; shake well every morning; on this command hangs all the virtue of the yeast. Use less of this than of ordinary baker's yeast; about half the quantity will do. Yeast which will keep well in summer is something greatly to be desired. The recipe here given supplies a need long felt by those who do not like yeast-cakes.
The yeast and white bread question being settled, you can proceed to try other kinds of bread. It is desirable to have a variety, especially if there are children in the family, that the needs of their growing bodies may be supplied. Corn meal and Graham are excellent, and especially good to help make strong and white teeth.
Brown Bread.—Two cups of meal, one of flour (white or Graham may be used), one cup of sweet milk, one of sour, two tablespoonfuls of molasses, one teaspoonful of bi-carbonate of soda, and a pinch of salt. Sometimes when making it I find that I haven't any sweet milk, and so use water in place of it. Of course the milk makes it more nourishing. This should be well beaten; be sure that there are no lumps of flour left, and that the soda is entirely dissolved. Put into a two-quart basin, which must first be thoroughly greased. Steam the bread one hour; then set it in the oven to dry and to brown; any time from fifteen minutes to half an hour will do; this will depend on the state of the oven.
Graham Bread.—Take some of your white bread-sponge —the quantity to depend upon how much you wish to make; to enough of the sponge for one loaf add a cup of molasses and a little warm water; stir (not knead) the Graham flour into it; make the dough a little stiffer than that for corn bread; let it rise, and bake it in a slow oven. Another way, which has the advantage of being made quicker than the other, is to take two cups of Graham flour and one cup of white flour, one cup of sour milk, one cup of molasses, one teaspoonful of soda; stir it thoroughly and put into a well-buttered tin, steam two hours, then dry off in the oven.
Rusks, which are nice warm for supper or cold for dinner, are easily made. Take one pint of bread-sponge, one egg, one cupful of sugar, half a cupful of sweet milk, half a cupful of butter, and two teaspoonfuls of baking powder; stir all thoroughly together, and let it rise till very light; knead it down again and let it rise, then mold into biscuits about the size of an egg, put them quite close to each other in the tin, and let them rise; when very light, bake them a little longer than common biscuits, and until the top is a dark brown.
Buns.—Three cups of sweet milk, one cup of yeast, one cup of sugar. Mix soft at night. In the morning add one cup of butter, part of a cup of sugar, a bit of soda; then mix, put in the pans, and let rise till quite light. Bake same as rusks. Currants may be added if you like, and when they are, and the buns served warm, they are said to resemble closely the tea-cakes made by Mrs. Southey, which Shelley, having once tasted them, requested his wife to serve for supper for ever after.
Rolls.—One pint of scalded milk, let it cool, and add two tablespoonfuls of sugar, two of lard, two of yeast, a little salt. In winter, mix the batter over night; in summer, mix early in the morning. When light, knead and let it rise, then add a lump of butter, and make into the desired shape. Bake in a quick oven for twenty minutes. Nice rolls may be made by taking part of your bread-sponge and adding a lump of butter.
Graham Gems.—Take three teacups of water, four and a half cups of Graham flour ; beat together for five minutes. Have your gem pans hot, put in each a little bit of butter, fill the pans even full of the batter. Bake twenty minutes in a hot oven. This quantity will fill the pans twice.
Corn Bread, or Johnny Cake, baked in gem pans is delicious for breakfast. Johnny cake is made by taking about two cups of meal, one egg, a tablespoonful of molasses, sour milk enough to mix the meal with, a teaspoonful of soda, and a little salt. If you choose you can add a little flour, and use sugar in place of molasses.
Baking Powder Biscuit.—To a quart of flour allow three teaspoonfuls of baking powder, sift thoroughly into the flour, add a small lump of butter, mix with milk or with milk and water, roll as soft as possible, and bake in a hot oven.
Bock Biscuit.—Two cups of butter, two cups of sugar, two eggs, one teaspoonful of cinnamon, one cup of raisins, mix stiff, roll out and bake as you would cookies, only do not roll them quite so thin. Before rolling out the dough, pick it with a fork to give it a rough look.
Alice's Muffins.—One cup of sour milk, one egg, a little shortening, a teaspoonful of soda, less if the milk is not very sour. Make a thick batter, add a little salt. Bake in gem pans, or if you have not these you may use patty pans; but I would get the gem pans; you will save so much time whenever you bake, and run less risk of burning your hand and wrist. It pays in the end to get all these little improvements.
Tea.—One of the most surprising things one constantly meets is to find that the people who have the same duties to perform day after day, or year after year, do not improve in their manner, or even once blunder into the right way of doing them. Nothing is more easily made than good tea, and yet how seldom away from home does one enjoy delicately fragrant tea, which Hawthorne calls "an angel's gift," and which Miss Mitford said she could be awake all night drinking. The first thing needed is a clean tea-pot; it is useless to try to make good tea in a rusty pot, or one in which the leaves have been allowed to remain all night. The water should be boiling, but the tea itself must never be boiled. I wish these words could be painted on the wall of every hotel and restaurant kitchen in the United States. After the boiling water has been poured over the tea, set the tea-pot on an extra griddle on the back of the stove. All that is good in the tea will be gradually extracted from it; then when brought to the table one may well echo De Quincey's wish for an "eternal tea-pot," though not inclined to follow his example of drinking it from eight o'clock in the evening until four in. the morning.
The most satisfactory steeper I have ever used is an oldfashioned brown earthen tea-pot. This may be kept perfectly clean with almost no trouble. Whatever may be said of the hurtfulness of tea when immoderately used, a cup of the afternoon tea so frequently mentioned in novels and essays is an unpurchasable luxury. Hamerton says in "The Intellectual Life" : "If tea is a safe stimulant, it is certainly an agreeable one, and there seems to be no valid reason why brain-workers should refuse themselves that solace."
Coffee.—I wish it were possible to impress every one with the convictions I hold upon the subject of boiling; it seems to me that more mistakes are made in carrying on this process than almost any other. Things that ought not to be boiled are boiled, and things that ought to be are not! It is easy to make these mistakes ; there comes a time in baking, frying, or broiling when injured nature revolts and burns up, but a thing may boil till not a vestige of its original condition remains, and, unless the water evaporates, it may go on boiling for hours without reminding one by smell or smoke that it is spoiled.
Nothing suffers more from this treatment than coffee.
Brown and grind the coffee at home; it is more trouble, but the result is so satisfactory that you will be amply repaid for your labors. Then have the water boiling when it is poured over the coffee. If you use the ordinary tin coffee-pot, be sure to stuff some soft paper into the nose to keep in the steam and the fragrance. After pouring on the boiling water, let the coffee-pot stand on a hot griddle just as you do your tea-pot; in five minutes set it on the front part of the stove, and let it boil for two or three minutes, not longer. Allow two large spoonfuls of coffee to each cup of water. There is nothing so nice to " settle " the coffee as an egg; mix the egg with the ground coffee before pouring the hot water on. If eggs are not plenty and are dear, you may economize by measuring out in a bowl the quantity of coffee needed for two mornings; stir the egg into this, adding a little cold water, then divide, and so make one egg answer; cover closely the coffee left for the second morning, so that it will not lose its strength. If no eggs are to be had, after the coffee has boiled set it on the hearth of the stove, and pour in a very little cold water. A bit of codfish skin carefully washed is said to answer this purpose.
Cream adds the crowning excellence to a good cup of coffee ; but, if it is not to be had, scald the milk, and stir into it the white of an egg which has been beaten to a stiff froth.

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