French bread, biscuits, tortillas, pumpernickel, corn pone, scones, rice cakes—the very names conjure up old cultures that produced breads as characteristic as their makers.
Yeast breads made with whole wheat flour waken memories of warm kitchens fragrant with the aroma of freshly baked bread, of hot crusts brown and crumbly, covered with peanut butter and honey—a rich heritage from homemakers for whom bread is a basic, a must.
It has been said that when a man is hungry he dreams of a luscious meal, but when he is starving he dreams of bread.
No one need hesitate to try recipes for yeast breads. Yeast is sold in moist and dry form. Moist yeast, or compressed yeast, comes in a small cake. It must be kept under refrigeration and will keep about two weeks in the refrigerator and four months in the freezer. At its best, it is a light grayish-tan in color, crumbles readily, breaks with a clean edge, and smells pleasantly aromatic. When old, it becomes brownish in color.
Dry yeast comes in granular form, packaged, labeled, and dated. Stored in a cool place, it will keep for several months. Its span of usefulness may be lengthened by refrigeration. Compressed yeast and dry yeast may be used interchangeably.
Yeast is alive and has a way of its own, not a very complicated way, but one that must be taken into consideration. It is a plant that, combined with other ingredients, grows when exposed to heat and moisture. If exposed to high temperatures, the plant will grow too fast and the bread will be unpleasantly porous. To meet its ideal heat requirement, keep yeast dough at from 80 to 85 degrees.
The best bread must be given time to rise slowly, the entire process taking four to five hours before baking. If you use one cake of yeast to 1 1/2 cups of liquid, and if the temperature is right, you can count on about two hours or more rising time for the dough mix and one hour rising time in the pans.
Liquids added to yeast, either alone or in combination, may include water, which brings out the wheat flavor and makes a crisp crust; milk, which not only adds to the nutritive value but also gives a softer crumb; or potato water, which hastens the action of the yeast and gives a coarser, more moist texture to the bread.
Both milk and potato water increase the keeping quality of bread.
The other ingredients for bread are flour, sugar, salt, and shortening. Sugar is not essential, but in the right quantity it hastens the action of the yeast. Too much salt or sugar will inhibit this action. Fat is optional but gives a more tender crumb, browner crust, and better keeping quality.
Whole-Grain Bread with Molasses
1/2 cake compressed yeast or 1 1/2 teaspoons granular yeast
1/4 cup lukewarm water (105 degrees)
2 tablespoons brown sugar
5 1/2 cups whole-grain flour
2 cups scalded milk
1 1/2 tablespoons or more bacon, ham, or beef fat
1 tablespoon salt
6 tablespoons molasses or honey
Dissolve the yeast in the lukewarm water. Let stand 5 minutes. Add the two tablespoons brown sugar. Measure the whole-grain flour. Combine the scalded milk, fat, salt, and molasses or honey. Stir into the yeast mixture; beat well. Work the combined mixtures into the flour. If the dough tends to be stiff, you may add a little water. Knead the dough briefly. Place it in a greased bowl in a warm place, covered with a damp cloth. Permit it to rise until doubled in bulk. Mold lightly (do not press it) into two medium-sized (5-by-10-inch) greased bread pans. Cover it as before and permit it to rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk. Bake the bread in a moderate oven (375°F.) for 20 minutes; then reduce the heat to 325°F. Bake the bread until done, no longer than 1 1/4 hours in all. (Note: Whole-grain flours, whether coarsely or finely milled, retain their original vitamins, mineral salts, fats, and other factors. The whole grain includes the germ.)
Yeast Cornmeal Bread
2 1/2 cups whole-grain wheat flour
(You may use 2 cups whole wheat flour plus 1/4 cup wheat germ)
2 tablespoons brown sugar or raw sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons shortening
1 cup scalded milk
1 cake compressed yeast or 1 tablespoon dry granular yeast
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
Measure the flour and set it aside. Place the sugar, salt, and shortening in a large bowl. Add scalded milk and stir well. (You may use water and add powdered milk to the dry ingredients.) Let mixture stand; when it is lukewarm (105°), pour off about 1/4 cup and dissolve the yeast in it. Stir the dissolved yeast mixture into the rest of the milk mixture. Add about 1 1/3 cups flour and stir until smooth.
Place this spongy mixture in a greased bowl and permit it to stand, covered, in a warm place (about 82º) until it has almost doubled in bulk, about one hour. Then stir in the yellow cornmeal. (If possible, use stone-ground cornmeal that has retained the germ.)
Knead into mixture, on a lightly flouted board, as much of the remaining flour as needed to make it smooth and elastic. Place dough in a greased mixing bowl, cover it, and let it rise in a warm place until about double in bulk (about two hours). Shape the dough into a loaf and place it in a greased 4-by-9-inch bread pan. Cover it and permit it to rise until double in bulk, about 1 hour. Bake in a moderate oven (350°F.) for about 45 minutes.
The Kitchen Kiss
Walk Creatively Through October
Most of us walk through each day in a straight line, following a pattern from morning to evening, seeing only necessities, dutifully doing our duty. Some fortunate few with imagination and a creative feel for life take a wider view, a more exploratory route, seeing the possibilities on the edges and relating them to truth at the center.
October is the month for poets, for the creative person, for the person with imagination—the one who sees sermons in stones and happiness in winged butterflies, who points up a truth in images, who fashions words to be remembered.
A homemaker with imagination, like a poet, can make metaphors of mundane tasks and create poetry in every part of living.
A poet’s metaphor must be a true one. Whatever his x, it must be true to his y. When Robert Burns says, “My love is like a red, red rose,” he knows his life is as beautiful as a rose. As the formula for a metaphor says, the x must equal the y.
Walking creatively through your day, with love as your x, what could become your y? A white chrysanthemum on the breakfast table? Or an unexpectedly warm kiss for your “dragon-fighting” hero as he rushes to meet his car pool? Could x (love) be a big bowl of buttered popcorn (y) for an after-school snack? Or popovers for supper? Or a quiet moment’s conversation with each loved member of the family before prayers? With imagination, the possibilities are limitless.
Every woman is creative. All that she does is, in a sense, creative. The point is to make this creative effort point her and all those around her toward the ability to stand in the presence of God.
Suppose x in our metaphor formula is the activity for home evening in October. Let y be a nut-cracking party. Crack pine nuts, walnuts, or pecans—whatever nut in your area is ready for cracking and roasting and storing. Or let y be a special family talent night—perhaps a musical evening, with such home instruments as bottles, combs, pans, and sticks. Perhaps the lesson could close with a family testimony night—a spiritual y for an intimate x (home evening).
Ralph Waldo Emerson, in his poem “Days,” looked at time, our “hypocritic days,” as barefoot dervishes, muffled and dumb, marching single in an endless file, bringing diadems or fagots in their hands.
Looking creatively at your days, in endless file, do you make diadems of such moments as a story hour with the preschoolers, an early morning stroll or jog with husband, the raking of fall leaves with your sons, or reading e. e. cummings as you roller-wrap your daughter’s long tresses?
Though the days are endless, the diadems offered while children share your home are brief moments for building truth and beauty.
Creativity has been defined as seeing ideas in new relationships, as discovering or producing something new through one’s own thinking. All creativeness lies within the creator, for creation is a qualitative experience of the highest order, and it brings into activity the whole person.
Walk creatively through these glorious days of October.