BAKING THE BREAD
56. PURPOSE OF BAKING.--The various processes in the making of bread that have been considered up to this point may be successfully carried out, but unless the baking, which is the last step, is properly done, the bread is likely to be unpalatable and indigestible. Much attention should therefore be given to this part of the work. So that the best results may be obtained, it should be borne in mind that bread is baked for the purpose of killing the ferment, rupturing the starch grains of the flour so that they become digestible, fixing the air cells, and forming a nicely flavored crust. During the process of baking, certain changes take place in the loaf. The gluten that the dough contains is hardened by the heat and remains in the shape of bubbles, which give the bread a porous appearance; also, the starch contained in the dough is cooked within the loaf, but the outside is first cooked and then toasted.
57. OVEN TEMPERATURE FOR BAKING.--In baking bread, it is necessary first to provide the oven with heat of the right temperature and of sufficient strength to last throughout the baking. As is indicated in Figure 4, the usual oven temperature for successful bread baking is from 380 to 425 degrees Fahrenheit, but in both the first and the last part of the baking the heat should be less than during the middle of it. An oven thermometer or an oven gauge is a very good means of determining the temperature of the oven. But if neither of these is available the heat may be tested by placing in the oven a white cracker, a piece of white paper, or a layer of flour spread on a shallow tin pan. If any one of these becomes a light brown in 5 minutes, the oven is right to commence baking. Every precaution should be taken to have the oven just right at first, for if the bread is placed in an oven that is too hot the yeast plant will be killed immediately and the rising consequently checked. Of course, the bread will rise to some extent even if the yeast plant is killed at once, for the carbon dioxide that the dough contains will expand as it becomes heated and will force the loaf up; but bread baked in this way is generally very unsatisfactory, because a hard crust forms on the top and it must either burst or retard the rising of the loaf. If the heat is not sufficient, the dough will continue to rise until the air cells run together and cause large holes to form in the loaf. In an oven that is just moderately hot, or has a temperature of about 400 degrees, the yeast plant will not be killed so quickly, the dough will continue to rise for some time, and the crust of the bread should begin to brown in about 15 minutes.
58. Fig. 14 illustrates a loaf of bread that has risen too much. The inside texture is coarse and the shape of the loaf is not good. Fig. 15 shows the result of uneven temperature. The high side is caused by exposure to more intense heat than the opposite side, and the crack is the result of a too rapid formation of the crust. Sometimes it is advisable to keep the crust from becoming hard too rapidly. In order to do this, and at the same time produce a more even color, the top of the loaf may be moistened by brushing it with milk before it is put into the oven.
Fig. 16 shows a well-formed loaf of bread that has had the right amount of rising, and Fig. 17 shows the inside texture of bread for which the mixing, rising, and baking have been correctly done.
59. TIME FOR BAKING AND CARE OF BREAD IN OVEN.--The time required for baking bread and the care it should receive in the oven are also important matters to know. How long the bread should bake depends on the size of the loaf. Under proper oven temperature, a small loaf, or one made with 1 cupful of liquid, ought to bake in from 50 minutes to 1 hour, while a large loaf requires from 1-1/2 to 2 hours. As has been explained, the loaf should begin to brown, or have its crust formed, in about 15 minutes after it is placed in the oven, and the baking should proceed rather slowly.
To get the best results in baking, the pans should be placed so that the air in the oven will circulate freely around them. If they are so placed that the loaves touch each other or the sides of the oven, the loaves will rise unevenly and consequently will be unsightly in shape, like those shown in Figs. 14 and 15. If the loaves rise higher on one side than on the other, even when the pans are properly placed, it is evident that the heat is greater in that place than in the other parts of the oven and the loaves should therefore be changed to another position. Proper care given to bread while baking will produce loaves that are an even brown on the bottom, sides, and top and that shrink from the sides of the pan.
60. CARE OF BREAD AFTER BAKING.--As soon as the bread has baked sufficiently, take it from the oven, remove the loaves from the pans, and place them to cool where the air may circulate freely around them. A bread rack, or cake cooler, like the one on which the loaf rests in Figs. 14, 15, and 16, is very satisfactory for this purpose, but if such a device is not available, the loaves may be placed across the edges of the empty pans so that nearly the entire surface is exposed. Whichever plan is adopted, it should be remembered that the bread must be carefully protected from dust and flies. Bread should never be permitted to remain in the pans after it has been baked nor to cool on a flat surface; neither should the loaves be wrapped while they are warm, because the moisture will collect on the surface and the bread will not keep so well.
After the loaves have become sufficiently cool, place them in the receptacle in which they are to be kept. This should have been previously washed and dried and then allowed to stand in the sunshine, so as to be free from mold or any substance that will taint or otherwise injure the bread. After the loaves have been put into it, keep it well covered and allow no stale crumbs nor pieces of bread to collect. To keep such a receptacle in good condition, it should be scalded and dried every 2 or 3 days.
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