BAKING THE BREAD MIXTURE
28. REGULATING THE OVEN.--When the ingredients have been properly combined, the mixture is ready to be baked. With the exception of waffles and griddle cakes, the baking of which is explained in connection with the recipes, all hot breads are baked in the oven; therefore, while the mixture is being prepared, the oven should be properly regulated in order that the temperature will be just right when it is time to start the baking. Particular thought should be given to this matter, for if no attention is paid to the oven until the mixture is ready to be baked, it will be necessary to allow the mixture to stand until the heat of the oven can be regulated or to put it into the oven and run the risk of spoiling the food. To prevent either of these conditions and to insure success, the fuel, no matter what kind is used, should be lighted before mixing is begun, so that the oven may be heating while the mixture is being prepared, unless, as is sometimes the case, there are steps in the preparation of the mixture that consume considerable time. For instance, looking over raisins and cleaning them or cracking nuts and picking the meats out of the shells should be done before the rest of the ingredients are prepared or the oven is regulated.
29. CORRECT OVEN TEMPERATURES.--Quick breads that are to be baked in the form of loaves require an oven temperature of from 350 to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Muffins, biscuits, and the smaller varieties of these breads need a higher temperature, 425 to 450 degrees Fahrenheit being best. As they are not so large, the heat has less dough through which to penetrate, and consequently the baking can be accomplished more quickly.
30. DETERMINING AND REGULATING OVEN TEMPERATURE.--Regulating the oven and testing its temperature present very little difficulty to the housewife of experience, but they are not always easy problems for the woman who is learning to cook. However, if the untrained and inexperienced cook will observe her oven closely and determine the results of certain temperatures, she will soon find herself becoming more successful in this matter. To assist the housewife in this matter, as well as to help in the saving of much loss in fuel and in underdone or overdone food, many stoves are equipped with an oven thermometer, an indicator, or a thermostat. The thermometer is more likely to be reliable than the indicator, as it has a column of mercury like that of any other thermometer and is graduated; also, a certain kind may be secured that can be used with any sort of oven. The indicator is in the form of a dial with a hand attached to a metal spring. This spring contracts and expands with the changes in the temperature of the oven and thus causes the hand to point out the temperature. The thermostat is a device that automatically regulates the heat of the oven. On a stove equipped with a thermostat, it is simply necessary to set the device at the temperature desired. When this temperature is reached, the device keeps it stationary.
31. If neither an indicator nor a thermometer is available, the heat of the oven may be determined in other ways. Some housewives test the oven with the hand, and while such a test is more or less dependent on experience, those who use it find it very satisfactory. If the hand can be held in the oven while 15 is counted slowly, the temperature is that of a moderate oven and will be right for the baking of loaves. An oven that is of the proper temperature for muffins or rolls will permit the hand to be held in it while only 10 is counted slowly. Those who do not test with the hand find that placing a piece of white paper in the oven is an accurate way of determining its temperature. Such paper will turn a delicate brown in 5 minutes in a moderate oven, and a deeper brown in 4 minutes in a hot oven.
32. PROPER PLACING OF THE BREAD MIXTURE IN THE OVEN.--As is pointed out in Essentials of Cookery, Part 1, the top of the oven is hotter than the bottom. This truth and the fact that in an oven, as in any other space, air expands and rises on becoming heated, are points that have much to do with the baking of quick breads, for these are mixtures that rise after being placed in the oven. So that they may rise properly, they should be placed on the bottom first; then, as they become heated, they will have a tendency to rise as the air does. If the food is placed near the top first, the heated air will be likely to press it down and retard its rising. As soon as the rising is completed and the food has baked sufficiently on the bottom, it should be moved up so that it will brown on the top.
33. TESTING THE BAKED MIXTURE.--Recipes for baked dishes usually state the length of time required to bake them, but such directions cannot always be depended on, because the temperature of the oven varies at different times. The best way in which to judge whether the food has baked the necessary length of time is to apply to it one of the reliable tests that have been devised for this purpose.
Probably the most satisfactory test is to insert a toothpick as deep as possible into the center of the loaf. The center, rather than some other part of the loaf, is the place where the testing should be done, because the heat penetrates a mixture from the outside and the center is therefore the last part to bake. If the toothpick comes out without particles of dough adhering, the mixture is sufficiently baked in that place and consequently throughout the loaf. In case the dough sticks to the toothpick, the baking is not completed and will have to be continued. Since this is a test that is frequently used, a supply of toothpicks, preferably round ones, should be kept in a handy place near the stove.
Another fairly accurate means of testing baked mixtures that do not form a very hard crust consists in making a dent in the center with the finger. If the dent remains, the baking must be continued, but if it springs back into place, the baking is completed.
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