TREATISE ON BREAD,
"Bread strengtheneth man's heart."—HOLY
LIGHT & STEARNS, 1 CORNHILL.
Entered according to Act of
Congress, in the year 1837, by LIGHT & STEARNS, in the Clerk's Office of
the District Court of Massachusetts.
LEE FOUNDATION FOR NUTRITIONAL RESEARCH
Milwaukee 1, Wisconsin
HISTORY OF BREAD.
Primitive food of man. Bruising and grinding grain. Baking. Invention
of leavened bread. Bread among the Greeks and Romans—among the Hebrews.
Simplicity of the bread now used in many countries
LAWS OF DIET.
Reasons why food in its natural state would be the best. Concentrated
nutriment. Interesting experiments on animals. Mixtures of food. Leavened
and unleavened bread. Qualifications of the best bread
MATERIAL OF BREAD.
Wheat. Extent of climate favorable to it. Injured by improper tillage.
Removal of impurities. Washing of grain. Separation of the bran from the
nutrient particles improper. Ancient Roman bread. Public bakers. Use of
bad flour. Adulterations. Poisonous agents used to disguise them
PROPERTIES OF BREAD.
Superfine flour injurious—a probable cause of some common disorders.
Objections to coarse bread. Its medical properties. Extensive experiments
of its use, by soldiers and others. Use among European peasantry.
Selection, preservation and grinding of wheat
Chemical composition of flour. Yeast—modes of preparing it. Substitutes
for it. Fermentation, and its products. Vinous, acetous and putrefactive
PREPARATION OF BREAD.
Mixing. Much kneading necessary. Rising, or fermentation. Use of
alkalies—saleratus and soda. Baking. Ovens. Alcohol in bread. Preservation
WHO SHOULD MAKE BREAD.
Making bread by rule. Bakers. Domestics. Sour bread. An anecdote.
Mrs. Van Winkle. Bad bread need not be made. How cake is made.
Bread-making a drudgery. Excellent example of a mother. Eating bad bread.
Importance of having good bread.
VARIETIES OF BREAD.
Rye bread. Indian meal bread. Use of sour milk or buttermilk. Acids.
are probably few people in civilized life, who—were the question put to
them directly—would not say, that they consider bread one of the
most, if not the most important article of diet which enters into the food
of man. And yet there is, in reality, almost a total and universal
carelessness about the character of bread. Thousands in civic life will,
for years, and perhaps as long as they live, eat the most miserable trash
that can be imagined, in the form of bread, and never seem to think that
they can possibly have anything better, nor even that it is an evil to eat
such vile stuff as they do. And if there is occasionally an individual who
is troubled with some convictions that his bread is not quite what it
should be, he knows not how to remedy the difficulty; for it is a serious
truth, that, although nearly every human being in civilized life eats
bread of some kind or other, yet scarcely any one has sufficient knowledge
of the true principles and processes concerned in bread-making, and of the
actual causes of the bad qualities of bread, to know how, with any degree
of certainty, to avoid bad and secure good bread.
I have thought, therefore, that I could hardly do society a better
service, than to publish the following treatise on a subject which,
whether people are aware of it or not, is, in reality, of very great
importance to the health and comfort of every one.
It has been prepared for the press with more haste, under more
embarrassments from other engagements, and with less seventy of revision,
than I could wish. Yet, whatever may be its defects of arrangement, method
or style, I have taken care to have the principles correct, and the
instructions such as, if attended to, will enable every one who is
heartily devoted to the object, to make good bread.
I must, however, acknowledge, that I have very little expectation
that proper attention will be paid to this subject, so long as the
dietetic habits of society continue to be what they are. While the various
preparations of animal food constitute so important a portion of human
aliment, the quality of bread will be greatly disregarded and neglected,
and people will continue almost universally to be cursed with poor bread.
Nevertheless, I trust some good will be done by the little work I
now send out; and I am not without hope, that it will be the means of a
considerable improvement in the quality of bread, and, as a natural and
necessary consequence, an improvement in the health and happiness of those
who consume it.
That it may prove thus beneficial to my fellow creatures in a high
degree, is my hearty and fervent desire.
TREATISE ON BREAD.
HISTORY OF BREAD.
Primitive food of man. Bruising and
grinding grain. Baking. Invention of leavened bread. Bread among the
Greeks and Romans—among the Hebrews. Simplicity of the bread now used in
the English version of the sacred scriptures, the term Bread is frequently
used to signify vegetable food in general. Thus in Gen. iii, 19, the Lord
says to Adam—"In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread (or food) till
thou return to the ground." See also Gen. xviii, 5, and xxviii, 20, and
Ex. ii, 20.
The most extended sense of the word, however, according to general
usage, comprehends all farinaceous vegetable substances which enter into
the diet of man; such as the farinaceous seeds or grain, nuts, fruit,
roots, &c. And in this extended sense, Bread, in some form or other, has
been the principal article in the diet of mankind, from the earliest
generations of the human race, to the present time; except among the few,
small and scattered tribes, which have, perhaps, ever since the days of
Noah, in different parts of the earth, subsisted mainly on animal food.
It is nearly certain that the primitive inhabitants of the earth,
ate their food with very little, if any artificial preparation.
The various fruits, nuts, seeds, roots, and other vegetable
substances on which they fed, were eaten by them in their natural state,
with no other grinding than that which was done by the. teeth.
As the human family increased, and population became more dense and
extended, and providential measures more necessary, the condition and
circumstances of society gradually led to the invention and adoption of
the simple, and, at first, rude arts of domestic life. Among these, was
that of bruising the harder articles of their food, such as nuts and
seeds, or grain, on flat stones, selected and kept for the purpose. By
constant use, these stones in time became hollowed out; and being thereby
rendered more convenient, men at length began to form mortars and pestles
from stones; and probably the next step was the construction of the rude
kind of hand-mills, which continued in use for many centuries; and indeed,
which, with the stone mortars, have, throughout all ages and in almost
every portion of the earth, been used in the ruder states of society.
When men became acquainted with the use of fire, they probably often
parched their corn or grain before they pounded it; and afterwards, they
learned to mix it with water into the consistency of dough, and to bake
this, in an unleavened or unfermented state, on flat stones before the
fire, or in the hot ashes or hot earth, or in the rude ovens which they
formed, by digging holes in the earth, into which they put heated stones,
and slightly covered them with leaves or grass, and then laid in the
article they wished to bake, and over this strewed some leaves, and then
covered the whole with earth.*
* In this same manner the Sandwich
Islanders cooked all their food, when they were first discovered.
This kind of unleavened bread, undoubtedly constituted a very
important, if not the principal article of artificially prepared food in
the diet of the primitive inhabitants of the earth, for many centuries;
and the same, or very nearly the same kind of bread continued in general
use down to the days of Abraham; and it is probable that the unleavened
bread used by his descendants at the feast of the Passover, before and
after they left Egypt, was of the same kind.
It is hardly possible, however, that it could have been otherwise,
than that, at a much earlier period, larger quantities of this dough were
occasionally made, than were immediately baked, and consequently portions
of it were suffered to stand and ferment; and by this means, men were in
process of time learned to make leavened, or raised bread.
At how early a date, loaf or raised bread came into common use, it
is impossible now to ascertain with any considerable degree of precision.
The scriptures do not afford us any evidence that Abraham was accustomed
to such bread; but the fact that Moses, at the institution of the supper
of the Passover, the night before the Jews left Egypt, commanded them
strictly to abstain from leavened bread, and to eat only the unleavened,
proves conclusively, that the Israelites at least, were then accustomed to
fermented, or raised bread.
Neither history nor tradition enables us to speak with any degree of
confidence in regard to the period at which other nations became
acquainted with the art of bread-making; but from all that has come down
to us from ancient times, we learn that the primitive generations of every
nation, subsisted on fruits and other products of the vegetable kingdom,
in their uncooked or natural state.
"The Greeks assert that they were taught the art of making bread by
their god, Pan; and Pliny informs us that this art was not known at Rome
till near six hundred years after the foundation of that city. The Roman
armies, he says, on their return from Macedonia, brought Grecian bakers
into Italy. Before this time, the Romans prepared their meal in a kind of
pap or soft pudding; and on this account Pliny calls them pap eaters."
But though the Egyptians and Israelites were probably among the
earliest portions of the human family, who became acquainted with the art
of making loaf or raised bread, the quality of their bread continued to be
exceedingly simple and coarse for many generations.
Even after the establishment of the Hebrew nation in Palestine—in
the most splendid days of Jerusalem—at the period of the highest
refinement of the Jews, in the arts of civil and domestic life, their fine
flour, from which their choicest bread and cakes were made, was, in
comparison with modern superfine flour, extremely coarse,—ground mostly by
females, in hand-mills constructed and kept for that purpose.
From Rome the art of bread-making very slowly found its way over
considerable portions of Europe. A thousand years after Julius Caesar
first entered Britain, the rude people of that country were little
acquainted with raised bread. "Even at present," says Prof. Thomson, "loaf
bread is seldom used except by the higher classes of inhabitants, in the
northern countries of Europe and Asia."
In Eastern and Southern Asia, rice constitutes the principal
bread-stuff; and this is generally prepared with great simplicity. In
Middle and Western Asia, and in Africa, bread, though made of different
kinds of grain, is prepared with almost equal simplicity. In Scotland,
Ireland, and indeed throughout Europe generally, barley, oats, rye,
potatoes, peas, beans, chesnuts, and other farinaceous vegetables,
constitute the tread-stuff of most of the laboring people, or peasantry.
In the islands of the Pacific and Southern oceans, the bread of the
inhabitants consists of the plantain, bananas, yams, bread-fruit, and
other like vegetables, simply roasted, baked, or boiled.
Bread, therefore, of some kind or other, made of some of the
farinaceous products of the vegetable kingdom, has probably, in almost
every portion of the world, and every period of time, been one of the
first, and most important, and universal articles of food, artificially
prepared by cooking, which has entered into the diet of mankind; and hence
it has with great propriety been called "the staff of life."
LAWS OF DIET.
Reasons why food in its natural state
would he the best. Concentrated nutriment. Interesting experiments on
animals. Mixtures of food. Leavened and unleavened bread. Qualifications
of the best bread.
man were to subsist wholly on alimentary substances in their natural
state, or without any artificial preparation by cooking, then he would be
obliged to use his teeth freely in masticating his food; and by so doing,
not only preserve his teeth from decay, and keep them in sound health, but
at the same time, and by the same means, would he thoroughly mix his food
with the fluid of his mouth, and thus prepare it both for swallowing and
for the action of the stomach, and by the same means also, he would be
made to swallow his food slowly, as the welfare of the stomach and of the
whole system requires he should.
Again, if man were to subsist wholly on uncooked food, he would
never suffer from the improper temperature of his aliment. Hot substances
taken into the mouth, serve more directly and powerfully to destroy the
teeth, than any other cause which acts immediately upon them; and hot food
and drink received into the stomach, always in some degree debilitate that
organ, and through it, every other organ and portion of the whole system;
diminishing, as an ultimate result, the vital power of every
part—impairing every function, and increasing the susceptibility of the
whole body to the action of disturbing causes, and predisposing it to
disease. Again, if man were to subsist entirely on food in a natural
state, he would never suffer from concentrated aliment. Every substance in
nature which God has prepared for the food of man, consists of both
nutritious and innutritious matter. The proportions vary in different
kinds of food. Thus in a hundred pounds of potatoes, there are about
twenty-five pounds of nourishing matter; while in a hundred pounds of good
wheat there are about eighty pounds of nourishing matter. There are a few
products of the vegetable kingdom which are still higher in the scale of
nutriment, than wheat; and on the other hand there is a boundless variety
ranging below wheat, extending down to three or four per cent. of
nourishment. But nature, without the aid of human art, produces nothing
for the alimentary use of man which is purely a concentrated nutrient
substance. And God has constructed man in strict accordance with this
general economy of nature. He has organized and endowed the human body
with reference to the condition and qualities of those substances in
nature, which He designed for the food of man. And consequently, while man
obeys the laws of constitution and relation which should govern him in
regard to his food, he preserves the health and integrity of his
alimentary organs, and through them of his whole nature; and so far as his
dietetic habits are concerned, secures the highest and best condition of
his nature. But, if he disregards these laws, and by artificial means
greatly departs from the natural adaptation of things, he inevitably
brings evil on himself and on his posterity.
It has been fully proved that "bulk, or a due proportion of
innutritious matter in our food, is quite as important to health as
nourishment." Human beings may subsist from childhood to extreme old age
on good potatoes and pure water alone, and enjoy the best and most
uninterrupted health, and possess the greatest muscular power and ability
to endure protracted fatigue and exposure. But if the purely nutrient
matter of the potato be separated out by artificial means, and human
beings, fed exclusively on this concentrated form of aliment and pure
water, they will soon perish, because the alimentary organs of man are not
constituted and endowed for such kinds of food. And this is true of all
animals, in the higher orders, at least.
We know that dogs fed on sugar and water, gum and water, fine flour
bread and water, or any other kind of concentrated aliment, will soon
languish, and droop, and emaciate, and die; but if a due proportion of
proper innutritious substance be mixed with these concentrated forms of
aliment, the dogs will subsist on them and remain healthy. So if horses,
cows, deer, sheep, and other grass-eating animals be fed on grain alone,
they will soon lose their appetite and begin to droop, and will shortly
perish; but if a due proportion of straw or shavings of wood be given them
with their grain, they will continue to do well. Man is affected in the
same manner. He cannot long subsist on purely nutritious substances. And
the reason is not because these substances have no azote or nitrogen in
them; nor is it because man necessarily requires a variety of
alimentary substances, but simply and exclusively because the anatomical
construction and vital powers of the alimentary organs, are
constitutionally adapted to alimentary substances which consist of both
nutritious and innutritious matter; and therefore a due proportion of
innutritious matter in the food of man is as essential to the welfare of
his alimentary organs, as a due proportion of nourishment is to the
support of his body.
Again, if man subsisted wholly on uncooked food, he would not only
be preserved from improper concentrations, but also from pernicious
combinations of alimentary substances. The alimentary organs of man, like
those of the horse, ox, sheep, dog, cat, and most or all other animals of
the higher orders, if not in fact, of all other animals without
limitation, possess the vital capability of so accommodating themselves to
emergencies, that they can be made to digest almost every vegetable and
animal substance in nature; and they can, by long training, be educated to
digest a mixture of these substances at the same time. Nevertheless it is
incontestibly true, that the alimentary organs of man and of all other
animals, can manage one kind of food at a time better than a mixed
ingestion; for it is impossible that the solvent fluids secreted by the
stomach and other organs belonging to the alimentary apparatus, should be
at the same time equally well adapted to entirely different kinds of food.
I do not say that the alimentary organs of man cannot, by long
habit, be brought into such a condition as that, while that condition
remains, they will not manage a mixed ingestion of animal and vegetable
food, with more immediate comfort and satisfaction to themselves and the
individual, than they will an ingestion of pure vegetable food. But this
does not militate against the general principle in the least; for it is
nevertheless true, that the same organs are capable of being brought into
a condition in which they will manage an ingestion of unmixed food of
either kind, with less embarrassment and injury to themselves and the
whole system, than they can the mixed food in any condition. Hence it is a
general law of nature, concerning the dietetic habits of man, that
simplicity of food at each meal is essential to the highest well-being of
the individual and of the race.
God has unquestionably provided a great and rich variety of
substances for man's nourishment and enjoyment; but it is equally certain
that he did not design that man should partake of all this variety at a
single meal, nor in a single day, nor season—but from meal to meal, from
day to day, and from season to season, varying his enjoyment in strictest
consistency with the great laws of his nature. And hence all artificial
combinations of alimentary substances, and particularly those of a
heterogeneous kind, and yet more especially the concentrated forms, must
be more or less pernicious to the alimentary organs, and through them to
the whole system.
Finally, if man subsisted wholly on uncooked food, the undepraved
integrity of his appetite, his thorough mastication and slow swallowing,
and his simple meal, would greatly serve to prevent his overeating, and
thus save him from the ruinous effects of one of the most destructive
causes operating in civic life.
Whatever may be the material, therefore, from which bread is made,
when the artificial preparation is of that simple character which leaves
the proportions of nutritious and innutritious properties, as nature
combined them, and effects little change in the nutritious principles, and
retains the natural requisition for the function of the teeth, and thus
secures the proper chewing of the food and the mixing of it with the
fluids of the mouth, and swallowing of it slowly, the artificial process
militates very little, if at all, against any of the physiological or
vital interests of the body. But if our artificial process of
bread-making, concentrates the nutrient properties, and destroys the due
proportion between the bulk and nourishment, and forms improper changes
and combinations in the nutrient elements, and does away the necessity for
mastication or chewing, and presents the food in too elevated a
temperature, or too hot, and enables us to swallow it too rapidly, with
little or no exercise of the teeth, and without properly mixing it with
the fluids of the mouth, the artificial process or cooking is decidedly
and often exceedingly inimical, not only to the vital interests of the
alimentary organs, but of the whole human system.
In all civilized nations, and particularly in civic life, bread, as
I have already stated, is far the most important article of food which is
artificially prepared; and in our country and climate, it is the most
important article that enters into the diet of man; and therefore it is of
the first consideration, that its character should, in every respect, be
as nearly as possible, consistent with the laws of constitution and
relation established in our nature; or with the anatomical construction
and vital properties and powers and interest of our systems.
If we contemplate the human constitution in its highest and best
condition,—in the possession of its most vigorous and unimpaired
powers—and ask, what must be the character of our bread in order to
preserve that constitution in that condition? the answer most indubitably
is, that the coarse unleavened bread of early times, when of proper age,
was one of the least removes from the natural state of food,—one of the
simplest and most wholesome forms of artificial preparations, and best
adapted to fulfil the laws of constitution and relation; and therefore
best adapted to sustain the most vigorous and healthy state of the
alimentary organs, and the highest and best condition of the whole nature
of man, as a general and permanent fact; and hence it is very questionable
whether loaf or raised bread can be made equally conducive to all the
interests of our nature, with the simple unleavened bread.
I am aware that many professional men entertain a very different
opinion on this subject, and speak of unleavened bread as being less
nourishing and less easily digested. This may be true to a limited extent,
in special cases of impaired and debilitated alimentary organs; but I am
confident that as a general fact the notion is entirely erroneous.
"The whole people of Asia," says Dr. Cullen, "live upon unfermented
rice. The Americans, before they became acquainted with the Europeans,
employed, and for the most part, still employ their maize in the same
condition. Even in Europe, the employment of unfermented bread, and
unfermented farinaceæ in other forms, is still very considerable, and we
are ready to maintain that the morbid consequences of such a diet are very
seldom to be observed. In Scotland, nine tenths of the lower classes of
people—and that is the greater part of the whole—live upon unfermented
bread and unfermented farinaceæ in other forms, and at the same time, I am
of opinion that there are not a more healthy people anywhere to be found.
We give it to all classes and both sexes with advantage."
It is incontestibly true, that if two portions of the same kind of
wheat meal be taken and made, the one into unleavened and the other into
leavened bread, and both be eaten warm from the oven, the leavened bread
will prove much more oppressive and difficult to manage in the stomach
than the unleavened. But aside from the changes that are produced by the
process of fermentation, there are many other considerations why
unleavened bread of a proper quality and age, is better adapted to sustain
the alimentary organs and general constitution of man, in their highest
and best condition.
Nevertheless, it is very certain, that loaf or raised bread can be
made so nearly in accordance with the vital laws and interests of our
bodies, as scarcely to militate against them in any perceptible or
appreciable degree. And when I say this, I mean not merely its effects on
the health and longevity of a single individual, but its effects upon the
human constitution, through successive generations, for a thousand years
As a general criterion or rule, then, in regard to the character of
bread, we perceive that the most perfect loaf or raised bread, is that
which, being made of the best material, is light, and sweet, and well
baked, and still most nearly retains all the natural proportions and
properties of the original material.
MATERIAL OF BREAD.
Wheat. Extent of climate favorable to
it. Injured by improper tillage. Removal of impurities. Washing of grain.
Separation of the bran from the nutrient particles improper. Ancient Roman
bread. Public bakers. Use of bad flour. Adulterations. Poisonous agents
used to disguise them.
the materials used for making bread in our country—and, in fact, of all
the known productions of the vegetable kingdom in any country, wheat is
decidedly the best; and it is a remarkable fact, that wheat comes nearer
to man than perhaps any other plant, in its power of becoming adapted to
different climates, over a wide extent of the earth's surface, so that it
may almost be said that wherever the human species can flourish, there
wheat can be cultivated.
"It is not certainly known," says Prof. Thomson, "in what country
wheat was first produced. Mr. Bruce informs us that he found it growing
wild in Abyssinia; and in his opinion, that kingdom is the native country
of the plant. It would seem," continues the Professor, "to be originally
an African plant, since it thrives best in Barbary and Egypt; and perhaps
the mountains of Abyssinia, though within the torrid zone, may not differ
much in point of climate, from the more northern plains of Egypt. Wheat is
perhaps cultivated over a greater extent of the globe than any other
plant. Excellent crops are raised as far north as Sweden, in latitude 60°;
it is cultivated in the East Indies, considerably within the limits of the
torrid zone; and in the North of Hindostan, it constitutes a chief article
in the food of the inhabitants. In India, however, the plant seems to have
deteriorated. It is always dwarfish, and the crop is said to be less
abundant than in more northern climates." Yet a cold climate is not most
genial to the nature of this plant. "The wheat of France is superior to
that of England; the wheat of Italy is still better than that of France;
and perhaps the best of all is raised in Barbary and Egypt."
Excellent wheat is raised in the southern, and western, and middle
portions of the United States; and even in the northern and eastern parts
of New England, very fine crops have been produced.
But the wheat and other cultivated products of the vegetable kingdom
appropriated to the nourishment of man, like those on which our domestic
animals subsist, are too generally, in civilized life, very considerably
deteriorated, as to their wholesomeness, by the improper tillage of the
soil. I have no doubt that it is true, as stated by those who have made
the experiment, that the flour of wheat, raised on a cultivated soil
recently dressed with crude, stable manure, may readily be distinguished
by its odor, from the flour of wheat raised on a new and undepraved soil,
or from that raised on a cultivated soil which has been dressed with
properly digested manure. And if such and similar results of improper
tillage can become the sources of serious evil to the human family,
through their effects on the flesh of animals which man devours, and on
the milk and butter which he consumes, surely the immediate effects of
such a deteriorated vegetable aliment on the human system, must be very
They who have never eaten bread made of wheat, recently produced by
a pure virgin soil, have but a very imperfect notion of the deliciousness
of good bread; such as is often to be met with in the comfortable log
houses in our western country. It is probably true that the new soil, in
its virgin purity, before it becomes exhausted by tillage, and debauched
by the means which man uses to enrich and stimulate it, produces most, if
not all kinds of vegetables appropriate for human aliment, in a more
perfect and healthy state, than any soil which has been long under
cultivation, can be made to do. Nevertheless, by a proper application of
physiological principles to agriculture, many of the evils which now
result from improper tillage may easily be avoided, and the quality of all
those vegetable substances which enter into the diet of man may be very
greatly improved, both in regard to wholesomeness and deliciousness.
But while the people of our country are so entirely given up as they
are at present, to gross and promiscuous feeding on the dead carcasses of
animals, and to the untiring pursuits of wealth, it is perhaps wholly in
vain for a single individual to raise his voice on a subject of this kind.
The farmer will continue to be most eager to increase the number of his
acres, and to extort from those acres the greatest amount of produce, with
the least expense of tillage, and with little or no regard to the quality
of that produce in relation to the physiological interests of man; while
the people generally, are contented to gratify their depraved appetites on
whatever comes before them, without pausing to inquire whether their
indulgences are adapted to preserve or to destroy their health and life.
Yet if some one does not raise a voice upon this subject which shall be
heard and heeded, there will soon reach us, as a nation, a voice of
calamity which we shall not be able to shut our ears against, albeit we
may in the perverseness of our sensualism, incorrigibly persist in
disregarding its admonitions, till the deep chastisements of outraged
nature shall reach the very "bone and marrow" of the human constitution,
and fill our land with such a living rottenness, as now in some other
portions of the earth, renders human society odious and abominable.
Whether, therefore, my voice shall be heard and heeded or not, I
will obey the dictates of my sense of duty, and solemnly declare that this
subject demands the prompt and earnest attention of every agriculturist
and of every friend to the common cause of humanity; for it is most
certain, that until the agriculture of our country is conducted in strict
accordance with physiological truth, it is not possible for us to realize
those physical, and intellectual, and moral, and social, and civil
blessings for which the human constitution and our soil and climate are
When proper attention has been paid to the character of the wheat
itself, the next thing is to see that it is thoroughly cleansed.
Sometimes, in consequence of the peculiarities of the season, or
climate, or soil, or some other cause, there will be a species of disease
affecting the wheat and other grains; and this may be of such a character
as not easily to be removed nor counteracted by any means; but more
generally the rust, and smut, and dust, which attach themselves to the
skin of the grain, may, by proper care, be so far removed, as at least to
render the meal or flour far more pure and wholesome than it otherwise
would be. And here let me remark, that they are greatly deceived, who
suppose that the bolting cloth which separates the fine flour from the
outer skin or bran, also separates the impurities attached to the outer
skin from the flour. By the process of grinding, these impurities are
rubbed from the outer skin, and made quite as fine as any portion of the
flour, and for the most part pass with the fine flour through the bolting
To remedy this, it is perhaps generally true, that in large flouring
establishments, a kind of smut or scouring mill is in operation, through
which the wheat passes, and is pretty thoroughly rubbed or scoured without
being broken; and after this, it passes through a screen or winnowing
mill, and thus is tolerably well cleansed and prepared for grinding. Yet
this process by no means renders the wheat so perfectly clean and
wholesome as washing.
Those who have given little attention to this subject, will probably
think that the trouble of washing all their bread stuff before it is
ground, would be much greater than any benefit which would result from it.
But a short experience in the matter, would convince every one who has a
proper regard for the character of his bread, that the trouble of washing
his grain bears no comparison to the improvement effected by it. Indeed,
they who become accustomed to washing their grain, will soon cease to
regard it as a trouble; and the improvement in the whiteness and sweetness
of their bread will be so great, that they would be extremely unwilling to
relinquish the practice.
When people are so situated that they can have things as they wish,
they will also find that their bread is much richer, if the grain is
ground but a short time before it is cooked.
The best way, therefore, is, for every family to raise or purchase a
sufficient quantity of the best new wheat that can be produced by proper
tillage in a good soil, and put that away in clean casks or bins, where it
will be kept perfectly dry and sweet; and, according to the size of the
family, take, from time to time, as they reed it, one or two bushels, and
wash it thoroughly but briskly in two or three waters, and then spread it
out on a drying sheet or table, made for the purpose, and which is
considerably inclined, so that the water remaining with the wheat will
easily run off.
The skin or bran of the wheat is so well protected by its own oily
property, that little or no water will penetrate it, unless it be suffered
to remain in the water much longer than is necessary. Being thinly spread
out upon the sheet or table in a good drying day, it will be sufficiently
dry in a few hours for grinding. And I say again, let any one who loves
good bread, wash his grain a few times in this manner, and he will be very
reluctant to return to the use of bread made of unwashed grain.
It would be difficult to ascertain at how early a period in the
progress of society, mankind, in the preparation of wheat for
bread-making, began to put asunder what God has joined together, and to
concentrate the more purely nutrient properties, by separating the flour
from the part commonly called the bran. The Bible speaks of fine flour or
meal, as a portion of the meat offerings of the temple, but it is not
probable this approached very near to the superfine flour of the present
We are informed also that the Romans, more than two thousand years
ago, had four or five different kinds of bread—one of which was made of
the purest flour, from which all the bran was separated. This was eaten
only by the rich and luxurious. A second kind, in more common use, was
that from which a portion of the bran was taken; and a third kind, which
was more generally used than any other, was that which was made of the
whole substance of the wheat. A fourth kind was made mostly of the bran,
But at whatever period in the history of the race, this artificial
process was commenced, certain it is that in direct violation of the laws
of constitution and relation which the Creator has established in the
nature of man, this process of mechanical analysis is, at the present day,
carried to the full extent of possibility; and the farina, and gluten, and
saccharine matter of the wheat, are almost perfectly concentrated in the
form of superfine flour. Nor is this all—these concentrated nutrient
properties of the wheat are mixed and complicated in ways innumerable,
with other concentrated substances, to pamper the depraved appetites of
man, with kinds of food which always and inevitably tend to impair his
health and to abbreviate his life.
Even the bread, which is the simplest form into which human
ingenuity tortures the flour of wheat, is, by other causes besides the
concentration I have named, too frequently rendered the instrument of
disease and death, rather than the means of life and health, to those that
In cities and large towns, most people depend on public bakers for
their bread. And I have no doubt that public bakers, as a body, are as
honest and worthy a class of men as any in society. I have no wish to
speak evil of any one; and it is always painful to me to find myself
compelled, in fidelity to the common cause of humanity, to expose the
faults of any particular class of men, when probably every other class in
society is as deeply involved in errors which, in the sight of God,
evince, at least, an equal degree of moral turpitude.
But public bakers, like other men, who serve the public more for the
sake of securing their own emolument than for the public good, have always
had recourse to various expedients in order to increase the lucrativeness
of their business.
To secure custom and profit at the same time, they have considered
it necessary, that a given quantity of flour should be made into a loaf as
large and as white as possible, and free from any disagreeable taste,
while at the same time it retains the greatest possible weight.
From a variety of causes, the quality and price of flour have always
been very unstable. Sometimes the crops are small, or the foreign demand
for flour or the home consumption is unusually great, or the season is
unfavorable to the health of grain, and the wheat becomes diseased, or the
harvest time is unfavorable, and the wheat sprouts before it is secured,
or large quantities of flour become soured or musty, or in some other
To counteract these things, and to make the most profitable use of
such flour as the market affords them, the public bakers have been led to
try various experiments with chemical agents, and there is reason to
believe that in numerous instances, they have been too successful in their
practices, for the well being of those who have been the consumers of
According to treatises on bread-making, which have within a few
years past appeared in European scientific journals, "alum, sulphate of
zinc, sub-carbonate of magnesia, sub-carbonate of ammonia, sulphate of
copper, and several other substances, have been used by public bakers in
making bread; and some of these substances have been employed by them to a
very great extent, and with very great success in the cause of their
cupidity. They have not only succeeded by such means, in making light and
while bread out of extremely poor flour, but they have also been able so
to disguise their adulterations, as to work in with their flour, without
being detected by the consumers, a portion of the flour of beans, peas and
potatoes—and even chalk, pipe clay and plaster of Paris, have been
employed to increase the weight and whiteness of their bread."
"The use of alum in bread-making," says a distinguished chemist,
"appears to be very ancient. It is one of those articles which have been
the most extensively and successfully used in disguising bad flour, and
the various adulterations of bread. Its injurious action upon the health
is not to be compared with that of sulphate of copper, and yet, daily
taken into the stomach, it may seriously affect the system."
"Thirteen bakers were condemned on the 27th of January, 1829, by the
correctional tribunal of Brussels, for mixing sulphate of copper or blue
vitriol with their bread. It makes the bread very white, light, large and
porous, but rather tasteless; and it also enables the bread to retain a
greater quantity of water, and thereby very considerably increases its
weight. A much larger quantity of alum is necessary to produce these
effects; but when of sufficient quantity, it strengthens the paste, and,
as the bakers say, ' makes the bread swell large.'"
If the statements of our large druggists can be relied on, the
public bakers of our own country probably employ ammonia more freely, at
present, than any other substance I have named. Pearlash or saleratus is
also used by them in considerable quantities.
But even where these adulterations are not practised, the bakers'
bread is very rarely a wholesome article of diet.
If any dependence is to be placed on the testimony of several of the
principal bakers and flour merchants in New York, Boston and other cities,
the flour which most of our public bakers work into bread, is of a very
inferior quality to what is called good "family flour," and for which they
pay from one to three dollars less per barrel; and they sometimes purchase
large quantities of old spoiled flour from New Orleans and elsewhere,
which has heated and soured in the barrel, and perhaps become almost as
solid as a mass of chalk; so that they are obliged to break it up, and
grind it over, and spread it out, and expose it to the air, in order to
purify it in a measure from its acid and other bad properties; and then
they mix it with a portion of much better flour; and from this mixture
they can make, as they say, the very largest and finest looking loaf.*
* An aged and very respectable member
of the Society of Friends, in New York, who had long been extensively
engaged in the flour business in that city, and who Had always had his
family bread made in his own house, was one day asked by his daughter, why
he never used the baker's bread:—"Because, my child," replied he, "I know
what it is made of."
But should the public bakers always use the best of flour, their
bread, as a general statement, would still be very inferior to well made
domestic bread, in point of sweetness and wholesomeness. Their mode of
manufacturing bread—to say the least of it—destroys much of the virtue of
the flour or meal; and hence their bread is only palatable—even to those
who are accustomed to it—within twelve, or at the longest, twenty-four
hours after it is baked.
But I must repeat, that in making these statements, I am not
prompted by any unkind feelings towards public bakers; I have no doubt
that they are as honest in their calling as any other class of men; but
perhaps there is no other class pursuing an interest founded on the
necessities of their fellow creatures, whose expedients to increase the
lucrativeness of their business, are so immediately and universally
injurious to the health of those on whom they depend for support.
If any of my statements are thought to be exaggerated or incorrect,
I can only say, that with honest and benevolent intentions, I have
diligently sought for the truth; and if I have been in any respect
betrayed into error, I have been misinformed by public bakers themselves,
who certainly ought to know the truth in this matter; and who could have
no conceivable reason for making the general character of their calling
appear worse than it really is. Nevertheless, I have no question that
there are individuals in every city employed as public bakers, who are too
honest—too conscientious—too upright in heart, to be guilty of any
practice which they consider fraudulent or improper.
Still, truth compels me to declare, that if we would have good and
wholesome bread, it must be made within the precincts of our own domestic
threshold; and by those whose skill and care are exercised more with a
view to secure our health and happiness, than their own pecuniary
PROPERTIES OF BREAD.
Superfine flour injurious—a probable
cause of some common disorders. Objections to coarse bread. Its medical
properties. Extensive experiments of its use, by soldiers and others. Use
among European peasantry. Selection, preservation and grinding of wheat.
our bread is of domestic manufacture or made by the public baker, that
which is made of superfine flour is always far less wholesome, in any and
every situation of life, than that which is made of wheaten meal which
contains all the natural properties of the grain.
It is true, that when much flesh is eaten with our bread, or when
bread constitutes but a very small and unimportant portion of our food,
the injurious effects of superfine flour bread are not always so
immediately and distinctly perceived as in other cases. Nevertheless, it
is a general and invariable law of our nature, that all concentrated forms
of food are unfriendly to the physiological or vital interests of our
A very large proportion of all the diseases and ailments in civic
life, are originated by causes which are introduced into the alimentary
canal as articles of diet; and disturbance and derangement of
function—obstructions, debility and irritations, are among the most
important elements of those diseases.
It is, probably, speaking within bounds, to say that nine tenths of
the adults, and nearly as large a proportion of youth in civic life, are
more or less afflicted with obstructions and disturbances in the stomach
and bowels, and other organs of the abdomen, the symptoms of which are
either habitual costiveness or diarrhoea, or an alternation of both; or
frequent and severe attacks of what are called bilious colics, &c., &c.;
and in children and youth, worms, fits, convulsions, &c. And I cannot but
feel confident, that the use of superfine flour bread is among the
important causes of these and numerous other difficulties.
I have indeed been surprised to observe, that in the hundreds of
cases of chronic diseases of every form and name, which have come to my
knowledge within the last five or six years, costiveness of the bowels has
in almost every instance been among the first and most important symptoms.
And I have never known this difficulty, even after an obstinate
continuance of five, ten, twenty or thirty years, fail to disappear in a
short time, after the coarse wheaten bread of a proper character has been
substituted for that made of superfine flour.
Some physicians and other individuals, without properly examining
the subject, have raised several objections against the coarse wheaten
It is said, in the first place, that bran is wholly indigestible,
and therefore should never be taken into the human stomach.
This objection betrays so much ignorance of the final causes and
constitutional laws, clearly indicated by the anatomical structure and
physiological economy of the alimentary organs, that it scarcely deserves
the slightest notice. If the digestive organs of man were designed to
receive nothing but digestible and nutrient substances, they would have
been constructed and arranged very differently from what they are. As we
have already seen, everything which nature provides for our sustenance,
consists of certain proportions of nutritious and innutritious matter; and
a due proportion of innutritious matter in our food is as essential to the
health and functional integrity of our alimentary organs, as a due
proportion of nutritious matter is to the sustenance of the body.
Another objection is, that although bran may serve, like other
mechanical irritants and excitants, for a while, to relieve constipation,
yet it soon wears out the excitability of the organs, and leaves them more
inactive than before.
Here again, a false statement is urged by inexcusable ignorance; for
it is not true that the bran acts in the manner supposed in this
objection; nor are the effects here asserted ever produced by it.
It is true, however, that the very pernicious habits of some people,
who use the coarse wheaten bread, entirely counteract the aperient effects
of the bread; and it is true that others, depending wholly on the virtues
of this bread for peristaltic action, and neglecting all exercise, by
their extreme inertness, and indolence, and overeating, bring on a
sluggishness, and debility, and constipation of the bowels, and perhaps
become severely afflicted with piles, in spite of the natural fitness of
the bread to promote regular peristaltic action, and to prevent all these
A third objection is, that though the coarse wheaten bread may do
very well for those who are troubled with constipation, by mechanically
irritating and exciting the stomach and bowels, yet for that very reason
it is wholly unfit and improper for those who are afflicted with chronic
Here is still another objection founded in ignorance of the true
physiological and pathological principles which it involves. The truth is,
that the coarse wheaten bread, under a proper general regimen, is as
excellent and sure a remedy for chronic diarrhoea as for chronic
I have seen cases of chronic diarrhoea of the most obstinate
character, and which had baffled the highest medical skill and every mode
of treatment for more than twenty years, yielding entirely under a proper
general regimen, in which this bread was the almost exclusive article of
food, and not a particle of medicine was used. And I have never known such
a mode of treatment to fail of wholly relieving diarrhoea, whether recent
or chronic; although a very great number of cases have come under my
It is fully evident, therefore, that the bran does not act on the
digestive organs as a mere mechanical irritant; for if it did, it would
always necessarily aggravate, rather than alleviate diarrhoea. Nor does it
relieve diarrhoea on the principle of a narcotic nor of a stimulant; for
the effect of these is always to give an immediate check to that
complaint; and in such a manner as to expose the system to a return of it.
But the coarse wheaten bread seems to increase the disease for a
short time, at first, and then gradually restores the healthy condition
and action of the bowels.
The mucilage of wheat bran is probably one of the most soothing
substances in the vegetable kingdom, that can be applied to the mucous
membrane of the stomach and bowels.
Chronic constipation and chronic diarrhoea, both spring from the
same root. Where the constitutional vigor of the alimentary canal is very
considerable, continued irritations, resulting in debility, will produce
constipation; and these continued causes operating for some time, will
often induce such a state of debility and irritability as is attended with
diarrhoea:—and in other cases, when this constitutional vigor of the
alimentary canal is much less, diarrhoea is far more readily induced, and
Coarse wheaten bread, then, by its adaptation to the anatomical
structure and to the physiological properties and functional powers of our
organs, serves to prevent and to remove the disorders and diseases of our
bodies, only by preventing and removing irritation and morbid action and
condition, and thereby affording the system an opportunity of recovering
its healthy and vigorous action and condition. And the thousands of
individuals in our own country of every age—of both sexes—of all
situations, conditions and circumstances, who within the last six years
have been benefited by using the coarse wheaten bread, instead of that
made of superfine flour, are living witnesses of the virtues of that
But the testimony in favor of coarse wheaten bread as an important
article in the food of man, is by no means limited to our own country nor
to modern times.
In all probability, as we have already seen, the first generations
of our species, who became acquainted with the art of making bread,
continued for many centuries to employ all the substance of the grain,
which they coarsely mashed in their rude mortars or mills. And even since
mankind began, by artificial means, to separate the bran from the flour,
and to make bread from the latter, the more close and discerning observers
among physicians and philanthropists, have perceived and asserted, that
bread made of fine flour is decidedly less wholesome than that made of the
unbolted wheat meal.
Hippocrates, styled the father of medicine, who flourished more than
two thousand years ago, and who depended far more on a correct diet and
general regimen, both for the prevention and removal of disease, than he
did on medicine, particularly commended the unbolted wheat meal bread,
"for its salutary effects upon the bowels." It was a fact well understood
by the ancients, that this bread was much more conducive to the general
health and vigor of their bodies, and every way better adapted to nourish
and sustain them than that made of the fine flour. And accordingly, their
wrestlers and others who were trained for great bodily power, "ate only
the coarse wheaten bread, to preserve them in their strength of limbs."
The Spartans were famous for this kind of bread; and we learn from Pliny
that the Romans, as a nation, at that period of their history when they
were the most remarkable for bodily vigor and personal prowess and
achievement, knew no other bread for three hundred years. The warlike and
powerful nations which overran the Roman Empire, and finally spread over
the greater part of Europe, used no other kind of bread than that which
was made of the whole substance of the grain; and from the fall of the
Roman Empire to the present day. a large proportion of the inhabitants of
all Europe and the greater part of Asia, have rarely used any other kind
"If you set any value on health, and have a mind to preserve
nature,"—said Thomas Tryon, student in physic, in his "Way to Health, Long
Life and Happiness," published in London, in the latter part of the
fifteenth century,—"you must not separate the finest from the coarsest
flour; because that which is fine is naturally of an obstructive and
stopping quality; but, on the contrary, the other, which is coarse, is of
a cleansing and opening nature, therefore the bread is best which is made
of both together. It is more wholesome, easier of digestion, and more
strengthening than bread made of the finest flour. It must be confessed,
that the nutrimentive quality is contained in the fine flour; yet, in the
branny part is contained the opening and digestive quality; and there is
as great a necessity for the one as the other, for the support of health:
that which is accounted the worst is as good and beneficial to nature as
the best; for when the finest flour is separated from the coarsest and
branny parts, neither the one nor the other has the true operations of the
wheat meal. The eating of fine bread, therefore, is inimical to health,
and contrary both to nature and reason; and was at first invented to
gratify wanton and luxurious persons, who are ignorant both
of themselves, and the true virtue and efficacy of natural things."
"Baron Steuben has often told me," says Judge Peters, "that the
peculiar healthfulness of the Prussian soldiers, was in a great measure to
be attributed to their ammunition bread, made of grain, triturated or
ground, but not bolted; which was accounted the most wholesome and
nutritious part of their rations." *
* See Memoirs of Philadelphia
Agricultural Society. Vol. 1. p. 226.
"The Dutch sailors, in the days of their naval glory, were supplied
with the same kind of bread."
"During the war between England and France, near the close of the
last century," says Mr. Samuel Prior, a respectable merchant of Salem, New
Jersey—"the crops of grain, and particularly wheat, were very small in
England, and the supplies from Dantzic, the Netherlands and Sweden being
cut off by the French army, and also the usual supplies from America
failing, there was a very great scarcity of wheat in England. The British
army was then very extensive, and it was exceedingly difficult to procure
provisions for it, both at home and abroad—on land and sea. Such was the
demand for the foreign army, and such the deficiency of crops at home and
supplies from abroad, that serious fears were entertained that the army
would suffer, and that the continental enterprise of the British
government would be defeated in consequence of the scarcity of provisions;
and every prudential measure by which such a disastrous event could be
prevented, was carefully considered and proposed. William Pitt was then
prime minister of state, and at his instance, government recommended to
the people generally throughout Great Britain, to substitute potatoes and
rice as far as possible, for bread, in order to save the wheat for the
foreign army. This recommendation was promptly complied with by many of
the people. But still the scarcity was alarmingly great. In this
emergency, parliament passed a law (to take effect for two years) that the
army at home should be supplied with bread made of unbolted wheat meal,
solely for the purpose of making the wheat go as far as possible, and thus
saving as much as they could from the home consumption, for the better
supply of the army on the continent.
"Eighty thousand men were quartered in barracks in the counties of
Essex and Suffolk. A great many were also quartered throughout the towns,
at taverns, in squads of thirty or forty in a place. Throughout the whole
of Great Britain, the soldiers were supplied with this coarse bread. It
was deposited in the storerooms with the other provisions of the army; and
on the day that it was baked, and at nine o'clock the next morning, was
distributed to the soldiers—who were at first exceedingly displeased with
the bread, and refused to eat it, often casting it from them with great
rage, and violent execrations. But after two or three weeks they began to
be much pleased with it, and preferred it to the fine flour bread.
"My father," continues Mr. P., "whom I have often heard talk these
things over, was a miller and a baker, and resided in the county of Essex,
on the border joining Suffolk, and near the barracks containing the eighty
thousand soldiers. He contracted with government, to supply the eastern
district of the county of Essex, with the kind of bread I have mentioned:
and he used always to send me with it to the depositories on the day it
was baked: and though I was then a youth, I can still very distinctly
remember the angry looks and remarks of the soldiers, when they were first
supplied with it. Indeed they often threw their loaves at me as I passed
along, and accompanied them with a volley of curses. The result of this
experiment was, that not only the wheat was made to go much farther, but
the health of the soldiers improved so much and so manifestly, in the
course of a few months, that it became a matter of common remark among
themselves, and of observation and surprise among the officers and
physicians of the army. These gentlemen at length came out with confidence
and zeal on the subject, and publicly declared that the soldiers were
never before so healthy and robust; and that disease of every kind had
almost entirely disappeared from the army. The public papers, were for
months filled with recommendations of this bread, and the civic physicians
almost universally throughout Great Britain, pronounced it far the most
healthy bread that could be eaten, and as such, recommended it to all the
people, who very extensively followed the advice:—and the coarse wheaten
bread was very generally introduced into families—female boarding schools,
and indeed all public institutions. The nobility also generally used it;
and in fact, in many towns, it was a rare thing to meet with a piece of
fine flour bread. The physicians generally asserted that this wheaten
bread was the very best thing that could be taken into the human stomach,
to promote digestion and peristaltic action; and that it, more than
anything else, would assist the stomach in digesting other things which
were less easily digested, and therefore they recommend that a portion of
it should be eaten at every meal with other food.
"Still, after this extensive experiment had been made with such
happy results, and after so general and full a testimony had been given in
favor of the coarse wheaten bread, when large supplies of superfine flour
came in from America, and the crops at home were abundant, and the act of
parliament in relation to the army became extinct, most of the people who
had before been accustomed to the use of fine flour bread, now by degrees
returned again to their old habits of eating fine bread. Many of the
nobility, however, continued to use the coarse bread for a number of years
afterwards. General Hanoward, Squire Western, Squire Hanbury and others
living near my father's, continued to use the bread for a long time, and
some of them still used it when I left home and came to America, in 1816."
The testimony of sea captains and old whalemen is equally in favor
of wheaten bread. "I have always found," said a very intelligent sea
captain of more than thirty years' experience, "that the coarser my ship
bread, the healthier my crew is."
A writer in Rees' Cyclopædia, (article Bread) says—" The inhabitants
of Westphalia, who are a hardy and robust people, and capable of enduring
the greatest fatigues, are a living testimony to the salutary effects of
this sort of bread; and it is remarkable that they are very seldom
attacked by acute fevers, and those other diseases which are from bad
In short, as I have already stated, the bread of a large portion of
the laboring class, or peasantry, throughout Europe, Asia and Africa, and
the islands of the ocean, whether leavened or unleavened—whether more or
less artificially prepared, is made of the whole substance of the grain
from which it is manufactured: and no one who is sufficiently enlightened
in physiological science to qualify him to judge correctly in this matter,
can doubt that bread made in the best manner from unbolted wheat meal, is
far better adapted to the anatomical structure and physiological powers of
the alimentary organs of man, than bread made of superfine wheat flour;
and consequently, the former is far more conducive to the health and vigor
and general well-being of man than the latter.
If, therefore, mankind will have raised bread which in every respect
most perfectly conforms to the laws of constitution and relation
established in their nature, and is most highly conducive to the welfare
of their bodies and souls, then must it be well made, well baked, light
and sweet bread, which contains all the natural properties of the wheat.
And if they will have this bread of the very best, and most wholesome
kind, they must, as I have already stated, see that the soil from which
their wheat is raised, is of a proper character, and is properly
tilled;—that the wheat is plump— full-grown— ripe, and free from rust and
other diseases: and then, before it is ground, they must see that it is
thoroughly cleansed, not only from chaff, cockles, tares, and such like
substances, but also from all smut, and every kind of impurity that may be
attached to the skin of the kernel. And let every one be assured that this
is a matter which really deserves all the attention and care that I
If human existence is worth possessing, it is worth preserving; and
they who have enjoyed it as some have done, and as all the human family
are naturally endowed with the capabilities to enjoy it, certainly will
not doubt whether it is worth possessing; nor, if they will properly
consider the matter, can they doubt that its preservation is worthy of
their most serious and diligent care.
And when they perceive how intimately and closely the character of
their bread is connected with the dearest interests of man, they will not
be inclined to feel that any reasonable amount of care and labor is too
much to be given to secure precisely the right kind of bread.
I repeat, then, that they who would have the very best bread should
certainly wash their wheat, and cleanse it thoroughly from all impurities,
before they take it to the mill; and when it is properly dried, it should
be ground by sharp stones which will cut rather than mash it: and
particular care should be taken that it is not ground too fine. Coarsely
ground wheat meal, even when the bran is retained, makes decidedly sweeter
and more wholesome bread than very finely ground meal. When the meal is
ground, it should immediately be spread out to cool before it is put into
sacks or casks:—for if it is packed or enclosed in a heated state, it will
be far more likely to become sour and musty. And I say again, where
families are in circumstances to do wholly as they choose in the matter,
it is best to have but little ground at a time; as the freshly ground meal
is always the liveliest and sweetest, and makes the most delicious bread.
When the meal is thus prepared and brought home, whether in a barrel
or sack, the next thing to be attended to, is, that it be placed and kept
in a perfectly clean, and sweet, and well ventilated meal room. It should
on no consideration be put into a closet, or pantry, or store-room, which
is seldom aired, and more rarely cleansed; and into which all manner of
rubbish is thrown; or even where other kinds of provisions are kept. If
the meal be put into a pantry or store-room which is confined and dirty,
and into which old boots and shoes, and old clothes and pieces of carpet,
and other things of this kind, are thrown—or where portions of vegetable
or animal substance, whether cooked or uncooked, are habitually or even
occasionally put and permitted to remain, it must be expected, as a matter
of course, of necessity, that the quality of the meal will be considerably
deteriorated by the impurities with which the air of the place will be
loaded, and which will be continually generated there.
People generally have but a sorry idea of what constitutes true
cleanliness; but they may be assured that they cannot be too deeply
impressed with the importance of keeping their meal room as clean and
sweet and well aired as possible.
Chemical composition of flour.
Yeast—modes of preparing it. Substitutes for it. Fermentation, and its
products. Vinous, acetous and putrefactive fermentation.
procured good wheat, cleansed it thoroughly, and got it properly ground,
and placed in the meal room, the next step is to take a portion of the
meal and manufacture it into good bread. But in order that this may be
done in the most certain and perfect manner, it is important that the
properties of the meal and the principles concerned in bread-making should
be well understood.
According to the statement of Prof. Thomson, of Edinburgh, one pound
of good wheat meal contains ten ounces of farina or starch, three ounces
of bran, six drams of gluten and two drams of sugar:—and it is because
wheat contains such proportions of these substances that it makes the very
best loaf bread. The farina or starch is the principal nourishing
property;—the saccharine matter or sugar is also highly nutrient; but in
the process of making loaf bread, it serves mainly, by its vinous
fermentation, to produce the gas or air by which the dough is raised and
the bread made light. The gluten is likewise a very nutrient property, but
in loaf bread, it principally serves, by its cohesiveness, like gum
elastic, or India rubber, to prevent the gas or air formed by the
fermentation of the sugar, from escaping or passing off;—and the gas being
thus retained, inflates or puffs up the dough, and makes it porous and
light. The bran, with its mucilaginous and other properties, not only adds
to the nutritiousness of the bread, but eminently serves to increase its
digestibility, and to invigorate the digestive organs, and preserve the
general integrity of their functions.
The wheat which is raised in Virginia and the southern states
generally, contains a larger proportion of gluten than that which is
raised in the western part of the state of New York. Hence bakers are able
to make a larger loaf of bread out of a pound of southern flour than they
can out of a pound of western flour; and consequently some of them have
endeavored to make their customers believe that the southern flour is the
most profitable. It certainly is the most profitable for the baker;
but it is not the most profitable for the consumer.
The next thing indispensably necessary to the making of good bread,
is good lively sweet yeast, or leaven, to produce what is called the
panary, or more properly, the vinous fermentation of the saccharine
matter, or sugar.
Some bread-makers will do best with one kind of yeast or leaven, and
some with another. I have generally found that people do best with those
materials to which they have been most accustomed; but I am sorry to find
so general a dependence on breweries for yeast. To say nothing of the
impure and poisonous substances which brewers employ in the manufacture of
beer, and which always affect the quality of their yeast, I am confident
that domestic yeast can he made of a far superior quality. However light
and good in other respects that bread may be which is made with brewers
yeast, I have rarely if ever seen any in which I could not at once detect
the disagreeable properties of the yeast.
There are various ways of making domestic yeast. One of the
simplest, and perhaps the best, is the following, which was communicated
to me by one of the best bread-makers I ever saw:
"Put into one gallon of water a double handful of hops;—boil them
fifteen or twenty minutes, then strain off the water while it is scalding
hot;—stir in wheat flour or meal till it becomes a thick batter, so that
it will hardly pour;—let it stand till it becomes about blood warm, then
add a pint of good lively yeast, and stir it well; and then let it stand
in a place where it will be kept at a temperature of about 70° F. till it
becomes perfectly light, whether more or less time is required; and then
it is fit for use;—or if it is desired to keep a portion of it, let it
stand several hours and become cool; and then put it into a clean jug and
cork it tight, and place it in the cellar where it will keep cool; and it
may be preserved good, ten or twelve days, and even longer."
Another way by which yeast when thus made may be preserved much
longer, and perhaps more conveniently, is, to take it when it has become
perfectly light, and stir in good indian meal until it becomes a hard
dough: then take this dough and make it into small thin cakes, and dry
them perfectly, without baking or cooking them at all. These cakes, if
kept perfectly dry, will be good for several weeks and even months.
When yeast is needed, take some of these cakes (more or less
according to the quantity of bread desired) and break them fine and
dissolve them in warm water, and then stir in some wheat flour till a
batter is formed, which should be kept at a temperature of about 60° F.
till the yeast becomes light and lively, and fitted for making bread.
Others, in making this yeast, originally put into the water with the
hops, a double handful of good clean wheat bran, and boil them up together
and strain off the water as above described: others again, boil up a
quantity of wheat bran without the hops, and make their yeast in all other
respects as above described.
The milk yeast is greatly preferred by many; and when it is well
managed, it certainly makes very handsome bread. The way of making it is
simple. Take a quart of milk fresh from the cow, (more or less according
to the quantity of bread desired,)—a little salt is generally added, and
some add about half a pint of water blood warm, but this is not
essential;—then stir wheat flour or meal into the milk till it forms a
moderately thick batter; and then cover it over, and place it where it
will remain at a temperature of from 60° to 70° F. till it becomes
perfectly light. It should then be used immediately: and let it be
remembered that dough made with this yeast will sour sooner than that made
with other yeast; and also that the bread after it is baked will become
extremely dry and crumbly much sooner than bread made with other
yeast. Yet this bread, when a day old, is exceedingly light and beautiful:
albeit some dislike the animal smell and taste which it derives from the
In all these preparations of yeast and dough, it should ever be
recollected that "the process of fermentation cannot go on when the
temperature is below 30° F., that it proceeds quite slowly at 50°,
moderately at 60°, rapidly at 70°, and very rapidly at 80°."
If, therefore, it is desired to have the yeast or dough stand
several hours before it is used or baked, it should be kept at a
temperature of about 50°. But in the ordinary way of making bread, a
temperature varying from 60° to 70°, or about summer heat, is perhaps as
near right as it can well be made.
Prof. Thomson gives the following directions for making yeast in
large quantities:—"Add ten pounds of flour to two gallons of boiling
water;—stir it well into a paste, let this mixture stand for seven hours,
and then add about a quart of good yeast. In about six or eight hours,
this mixture, if kept in a warm place, will have fermented and produced as
much yeast as will make 120 quartern loaves" (of 4 lbs. each.)
A much smaller quantity can be made by observing due proportions of
To raise bread in a very short time without yeast, Prof. Thomson
gives the following recipe:
"Dissolve in water 2 ounces, 5 drams and 45 grains of common
crystallized carbonate of soda, and mix the solution well with your dough,
and then add 7 ounces, 2 drams and 22 grains of muriatic acid of the
specific gravity of 1,121, and knead it as rapidly as possible with your
dough;—it will rise immediately—fully as much, if not more than dough
mixed with yeast—and when baked, will be a very light and excellent
bread." Smaller quantities would be required for small batches of bread.
A tea-spoonful or more (according to the quantity of dough or
batter) of super-carbonate of soda dissolved in water, and flour stirred
in till it becomes a batter, and then an equal quantity of tartaric acid
dissolved and stirred in thoroughly, will in a few minutes make very light
batter for griddle or pancakes; or if it be mixed into a thick dough, it
will make light bread.
Good lively yeast, however, makes better bread than these alkalies
and acids: howbeit these are very convenient in emergencies, when bread or
cakes must be prepared in a very short time; or when the yeast has proved
We see then that wheat meal consists of certain proportions of
starch, gluten, sugar, bran, &c.; and that in making loaf bread, we add
yeast or leaven, in order to produce that kind of fermentation peculiar to
saccharine matter or sugar, which is called vinous, and by which the gas
or air is formed that raises the dough. But the sugar is an incorporate
part of every particle of the meal, and is therefore equally diffused
throughout the whole mass; and hence if we would make the very best loaf
bread, the fermentive principle or yeast must also be equally diffused
throughout the whole mass, so that a suitable portion of yeast will be
brought to act at the same time on every particle of saccharine matter in
But let us endeavor to understand this process of fermentation. To
speak in the language of chemistry, sugar is composed of certain
proportions of carbon, oxygen and hydrogen. The yeast, acting on the
sugar, overcomes those affinities by which these substances are held in
the constitutional arrangement of sugar, and the process of decay or
decomposition of the sugar takes place, which is called vinous
fermentation. By this process of decay, two other forms of matter are
produced, of an essentially different nature from each other and from the
sugar. One of them is called carbonic acid gas or air, being formed by a
chemical combination of certain proportions of carbon and oxygen. The
other is known by the name of alcohol, and consists of a chemical
combination of certain proportions of carbon, oxygen, and hydrogen.
Carbonic acid gas is also produced by animal respiration or breathing, by
the combustion of wood, coal, &c. &c. and in other ways of nature and of
art: but neither in nature nor in art is there any known way by which
alcohol can be produced, except by that process of the decay or
destruction of sugar called vinous fermentation.
The carbonic acid gas, produced in the manner I have stated, is the
air which inflates or puffs up and swells out the bread, when there is
sufficient gluten or other cohesive matter in the dough to prevent its
If the dough be permitted to stand too long in a warm place, the
fermentation, having destroyed most or all of the sugar, will begin to act
on the starch and mucilage, and destroy their nature, and produce vinegar;
and therefore this stage of it is called the acetous fermentation: and if
it still be permitted to go on, it will next commence its work of
destruction on the gluten; and this is called the putrefactive
fermentation, because it in many respects resembles the putrefaction of
The vinous fermentation, therefore, by which the dough is raised and
made light, may be carried to all necessary extent, and still be limited
in its action to the saccharine matter or sugar—leaving the starch and
gluten, and other properties of the meal, uninjured; and this is the point
at which the fermentation should be arrested by the heat that bakes the
dough. If it be permitted to go beyond the sugar, and act on the mucilage
and starch, and produce acidity, the excellence of the bread is in some
degree irreparably destroyed. The acid may be neutralized by pearlash or
soda, so that the bread shall not be sour; but still, something of the
natural flavor of the bread is gone, and it is not possible by any earthly
means to restore it; and this injury will always be in proportion to the
extent to which the process of the acetous fermentation is permitted to go
in destroying the nature of the starch, and the bread will be
proportionably destitute of that natural sweetness and delicious richness
essential to good bread. Yet it is almost universally true, both in public
and domestic bread-making, that the acetous fermentation is allowed to
take place; and saleratus, or soda, or some other chemical agent is
employed to neutralize the acid. By this means we may have bread free from
acidity, it is true, but it is also destitute of the best and most
delicious properties of good bread; and generally, by the time it is
twenty-four hours old—and this is particularly true of bakers' bread—it is
as dry and tasteless and unsavory as if it were made of plaster of Paris.
Many bread-makers mix their saleratus or soda with their yeast, or
introduce it when they mix their dough, so that if the acetous
fermentation does take place, the acid is neutralized by the alkali, and
therefore, not being perceived, it is supposed never to have existed, and
the bread is called sweet and good; especially if a small quantity of
molasses be employed in making the dough. Others far more wisely withhold
their alkali till the dough is raised enough to mould into the loaf, and
then if it is found to be in any degree acid, a solution of saleratus or
soda is worked into it, so as just to neutralize the acid, and no more.
This is infinitely better that no have sour bread, which, after all, is
almost everywhere met with; yet the very best bread that can be made in
this way is only second best. Happy are they who can make good light and
sweet bread, without the use of molasses—without suffering the least
degree of acetous fermentation to take place, and without employing
saleratus, soda, or any other kind of alkali.
The third or putrefactive stage of fermentation rarely takes place
in domestic bread-making; but it is by no means uncommon in public
bakeries. Indeed it is thought necessary in the manufacture of certain
kinds of crackers, in order to make them split open, and render them
brittle, and cause them readily to become soft when dipped into water. But
dyspepsia crackers, and all other kinds of bread made in this way are, to
say the least of them, miserable stuff. For besides the fact that all the
best qualities of the flour or meal have been destroyed by fermentation,
the great quantity of alkali employed in neutralizing the acid, is
necessarily injurious to the digestive organs.
PREPARATION OF BREAD.
Mixing. Much kneading necessary. Rising,
or fermentation. Use of alkalies, saleratus and soda. Baking. Ovens.
Alcohol in bread. Preservation of bread.
then, the business of the bread-maker is, to take the wheat meal, prepared
in the manner I have stated, and with all the properties I have described,
and convert it into good, light, sweet, well-baked bread, with the least
possible change in those properties; so that the bread, when done, will
present to the senses of smell and taste, all the delicious flavor and
delicate sweetness which pure organs perceive in the meal of good new
wheat, just taken from the ear and ground, or chewed without grinding: and
it should be so baked that it will, as a general statement, require and
secure a full exercise of the teeth in mastication.
In order to this, as we have seen, it is necessary, in the first
place, that the wheat should be of the best kind, and well cleansed, and
the meal properly prepared. In the next place, it is necessary that the
yeast should be fresh, lively and sweet; and in the third place, it is
necessary that the dough should be properly mixed, raised and baked.
Take then such a quantity of meal, in a perfectly clean and sweet
bread trough, as is necessary for the quantity of bread desired, and
having made a hollow in the centre, turn in as much yeast as a judgment
matured by sound experience shall deem requisite; then add such a quantity
of water, milk and water, or clear milk, as is necessary to form the meal
into a dough of proper consistency. Some prefer bread mixed with water
alone; others prefer that which is mixed with milk and water; and others
think that bread mixed with good milk is much richer and better; while
others dislike the animal odor and taste of bread mixed with milk. Perhaps
the very best, and most wholesome bread is that which is mixed with
pure soft water, when such bread is made perfect. But whether water, milk
and water, or milk alone is employed, it should be used at a temperature
of about blood heat.
Here let it be understood, that the starch of the meal is of such a
nature that, by a delicate process peculiar to itself, it becomes changed
into sugar or saccharine matter; and when the fluid used in mixing the
dough is of a proper temperature, and the dough is properly mixed and
kneaded, this process, to some small extent, takes place, and a small
portion of the starch is actually converted into sugar, and thereby
increases the sweetness of the bread. Let it also be recollected here,
that the saccharine matter on which the yeast is to act, is equally
diffused throughout the whole mass of the meal; and therefore if the yeast
be not properly diffused throughout the whole mass, but is unequally
distributed, so that an undue quantity of it remains in one part, while
other parts receive little or none, then the fermentation will go on very
rapidly in some parts of the mass, and soon run into the acetous state,
while in other parts it will proceed very slowly or not at all; and
consequently large cavities will be formed in some parts of the dough,
while other parts of it will remain as compact and heavy as when first
mixed, and sometimes even more so. I need not say that such dough cannot
be made into good bread; yet it is probably true, that more than nine
tenths of the bread consumed in this country is more or less of this
character. Nor, after what I have said, should it seem necessary for me to
remark, that good bread cannot be made by merely stirring the meal, and
yeast, and water or milk together into a thin dough or sponge, and
suffering it to ferment with little or no working or kneading. Bread made
in this manner, if it is not full of cavities large enough for a mouse to
burrow in, surrounded by parts as solid as lead, is almost invariably full
of cells of the size of large peas and grapes; and the substance of the
bread has a shining, glutinous appearance; and if the bread is not sour,
it is because pearlash or some other kind of alkali has been used to
destroy the acid.
The very appearance of such bread is forbidding, and shows, at a
glance, that it has not been properly mixed—that the yeast has acted
unequally on different portions of the meal, and that the fermentation has
not been of the right kind.
But if the yeast be so diffused throughout the whole mass, as that a
suitable portion of it will act on each and every particle of the
saccharine matter at the same time, and if the dough be of such a
consistency and temperature as not to admit of too rapid a fermentation,
then each minute portion of saccharine matter throughout the whole mass
will, in the process of fermentation, produce its little volume of air,
which will form its little cell, about the size of a pin's head, and
smaller; and this will take place so nearly at the same time, in every
part of the dough, that the whole will be raised and made as light as a
sponge, before the acetous fermentation takes place in any part. And then
if it be properly moulded and baked, it will make the most beautiful and
delicious bread—perfectly light and sweet, without the use of any alkali,
and with all the gluten and nearly all the starch of the meal remaining
unchanged by fermentation.
Proper materials, proper care, a due amount of labor, a suitable
length of time, and proper temperature, are all, therefore, necessary to
the making of good bread.
With your meal, and yeast, and water or milk brought together before
you, then, proceed in the light of the instruction you have now received,
to mix your dough; and remember that the more thoroughly you knead it, the
more equally you diffuse the yeast throughout the whole mass, and bring it
to act on every particle of the saccharine matter at the same time, and
the whiter, lighter, and more delicious you make your bread.
Who that can look back thirty or forty years to those blessed days
of New England's prosperity and happiness, when our good mothers used to
make the family bread, but can well remember how long and how patiently
those excellent matrons stood over their bread troughs, kneading and
moulding their dough? and who with such recollections cannot also
well remember the delicious bread that these mothers used invariably to
set before them? There was a natural sweetness and richness in it which
made it always desirable; and which we cannot now vividly recollect,
without feeling a strong desire to partake again of such bread as our
mothers made for us in the days of our childhood.
Let it be borne in mind, then, that without a very thorough kneading
of the dough, there can be no just ground of confidence that the bread
will be good. "It should be kneaded," says one of much experience in this
matter, "till it becomes flaky." Indeed I am confident that our loaf bread
would be greatly improved in all its qualities, if the dough were for a
considerable time subjected to the operations of the machine which the
bakers call the break, used in making crackers and sea-bread.
The wheat meal, and especially if it is ground coarsely, swells
considerably in the dough, and therefore the dough should not, at first,
be made quite so stiff, as that made of superfine flour; and when it is
raised, if it is found too soft to mould well, let a little more meal be
When the dough has been properly mixed and thoroughly kneaded, cover
it over with a clean napkin or towel, and a light woollen blanket kept for
the purpose, and place the bread trough where the temperature will be kept
at about 60° F., or about summer heat, and there let it remain till the
dough becomes light. But as it is impossible to regulate the quantity and
quality of your yeast, the moisture and temperature of your dough, and
several other conditions and circumstances, so as to secure at all times
precisely the same results in the same time, it is therefore necessary
that careful attention should be given that the proper moment should be
seized to work over and mould the dough into the loaf, and get it into the
oven, just at the time when it is as light as it can be made by the vinous
fermentation, and before the acetous fermentation commences.
If however, by any means there should unfortunately be a little
acidity in the dough, take a small quantity of saleratus, or, what is
better, carbonate of soda, and dissolve it in some warm water, and
carefully work in just enough to neutralize the acid. The best
bread-makers are so exceedingly careful on this point, that they dip their
fingers into the solution of saleratus or soda, and thrust them into the
dough in every part, as they work it over, so as to be sure that they get
in just enough to neutralize the acid, and not a particle more.
I must here repeat, that they who would have the very best of bread,
must always consider it a cause of regret, that there should be any
necessity to use alkali; because the acetous fermentation cannot in any
degree take place, without commensurately and irremediably impairing the
quality of the bread. And here it should be remarked, that dough made of
wheat meal will take on the acetous fermentation, or become sour, sooner
than that made of fine flour. This is probably owing principally to the
mucilage contained in the bran, which runs into the acetous fermentation
sooner than starch.
While the dough is rising, preparations should be made for baking
it. Some bake their bread in a brick oven, some in a stove, some in a
reflector, and some in a baking kettle. In all these ways very good bread
may be baked; but the baking kettle is decidedly the most objectionable.
Probably there is no better and more certain way of baking bread well than
in the use of the brick oven. Good bread-makers, accustomed to brick
ovens, can always manage them with a very great degree of certainty; and
as a general fact, bread is sweeter, baked in this way, than in any other.
Yet, when it is well baked in tin reflectors, it is certainly very fine;
and so it is also when well baked in iron stoves. But the baking of bread
requires almost as much care and judgment as any part of the process of
bread-making. If the oven is too hot, the bread will burn on the outside
before it is done in the centre; if it is too cold, the bread will be
heavy, raw and sour. If the heat is much greater from below than from
above, the bottom of the loaf will burn before the top is done: or if the
heat is much greater from above than from below, the top of the loaf will
burn before the bottom is done.
All these points therefore must he carefully attended to; and no
small excuse ought to be considered a satisfactory apology for sour,
heavy, raw or burnt bread; for it is hardly possible to conceive of an
absolute necessity for such results; and the cases are extremely rare in
which they are not the offspring of downright and culpable carelessness.
The best bread-makers I have ever known, watch over their bread
troughs while their dough is rising, and over their ovens while it is
baking, with about as much care and attention as a mother watches over the
cradle of her sick child
Dough made of wheat meal requires a hotter oven than that made of
fine flour; and it needs to remain in the oven longer. Indeed, it is a
general fault of bread of every description, made in this country, that it
is not sufficiently baked. Multitudes eat their bread hot and smoking from
the oven in a half-cooked state; and very few seem to think there is any
impropriety in doing so. But they who would have their bread good, not
only a few hours after it comes from the oven, but as long as it can be
kept, must see that it is thoroughly baked.
I have said that the process of vinous fermentation converts a
portion of the saccharine matter of the meal into carbonic acid gas or
air, by which means the dough is raised and made light; and that the same
process converts a portion of the saccharine matter into alcohol. The
alcohol thus generated is mostly if not entirely driven off by the heat of
the oven when the dough is baking;—and in modern times, ovens have been so
constructed in England, as to serve the double purpose of ovens and
stills; so that while the bread is baking, the alcohol is distilled off
and condensed, and saved for the various uses of arts and manufacture.
The question has, however, been frequently started, whether a
portion of the alcohol thus generated, is not contained in the bread when
it comes from the oven.
This question cannot be answered with entire certainty; but there
are some facts in relation to it of considerable importance.
It is perfectly certain that if two portions of wheat meal or flour
be taken from the same barrel or sack, and one portion be made into
unleavened bread, and the other portion be made into the very best
fermented or raised bread, and both be eaten as soon as they are baked,
the fermented bread will digest with more difficulty, and oppress and
disturb the stomach more than the unleavened bread will. Indeed it is well
known and very generally understood, that few of the articles which
compose the food of man in civic life, are so trying to the human stomach,
and so powerful causes of dyspepsia, as fresh-baked raised bread.
It is now well known also that alcohol wholly resists the action of
the solvent fluid of the stomach, and is entirely indigestible; and always
retards the digestion of those substances which contain it. How far all
this may he true of carbonic acid gas, is not yet ascertained; but it is
difficult to account for the difference between leavened and unleavened
bread, as above stated, without supposing that the alcohol or carbonic
acid gas, or both of them, are in some degree concerned in rendering the
leavened bread, when newly baked, peculiarly oppressive and injurious to
This, be it remembered, is purely a conjecture of my own; and I am
not entirely certain that it is correct; but I see no other way of meeting
Be it as it may, however, it is very certain that when the bread has
been drawn from the oven, and permitted to stand in a proper place
twenty-four hours, either by evaporation or some other means, it becomes
perfectly matured, and so changed in character, that it is, if properly
made, one of the most wholesome articles entering into the diet of man;
and at that age, there is not the slightest reason to believe that a
particle of alcohol remains in the bread.
When therefore the bread is thoroughly baked, let it be taken from
the oven and placed on a perfectly clean and sweet shelf, in a perfectly
clean and well ventilated pantry. Do not, as you value the character of
your bread, put it into a pantry where you set away dishes of cold meat,
cold potatoes, and other vegetables, and keep your butter, cheese and
various other table provisions—in a pantry which perhaps is seldom
thoroughly cleansed with hot water and soap, and where the pure air of
heaven seldom if ever has a free circulation. The quality of your bread
should be of too much importance to allow of such reprehensible
carelessness, not to say sluttishness. And if you will have your bread
such as every one ought to desire to have it, you must pay the strictest
attention to the cleanliness and sweetness of the place where you keep it.
If in baking, the outer crust should become a little too dry and
crispy, you can easily remedy this by throwing a clean bread or table
cloth over it for a short time when it first comes from the oven; but if
this is not necessary, let the bread stand on an airy shelf, till it
becomes perfectly cool, and when it is twenty-four hours old, it is fit
for use; and if it is in all respects properly made, and properly kept, it
will continue to be sweet and delicious bread for two or even three weeks,
except perhaps in very hot and sultry weather.
When we have acquired the art of making such bread as I have
described, in the very best manner, then have we carried the art of
cooking to the very height of perfection; for it is not only true, that
there is no other artificially prepared article in human diet of so much
importance as bread, but it is also true that there is no other
preparation in the whole round of cooking, which requires so much care,
and attention, and experience, and skill, and wisdom.
WHO SHOULD MAKE BREAD.
Making bread by rule. Bakers. Domestics.
Sour bread. An anecdote. Mrs. Van Winkle. Bad bread need not be made. How
cake is made. Bread-making a drudgery. Excellent example of a mother.
Eating bad bread. Importance of having good bread
then shall make our bread? For after all that science in its utmost
accuracy can do, in ascertaining principles and in laying down rules,
there is little certainty that any one, who undertakes to make bread
merely by rule, will be anything like uniformly successful. We may make a
batch of bread according to certain rules, and it may prove excellent; and
then we may make another batch according to the same rules, which may be
very poor. For if we follow our rules ever so closely, there may be some
slight differences in the quality or condition of the meal or the yeast,
or something else, which will materially alter the character of the bread,
if we do not exercise a proper care and judgment, and vary our operations
according as the particular circumstances of the case may require.
Correct rules are certainly very valuable; but they can only serve
as general way-marks, in the art of bread-making. Uniform success can only
be secured by the exercise of that mature judgment which is always able to
dictate those extemporaneous measures which every exigency and
circumstance may require; and such a judgment can only result from a care
and attention and experience which are the offspring of that moral
sensibility which duly appreciates the importance of the quality of bread,
in relation to the happiness and welfare of those that consume it.
But are we to look for such a sensibility in public bakers? Can we
expect that they will feel so lively and so strong an interest for our
enjoyment and for our physical and intellectual and moral well-being, that
they will exercise all that care and attention and patience, and watch
with that untiring vigilance and solicitude in all the progress of their
operations, which are indispensably necessary in order to secure us the
best of bread?
Or can we reasonably expect to find these qualifications in
domestics—in those who serve us for hire? Many a female domestic, it is
true, can make much better bread than her mistress can. Many a female
domestic has an honest and sincere desire to do her duty faithfully; but
can she be actuated by those sensibilities and affections which alone can
secure that careful attention, that soundness of judgment, that accuracy
of operation, without which the best of bread cannot uniformly, if ever,
No;—it is the wife, the mother only—she who loves her husband and
her children as woman ought to love, and who rightly perceives the
relations between the dietetic habits and physical and moral condition of
her loved ones, and justly appreciates the importance of good bread to
their physical and moral welfare—she alone it is, who will be ever
inspired by that cordial and unremitting affection and solicitude which
will excite the vigilance, secure the attention, and prompt the action
requisite to success, and essential to the attainment of that maturity of
judgment and skilfulness of operation, which are the indispensable
attributes of a perfect bread-maker. And could wives and mothers fully
comprehend the importance of good bread in relation to all the bodily and
intellectual and moral interests of their husbands and children, and in
relation to the domestic and social and civil welfare of mankind, and to
their religious prosperity, both for time and eternity, they would
estimate the art and duty of bread-making far, very far more highly than
they now do. They would then realize that, as no one can feel so deep and
delicate an interest for their husbands' and children's happiness as they
do, so no one can be so proper a person to prepare for them that portion
of their aliment, which requires a degree of care and attention that can
only spring from the lively affections and solicitude of a wife and
But it is a common thing to hear women say—"We cannot always have
good bread, if we take ever so much pains;—it will sometimes be heavy, and
sometimes be sour, and sometimes badly baked, in spite of all our care."
It may be true that such things will sometimes happen, even with the
best of care;—but I believe that there is almost infinitely more poor
bread than there is any good excuse for. The truth is, the quality of
bread is a matter of too little consideration; and therefore too little
care is given to the making of it. Moreover, the sense of taste is so
easily vitiated, that we can very easily become reconciled to the most
offensive gustatory qualities, and even learn to love them; and it is a
very common thing to find families so accustomed to sour bread, that they
have no perception of its acid quality.
"It is very strange," said a lady to me one day at her dinner table,
"that some folks always have sour bread, and never know it." She then went
on to name a number of families in the circle of her acquaintance, who,
she said, invariably had sour bread upon their tables when she visited
them—"and they never," continued she, "seem to have the least
consciousness that their bread is not perfectly sweet and good."
Yet this very lady, at the very moment she was thus addressing me,
had sour bread upon her own table; and although I had for many months been
very frequently at her table, I had never found any but sour bread upon
it. Still she was wholly unconscious of the fact.
Difficult however as most women think it is, to have good bread
always, yet there are some women who invariably have excellent bread. I
have known such women. The wife of Thomans Van Winkle, Esq. of the
beautiful valley of Booneton, New Jersey—peace to her ashes!—was
deservedly celebrated throughout the whole circle of her acquaintance for
her excellent bread. Few ever ate at her hospitable board once that did
not desire to enjoy the privilege again. I know not how often it has been
my good fortune to sit at her table; but the times have not been few; and
though long past, and she who presided there has slept for years in her
grave, yet the remembrance of those times and of those hospitalities,
awakens in my bosom a deep and fervent sentiment of gratitude while I
Never at the table of Mrs. Van Winkle did I eat poor bread;—and of
my numerous acquaintances who had sat at her table, I never heard one say
he had eaten poor bread there. Her bread was invariably good. Nay, it was
of such a quality that it was impossible for any one to eat of it, and not
be conscious that he was partaking of bread of extraordinary excellence.
Mrs. Van Winkle, said I to her one day, while I was feasting on her
delicious bread, tell me truly, is there either a miracle or mystery in
this matter of bread-making, by which you are enabled to have such
excellent bread upon your table at all times, while I rarely ever find
bread equally good at any other table, and at ninety-nine tables in a
hundred, I almost invariably find poor bread? Is it necessarily so? Is it
not possible for people by any means to have good bread uniformly 1
"There is no necessity for having poor bread at any time, if
those who make it will give proper care and attention to their business,"
replied Mrs. Van Winkle, confidently. "The truth is," continued she, "most
people attach very little importance to the quality of their bread; and
therefore they give little care to the preparation of it. If every woman
would see that her flour is sweet and good, that her yeast is fresh and
lively, that her bread trough is kept perfectly clean and sweet, that her
dough is properly mixed and thoroughly kneaded, and kept at a proper
temperature, and at the proper time moulded into the loaf, and put into
the oven, which has been properly heated, and there properly baked, then
good bread would be as common as poor bread now is. But while there is
such perfect carelessness and negligence about the matter, it is not
surprising that bread should be generally poor."
Mrs. Van Winkle was undoubtedly correct. If anything like the care
were given to bread-making that its real importance demands, a loaf of
poor bread would rarely be met with. Indeed, if the same degree of care
were given to bread-making, that is devoted to the making of cakes and
pastry, we should far more generally be blessed with good bread.
Who does not know, that as soon as girls are old enough to go into
company and to give parties, they begin to notice with great interest the
qualities of the different kinds of cake and pastry which they meet with;
and whenever they find anything very nice, they are exceedingly curious to
learn precisely how it was made. And lest memory should be treacherous,
they will carefully write down the exact rules for mixing and cooking
it;—"so many pounds of flour, so many pounds of butter, so many pounds of
sugar, so many eggs, and spice to your taste—the eggs to be beaten so and
so, the whole mixed so and so, and baked so many minutes," &c. &c. And
thus with great care and industry they collect and write down, in a
book which they keep for the purpose, all the recipes they can get hold
of, for making every kind of cake and pastry used in society. And when
they are preparing for company, they rarely if ever order Dinah or any
other domestic to make their nice cake. They do not regard it as a menial
office, but as a highly genteel employment; and their great desire to have
their cake and pastry as good as it can be made, prompts them to undertake
the manufacture of it themselves. And during this operation, the scales,
the measures, the clock or watch, all are brought into requisition; the
Recipe Book is placed upon the table before them, and carefully consulted;
and everything is done with the utmost precision, and exactitude, and
vigilance. And if the young lady feels any misgiving as to her own
judgment, or taste, or experience, she earnestly inquires of Ma, or some
one else who she thinks is capable of giving her advice in so important a
If in the midst of this employment some one knocks or rings at the
door, and a young gentleman is announced, she is not at all embarrassed,
but perhaps hastens to the parlor with her delicate hands covered with
dough, and with an air of complacency and self-satisfaction, says—"Good
morning, Frank—how do you do? I am just engaged in making some cake—I hope
you will excuse me for a few moments."
All this shows that she regards the quality of her cake as of very
great importance, and considers it not only perfectly respectable but
highly genteel, for a young lady to be employed in making cake. But
in regard to bread and bread-making, everything is very different; there
is none of this early curiosity to learn how to make good bread. Young
ladies do not on every occasion when they find excellent bread, carefully
and minutely inquire how it was made, baked, &c., and write down the
recipe:—but when a batch of bread is to be made for the family, they
either leave it for Mother or some domestic to make, or go about it
themselves as some irksome and disreputable piece of drudgery; and
consequently they turn the task off their hands with as much dispatch and
as little trouble as possible. If all things happen to be as they should
be, it is well; if not, they must answer for the present. If the yeast
happens to be lively and sweet, very lucky. If otherwise, still it must be
used. If the dough rises well and is got into the oven before it becomes
sour, very fortunate; if not, why, "nobody can avoid mistakes—and bread
will sometimes be poor in spite of the greatest care;"—and if a batch of
miserable bread is the result of such an operation, then all that remains
to be done is to eat it up as soon as possible, and hope for better the
If Frank or Charles or Edward should call while the young lady is
engaged in making bread, she is perhaps quite disconcerted, and would not
for the world have him know what she is doing;—she sends word to him,
either that she is out, or that she is particularly engaged, and begs he
will excuse her;—or if by any means she happens unexpectedly to be caught
at her employment, she is greatly embarrassed, and makes the best apology
she can for being engaged in such menial services.
As a matter of course, while such are the views and feelings
entertained on this subject, and while such is the manner in which this
duty is performed, it will ever be a mere accident if good bread is made;
and a mere accident if such girls ever become good bread-makers when they
are wives and mothers.
But if parents, and especially mothers, could view this matter in
its true light, how differently would they educate their children. They
would then feel that, grateful as it is to a mother's heart to see her
daughters highly refined and elegantly accomplished, and able to "make the
instrument discourse most eloquent music," and to transfer living nature,
with all its truth and beauty and sublimity, to the canvass, still the art
of bread-making, when considered in all its relations and intimate
connections with human health, and prosperity, and virtue, and happiness,
and with reference to the natural responsibilities and duties of woman, is
actually one of the highest and noblest accomplishments that can adorn the
female character. And then, too, would they consider it of exceedingly
great importance, that their daughters should possess this accomplishment,
even though they may never be in circumstances which will require the
exercise of it.
Some eight or nine years since, I spent several months in the
delightful village of Belvidere, on the banks of the Delaware, in
Pennsylvania. While there, I enjoyed for a number of weeks the kind
hospitality of S——S——, Esq., a lawyer, and a gentleman of great moral
excellence. Mrs. S. was born and brought up, I believe, in Philadelphia.
Her father was a man of wealth, and she was the only daughter, and—almost
as a matter of course—was indulged in all that she desired. But there were
so many of the elements of a good wife and mother in her natural
composition, that as soon as she entered into those interesting and
important relations, she began to devote herself to the duties of them
with a sincerity and conscientiousness which could not fail of success.
Surrounded as she was, with wealth, and every comfort and convenience of
life, and all of its luxuries that she desired, still she was industrious
in her habits, and vigilantly attentive to all the concerns of her
household. She usually kept three female domestics, who, by her kind
maternal deportment towards them, were warmly attached to her. She had no
difficulty in procuring nor in keeping help, because she always treated
them in such a manner that they loved to stay with her; and she took much
pains to qualify them for the proper discharge of their duties. They
evidently loved her, and were sincerely desirous of performing all their
services in such a manner as would be pleasing to her. Yet with all these
advantages to justify her leaving such a duty to her domestics, Mrs. S.
invariably made the family bread with her own hands. Regularly as the
baking day came, she went into her kitchen and took her stand beside the
bread trough, and mixed and kneaded the dough, and put it in its proper
place for rising, and, in due time, moulded it into the loaf and baked it.
Do you always make your bread, madam? I inquired one day, as she
returned from the performance of that task. '' Invariably," she replied:
"that is a duty I trust no other person to do for me."
But cannot your domestics make good bread? I asked. "I have
excellent domestics," answered Mrs. S., "and they can, perhaps, make as
good bread as I can; for they have been with me several years, and I have
taken pains to learn them how to do my work; and they are exceedingly
faithful and affectionate, and are always willing to do all they can to
please me; but they cannot feel for my husband and my children as I do,
and therefore they cannot feel that interest which I do, in always having
such bread as my husband and my children will love and enjoy. Besides, if
it were certain their care and vigilance and success in bread-making would
be always equal to mine, yet it is wholly uncertain how long they will
remain with me. Various circumstances may take place, which may cause them
to leave me, and bring me into dependence upon those who know not how to
make good bread; and therefore I choose to keep my own hand in. But, apart
from all oilier considerations, there is a pleasure resulting from the
performance of this duty, which richly rewards me for all the labor of it.
When my bread is made and brought upon the table, and I see my husband and
children eat it and enjoy it, and hear them speak of its excellence, it
affords me much satisfaction, and I am glad to know that I have
contributed so much to their health and happiness; for, while my bread is
so good that they prefer it to anything else upon the table, there is
little danger of their indulging, to any injurious extent, in those
articles of food which are less favorable to their health."
I need not say that this lady invariably had excellent bread upon
her table. But instances of this kind are, I regret to say, extremely
rare, even in Christian communities; and therefore when such cases are
known, they ought to be held up as most noble examples of female virtue,
and receive such high commendations as their intrinsic merit deserves, and
such as will be calculated to beget in the minds of others an exalted
sense of the dignity and importance of such duties, and prompt every wife
and mother to the intelligent and affectionate performance of them.
For it should ever be remembered that, though our children, while
they depend on us for protection, are also properly the subjects of our
government, yet as soon as they are capable of appreciating our authority
and our influence, they are, like ourselves, moral agents, and ought, in
all respects, to be governed and nurtured as such; and therefore it is not
enough that we can give them such bread as we think best for them, and
compel them to eat it; but the grand point at which the mother should
always aim, in this matter, is, to place before her children such bread as
is the very best for them, and at the same time, to make it the most
agreeable to them, and thereby make their duty and their enjoyment
Let no one therefore say she cannot always have good bread, until
she can truly affirm that she has fairly made the experiment; that she
has, in view of all its relations and bearings, accurately estimated the
importance of the quality of her bread in regard to the welfare of her
household, and, with a proper sense of her responsibilities as a wife and
mother, has at all times felt that interest and exercised that care
and attention which so important a duty demands, and without which it must
ever be a mere accident whether her bread is good or bad.
They that will have good bread, not only for a single time, but
uniformly, must make the quality of their bread of sufficient importance,
in their estimation and feelings, to secure the requisite attention to the
means by which alone such an end can be made certain. They must not suffer
themselves, through carelessness, to get entirely out of bread
unexpectedly, and thus be obliged, without due preparation, to make up a
batch of such materials as they may happen to have at hand, and bake it in
haste, and hurry it to the table. But they must exercise providence and
foresight: they must know, beforehand, when their supply of bread will
probably be out, and when they will need to make another batch; and they
must see beforehand that measures are taken to secure a proper supply of
all the requisite materials—see that they are furnished with good meal or
flour; and they must be sure to have the best of yeast or leaven, when
they need it—and when the time comes for them to make their bread, if by
any means the yeast should not be good, let them throw it away and make
good, before they proceed to make their bread; for it is infinitely better
that the family should even do without bread one day, and eat roasted
potatoes, than that they should eat poor bread three or four days; and if,
from any cause, the bread should be poor, it is incomparably better to
throw it away, than to set it upon the table, to disgust the whole family
with bread, and drive them to make most of their meal on something else.
If a lady can ever find a good excuse for having poor bread, she
certainly can find none, except perhaps extreme poverty, for setting her
poor bread on the table the second time. Yet, too generally, women seem to
think that, as a matter of course, if they, by carelessness or any other
means, have been so unlucky as to make a batch of poor bread, their family
and friends must share their misfortune, and help them eat it up; and, by
this means, many a child has had its health seriously impaired, and its
constitution injured, and perhaps its moral character ruined—by being
driven, in early life, into pernicious dietetic habits.
It was observed many years ago, by one of the most eminent and
extensive practitioners in New England, that, during a practice of
medicine for thirty years, he had always remarked that, in those families
where the children were most afflicted with worms, he invariably found
poor bread; and that, as a general fact, the converse of this was true;
that is, in those families where they uniformly had heavy, sour, ill-baked
bread, he generally found that the children were afflicted with worms.
A careful and extensive observation for a few years, would convince
every intelligent mind that there is a far more intimate relation between
the quality of the bread and the moral character of a family, than is
"Keep that man at least ten paces from you, who eats no bread with
his dinner, said Lavater, in his "Aphorisms on Man." This notion appears
to be purely whimsical at first glance; but Lavater was a shrewd observer,
and seldom erred in the moral inferences which he drew from the voluntary
habits of mankind; and depend upon it, a serious contemplation of this
apparent whim, discloses a deeper philosophy than is at first perceived
upon the surface.
Whatever maybe the cause which turns our children and ourselves away
from the dish of bread, and establishes an habitual disregard for it, the
effect, though not perhaps in every individual instance, yet, as a general
fact, is certainly, in some degree, unfavorable to the physical, and
intellectual, and moral, and religious, and social, and civil and
political interests of man.
Of all the artificially prepared articles of food which come upon
our table, therefore, bread should be that one which, as a general fact,
is uniformly preferred by our children and our household,—that one, the
absence of which they would notice soonest, and feel the most,—that one
which—however they may enjoy for a time the little varieties set before
them—they would be most unwilling to dispense with—and which, if they were
driven to the necessity, they would prefer to any other dish, as a single
article of subsistence.
To effect this state of things, it is obvious that the quality of
the bread must be uniformly excellent; and to secure this, I say again,
there must be a judgment, an experience, a skill, a care, a vigilance,
which can only spring from the sincere affections of a devoted wife and
mother, who accurately perceives and duly appreciates the importance of
these things, and, in the lively exercise of a pure and delicate moral
sense, feels deeply her responsibilities, and is prompted to the
performance of her duties.
Would to God that this were all true of every wife and mother in our
country—in the world!—that the true relations, and interests, and
responsibilities of life were understood and fell by every human being,
and all the duties of life properly and faithfully performed!
VARIETIES OF BREAD.
Rye bread. Indian meal bread. Use of
sour milk, or butter-milk. Acids. Family grinding.
HAVE thus far spoken almost entirely
of wheaten bread, because I consider that the most wholesome kind of bread
for ordinary use—for "daily bread." When bread is made of superfine flour,
the same general rules should be observed.
Rice, barley, oats, rye, Indian corn, and many other farinaceous
products of the vegetable kingdom, may also be manufactured into bread,
but none of them will make so good bread as wheat. Good rye, raised on a
sandy soil, when cleansed and ground in the manner I have already
described, and prepared in all respects according to the rules I have laid
down, will make very excellent bread. Rye, coarsely ground, without
bolting, and mixed with Indian meal, makes very wholesome bread, when it
is well made. Good rye and Indian bread is far more wholesome for common
or every-day use, than that made of superfine flour.
There are various ways of preparing Indian meal bread; and when such
bread is well made, it is very wholesome—much more so, for every-day use,
than superfine flour bread. "In a memoir lately read before the French
Academy," says the Journal of Health, "the author undertook to show that
maize (Indian corn) is more conducive to health than any other grain; and,
as a proof of this, the fact was adduced that, in one of the departments
in which this grain was most abundantly and universally used, the
inhabitants were remarkable for their health and vigor."
One great drawback to the wholesomeness of Indian meal bread,
however, is, that it is almost universally eaten hot, and too generally,
pretty well oiled with butter, or some other kind of animal fat or oil.
But Indian meal bread can be prepared in such a manner as to obviate these
difficulties, and render it very wholesome.
Barley and oats may be manufactured into very wholesome bread; but
they are little used for such purposes in this country.
Rice, peas, beans, potatoes, &c., may also, by mixing them with a
portion of wheat or rye flour, be manufactured into bread; but, as I have
already stated, there is no other kind of grain or farinaceous vegetable
substance from which so good loaf bread can be made, as good wheat.
In making bread from Indian meal, and other kinds of farinaceous
substances containing little or no gluten, yeast or leaven is rarely if
ever used to make it light. More generally sour milk or butter-milk and
saleratus or soda are used for this purpose; and they who do not well
understand the principle upon which these substances make their bread
light, often greatly impair their own success by their mismanagement.
It is, perhaps, most common for them to mix their sour milk or
butter-milk and saleratus together, and wait till the effervescence is
over, before they stir in their meal. But by this means they lose the
greater part of the gas or air by which their dough should be made light.
The true way is, to take their sour milk or butter-milk, and stir
meal into it till a thin batter is formed, and then dissolve their
saleratus or soda, and stir that quickly and thoroughly into the batter,
and then hastily add meal till the batter or dough is brought into the
If, instead of sour milk or butter-milk, a solution of muriatic or
tartaric acid is used, the bread will be equally light. In this case, the
batter should be first made with a solution of saleratus or soda, and then
the solution of acid should be stirred in as above described. Batter cakes
are made in this manner very light and very promptly. When from any cause
batter or dough mixed with yeast fails to rise according to expectations,
the thorough mixing in, first the solution of muriatic or tartartic acid,
and then the solution of saleratus or soda, will, in a few minutes, make
the whole mass very light; but such cakes and bread are not so sweet and
savory as those raised with good sweet yeast.
I have said that recently ground meal makes far sweeter and richer
bread, than that which has been ground a considerable time; but as it is
not convenient for many families to send to a mill as often as they would
like to have fresh meal, they are obliged generally to use staler meal or
flour than they would choose. Yet every family might easily be furnished
with a modern patent hand-mill, constructed after the plan of a coffee
mill, with which they could at all times, with great ease, grind their
wheat, and rice, and corn, as they want it, for bread and other purposes.
With these mills they can grind their stuff as finely or coarsely as they
wish, for bread or hominy, and always have it very fresh and sweet.