Old cookery books are full of delightful pieces of advice as well as recipes… Our times are so different in terms of keeping and storing food, the safety of the food we buy, the care stores and shops have to take in keeping and handling what we buy…
Here are some useful hints on baking from the brown and Polson ‘Light Fare Recipes for Corn Flour and “Raisley” Cookery’ book:
- FLOUR – flour should be perfectly dry when used for baking. If at all damp, the preparation is sure to be heavy. before using flour it is a good plan to place it for half an hour or two before the fire until it feels warm and dry and then run it through a sieve.
Good flour should have a pleasant smell, and an absence of acid or rancid taste. A test for good flour is the amount of liquid it will absorb, and when spread out it should no trace of bran
- MILK – milk should be perfectly sweet as, if slightly sour, it will not only injure the favour of the bread, etc., but in sultry weather will often cause it to be quite uneatable.
Condensed milk is a good substitute for fresh milk or cream, but when it is used less sugar will be required. Unsweetened condensed milk is much to be preferred to sweetened, and we can safely recommend ‘Cow’s head’, ‘Viking’, ‘Ideal’.
Buttermilk will make excellent bread and scones with ‘Raisley’, but it should be used as new as possible as when it is kept for a number of days it gets more acid and is apt to flavour the scones, etc.
For invalids, however, only sweet milk should be used as it make the most digestible bread.
- SUGAR – castor or sifted is the best. Any coarser kind should be pounded and sieved before using. Coarse sugar leaves cakes, et., heavy and hard.
- BUTTER – Never be tempted to use inferior butter in baking as it will spoil the quality id the cake or pastry. Good margarine may be used instead of butter. if the butter is very salt, it should be washed in cold water and then dried on a clean towel=. When beating butter to a cream, never allow it to become too oily by placing it near or too long beside the fire.
I was amused by the idea of slightly sour milk ‘injuring’ the flavour of the bread in sultry weather! There are hints in here about how much harder cooks had to work in the past, even in domestic setting – pounding the sugar, beating hard butter by hand, and even washing butter if it is too salty!