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Flour Milling History

"Bread is the most important article of food, and history tells of its use thousands of years before the Christian era. Many processes have been employed in making and baking; and as a result, from the first flat cake has come the perfect loaf. The study of bread making is of no slight importance, and deserves more attention than it receives.

Considering its great value, it seems unnecessary and wrong to find poor bread on the table; and would that our standard might be raised as high as that of our friends across the water! Who does not appreciate the loaf produced by the French baker, who has worked months to learn the art of bread making?"

Flour Milling in the Late 1800's

The miller, in order to produce flour which will make the white loaf (so sightly to many), in the process of grinding wheat has been forced to remove the inner bran coats, so rich in mineral matter, and much of the gluten intimately connected with them.
To understand better the details of bread making, wheat, from which bread is principally made, should be considered. 5
A grain of wheat consists of (1) an outer covering or husk, which is always removed before milling; (2) bran coats, which contain mineral matter; (3) gluten, the proteid matter and fat; and (4) starch, the centre and largest part of the grain.

Wheat is distinguished as white and soft, or red and hard. The former is known as winter wheat, having been sown in the fall, and living through the winter; the latter is known as spring wheat, having been sown in the spring. From winter wheat, pastry flour, sometimes called St. Louis, is made; from spring wheat, bread flour, also called Haxall. St. Louis flour takes its name from the old process of grinding; Haxall, from the name of the inventor of the new process. All flours are now milled by the same process.

Wheat is milled for converting into flour by processes producing essentially the same results, all requiring cleansing, grinding, and bolting. Entire wheat flour has only the outer husk removed, the remainder of the kernel being finely ground. Graham flour, confounded with entire wheat, is too often found to be an inferior flour, mixed with coarse bran.
Grinding is accomplished by one of four systems: (1) low milling; (2) Hungarian system, or high milling; (3) roller milling; and (4) by a machine known as distintegrator.

In low milling process, grooved stones are employed for grinding. The stones are enclosed in a metal case, and provision is made within case for passage of air to prevent wheat from becoming overheated. The lower stone being permanently fixed, the upper stone being so balanced above it that grooves may exactly correspond, when upper stone rotates, sharp edges of grooves meet each other, and operate like a pair of scissors. By this process flour is made ready for bolting by one grinding.

In high milling process, grooved stones are employed, but are kept so far apart that at first the wheat is only bruised, and a series of grindings and siftings is necessary. This process is applicable only to the hardest wheats, and is partially supplanted by roller-milling.
In roller-milling, wheat is subjected to action of a pair of steel or chilled-iron horizontal rollers, having toothed surfaces. They revolve in opposite directions, at different rates of speed, and have a cutting action.

Porcelain rollers, with rough surfaces, are sometimes employed. In this system, grinding is accomplished by cutting rather than crushing. “The disintegrator consists of a pair of circular metal disks, set face to face, studded with circles of projecting bars so arranged that circles of bars on one disk alternate with those of the other. The disks are mounted on the same centre, and so closely set to one another that projecting bars of one disk come quite close to plane surface of the other. They are enclosed within an external casing. The disks are caused to rotate in opposite directions with great rapidity, and the grain is almost instantaneously reduced to a powder.”
After grinding comes bolting, by which process the different grades of flour are obtained. The ground wheat is placed in octagonal cylinders (covered with silk or linen bolting-cloth of different degrees of fineness), which are allowed to rotate, thus forcing the wheat through. The flour from first siftings contains the largest percentage of gluten.
Flour is branded under different names to suit manufacturer or dealer. In consequence, the same wheat, milled by the same process, makes flour which is sold under different names.

Different Types of Flour

In buying flour, whether bread or pastry, select the best kept by your grocer. Bread flour should be used in all cases where yeast is called for, with few exceptions; in other cases, pastry flour. The difference between bread and pastry flour may be readily determined. Take bread flour in the hand, close hand tightly, then open, and flour will not keep in shape; if allowed to pass through fingers it will feel slightly granular. Take pastry flour in the hand, close hand tightly, open, and flour will be in shape, having impression of the lines of the hand, and feeling soft and velvety to touch. Flour should always be sifted before measuring.
Entire wheat flour differs from ordinary flour inasmuch as it contains all the gluten found in wheat, the outer husk of kernels only being removed, the remainder ground to different degrees of fineness and left unbolted.
Gluten, the proteid of wheat, is a gray, tough, elastic substance, insoluble in water. On account of its great power of expansion, it holds the gas developed in bread dough by fermentation, which otherwise would escape.

What is Yeast?

"Yeast is a microscopic plant of fungous growth, and is the lowest form of vegetable life. It consists of spores, or germs, found floating in air, and belongs to a family of which there are many species. These spores grow by budding and division, and multiply very rapidly under favorable conditions, and produce fermentation.

Fermentation is the process by which, under influence of air, warmth, moisture, and some ferment, sugar (or dextrose, starch converted into sugar) is changed into alcohol (C2H5HO) and carbon dioxide (CO2). The product of all fermentation is the same. Three kinds are considered,—alcoholic, acetic, and lactic. Where bread dough is allowed to ferment by addition of yeast, the fermentation is alcoholic; where alcoholic fermentation continues too long, acetic fermentation sets in, which is a continuation of alcoholic. Lactic fermentation is fermentation which takes place when milk sours.
Liquid, dry, or compressed yeast may be used for raising bread.

The compressed yeast cakes done up in tinfoil have long proved satisfactory, and are now almost universally used, having replaced the home-made liquid yeast. Never use a yeast cake unless perfectly fresh, which may be determined by its light color and absence of dark streaks.
The yeast plant is killed at 212° F.; life is suspended, but not entirely destroyed, 32° F. The temperature best suited for its growth is from 65° F. The most favorable conditions for the growth of yeast are a warm, moist, sweet, nitrogenous soil. These must be especially considered in bread making."

What is Bread?

"Bread is made from flour of wheat, or other cereals, by addition of water, salt, and a ferment. Wheat flour is best adapted for bread making, as it contains gluten in the right proportion to make the spongy loaf. But for its slight deficiency in fat, wheat bread is a perfect food; hence arose the custom of spreading it with butter.

It should be remembered, in speaking of wheat bread as perfect food, that it must be made of flour rich in gluten. Next to wheat flour ranks rye in importance for bread making; but it is best used in combination with wheat, for alone it makes heavy, sticky, moist bread. Corn also needs to be used in combination with wheat for bread making, for if used alone the bread will be crumbly.

Fermented bread is made by mixing to a dough, flour, with a definite quantity of water, milk, or water and milk, salt, and a ferment. Sugar is usually added to hasten fermentation. Dough is them kneaded that the ingredients may be thoroughly incorporated, covered, and allowed to rise in a temperature of 68° F., until dough has doubled its bulk. This change has been caused by action of the ferment, which attacks some of the starch in flour, and changes it to sugar, and sugar in turn to alcohol and carbon dioxide, thus lightening the whole mass.

Dough is then kneaded a second time to break bubbles and distribute evenly the carbon dioxide. It is shaped in loaves, put in greased bread pans (they being half filled), covered, allowed to rise in temperature same as for first rising, to double its bulk. If risen too long, it will be full of large holes; if not risen long enough, it will be heavy and soggy. If pans containing loaves are put in too hot a place while rising, a heavy streak will be found near bottom of loaf.

Where bread is allowed to rise over night, a small piece of yeast cake must be used; one-fourth yeast cake to one pint liquid is sufficient, one-third yeast cake to one quart liquid. Bread mixed and baked during the day requires a large quantity of yeast; one yeast cake, or sometimes even more, to one pint of liquid. Bread dough mixed with a large quantity of yeast should be watched during rising, and cut down as soon as mixture doubles its bulk. If proper care is taken, the bread will be found most satisfactory, having neither yeast nor sour taste.
Fermented bread was formerly raised by means of leaven."

Baking Bread

"Bread is baked; (1) To kill ferment, (2) to make soluble the starch, (3) to drive off alcohol and carbon dioxide, and (4) to form brown crust of pleasant flavor. Bread should be baked in a hot oven. If the oven be too hot the crust will brown quickly before the heat has reached the centre, and prevent further rising; loaf should continue rising for first fifteen minutes of baking, when it should begin to brown, and continue browning for the next twenty minutes. The last fifteen minutes it should finish baking, when the heat may be reduced.

When bread is done, it will not cling to sides of pan, and may be easily removed. Biscuits require more heat than loaf bread, should continue rising the first five minutes, and begin to brown in eight minutes. Experience is the best guide for testing temperature of oven. Various oven thermometers have been made, but none have proved practical. Bread may be brushed over with melted butter, three minutes before removal from oven, if a more tender crust is desired."

What Makes Bread Rise?

"Unfermented bread is raised without a ferment, the carbon dioxide being produced by the use of soda (alkaline salt) and an acid. Soda, employed in combination with cream of tartar, for raising mixtures, in proportion of one-third soda to two-thirds cream of tartar, was formerly used to a great extent, but has been generally superseded by baking powder.

Soda bicarbonate (NaHCO3) is manufactured from sodium chloride (NaCl), common salt or cryolite.

Baking powder is composed of soda and cream of tartar in definite, correct proportions, mixed with small quantity of dry material (flour or cornstarch) to keep action from taking place. In using baking powder, allow two teaspoons baking powder to each cup of flour, when eggs are not used; to egg mixtures allow one and one-half teaspoons baking powder. When a recipe calls for soda and cream of tartar, in substituting baking powder use double amount of cream of tartar given.

Soda and cream of tartar, or baking powder mixtures, are made light by liberation of gas in mixture; the gas in soda is set free by the acid in cream of tartar; in order to accomplish this, moisture and heat are both required. As soon as moisture is added to baking powder mixtures, the gas will begin to escape; hence the necessity of baking as soon as possible. If baking powder only is used for raising, put mixture to be cooked in a hot oven.

Cream of tartar (HKC4O6H4) is obtained from argols found adhering to bottom and sides of wine casks, which are ninety per cent cream of tartar. The argols are ground and dissolved in boiling water, coloring matter removed by filtering through animal charcoal, and by a process of recrystallization the cream of tartar of commerce is obtained.

The acid found in molasses, sour milk, and lemon juice will liberate gas in soda, but the action is much quicker than when cream of tartar is used.
Fermented and unfermented breads are raised to be made light and porous, that they may be easily acted upon by the digestive ferments. Some mixtures are made light by beating sufficiently to enclose a large amount of air, and when baked in a hot oven air is forced to expand.
Aerated bread is made light by carbon dioxide forced into dough under pressure. The carbon dioxide is generated from sulphuric acid and lime. Aerated bread is of close texture, and has a flavor peculiar to itself. It is a product of the baker’s skill, but has found little favor except in few localities."

from Fannie Farmer's Cookbook 1893

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