IN BUYING FLOUR look for these things: a slightly creamy cast—dazzling whiteness shows bleaching, as a gray-white, or black specks mean grinding from spoiled grain. The feel should be velvety, with no trace of roughness—roughness means, commonly, mixture with corn. A handful tightly gripped should keep the shape of the hand, and show to a degree the markings of the palm.
A pinch wet rather stiff, and stretched between thumb and finger, will show by the length of the thread it spins richness or poverty in gluten—one of the most valuable food elements.
It is impossible to give exactly the amount of liquid for any sort of bread-making because the condition of flour and meal varies with weather and keeping. This applies also to sugar —hence the need for intelligence in the use of receipts.
In damp muggy weather, moisture is absorbed from the atmosphere. Upon a dry day especially if there is much wind, drying out is inevitable. Anything that feels clammy, or that clots, should be dried in a warm, not hot, oven. Heating flour before mixing it, taking care not to scorch it in the least, is one small secret of light bread, biscuit and cake. Flour in a bag may be laid in the sun with advantage. Use judgment in mixing. Note the appearance of what you are making closely— when it turns out extra good, set up that first condition as a standard.
Sift a quart of flour into a bowl or tray, add half a teaspoon salt, then cut small into it a teacup of very cold lard. Wet with cold water—ice water is best —into a very stiff dough. Lay on a floured block or marble slab, and give one hundred strokes with a mallet or rolling pin. Fold afresh as the dough beats thin, dredging in flour if it begins to stick. The end of beating is to distribute air well through the mass, which, expanding by the heat of baking, makes the biscuit light. The dough should be firm, but smooth and very elastic. Roll to half-inch thickness, cut out with a small round cutter, prick lightly all over the top, and bake in steady heat to a delicate brown. Too hot an oven will scorch and blister, too cold an oven makes the biscuit hard and clammy.
Sift a quart of flour with a heaping teaspoonful of baking soda. Add a good pinch of salt, rub well through lard or butter the size of the fist, then wet with sour milk to a moderately soft dough. Roll out, and working quickly, cut with small round cutter. Set in hot pans, leaving room to swell, and bake in a quick oven just below scorching heat. Handle as lightly as possible all through; this makes flaky biscuits.
By way of variety, add an egg beaten light, with a heaping tablespoonful of sugar to the dough in mixing. Roll out thin—less than a half-inch, cut with a three-inch cutter, grease lightly on top, and fold along the middle. Let rise on top a hot stove several minutes before putting to bake. These doubled biscuits will be quite unlike the usual sort.
Separate three eggs. Beat yolks and whites very light. Add to the yolks alternately a pint of very rich sweet milk, and handfuls of sifted flour; enough to make a batter rather thicker than cream. Put in also half a teaspoon of salt, and half a cup of lard, or lard and butter, melted so it will barely run. Mix well, then add the beaten whites of egg. Have the waffle irons hot but not scorching. Grease well with melted lard— the salt in butter will make the batter stick. Cook quickly but take care not to burn.
Lay on hot plate—have a pitcher of melted butter to pour on. Lay the second waffle upon the first, butter, and keep hot. It is not safe to begin serving without at least six waffles in plate. This, of course, provided you have several eaters with genuine appetites. Syrup can be passed with the waffles—but it is profanation to drench them with it. Strong clear coffee and broiled chicken are the proper accompaniments at breakfast.
Recipes from Dishes & Beverages of the Old South, 1913