Do you ever think about how our lives have changed in the last 100 years? Learn about baking bread in 1911 versus now. Why 1911?
In the spring of 2017 I was approached by the Lucy Maud Montgomery Society to give a talk at the site where Lucy lived from 1911 to 1926. The idea was to compare how Lucy baked bread when she arrived versus how it is made now. I researched the topic and found it very interesting. I presented the talk on July 26, 2017 and again at the Uxbridge Public Library on Nov 27, 2017.
I discovered a copy of the GOLD MEDAL FLOUR COOK BOOK by Washburn-Crosby Co, published in 1910. The talk revolves around a recipe for ‘Milk and Water Bread’ on page 49, and why each ingredient and step was done.
Presentation: Baking Bread 1911 vs Now PDF
Like most bakers I work from grams. I never work in cups of flour. They are listed for convenience. Different flours will have different weights for a cup and how the flour has settled will also effect weight. Working from weight is always the most reliable. For small quantities such as a teaspoon of salt I use measuring spoons but I know the weight of the salt I use. If you want to use course salt, measuring spoons will not work. Again this is where weight helps. The best tool your baking can benefit from is a scale. I have two, one basic kitchen digital scale (+-1 gram accuracy) and a precision scale (+-.1 gram accuracy) for working out small details. I bought my basic scale on sale for $12 so not a big expense.
I am a big fan of bread pans. They serve several purposes. They give the bread a defined shape, and make it easier to handle. A big benefit to me is supporting the loaf. I live in outside of Toronto in Canada. Canada is the 7th largest producer of wheat in the world and most of it is hard wheat. This means our all purpose flour has a higher percentage of protein than many other countries. A 5 kg (11 lb) bag of Robin Hood Bread Flour costs about the same as a 10 kg (22 lb) bag of Robin Hood All Purpose Original. Most of my baking is working on recipes so I go through a lot of flour.
When you make bread with all purpose flour the dough does not hold its shape as well. The dough tends to relax and spread more. By using a pan to provide structure I can use all purpose flour to reduce my costs.
Here are a collection of my favourite pans.
Quad 5.75x3x2.75 loaf pan - 1.8L - 7.6 cups (total)
Quad mini-loaves are nice for single people. I freeze two mini-loaves in a bag. A quad mini-pan is just over the size of a 9 inch pan so you can use with a 1 1/2 pound (680 g) recipe.
Shorten the baking time as the distance from sides to the centre of the loaf is smaller.
USA Pan 12x5.5x2.25 Hearth Bread Pan - 2.4L - 10.1 cups
This hearth pan is for larger artisan style loaves. I like it as the structure helps support the form of a traditional load while using a lower cost flour such as all purpose.
USA Pan 4x4x9 Pullman - 2.2L - 9 ¼ cups
USA Pan 4x4x13 Pullman - 3.2L - 13 ½ cups
The pullman pan was originally invented for baking bread on the pullman car of a train. The pan has a lid which is closed during baking. The resulting loaf has very little crust and when cut is almost square. The proper name is Pain de Mie. "Pain" in French means "bread", and "la mie" refers to the soft part of bread, called the crumb.
The size is just larger than a slice of cheese for a grilled cheese sandwich. The bread was also excellent for French toast. The challenge of designing a recipe for a pullman pan is the volume has to be correct. Too little and you end up with a gap as the top. Too much and the dough oozes out the ends. My grandkids love a loaf of pullman bread.
Wilton - 9x1.25 round pie pan - 1 L - 4 ½ cups
Pie pans are nice as they don't give a pan look to the resulting loaf. The slope of the side is gradual enough to be missed. Pie pans are what got me into using non-bread pans. A one pound loaf fits nicely in one.
Cake pans give a mushroom look to the loaf, a giant muffin.
This pan is just plain fun. I was cutting a round loaf for a party into smaller pieces and found it a challenge. I thought, what about using a bundt pan? The volume is larger but this stout beer bread is only a 1.5 pound loaf. I will be releasing the recipe for that bread soon.
And there you have it, some of my loaf pans.
I know it is a bit overboard to produce a 32 page report for this assignment. I was just having so much fun.
The purpose of the experiment is to compare the results using the identical bread recipe and six different flours. No compensation was made for hydration or timing.
• All Purpose Flour Unbleached
• All Purpose Flour Bleached
• Bread Flour White
• Commercial Whole Wheat Bread Flour
• Heritage Red Fife
• Cake / Pastry Flour