Tuesday, April 1, 2014

April Fool’s Day & Tip Tuesday

Happy April 1st! It looks as if spring is finally here, and we’ve certainly earned it. And can you believe that a quarter of the year is already gone? Time sure passes quickly.

Do you know the history of April Fool’s Day? This day is one on which people traditionally play pranks on others, all in good fun. The day is also sometimes called All Fool’s Day. This prank holiday dates back to the Middle Ages, and its origin is uncertain.

In France in 1582 the Gregorian calendar was introduced, and New Year’s Day, which had always been a week-long celebration from March 25 to April 1, was moved to January 1. Due to slow communication at that time, many in rural areas (and some who were just plain stubborn and opposed to change) continued to celebrate as before, thus being ridiculed as “foolish”.

There are many references to the day in literature and in mythological lore. Over the years there have been some major media-wide pranks, such as the 1957 BBC news program that told of Switzerland’s great spaghetti harvest, which was due to the eradication of the “spaghetti weevil”.  It was so convincing that many people actually believed it!

Have you been pranked? Or pulled one on someone else? No pranks here…just information and a couple of recipes!
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Today’s Tip Tuesday is all about Yeast. The microorganism, “saccharomyces cerevisiae”, is a member of the fungus family and requires 3 things to grow – food, warmth and moisture.  Baker’s yeast is the variety used for baking, and is used to leaven dough. It works by turning fermentable sugars in dough into carbon dioxide and ethanol. The food that makes the yeast “grow” is either sugar, potatoes or the water in which potatoes have been boiled. Growth is inhibited somewhat by salt, fats or the sugar itself.

A Short History:

The use of yeast was recorded as far back as ancient Egypt, but its origin is uncertain. In the 1860s, after the introduction of the microscope, yeast was identified as a living organism, and it became possible to isolate and produce it. Production of commercial yeast was done by use of centrifuges in the United States at the turn of the 20th century. Fleischmann’s developed active dry yeast during World War II for US armed forces because it had a longer shelf life and needed no refrigeration.

Types:

Cream
Compressed (cake)
Active Dry
Instant
Rapid-Rise

The Instant and Rapid-Rise are basically the same, and Rapid-Rise is used in most bread machines. Both are faster because they only require one rising.

How to Use:

Typically yeast would be added to a warm liquid (100 to 115 degrees F) and allowed to “bloom”, then added to the dry ingredients. Often the sugar called for in the recipe would be added to the liquid with the yeast. With the Rapid-Rise yeast, though, that extra step is usually not necessary as all the ingredients are added to the bread machine at the same time.

Yeast can be kept in the refrigerator, and some say it can be frozen; however, I did read that freezing the yeast would kill it. It is, after all, a living thing.

Nutritional & Other Information:

One teaspoon of yeast contains 13 calories, no cholesterol, sodium or sugar, 36 mg of potassium and small amounts of monounsaturated fat, iron, vitamin B-6 and fiber.

A 4-ounce jar of yeast = 14 tablespoons = 42 teaspoons
 
One package of active dry yeast = 2 1/4 teaspoons = 1/4 ounce

1 cake equals a package of active dry yeast

Here are a couple of easy bread recipes that use yeast:

QUICK YEAST ROLLS

1 envelope active dry yeast
2 1/2 cups baking mix (such as Bisquick)
1 egg, slightly beaten

Dissolve yeast in 1/2 cup warm water in mixing bowl. Add mix and egg and beat well with a spoon. Turn out on floured board and knead about 5 minutes. Shape and pat with hands to about 1/2” thickness. Cut with 1 1/4” cookie cutter and put on greased baking sheet. Cover with waxed paper that has been sprayed with cooking spray and let rise in warm place for 45 minutes or until almost doubled. Bake at 400 degrees for 12 minutes or until lightly browned and done. Serve hot. Makes 2 dozen. (I wrote at the bottom of the recipe card that 1 1/4” was actually pretty small, so possibly use a regular biscuit cutter, which would, of course, yield fewer rolls.)

CORNBREAD MIX BREAD

2/3 cup warm water
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 envelope active dry yeast
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1 box Jiffy cornbread mix
approximately 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease an 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 x 2 1/2-inch loaf pan and set aside.

In mixing bowl, combine the water, sugar and yeast; let stand a few minutes until beginning to bubble. Stir in salt and egg and beat well. Add cornbread mix and enough flour to make a dough which can be kneaded. Knead as for any bread, about 10 minutes. Let dough rise in greased bowl, lightly covered, for about 45 minutes or until doubled. Punch down to break up gas bubbles. Shape and put into prepared pan. Let rise again until nearly doubled (about 30 minutes if at proper rising temperature of 85 to 90 degrees F). Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until loaf is beginning to pull from pan sides and gives slightly hollow sound. Remove from pan immediately and cool.

(I have no record of where these recipes came from – they are both written on old, yellowed recipe cards.)
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The new month brings a new list of holidays and celebrations. Please go to the “Holidays” page for the complete list of April observances!
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"You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time."

(Abraham Lincoln)

"The first of April, some do say
Is set apart for All Fool's Day;
But why the people call it so
Nor I, nor they themselves, do know,
But on this day are people sent
On purpose for pure merriment."

(Poor Robin's Almanac, 1790)
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Your comments and suggestions are always welcome. Thanks for reading!

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