Historic Cooking School
How to Bake Potatoes.
All this seems easy, doesn't it? Ah! but I would like to know how many of you can bake a potato perfectly, so that it shall be... white all through, with a crust that is not burned nor hardened. Tell me, now, are not the majority of baked potatoes that you see, brought to the table so shrivelled and dried-up that half the contents are wasted, and the residue soggy and heavy? If that is not your experience it is mine ; and as I particularly like baked potatoes, I don't mind putting on cap and apron, and coming to the class, hoping to find out something that I didn't know before. When the fire is built, the lesson for the day begins - there are no directions this time, for the fire-maker is supposed to have learned all about it at the last lesson.
The first step is baking without measurements or mixtures. Potatoes are cooked by themselves and do not require any combination with other ingredients. Select the potatoes of uniform size ; that is so that all may be done at the same time. Should they vary in size, then some will be cooked before others, and these will burn or spoil while the others are cooking. Medium-sized potatoes are better for baking than either large or small. Having selected them, mash and scrub them well, so that the skins will be perfectly clean. Very many persons like to eat the skin of a baked potato, but it is not safe to do so unless you know they are thoroughly scrubbed, and are baked in a clean oven. That you must look out for as well. Do not place them directly upon the bottom of the oven, but upon the grate, which has been laid across the middle of the oven. The hot air gets all about them on every side, and they are cooked evenly. They must be baked until they are soft ; this will take from half an hour to three quarters, according to the size of the potato, and the heat of the oven. When they are just done they will be plump, smooth and soft, and when opened they will be mealy. As soon as they are done break the skins to let the steam escape. It is this steam or gas that often makes a potato bitter when it is confined in the close skin for a long time, and it tends also to make the potato "soggy." Baked potatoes should be served at once, in an uncovered dish, as the steam that is generated in a covered dish will make them heavy. They can be warmed over as well as boiled potatoes; so if in cooking at home you have any left, peel them at once, as they will be in a better condition to warm over. No little thing betrays the unthrifty housekeeper more quickly than the habit of setting potatoes away unpeeled. Not only is much of the potato wasted when it is peeled after standing some time cold, but it cannot be prepared and served as daintily.
There is one thing that the school-training does, and that is to show girls and boys the right way, and to prove that it is the best way. If only the girls and boys who do not have the advantage of such training, would take the hints that are given in these papers, they too might feel that they have achieved something, even without the school and the teacher. If a thing seems small to you, and of little significance, do not on that account neglect it, but remember that the sum of successful living is made up of an aggregate of trifles, and that each one must be scrupulously attended to, or the whole will go wrong. Isnít that a solemn sermon with a left-over baked potato for a test ?
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