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Robinson Crusoe.

Chapter 31

I I learn to bake and am prosperous.

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I HAVE already told you about farming, and of the difficulties under which I did my work. The thing which I wished to do most of all to make good bread. I tried many plans, but it was several years before I could think of myself as a really good baker. My barley was very fine. The grains were large and smooth. When boiled a long time with a bit of goat's meat, they made good food. But they did not take the place of bread. Before bread could be made, the grains of barley must be ground into meal. I tried pounding them with a stone. But that was slow work. The stone crumbled into sand. My meal was worth nothing. I looked all over the island for a harder stone. All were alike. So at last I cut a large block of very hard wood. I rounded it on the outside with my hatchet. [97] Then, partly by chopping, partly by burning, I made a hollow place in the end of it. Out of a piece of ironwood I made a heavy pestle or beater.

I had now a very good little mill. In a short time I had crushed enough barley to make meal for a large loaf. It was easy to make the dough. I had only to mix the meal with water and knead it with my hands. I must not think of yeast to make the dough light. The baking part was the main thing, and the hardest to learn. At first I put my biscuits of dough in the hot ashes and left them there till they were baked. But I did not like these ash cakes very well. Then I tried another plan. I made two large earthen vessels. They were broad and shallow. Each was about two feet across and not more than nine inches deep. These I burned in the fire till they were as hard as rocks and as red as tiles.

I made also a hearth before my fireplace, and paved it with some square tiles of my own making. But, perhaps I ought not to call them square. [98] The hearth, when finished, was quite level and smooth. It was as pretty as I could have wished. Next I built a great fire of hard wood. When the wood had burned down, I raked the hot coals out upon my hearth. I left them there till the hearth was hot through and through. My loaves of dough were all ready. I swept hearth clean and then put the loaves down upon the hottest part of it. Over each loaf I put one of the large earthen vessels I had made. Then I heaped hot coals on the top of the vessel and all round the sides of it.

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