In my post from a week ago “Cooking With Ida” we were guided through the process of making homemade yeast bread–an essential task for rural farm women in the 1920s. My husband’s mother, born in 1925, was an avid bread baker as well while raising her family of seven children from the 1950s through the 1970s. My husband recalls her baking four loaves of bread twice a week. She even ground her own wheat. Happily, for her, it was an electric grinder. She made homemade bread sandwiches every school day for the kids’ lunches. My husband’s favorite snack was an inch thick slice of bread spread generously with butter and honey.
My mother on the other hand was a recreational bread baker. For her, it was a creative and therapeutic experience not done on a regular basis. We loved it when the mood would strike and we would come home from school to the smell of freshly baked bread. We would thickly spread each slice with home-canned apricot jam.
Although baking bread has been a creative outlet for me as well, I did it with some regularity. When my six children were at home I would bake four large loaves a week or two loaves and a batch of cinnamon rolls. Posted below is my tried and true recipe of thirty-five years.
There are several differences between my bread recipe and the recipes of my mother and mother-in-law with the most noticeable being that I baked my bread in rustic round or oval loaves as opposed to baking it in traditional bread pans (that was the creative part). The other difference was the type of wheat flour that I used. A friend introduced me to hard white wheat (as opposed to hard red wheat that is most commonly used). At that time a home baker would have to search for a mailorder source for the white wheat which would then need to be ground into flour. It was worth the effort though as it produced a milder tasting lighter loaf of bread with nutrition equal to that of hard red wheat. Luckily for home bakers of today, King Arthur Flour offers white wheat flour on their website HERE. They also offer SAF Instant Yeast HERE which is recommended for homemade yeast bread not made in a bread machine.Recipe and photos below:
In a large mixing bowl combine water, oil, brown sugar, powdered milk, and salt; blend with an electric mixer or whisk. Add 2 cups of white wheat flour and the yeast; stir for three minutes. Add two cups of all-purpose or bread flour and mix an additional three minutes or knead by hand. Add the final cup or two of all-purpose or bread flour a little at a time and mix for three minutes or knead for ten minutes.
Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover tightly with a lid or plastic wrap. Allow dough to rise in a warm place until double in bulk (about 1-1/2 hours). Gently punch down and shape into two round/oval loaves and place on a half sheet baking pan or divide into three loaf pans. Allow bread to rise an additional 30 to 45 minutes in a warm place.
Bake bread in a preheated 350-degree oven for 20 to 30 minutes. (Baked bread will sound hollow when tapped on top). For a tender crust, brush the top with butter if desired. Cool bread for 15 minutes, remove from pan, and place directly on a wire rack until completely cool.
My post for today is a shoutout to a blog that I recently began following: ruralnchistory.blogspot.com linked HERE
The author posts daily articles from various North Carolina newspapers from a hundred years ago. Herblog takes abroad look at the happenings of the 1920s including arrests made during prohibition, accidents involving new automobiles and drivers, as well as prison breaks, deaths, marriages, and births. It is my morning “read” (much more enjoyable than the current events in our world).
Sunday’s post was of particular interest to me:
Home Demonstration Agent Ola Wells Helping Guilford Residents Raising Chickens, February 20, 1922, linked HERE
Home DemonstrationAgents not only helped housewives but also promoted activities and learning for rural school-age children. In the article linked above, Mrs. Wells is encouraging teachers who want to form a Poultry Club in their school to do so. (I guess this would be akin to the after-school programs of today). Children who are interested are invited to contact Mrs. Wells directly.
In honor of President’s Day, I am posting a trivia quiz about George Washington that was originally published in The Farmer’sWife–A Magazine For Farm Women February 1922. The answers can be found at the end of the post.
The Father of Our Country
An enjoyable memory about the great man whose birthday we celebrate this month will be found in the following questions:
In what state was George Washington born?
In what year?
What was the maiden name of his mother?
What was his father’s profession?
Did George attend any college?
What nobleman was his early patron?
Who sent him on his famous journey through the wilderness?
What position did he hold under Braddock”?
Whom did he marry?
How did he act when first complimented on his military services?
What year was he made Continental Commander-In-Chief?
Where did he spend the winter of 1777?
When was he elected president?
How long did he hold the presidency?
Did he leave any children at his death?
Where did he die?
Did he hold slaves?
Did he approve of slavery?
What became of his slaves after their master’s death?
By whom was he called “First in war, first in peace, etc?
Flags can be made of heavy paper for this game with the questions written on the back. A suitable prize would be some standard (flag or banner) of the Life of Washington, with a chocolate hatchet for a booby prize.
The Whole Loaf
Once upon a time
There was a woman
She longed to paint, to make fine music.
But her life was cast in other lines.
Disappointment embittered her soul.
“Shall I live forever in a dream of what I cannot be?” she said.
“Because my time must be given to homely tasks and the care of children, shall I never express beauty?”
She visited a gallery.
She saw a picture—a perfect thing.
Fruit arranged in a basket, and some garden flowers.
And nearby another—a quaint bowl of milk—a loaf of bread and a blue-eyed child.
“I have fruit, and a basket covered with dust,” she said.
It was time to feed the Littlest Child.
He was blue-eyed.
There was a handsome loaf.
On the top shelf was a quaint bowl.
She put it before him—filled with milk.
The scales fell from her eyes—
She had the Whole Loaf.
Hello, again History Lovers!
In today’s post, we are once again Cooking With Ida. The information below comes from two of Ida’s books Woman’s World Calendar Cook Book 1922 and Cooking Menus Service 1924 in which she walks the home baker through the requiredsteps in making yeast bread. The yeast that our foremothers would have used in their baking was either compressed cakes of yeast or the granulated version called Active Dry Yeast (ADY). The granulated variety is available today and our mothers and grandmothers may still be using it however, modern home bakers generally opt for a newer faster rising version of ADY–Instant or Rapid-Rise. (King Author Flour recommends Rapid-Rise Yeast for use in bread machines and SAF Instant Yeast for hand-made bread and baked goods).
By the way, the charming poem The Whole Loaf at the top of this post was printed at the beginning of the chapter on Yeast Breads in Cooking Menus Service. Sadly there is no credit given to the poet. Although there are a number of poems included in this cookbook I am quite certain that Ida was not the poet as none of her other cookbooks include poetry.
Yeast Bread Making 1920s
“The exact science of bread making is a chemical one, consisting of the proper blending of flour, liquid, salt, and yeast into a dough which is raised by the growth in it of the yeast fungi. During that raising the action of the yeast converts part of the starch into a form of sugar and the yeast cells, feeding on this, activates fermentation; and as the dough is fermented and raised, thousands of little cells or pockets are formed in it. During the baking, however, the fermentation is stopped by the heat, the result being the light, porous bread with which we are familiar.”
Proper Kind of Ingredients
“What are the necessary ingredients for making bread? Flour, salt, liquid, and yeast. These four we must have; some variations are possible. The flour may be of more than one variety, but some wheat flour we must have for good bread. The liquid may be plain water, the water in which potatoes have been cooked, or milk, or two of these in combination. The yeast may be compressed or dry yeast according to convenience. Other ingredients may be potatoes, shortening, and a little sugar or syrup.”
Methods for Making Bread
“There are two methods of bread making—(a) the sponge method, and (b) the straight dough method.”
The Sponge Method
At first glance, one might mistake the Sponge Method for the “proofing” process in which the viability of yeast is tested by mixing yeast with a little water and a pinch of sugar and allowing it to “proof” for several minutes to see if the mixture becomes active. A 1920s home cook may well have proofed her yeast before beginning to mix her bread sponge if she had concerns about the freshness of the yeast. The preparation of the sponge required mixing yeast, salt, sugar, and some of the flour into the liquid resulting in a thick batter. The batter was then set away in a warm draft-free place to rise for an hour or longer. At that point, the remaining flour was kneaded into the sponge and the dough was set away again to rise. The advantage of this method was that it required less yeast thereby making a less yeasty-tasting loaf as well as making a fluffier loaf of bread. The drawback was that the dough required two rises before shaping and a third after shaping and prior to baking resulting in a longer bread-making process. Ida continues:
“By the sponge method, a thick batter is made, using all the required liquid, yeast, salt, and enough flour to give the batter the desired consistency—it should be about the thickness of a muffin mixture. A very little sugar or sugar solution may be added to hasten the process of rising. A smaller amount of yeast may be used in bread made by the sponge method than when the straight dough is employed, as yeast rises more rapidly in a semi-liquid mixture than in one which is firm.
After the sponge has become light, that is, after the yeast has become thoroughly “active” and the mixture is filled with consequent gaseous bubbles, the remainder of the flour is added and the mixture kneaded to an elastic dough, either by hand or in a bread mixer, from which point it is treated the same as for a straight dough.”
The recipe below is an example of a bread recipe using the Sponge Method. Interestingly White Bread recipes took precedence in Ida’s book Cooking Menus Service 1924 probably due to the fact that white bakery bread was all the rage so home bakers desired white bread as well.
“A straight dough is one in which the ingredients are all blended at one time, kneaded, and the dough set aside to rise. By using a larger amount of yeast, bread may be quickly made by the straight-dough method, or it may be allowed to rise for a longer period and less yeast is used. The ingredients after blending must be kneaded until smooth and elastic, then set aside to rise as in the case of bread made by the sponge method.
Whereas the methods of making bread by both dry and compressed yeast are practically identical, the process when making it with dry yeast is facilitated if a soft sponge is first made, so that the little yeast plants may have all possible assistance in their growth. It is also advisable to make such a sponge when preparing coffee cake or rolls, or whenever a fine-textured result is desired, or when rich ingredients are being used, no matter what kind of yeast is chosen (Be aware that this is outdated informationand is no longer necessary with the ADY we use today). Success in bread making consists of the use of a reliable recipe; care in keeping the rising dough at a temperature of not less the 70 degrees F., nor more than 95 degrees F.; shielding the dough from draughts and the proper baking”.
The Necessary Equipment
In all of her cookbooks, Ida was a proponent for anything that would help make a housewife’s work easier and more efficient so it was no surprise that she would promote the acquisition and use of a piece of equipment called a bread mixer (photos below). I’m not sure cranking a handle was any better than kneading bread by hand. It would certainly not have been as therapeutic.More from Ida:
The use of a bread mixer facilitates bread making, obviating kneading by hand and actually saving a fourth of the flour. As these mixers may be obtained in both small and large sizes, they are practical for use in every family.”
This Club has been the social life of our community.
~Mrs. Frances Sparrow, Piatt County, Illinois
Hello, again History Lovers!
Club membership provided rural farm women social and enrichment opportunities. Today’s post consists of letters written to The Farmer’s Wife–A Magazine For Farm Women in February 1922 regarding various club activities and volunteer work.
Letters From Club Members
Dear FARMER’S WIFE: We organized our Women’s Club over a year ago and call it the South Prairie Women’s Club. It is composed of wives of the men of the threshing ring and their daughters over fifteen years old. We meet every month, discuss all problems which bother us, school work, current events, have music of some kind, have a wiener roast in October for the young folks, a picnic in June for the kiddies, and a regular banquet in February for our husbands and, last but not least, we have a big feast with ice cream some evening when we finish threshing. This year we had our farm advisor as a guest at this supper who gave us a talk on grain marketing. This club has been the social life of our community. –Mrs. Frances Sparrow, Piatt County, Illinois
Dear FARMER’S WIFE: The people of Stony Point school district, Dickinson County, Kansas, last year realized the need of having something to bring the people together at the schoolhouse and so organized a community club. The motto is For the Good of Home and School and we met every two weeks last winter and had programs, having an outside speaker occasionally but mostly the members taking part. Two events were given for the purpose of making money: a pie social, with a spelling and ciphering match for entertainment and a play. With the money we bought gasoline lamps for the schoolhouse, cups, spoons, and plates, to be used for hot lunches by the school children and on club nights. Some books and folding chairs have been purchased. For our study work this year we are going to take topics on the United States. We find teachers and superintendents of nearby towns always willing to help with our programs –Florence Knight Killian, Dickinson County, Kansas.
Dear FARMER’S WIFE: Our Mother’s Club was first organized at the small schoolhouse Dist. 8 of Otoe County, Nebraska in the fall of 1916 with 22 members. Later the club was taken into the Federation in the spring of 1919. We meet alternately at the schoolhouse and at a home twice a month. Hot lunches were started in school for the winter months. Cupboard and dishes were bought to help with these.
Two home-talent plays have been given to make money. We also have had numerous parties including farewell surprise parties for those who leave the district and we give them some token of remembrance.
This summer we had a wiener roast picnic at Antelope Park, Lincoln. Besides these, we have our regular club banquet or open meeting to which each member’s family is invited. The object of our club is to cooperate with teachers and pupils for the betterment of school and community. –Jessie Lanning
Dear FARMER’S WIFE: A few years ago our people of the community met at a vacant house and organized a Farmers’ Union Local which took in all the members voted upon from sixteen years up. They have continued to meet from house to house every two weeks, with attendance from twenty-five to one hundred and twenty-five. While the men are holding a business meeting, the women are busy with fancy work or clearing up the tables after an appetizing lunch. A program is sometimes given. Usually, our largest gatherings are in vacation time when the young folk can enjoy a good ball game.
At one meeting a barrel of vinegar was distributed at thirty cents a gallon, so a little was saved that way. Other supplies are ordered in season. A general good time is enjoyed and everyone goes home satisfied. Nothing but urgent duty will keep one away from “the next meeting”. –Ellen B. Fleming
The above article was originally published in The Farmer’s Wife–A Magazine For Farm Women, February 1922, Page 716; Webb Publishing Company, St. Paul, Minnesota. Articles may be edited for length and clarity.
First in his list of The Twelve Greatest Things In Human Life, Doctor Holland named Love. This month comes sturdy Struggle. Some of our friends are memorizing the short chapters; others are pasting them up in scrapbooks.
Hello, again History Lovers!
The new year brought with it a new series to The Farmer’s Wife Magazine–the Twelve Greatest Things In Life–written by Reverend John W. Holland. The series was originally published in monthly installments by THE FARMER’S WIFE–A MAGAZINE FOR FARM WOMEN. Each month’s article featured a topic regarding the human condition, therefore the topics are as pertinent today as they were in 1926. Installments of this series will be posted on the first Sunday of every month throughout 2022.
My sincerest apologies for posting a week late. Blogging was trumped by a ski weekend with my children and grandchildren. 😉
“I AM almost as ancient as Love. Although called by many names and often cursed by foolish men, I remain unchanged.
I am the guardian of all good, for I test everything. In my furnace fires, all minerals have been burned so that only the best were left.
When Life appeared on the earth, I pounced upon it and beset its pathway with so-many difficulties that only the strong remained.
As the trees sprang from the fertile earth, I whipped them with many storms so that they which endured might have fiber strong enough to stand.
When Man came in innocence from the Creative Hand and fell into wrongdoing, I stood by him and helped him to win strong virtues in the place of his lost innocence.
Men sometimes rebel at me but they can have no great destiny without me. I am rough on the exterior but my hands are lined with velvet. I am the unwelcome trainer of all things that would grow.
I cradled a boy in poverty. I took away his mother and drove him out among rough men to win his lonely way. I denied him the schooling of the cultured and compelled him to labor in sorrow in a wilderness. I broke his heart by stealing from him the sweetheart of his youth. I battered at his brain till he was almost frenzied. I fed him the bread of poverty but through it all, I watched over him, enlarged his sympathies, quickened his brain, till at last, Lincoln, arose like a colossus among the saviors of the race.
Cowards and weaklings are afraid of me but I know the only things that will make real men of them. Women who are foolish enough to try to shield themselves from me sink into nothingness.
I temper the heart and sinew of the athlete by making him fight and work for his laurels.
I gave to virtue its divine quality by compelling it to fight to the death its sinful enemies.
I make bread sweet in man’s mouth by his very labor for it.
When earth needs prophets, I prepare scorpion whips for the hands of those who scourge the backs of the good.
I make the noblest music of the world from the anguish of suffering.
Would you be well? Then fight the enemies of health. Do you desire to become wise? Dig for the gold of wisdom. Would you be noble? Master every lurking secret weakness within you. Would you be a saint? Annihilate sinning.
Men desire easy paths to glory. I refuse them utterly, for my noblest crown is a Crown of Thorns, and life’s sweetest bliss is the memory of a conquered sorrow.
The angel that you desire to carve I have hidden for you in the hard block of marble.
My name is Struggle!”
The above article was published in The Farmer’s Wife–A Magazine For Farm Women, February 1926; Webb Publishing Company, St. Paul, Minnesota. Articles may be edited for length and clarity.
Pandora, the romantic sprite that she is has a soft spot in her heart for old Saint Valentine, and she sends us the following suggestion. It holds with which to help celebrate his day.
Hello, again History Lovers!
Rural folks in the 1920s often made their own holiday fun and entertainment, and The Farmer’s Wife–A Magazine For Farm Women was a great resource for homemade party suggestions. Suitable for single young men and women, the column Pandora’s Party Box featured themed holiday ideas each month.
The post below features a craft activity published in February 1922 where young women would gather together to create a large valentine requiring a plethora of magazine cutouts that would “divine” what each girl’s matrimonial fortune would hold. 1922 magazine cutouts would have looked very different from what could be found in today’s Cosmo, Vogue, or Martha Stewart Living. I even imagined myself hosting a similar party and cutting pictures from Western Horseman, Field and Stream, and Outdoor Life. Each party would definitely have produced lots of conversation and giggles as well as unique valentine’s keepsakes.
A Valentine Party
Suppose you are entertaining some girlfriends. Supply each of them with some paste and a large heart of red cardboard (think poster size) on each of which you have written at the top MY VALENTINE, and below this, the following headings, five on each side of the heart, Keeping to the left as far as possible:
How we will met
His first gift
Our best friend
Who will try to keep us apart
When we will be married
The best man
His worst fault
Have ready beforehand, ten boxes to correspond with the heading on the hearts. In each of these, place the required number of suitable pictures which you have cut from the advertising section of magazines. For instance, Box No. 1 should contain at least twenty letters, each girl drawing two. Box No. 2 will contain pictures of a couple playing tennis, at the opera, on a train, anything to indicate the circumstances under which two people might meet. Box No. 3 will contain the heads of various types of men—some old, others young, some bald, some handsome, and so forth. Box No. 4 offers a variety in the way of candy, books, a phonograph, electrical gifts, and so on. Box No. 5 may contain a dog, postman, little brother, old lady. Box No. 6, a pretty girl, old gentlemen. Box No. 7, the name of some month or flowers to indicate spring, snow for winter. Box No. 8 can contain pictures of men engaged in different professions, such as carpenter, plumber, lawyer, doctor. Box No. 9 will have in it attractive little houses, big ugly ones, and so forth. While Box No. 10 will show “him” smoking, reading, playing cards, joyriding, and so on.
Innumerable ideas will be obtained for this while going through magazines. Each girl, blindfolded, draws from each box and pastes her fortune on her heart as she goes along. Great fun will ensue in comparing the fortunes. The hearts themselves make interesting souvenirs to carry home.
If there are to be boys at the party as well as girls, separate boxes should be provided for them, and the headings on the hearts made to apply to girls, as for instance, “Her initials,” “Her picture,” “Her worst fault.”
In contrast to my previous post regarding a farm family who wired their home and farm buildings for electricity, today’s post isa letter from a Maryland farm woman who writes to The Farmer’s Wife–A Magazine For Farm Women to share how beneficial the small improvements made to her kitchen were. Her husband moved the hand water pump and sink indoors so she would no longer have to pump water in the cold and carry bucketsful into the kitchen for cooking and cleaning. He also built a worktable, moved the cookstove to a better angle, and framed in the back porch all of which created better working conditions for her.
When we bought our home, the kitchen was just a plain room about 15 ½ ft. x 15 ½ ft. with the chimney in the center back of the room. The only convenience it possessed was a large case or cupboard built on one side of the chimney. Our water supply was at the back porch, about 12 steps away from where it was needed.
The first thing we did was to build a worktable from the cupboard out toward the door that opened on the back porch. Then we moved in the pump and sink from the porch, and put them at the end of the worktable. A small case was built up over the sink between the window and the door which holds articles such as toothbrushes, paste, shaving equipment, and so forth. The sink has a drainpipe to a cesspool which carries away all the wastewater without walking a step. This is one of the best things about having a sink in the kitchen.
We were able to save a few more steps by turning the range around so that the oven door opens toward the worktable. This makes my work in that corner of the room in a space about 6 x 8 ft. and I have very few steps to make to cook a meal.
A stool that can be pushed out of the way under the worktable adds also to the general convenience. A wire dish drainer (cost 20 cents) that fits the sink saves good time in dishwashing. A rack with hooks on the wall between the cupboard and the window over the sink, hold all the little cooking utensils used daily such as eggbeater, can opener, grater.
We have recently enclosed the porch and built some shelves in same and it now makes a very useful store room and laundry.
Of course, my kitchen does not compare with one equipped with running water but for the cost, it has been worth an untold amount. I do not have any water to carry. Of course, I have it to pump, but it is much easier to do in a warm kitchen than out in the cold, and it does not seem so hard when I do not have to carry it several steps and lift it up to the table.
The above article was originally published in The Farmer’s Wife–A Magazine For Farm Women, February 1922, Page 745; Webb Publishing Company, St. Paul, Minnesota. Articles may be edited for length and clarity.