Cookbook Lady’s White Wheat Bread

Hello, again History Lovers!

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:

Enjoy!

Cookbook Lady's White Wheat Bread

  • Servings: 2 large loaves
  • Difficulty: Intermediate
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 2 cups warm water
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ¾ cup dry powdered milk
  • 1-1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 2-1/2 tsp SAF Instant Yeast
  • 2 cups white wheat flour
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour OR bread flour

Directions

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.

Recipe Compliments of Cookbook Lady and http://www.farmerswifemagazine.com

Cooking With Ida–Making Yeast Bread 1920s


The Whole Loaf
Once upon a time
There was a woman
Who loved
Beauty.
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.
~Unknown

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 required steps 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.

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.

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.

Cooking Menus Service Cookbook, Ida Bailey Allen, 1924

Straight Dough

“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 information and 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.”

~FWM

Cookbook Lady’s Spanish Rice

Recently I published a post titled Behold! The Power of Cheese that featured recipes from the October 1926 issue of THE FARMER’S WIFE — A MAGAZINE FOR FARM WOMEN. The article was promoting the use of cheese for its flavor, versatility and nutritional value. A recipe called Cheese-Tomato Rice, which uses cheese as a garnish, reminded me of my Spanish Rice recipe because of the similar ingredients. It is interesting how much more flavor we like in our food compared to what was acceptable one hundred years ago. Whenever I serve this dish to company or at a potluck, I get a request for the recipe so I thought I would share it here. It is a great side dish for most any Mexican or Tex-Mex entree, just be sure to garnish with plenty of cheese. Enjoy!

~Elaine

Cookbook Lady's Spanish Rice

  • Difficulty: Intermediate
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 1 large jalapeno, seeded and diced
  • 1–2 bell peppers, any color, diced
  • 1/2 large sweet onion, diced
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. Mexican oregano
  • 1 tsp. ground coriander
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1-1/2 cups long-grain rice, rinsed (not cooked)
  • 1 (15 oz.) can fire-roasted tomatoes
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 (15 oz.) can black beans, rinsed and drained (optional)
  • S&P to taste
  • Shredded Mexican Blend cheese for garnish

Directions

In a large Dutch-oven, over medium heat, saute jalapeno, bell peppers and onion in oil until onion is translucent. Stir in cumin oregano, coriander and garlic powder. Add rinsed rice to the spice and vegetable mixture and saute for two minutes.

Add canned tomatoes, chicken stock, salt and sugar; bring mixture to a simmer. Cover tightly, place Dutch-oven in oven and bake at 350* for 16 to 20 minutes or until rice is tender, stirring halfway through cooking time.

Remove from oven and allow rice to stand for five minutes. Toss in chopped cilantro, drained black beans and season to taste. Garnish with plenty of cheese.

Recipe Compliments of cookbooklady.com

Strawberry Shortcake

“The minute the biscuit is taken from the oven, it is slathered with butter, and partially crushed berries are ladled over the hot wedges.” ~Marcia Adams, Cooking from Quilt Country 1989

Picking Strawberries

close up photo of strawberries
Freshly Picked Strawberries

When I was growing up, my family lived not too far from a U-pick strawberry farm. Each year around the first of June, it was tradition to drive the station wagon loaded with shallow boxes to the farm to pick berries at the crack of dawn (strawberries get warm and soft as the day wears on). We would crawl along the rows of strawberry plants filling our buckets and our bellies until we had gathered eight or ten or twelve gallons. We gently emptied the buckets into our boxes, spreading the berries out in a single layer to prevent them from getting mashed. The car smelled of damp earth and warm strawberries as we hurried home to begin our jam making enterprise. For dessert that night there would be Strawberry Shortcake.

My mother was a cake person, as opposed to a sweet biscuit person, so she would bake a large single-layer Hot Milk Cake as the foundation for our Strawberry Shortcake. She would crush and sweeten the berries and whip some cream. It was a fine reward for our hard work. We would eat the jam throughout the year (on homemade bread, I might add), pleased with our efforts.

As fate would have it, I married a man who was a sweet biscuit person, as opposed to a cake person, so I learned how to make sweet biscuits for the foundation of our shortcake. I picked berries each year around the first of June at the same U-pick strawberry farm, spread them out in shallow boxes and brought them home to make jam. For dessert that night I would invite the in-laws over for Strawberry Shortcake, with biscuits, sweetened berries and plenty of whipped cream.

Last year, to change things up, I made a Hot Milk Cake as the foundation for our Strawberry Shortcake. (Sadly the strawberry farmer got old and sold his farm, so I bought my berries from the store). I crushed and sweetened the strawberries and made some whipped cream. When I served dessert, I learned something about myself — I am a sweet biscuit person. (Its important to know these things).

Shortening

IMG_5181
Butter, Lard and Shortening

Shortcake biscuits usually call for shortening so I did some research on this twentieth-century kitchen staple: The production and sale of vegetable shortening began early in the 1900s as a substitute for lard which could not be produced fast enough to meet America’s demand. Butter was also used in baking,  but it couldn’t keep up with the demand either. Thus, prices for lard and butter went higher and higher. Producers of shortening advertised that not only is shortening less expensive, but it also created a better baked product. Shortening was even touted as being as healthful as olive oil. American home cooks were sold.

IMG_5190
For All Shortening and Frying Use COTTOLENE

Interestingly, my oldest twentieth-century cook book, 52 Sunday Dinners 1913, is sponsored by a shortening production company — Cottolene, and it contains a classic recipe for Strawberry Shortcake (below):

 

 

 

 

IMG_5261
Strawberry Shortcake

The shortcake dough is made in typical biscuit fashion, however,  I was interested to discover a “lost” method of creating double-decker biscuits:

“divide the [biscuit] dough into two equal parts, roll each piece [in]to [a round] one-half inch thickness; lay one piece on a buttered jelly cake pan, brush over with soft  butter, and place remaining piece on top. Bake in hot oven”. Voila! Double-decker shortcakes.

For the assembly, the large biscuit is turned out onto a platter, separated, buttered again (gotta love all that butter) and the bottom layer is covered with strawberries. The other biscuit is placed back on top, layered with berries, sprinkled with sugar and “masked” (not sure what masked means) with orange flavored whipped cream. Fancy and delicious!

IMG_5215
Strawberry Mixture — Two Ways

berry close up cooking delicious
Sprinkle Strawberries with Sugar

To prepare the strawberries for shortcake, the recipe (above) offers two suggestions. The first starts with washing, hulling and slicing or lightly crushing the berries. They are then sweetened with a simple syrup made from two cups sugar and one-half cup water, boiled together for four minutes. This boiling method is sure to dissolve all the sugar crystals so there is no surprising crunch in the strawberry mixture. The second suggestion is the way I have always done it — sprinkle sugar over prepared berries, stir to combine and let stand for an hour to allow the sugar to thoroughly dissolve.

More Double-Deckers

Still curious about double-decker shortcakes, I wanted to find out if this concept was unique to one particular cookbook, or if they were featured in other cookbooks as well.

IMG_5229
Biscuit Short Cake

In my 1944 The Household Searchlight Recipe Book, the instructions for Biscuit Short Cake (above) say to combine the biscuit ingredients and roll into a quarter-inch thickness. Different from the recipe above, these will be individual double-decker biscuits, as opposed to a full round. The rolled dough is cut with a floured cutter, then half the biscuits are spread with butter and placed on a baking sheet. The other half of the biscuits are placed on top of their buttered partners, brushed with butter themselves, then popped into a hot oven.

IMG_5259
Watkins Cook Book 1948

Inside an old battered copy of the Watkins Cook Book 1948 is a recipe for Strawberry (Biscuit) Shortcake.  This recipe (below) also says to roll the biscuit dough into a quarter-inch thickness and cut into individual shortcakes, stack two together with butter between and bake.

 

 

 

 

IMG_5239
Strawberry (Biscuit) Shortcake

Across the page from Strawberry (Biscuit) Shortcake is a Sponge Cake recipe (below), said to be, “An excellent cake to serve with… strawberries or sliced peaches and whipped cream”. Finally, a nod to the cake-loving people. (By the way, sliced fresh peaches sweetened with a little sugar over cake or rich biscuits makes an excellent shortcake)!

IMG_5255
Sponge Cake

Betty Crocker Picture Cook Book 1950 and Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book  1953 both have recipes for double-decker shortcakes as well. I just don’t know how this method became “lost” as it appears to have been the standard way of making shortcake for some time.

Old-Fashioned

I got a tickle out of the Betty Crocker Cook Book’s 1950 introduction to Strawberry Shortcake:

“The good old-time American dessert…still first choice”

IMG_5286
Old-Fashioned Strawberry Shortcake 1939

IMG_5271
Crescent Creations 1935

Modern Meal Maker 1939, titled its recipe Old-Fashioned Strawberry Shortcake. In a charming 1935 recipe booklet named Crescent Creations, was yet another recipe for  Old-Fashioned Shortcake. If shortcake was old-fashioned in 1935, what would we call it today? Let’s just call it delicious.

Speaking of old-fashioned, in The Searchlight Household Recipe Book 1944, the recipe for Biscuit Short Cake  was found in the Pudding section. Americans haven’t called dessert “pudding” for over 200 years. What were they thinking?!

Versatile and Adaptable

Two great characteristics not only for humans, but also for our ideas and inventions, is the ability to be versatile and adaptable. The concept of Strawberry Shortcake is just that. Start with freshly baked cake or biscuits, adapt the recipe to the fruit in season and a home cook can create a variety of  shortcakes. This concept of versatility was demonstrated throughout my twentieth-century cookbooks.

food forest blueberries raspberries
Mixed Fruit for Shortcake

I have already touched on Peach Shortcake which was the alternative most frequently mentioned throughout my research. Not surprisingly, many varieties of berries were recommended — raspberries, blackberries and cooked blueberries. A number of fruit combinations were suggested as well: crushed raspberries with diced oranges, sliced bananas with strawberries, rhubarb with pineapple, raspberries with pineapple, and a mixture of cranberries, apple and crushed pineapple.  Finally, the two ideas that seem really unusual were apricot shortcake and applesauce shortcake. Hmmm. Maybe with lots of whipped cream they would be okay.

Thanks for joining me on my shortcake adventure. Below is my mother’s old-fashioned Hot Milk Cake recipe and the recipe that I use for sweet biscuits. This year I’m going to make them double-decker with plenty of butter. Enjoy!

Old-Fashioned Hot Milk Cake

  • Servings: 8-9
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 1 cup cake flour (all-purpose flour will work in a pinch)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • Dash salt

  • 1/2 cup milk, scalded
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup sugar

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350*.
  2. Grease and flour a 9″ round (or square) cake pan or line with parchment paper.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt; set aside.
  4. In a small sauce pan, scald milk. Add butter and vanilla; set aside.
  5. Using an electric mixer, blend eggs until thick and foamy, about three minutes. Continue mixing while gradually adding sugar, about three minutes more.
  6. Add flour mixture  alternately with scalded milk, mixing after each addition.
  7. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake 30 — 35 minutes. Allow cake to cool 15 minutes before removing from pan.

Note: This recipe can be doubled and baked in a 9″X13″ or two layer cake pans. If using 9″X13″ pan, increase baking time by several minutes.

Recipe Compliments of cookbooklady.com

Shortcake Biscuits

  • Servings: 8
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt

  • 1/2 cup (1 cube) butter, frozen

  • 1/2 cup half and half cream
  • 1 egg

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 450*.
  2. In a large, bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.
  3. Cut frozen butter into thin slices, add to flour mixture and cut with a pastry cutter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs; set aside.
  4. Measure the half and half cream into a small bowl, add egg and blend with a fork; set aside.
  5. Create a “well” in the center of the flour and butter mixture. Pour cream and egg mixture into the “well”. Stir with a fork until mixture begins to form a ball.
  6. Turn dough onto a lightly floured board and knead 8 — 10 strokes. Roll to a half-inch thickness and cut with a 2-1/2″ — 3″ lightly floured cutter. Place biscuits on an ungreased or parchment lined baking sheet.
  7. Bake biscuits for 10 — 15 minutes at 450* or until golden brown. Remove from oven and brush lightly with melted butter if desired.

Recipe Compliments of cookbooklady.com

 

 

 

Creamed New Potatoes (and Peas)

Every spring, when I was a kid, my mom would make Creamed New Potatoes and Peas. My siblings and I loved it. Recently, I started wondering about the history of this dish — did the world know about Creamed New Potatoes and Peas or was it just a regional dish developed here in potato-growing country. I delved into my twentieth-century cookbooks to see what I could find. Right away, I learned that Creamed Potatoes has been a “thing” for at least a century, but the peas? Not so much. I also learned, quite unexpectedly, about a “lost” recipe style.

What’s In a Recipe?

My mother cooked mostly without a recipe, but as modern home cooks, we have some expectations regarding the information to be included in a recipe — a list of ingredients, the amount needed, directions on assembly, cooking or baking instructions, even serving suggestions. Interestingly, a number of recipes in my older cookbooks are written instead in a short truncated style that doesn’t include a lot of detail, leaving a home cook to rely on her own instincts and kitchen experience.

Examples of recipes written in this brief style:

027
Creamed New Potatoes 1966

There are no amounts given in the recipe above, nor does it tell the ratio of potatoes to white sauce.  Another brief recipe below, gives only three sentences of instruction. The third recipe again has no measurements. I’m lost!

025
Creamed Potatoes 1939

CREAMED NEW POTATOES AND PEAS 001
Creamed Potatoes 1950

No wonder my mother and grandmother didn’t cook with a recipe. They weren’t always that helpful. One cookbook from the 1930s had so many recipes written in this truncated format that the editors gave them a name — “recipe-ettes” (see below). I’m glad this style didn’t catch on. I prefer lots of detail in my recipes.

023
“Recipe-ettes” 1939

A Creamy Foundation

026
Standard Recipe for White Sauce 1966

While reading, I also looked into the history of white sauce (see recipe above). I learned that white sauce is simply the American version of a french sauce that has been around for hundreds of years called Bechamel (recipe below). Both sauces begin with a roux, which is a mixture of equal parts fat (usually butter) and flour that is cooked together for several minutes. For the American sauce, cold milk or cream is whisked into the hot roux, brought to a boil and simmered until the mixture is thickened. The French add broth to the roux, then finish the bechamel with cream. They also tend to cook their sauces much longer than Americans. I guess we are in a hurry.

028
Bechamel Sauce 1913

Some Creamed New Potato recipes call for a super-simple sauce of heated cream seasoned with butter and salt and pepper to be poured over cooked potatoes (below). That’s for when we are really in a hurry.

CREAMED NEW POTATOES AND PEAS 002
Company Creamed Potatoes 1959

Herbs and Seasonings

029
New York Times Cook Book 1961

Adding herbs or spices to an ordinary dish is a great way to personalize a recipe and turn it into a signature dish. My old cookbooks offered some suggestions. The New York Times Cook Book 1961 featured a recipe for Herbed New Potatoes with Fresh Peas (finally someone added peas!). It calls for two pounds new potatoes, one pound fresh shelled green peas and a little light cream with dried basil for flavor and fresh parsley for garnish.  A Creamed Potatoes recipe found in Joy of Cooking 1985 calls for boiled new potatoes, white sauce and dill seed for flavor.  Betty Crocker’s Picture Cook Book 1950 calls for small new potatoes, white sauce and parsley or chives for garnish. Several other recipes call for a dusting of paprika to finish the dish.

IMG_5151In the late eighties, I watched a cooking show on PBS hosted by Marcia Adams, author of the award-winning cookbook Cooking from Quilt Country 1989 featuring regional (mid-west) home-style cooking. I enjoyed her program so much that I ordered the companion cookbook. I have loved it these past thirty years. The recipes are humble yet delicious, calling for ingredients readily available from farmer’s markets and grocery stores. It is from this book (and my mom’s “recipe”) that I based my recipe for Creamed New Potatoes and Peas (Yes! Adam’s recipe actually calls for peas). She uses two pounds small red potatoes and a cup and a half of green peas, fresh or frozen. The peas are added to the thin white sauce that has been seasoned with nutmeg (I have never included nutmeg), and is then poured over the boiled potatoes. She suggests a garnish of mint leaves or chives. The directions for the dish are four paragraphs long with plenty of detail. Awesome! With the addition of chopped onion, celery and a little garlic, the recipe has become my own. Enjoy!

Creamed Peas and Potatoes

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: Intermediate
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 3 lbs red potatoes

  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 2 ribs celery, finely chopped
  • 1/2 sweet onion, finely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour

  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1-1/2 cup half and half
  • 1/4 cup evaporated milk
  • 1 tsp seasoning salt

  • 6 oz frozen petite peas
  • 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • Sprinkling of smoked paprika or chopped chives for garnish

Directions

  1. Fill medium pot with 1-1/2 quarts water and a Tablespoon of kosher salt; set aside. Rinse potatoes and peel if desired, place into salted water to prevent browning.
  2. Over medium-high heat, bring potatoes to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer for 5 — 6 minutes or until fork tender. Drain and set aside.
  3. Meanwhile, chop celery,  dice onion and mince garlic; set aside.
  4. In a Dutch-oven, melt butter over medium heat. Saute prepared vegetables in butter until limp. Stir in flour to create a roux. Cook and stir for two minutes.
  5. Whisk in chicken broth, half and half and evaporated milk all at once. Bring mixture to a boil, stirring frequently. Reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes or until sauce is thickened. Add seasoning salt.
  6. Turn heat to low and stir in cooked potatoes, frozen peas and lemon juice. Adjust seasonings, garnish and serve.

Recipe Compliments of cookbooklady.com

Rhubarb’s Reign

The coronation of young Queen Victoria of England in 1837 was a time of national celebration. British subjects of every class wanted to have a piece of the event. Manufacturers, having anticipated the forthcoming fervor, produced everything from pins to dinnerware as souvenirs.  A horticultural commemorative was also announced at that time — a newly developed variety of rhubarb, dubbed Victoria Rhubarb in honor of the new queen herself. Said to be easy to grow,  sweet, tender and flavorful, gardeners and dessert makers went wild! As a result, rhubarb reigned supreme in English kitchens throughout Victoria’s lifetime and is still highly regarded.

America’s Pie Plant

rhubarb plant
Rhubarb aka Pie Plant

Meanwhile, as the British Victorians were adding rhubarb to every dish sweet or savory, Americans too were growing and cooking with rhubarb. The humble “pie plant”, a faithful perennial, has been growing  in America’s gardens for hundreds of years, spreading its broad green leaves in the spring sunshine shading slender red/green stalks beneath. One of the earliest “fruits” from the garden (packed with vitamin C), home cooks were glad to have something fresh to put on the table. Needing plenty of sugar to offset its tartness, rhubarb is most often associated with desserts — typically pie.

 In perusing the indexes of my twentieth-century cookbooks, I was astounded to discover that a number of books featured over one hundred variations of pie, including several types of rhubarb pie. It’s very apparent that Americans are fond of pie, but in order to have pie, one must also have good pastry, and it turns out there has been a British influence in our pastry making as well.

From Lard to Butter

For generations, home cooks, including my grandmothers, have used lard (rendered pig fat) — leaf lard to be specific (a higher quality of fat found near the kidneys) —  to make pastry. It is reputed to make the most tender and flaky pie crusts attainable, however, its apparent that lard has been falling out of favor as only one (Joy of Cooking 1985) of a dozen or so twentieth-century cookbooks listed lard as a fat option. Almost all the other pastry recipes called for shortening to be gently worked into the flour with the fingertips or to be cut in using a pastry cutter or two knives scissor-fashion. Several cookbooks included a pastry option made with vegetable oil as opposed to solid shortening. Joy of Cooking 1985 also offered a more modern take on pastry calling for butter in place of some of the shortening (using all butter in pastry is trending at the present time). A few other unusual pastry additions that I came across were lemon juice, vinegar, white wine, an egg, milk instead of water, boiling water instead of ice water and — most surprisingly — baking powder.

Secret Ingredient

IMG_5118
Royal Baking Powder Cook Book (Publication Date Unknown)

In a cookbook pamphlet put out by the Royal Baking Powder Company, publication date unknown, I discovered a recipe for Plain Pastry (above) calling for one teaspoon of baking powder to be sifted in with the flour and salt. A paragraph at the top of the page (also above) explains why baking powder should be add to the pastry — “baking powder added to pastry will help to make it light and flaky”. Thinking that this was just a quirky idea put out by a baking powder company, I was quite surprised to find it again in my 1913 Fifty-Two Sunday Dinners Cook Book. I then discovered an English Pastry recipe in Betty Crocker’s Picture Cook Book 1950 that also calls for baking powder. Evidently the idea of using baking powder to make the perfect pie crust comes from across the pond. I don’t know if British home cooks still use it, but in America, I think baking powder in pastry is mostly “lost”.

Types of Rhubarb Pie

While researching, I categorized rhubarb pie into three general types: traditional Rhubarb Pie containing rhubarb cut in small pieces, sweetened with plenty of sugar, thickened with flour, cornstarch or tapioca, a pinch of salt and a pat of butter; secondly, Rhubarb Custard Pie containing the above ingredients, as well as, two or three eggs lightly beaten, a little milk or cream and a dash of nutmeg; and then thirdly — a combination Rhubarb Pie — similar to the traditional pie but filled with a mixture of rhubarb and another fruit such as strawberries, blueberries or pineapple. Yes, I found recipes with each of these combinations.

An Unusual Combination

IMG_5123
Rhubarb (Raisin) Pie with Cracker Crumbs

Speaking of combination pies, the most unusual Rhubarb Pie recipe appears in my grandmother’s The Household Searchlight Recipe Book 1944 (above). The recipe was sent in by a subscriber of Household Magazine and was included in their cookbook. It seems to be a combination of Rhubarb Pie and Raisin Pie. I like rhubarb and I like raisins, but combined? Not so much! And oddly, its thickened with cracker crumbs. Are we talking saltines here or graham cracker crumbs? I just don’t know. The other thing I wonder is why are there smudges on this page. My grandmother owned this cookbook her whole adult life so they would have happened in her kitchen. Did she try this rhubarb/raisin concoction?!  I wonder if my grandfather liked it. Would I like some? No, thank you.

Recipe Found

IMG_5094
Rhubarb Whipped Cream Pie

On the opposite end of the Rhubarb Pie spectrum is a recipe I am dying to try: Rhubarb Whipped Cream Pie (above) found in the newest of my old cookbooks — The American Woman’s Cook Book 1966. Not a typical baked two-crust pie, it is a sort of cream-pie-meets-ice-box pie with a crumb crust. To begin the filling, the recipe calls for stewed rhubarb which is simply chopped rhubarb and sugar simmered with a few tablespoons of water until the rhubarb is just tender. Unflavored gelatin is then added to lend stability to the filling. When the cooked mixture is cooled, the heavy cream is whipped and gently folded into the stewed rhubarb. The luscious mixture is spooned into a nine-inch crumb pie shell and refrigerated until firmly set. You will notice that the recipe calls for a Cereal Flake Pie Shell. This is simply crushed cornflakes made into a pie crust similar to a graham cracker crumb crust which could easily be substituted. It is really too bad that this recipe has become “lost” over the years. I plan to give it a try when my rhubarb comes on. I’ll get back to you. (I tried the recipe for Rhubarb Whipped Cream Pie! Here are my results).

I hope you have enjoyed our cookbook journey. Below is the Rhubarb Custard Pie recipe that I have used for nearly forty years. It is my husband’s favorite. Enjoy!

Rhubarb Custard Pie

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: Intermediate
  • Print

Ingredients

  • Pastry for a 9″ double crust pie

  • 4 cups rhubarb, cut in 1″ pieces

  • 1-1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • Dash of salt

  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten

  • 1 Tbsp butter

Directions

  1. Adjust rack to lower half of oven and preheat to 400*.
  2. Prepare pastry for a  double crust pie. Line a 9″ pie plate with bottom pastry and roll out top crust; set aside.
  3. Wash rhubarb stalks, wipe dry and cut into 1″ pieces; set aside.
  4. In a medium-size bowl, combine sugar, flour, nutmeg and salt; stir to combine.
  5. In a small bowl, beat eggs lightly with a fork, add to dry mixture; stir to combine. Fold in prepared rhubarb pieces.
  6. Spoon rhubarb mixture into lined pie dish, dot with butter and adjust top crust, cutting slits for steam to escape. Trim, seal and crimp edges.
  7. Bake at 400* for 50 minutes. Cover pie with foil last 10 minutes if pastry browns too quickly.

Option: Before baking, lightly brush top pastry with a little milk and sprinkle with a pinch or two of sugar to add sparkle and crunch.

Recipe Compliments of cookbooklady.com

 

 

A Platter Full of Deviled Eggs

My recent cookbook reading has me focused on deviled eggs — those rich, creamy ovals  of savory goodness that speak to us of Easter egg hunts and summer picnics.

A Dollop of Mayonnaise

IMG_5045
A Dollop of Mayonnaise

In today’s kitchen, mayonnaise is the prescribed ingredient to moisten and bind mashed egg yolks for  Deviled Eggs, but the more recipes  I read, the more I wonder if this has always been the case, and if not, what did home cooks use instead. For a little background, I looked into the history of mayonnaise and I learned that Richard Hellmann, a German immigrant and entrepreneur, opened a delicatessen in New York City at the turn of the last century. It turns out that his salads were very popular due to his amazing dressing. Soon customers were asking to buy just the mayonnaise for use at home. This led Hellmann to leave the deli business and begin mass producing his dressing and selling it in glass jars with a blue bow on the label. Around 1915 the distribution of the still popular Hellmann’s/Best Foods mayonnaise began.  When the product became widely available I can’t say, but I imagine most rural home cooks continued making their own mayonnaise for a number of years after that, or used something else instead.

When I came across a Deviled Egg recipe from the early to mid-twentieth century that called for mayonnaise, I also perused the mayo recipe. They were eye opening. Never having made homemade mayonnaise myself, I realized that the task was tedious indeed, especially before high-speed electric blenders, mixers and immersion blenders were in every kitchen.

IMG_4912
Fifty-Two Sunday Dinners by Elizabeth O. Hiller 1913

IMG_4908
Fifty Two Sunday Dinners 1913 Mayonnaise Dressing Recipe

My earliest twentieth-century cookbook, Fifty Two Sunday Dinners 1913 (above), includes an extra fancy deviled egg recipe that we will look at later, and a basic recipe for mayonnaise dressing. Its interesting that the recipe calls specifically for olive oil, a product that is ancient yet current at the same time, and that the mayo is to be beaten by hand, one-drop-of-oil-at-a-time, a process that could seemingly take forever.

IMG_4915
Modern Meal Maker by Martha Meade 1939

Another mayonnaise recipe, this one from Martha Meade’s book Modern Meal Maker 1939, suggests that a cook begin the mayo making process by thoroughly combining a cooked egg yolk and a raw egg yolk, then adding salad oil a tablespoon at a time using a hand-cranked rotary beater.

IMG_4946
Joy of Cooking by Irma S. Rombauer 1985

The classic Joy of Cooking by Irma Rombauer 1985 (above) is the most comprehensive of my twentieth century cookbooks in instructing home cooks on the art of making mayonnaise. The book includes three different methods, each requiring varying amounts of elbow grease.

The first recipe calls for raw egg yolks, vinegar or lemon juice and salad oil added drop by drop with dry mustard, cayenne and confectioners sugar (yes, confectioners sugar) for flavor, stirring all the while by hand.

The second recipe is the same as the first except that the ingredients are combined using an electric mixer.

Finally, the third recipe recommends  a whole raw egg and using an electric blender to emulsify the ingredients. Recognizing that the process of making mayonnaise is long and intense, Ms. Rombauer prompts her readers not to despair. She also advises home cooks to avoid making mayonnaise when a thunderstorm threatens as the ingredients will never emulsify. Who knew?

IMG_5080
The Household Searchlight Recipe Book 1944

The most unusual mayonnaise dressing recipe that I  found  was in my grandmother’s The Household Searchlight Recipe Book 1944 (above) calling for sweetened condensed milk instead of egg yolks, combined with mustard, vinegar, oil and paprika. Seriously! Who doesn’t love sweetened condensed milk, however, I have never used it in a savory application.

Dairy and Mayonnaise

butter

Not only were home cooks of yesteryear using mayonnaise in their stuffed eggs, but I discovered that many were using dairy products along with or instead of mayonnaise to moisten the egg yolks.

IMG_5039
The Good Housekeeping Cookbook 1963

For example, in The Good Housekeeping Cookbook of 1963 the recipe for Deviled Eggs says to blend melted butter OR mayonnaise into the mashed yolks.

On the following page, a recipe for Stuffed Eggs De Luxe calls for mayonnaise OR cooked salad dressing. A quick check in the index led me to a fairly typical recipe for homemade mayonnaise and a recipe for Cooked or Boiled Salad Dressing which is made by preparing a rich white sauce with egg and milk, seasoned with salt, sugar, prepared mustard and vinegar and finished with a pat of butter.  I think it actually sounds pretty tasty. Even though it has to be cooked 10–15 minutes and then cooled before using, it seems like it might be easier to make than mayonnaise.

IMG_4961
Betty Crocker’s Picture Cook Book 1950

Betty Crocker Picture Cook Book 1950 (above) has a Deviled Egg recipe with three options to dress the yolks — salad dressing (Is this referring to Miracle Whip?), vinegar OR cream. American Woman’s Cook Book 1966 suggests mixing buttermilk with the mashed yolks.

IMG_4946
Joy of Cooking by Irma S. Rombauer 1985

Referring back to the Joy of Cooking cookbook 1985, we find the widest variety of dressing options for Deviled Eggs:

The first option listed, french dressing, I have a hunch, is referring to a vinaigrette-type dressing, so called since the mid-1800s, as opposed to the sweet, catsup-based, pourable dressing developed by Kraft in the 1920s, but either one could be delicious.

The next dressing suggestions are sweet cream or cultured sour cream. Sweet cream is the thick, fatty molecules that rise to the top of milk that has not been homogenized, whereas, cultured sour cream is a commercially prepared dairy product made from cream to which a bacterial culture is added to create a thick, tangy product that is sold in stores to be dolloped on top of everything from tacos to baked potatoes and evidently, mixed into egg yolks.

Final options: soft butter with vinegar and sugar would be interesting to try. Then there is my mother and grandmother’s secret ingredient — sweet pickle juice — mixed with store-bought mayonnaise, of course.

Deviled Eggs with a Flair

Home cooks hosting a party may want Deviled Eggs to look a little fancy. In my research, I found several recipes suggesting ways to do just that:

IMG_5043
The New York Time Cook Book by Craig Claiborne 1961

Craig Claiborne’s book The New York Times Cook Book 1961 (above) recommends binding the yolks with a room temperature butter and mayonnaise combination. He then suggests two methods for filling the egg white divots in an attractive way  using a piping bag:

Design number one is achieved by slicing the hard-cooked eggs lengthwise and using a star tip in a piping bag to fill the egg whites with dressed yolks using a back and forth motion creating a “Turk’s Head” appearance (his words not mine).

Claiborne’s other design is created by cutting the hard-cooked eggs in half width-wise, then filling the divots using a pastry bag with a round tip, piping the yolk in a spiral pattern coming to a peak at the center.

Similarly, Joy of Cooking 1985 suggests cutting the eggs width-wise at both ends creating a barrel-shaped Deviled Egg that will stand on its own.

IMG_5087
Watercress and Egg Salad

Speaking of barrel-shaped eggs, this Deviled Egg recipe from Fifty Two Sunday Dinners 1913 (above) recommends cutting eggs in half crosswise in a manner that tops of whites will be notched (think a chevron or zig-zag pattern). Once the yolks have been dressed, shaped into a ball, dipped in chopped parsley and carefully placed back in the white, the finished egg will resemble a white tulip with a green center. Place a prepared egg in a nest of water cress with a vinaigrette dressing and you have Watercress and Egg Salad. Extra fancy indeed!

Add-Ins and Add-Ons

Its been said “the devil is in the details” and in the case of Deviled Eggs this seems to be true. Cookbook after twentieth century cookbook lists ingredients that can be added to dressed yolks or sprinkled, flaked or dolloped on top. For example:

Herbs, Spices and Seasonings: paprika — the most frequently called for, cayenne, curry, chives, tarragon, chervil, parsley, basil, oregano, burnet (Google it), horseradish, minced onion, chopped ginger, Worcestershire, hot pepper sauce or catsup.

Pickles and Such: dill pickles, sweet pickles, capers, black olives, stuffed green olives or  truffles.

Meats and Cheeses: Bleu cheese, Roquefort cheese, Cheddar, cream cheese, minced ham or beef tongue, crumbled bacon, sauteed chicken livers or foie gras.

Fish and Seafood: anchovy paste, sardine paste, smoked salmon, flaked tuna, lobster or crab meat, shrimp or caviar.

Finally, the most surprising add-in of all was suggested in my grandmother’s The Household Searchlight Recipe Book 1944 in a Stuffed Egg recipe that calls for six hard-cooked eggs. The mashed yolks are  mixed with a little mayonnaise, prepared mustard, vinegar, salt, paprika and ground raisins. Yes, one-third cup ground raisins blended into the yolk mixture and scooped back into the egg whites. Yikes! I wonder if my grandmother ever tried that recipe.

I hope you have enjoyed our cookbook journey. Its apparent that home cooks have been making Deviled Eggs for at least a hundred years and I’m positive we will continue on into the next century. I have included my own tried and true Deviled Egg recipe below. Enjoy!

Deviled Eggs

  • Servings: 12
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 1 dozen hard-cooked eggs, cooled and peeled
  • 6 Tbsp mayonnaise
  • 2 Tbsp brine from stuffed green olives or rice vinegar
  • 2 tsp Gulden’s brown mustard
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • Dash of ground pepper
  • Sprinkling of smoked paprika for garnish

Directions

  1. Slice hard-cooked eggs in half lengthwise. Carefully remove yolks into a medium–size bowl. Set egg whites aside.
  2. Mash yolks with a fork. Add mayonnaise, brine or vinegar, mustard, sugar, salt and pepper to the yolks and cream ingredients together with an electric mixer until smooth.
  3. Using a one inch scoop (#60), drop a spoonful of prepared yolk mixture into the divot of each egg white.
  4. Sprinkle eggs with a pinch of smoked paprika. Cover and refrigerate until service. Enjoy!

Recipe Compliments of cookbooklady.com