Cooking With Ida–Cake Baking

Hello, again History Lovers,

A post from two weeks ago featured the cottage industry of Mrs. Alta Dunn, Cooking For Cash. Mrs. Dunn’s catering business supplied a friend and businesswoman with a weekly order of home-baked bread, desserts, one-dish meals, and dressed meats. She also filled orders from other folks from time to time. The article spoke quite a bit about her baking and even included one of her cake recipes. Curious about how Mrs. Dunn’s recipe compared to other recipes of that time, I did some research in Ida Bailey Allen’s Cooking Menus Service cookbook of 1924. Below I have posted Ms. Allen’s technical advice for cake baking. The ingredients are not so different from today’s however all the mixing and whipping would have been done by hand. Mrs. Dunn was from a rural area in the west and she likely did her baking in a wood and/or coal oven.

Enjoy!

COOKING MENUS SERVICE–Cakes by Ida Bailey Allen

Cooking Menus Service 1924 by Ida Bailey Allen

“It is not the materials alone, nor is it the manipulation alone which makes good cake, but a careful combination of the two. Every cookbook gives many cake recipes, but if these are analyzed it will be seen that the cakes themselves are closely related and belong to one of two families—(a) the sponge-cake family, (b) the butter-cake family. If one can make a good sponge cake and a good butter cake the entire field of cake making lies ahead, for the difference between one cake and another is more that of a slight change in consistency, flavoring, or filling and frosting than any basic variation in the actual cake batter itself.”

Making a Cake

“The proper order of procedure in making any cake is as follows:

  1. Read the recipe carefully.
  2. Prepare the pans.
  3. Assemble the ingredients.
  4. Assemble the utensils.
  5. Prepare the oven.
  6. Measure the ingredients and make the cake.

It is quite essential that these steps be followed in the order given, each being relatively important to the next. Reading the recipe gives the worker an intelligent grasp of what is to be done and how, and as some cakes might be spoiled if kept waiting before baking, it is obvious that the next point in order is the preparation of the cake pan: the reasons for the remaining steps are self-explanatory.”

Mixing a Butter-Cake Batter

“The mixing should be done sitting down. Measure the shortening; if it is very hard, the mixing bowl should first have been warmed with hot water, but the fat itself should not be melted. The shortening should then be creamed or beaten until soft, preferably with a flat wooden spoon; the sugar is then worked into it, flavoring added, and then the egg yolks or the whole egg, well beaten, according to the recipe.

Sift the flour, measure, and put back in the sifter with the salt and baking powder. Measure the liquid in the cup used for the fat. Put a little of the flour into the cake mixture, stir in some of the liquid, and proceed in this way until all are in. The direction in which you stir makes no difference. Then fold in the egg whites, whipped until stiff, with an over-and-over motion, if they are to be added last. They should be beaten until the mixture will remain in the bowl inverted.

The cake should then be put in the pan, the mixture being made higher at the edges and corners to ensure even rising. It is then ready to be baked.”

Mixing a Sponge-Cake Batter

“In sponge cakes in which no shortening is employed an entirely different method of manipulation is required. For some sponge cakes the egg yolks and sugar are beaten together until light, the flavoring added, the flour and salt well sifted, gently folded in and the whites of the eggs, which have been beaten until stiff and dry, folded carefully into the cake batter last of all. Or in some instances, the whole eggs, yolk and whites together, are beaten with the sugar. The first method gives a cake that is lighter than that made by the second but the cake will dry out more quickly.

An egg-beater of the whisk type is preferable to one of rotary or Dover style due to the fact that with the whisk more air is incorporated into the mixture, making it lighter and fluffier in texture. A large bowl should be used in the making of the sponge cake to allow plenty of room for long sweeping strokes of the beater. A very delicious and firm smooth sponge cake is sometimes made by cooking the sugar with a little water until it threads—230 degrees F.—then pouring this over the thoroughly beaten yolks and eggs, adding the flour and the whites of eggs beaten until stiff.”

Preparing the Cake Pans

“Ordinary layer-cake pans should be oiled, a brush being used for this purpose, every crevice and corner receiving its share of the oil. If this is thoroughly done there should be no difficulty in removing the cake after baking. A smooth surface texture is secured by dusting the pan thickly with flour after oiling, then tapping it sharply on the table to remove any loose particles of flour, or fine granulated sugar may be used instead of the flour, the loose particles being removed in the same manner.

Cakes containing a large amount of sugar or molasses will burn more readily than the less sweet varieties. To avoid this, line the pan with waxed or oiled paper.”

Filling the Pans

“Have the cake pans less than two-thirds filled with batter. For layer and loaf cakes spread evenly over the surface of the pan, pressing it well into the corners, and have the batter a little thicker around the sides of the pan than in the center. As the tendency of cake batter is to rise more in the center than at the sides this procedure will ensure a smooth, even surface after baking.”

Baking a Cake

“The first rule to be remembered in cake baking, as indeed in all other baking, is that infinitely more food is spoiled by the use of too much heat than by too little. Large cakes require a slower oven than small ones. Gentle slow baking results in lighter cake, a delicately browned surface, and smooth fine grain. Always place cakes in the lower part of the oven at first so that the under-heat may help them to rise to their fullest height before browning. If put on the upper shelf the heat thrown down forms a crust that prevents proper rising.

The time of baking may be divided into three periods of equal length. During the first the oven should be only moderately hot to allow the cake to rise, during the second the heat may be increased to form a crust and brown the surface and during the third and last it should again be reduced to thoroughly cook the cake to the center.

To find out whether a cake is done, insert a metal or straw tester gently in the center of the cake, leave it a second, then withdraw. If it comes away perfectly clean the cake is sufficiently baked, but if it is at all sticky continue the baking for a few minutes longer.

When done, the cake shrinks from the sides of the pan and springs back if lightly touched. It gives forth no steaming or crackling sound.”

Cake Baking Hints

  1. “Cake should never be moved in the oven until it has reached its fullest height.
  2. If cake appears to be browning too rapidly reduce the heat and cover the cake with a sheet of paper.
  3. If cake habitually bakes too quickly on the bottom, set the pan containing it in another pan, which may, if desired, be partly filled with sand, the being a non-conductor of heat.
  4. The oven may be cooled quickly, if necessary, by putting a pan of cold water into it.
  5. The cake which cracks open during the baking indicates either that too much flour has been used in it or that it has been baked in too quick an oven and is therefore browned before it rises to its fullest height.
  6. A coarse-textured cake denotes the use of too much baking powder or of insufficient beating.
  7. A cake which falls after baking indicates too little flour, too much shortening, or that it was removed from the oven before being thoroughly cooked.
  8. A wire cooling rack or tray will be found very useful for cooling cakes, cookies, and biscuits, and indeed all baked products. Being slightly raised on wire feet it allows a current of air to pass all around whatever is placed on it, so that there is no soggy under-surface caused by collected moisture. A very good substitute is a wire oven shelf rested on four cups or muffin pans.”

Cake Frosting

“The terms “icing” and “frosting” are practically synonymous and may be used interchangeably. Frostings or icings may be either cooked or uncooked, made with water, milk, or fruit juice as the liquid, but always have either sugar, syrup, or honey as the main sweet ingredient.”

~FWM

The above article was originally published in Cooking Menus Service 1924 by Ida Bailey Allen, Doubleday, Duran & Company, Inc., Garden City, N.Y. Articles may be edited for length and clarity.

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

Cooking With Ida–The Range

Mrs. Ida Bailey Allen cooking in her home kitchen 1917
Cast Iron Wood Cookstove 1800s

Hello History Lovers!

One hundred years ago, Mrs. Ida Bailey Allen, a prolific cookbook author, and home economics educator published a cookbook titled the Woman’s World Calendar Cook Book 1922. Each month featured menu suggestions, recipes, and an article on a topic of importance to an early twentieth-century homemaker. December’s article is titled The Range and Its Operation. By reading the article I realized there was a lot I didn’t know about the development of cookstoves. My perception was that homemakers cooked on behemoth wood-burning stoves (see image above) up until electric stoves magically appeared in kitchens across America sometime in the early twentieth century. As it turns out there were many improvements that took place along the way.

In the 1700s cooking took place in an open hearth. Late in that century the fire was taken from the hearth and placed in a cast-iron box with a flat cooking surface giving birth to the woodburning cookstove. During the 1800s these stoves became more and more user-friendly, less bulky, and highly decorative. By the 1900s experimentation with different types of fuel (coal, manufactured oil/gas, and kerosene) led to the development of cookstoves that could not only burn a different type of fuel (Kerosene) but some models could burn several different fuels (wood, coal, oil/gas) with little adjustment to the stove.

Below are advertisements from the 1920s illustrating cutting-edge ranges of the day. I have also included excerpts from Ida’s book most of which focus on economizing on the use of cooking fuels.

Enjoy!

Advertisement for a Combination Wood and Coal Range 1924

The Coal Range

To get the best results from a coal range it is necessary to understand thoroughly its drafts and mechanism. A little practice will soon show you how to adjust these so as to economize on fuel.

In no part of one’s housekeeping is proper planning of greater value than in connection with the range, whether it be gas or coal. On ironing day, when a hot fire is needed to heat the irons, plan an oven meal of the kind which needs little actual attention—Baked Potatoes, Poor Man’s Rice Pudding, or some Casserole dish. Then, on your regular baking day, plan for further baked dishes which can be held over for a subsequent day’s meals, because the same heat which will bake your pie will also bake potatoes, or will cook the cereal.

As far as the care of the coal range is concerned, there are only two things which must be given serious consideration:

  1. Keep a clear fire by shaking down the greater part of the burned-out ashes which collect in the lower part of the grate, that the air may circulate freely, making the coals glow and give off their stored-up power.
  2. Keep the flues clean and clear of soot and dust, for if these are not kept clean you cannot have proper heat in the oven.
Advertisement for a Combination Coal and Gas Range 1924

Gas/Oil Ranges

This type of fuel was particularly interesting to me. Sometimes called gas and sometimes called oil it refers to a manufactured fuel made from coal, petroleum, waste fats, oils, or gasoline.

A little thought and care will result in materially reducing the cost of cooking by gas/oil. For instance, a steam cooker that operates over one burner makes it possible to cook two or three things at one time, and even without a steam cooker, one can still do this by the use of double and triple saucepans, all of which are placed over one burner.

The newest style of gas/oil range has a solid top like that of a coal range (as opposed to individual burners), the heat from each burner radiating so that a large surface of the stovetop around it is heated, and this materially reduces the gas/oil bill because two or three things can be cooking by this radiated heat.

There are three sizes of burners on almost all gas/oil ranges:

  1. The simmerer
  2. The regular-sized burner
  3. The giant burner

The simmerer is actually used less than any other burner, whereas it should be the hardest worked, for its heat is quite enough to carry on cooking operations after the boiling point has been reached. The giant burner should be employed only when very large cooking utensils are being used.

Be sure that the mixer is properly regulated so that enough air is burned with the gas to give a blue flame and not a red one. The latter wastes gas/oil, soils the pans and gives off less heat than the blue flame.

Advertisement for a Kerosene Stove 1920s

The Kerosene Stove

As ranges moved away from being the cookstove as well as the main heat source in a home, the kerosene stove was touted as an appliance that would help keep the kitchen and the cook cool. However, kerosene stoves never became wildly popular as they were perceived by consumers as a real fire hazard.

A kerosene stove is invaluable, especially for summer use, where gas or electricity are not available. It is sometimes stated that oil is a dangerous form of fuel to use. All fire is dangerous unless intelligently handled, and there is no more reason for banishing an oil stove than any other stove.

A three-burner oil stove with a portable oven will do the necessary cooking for a small family. Give it the same care that you would give to oil lamps. See that the oil tank is properly filled, that the wicks are trimmed, that they are long enough to reach properly into the oil, and be careful that the saucepans placed on the oil stove are not over-filled so that there is no danger of boiling over.

Baking can be done just as thoroughly with oil as with any other fuel. In baking, use the upper shelf of the oven as much as possible, especially in the baking of pies with a bottom crust, because if baked too close to the flame the under crust may become overdone before the top and filling are cooked.

Oven Temperatures

In baking with any form of fuel—electricity, gas, coal, or oil—remember that more food is spoiled by too much heat than by too little.

Accustom yourself to the use of an oven thermometer. It is inexpensive, and it does give a feeling of assurance.

  • A very slow oven, 250 to 300 degrees F.
  • A moderate oven, 325 to 350 degrees F.
  • A hot oven, 350 to 375 degrees F.
  • A very hot oven, 375 to 450 degrees F.

At the turn of the twentieth century, the use of natural gas and electricity was in its infancy in urban areas. In very rural areas it would be decades before either was available.

Articles may be edited for length and clarity.

Cooking With Ida: Potato Stuffing–1924

Hello Friends,

Over the weekend, I did some Cooking With Ida, this time exploring stuffing recipes from a hundred years ago. Mrs. Allen’s book Cooking Menus Service (1924) was my source. The heading of the Meats and Meat Dishes section restates Ida’s primary focuses in her cookbooks–economy through self-reliance (cooking with what you can produce and preserve yourself) and zero-waste. This section includes several inventive/frugal stuffing recipe options. Each recipe includes bread, however, bread is not the main ingredient.

Sage and Onion Stuffing

The first recipe, Sage-and-Onion Stuffing, begins with familiar ingredients–bread, sage, poultry seasoning, and onions–six large onions! The onions are to be boiled in water until tender then finely chopped. Two cups of bread that has been soaked in cold water for one hour then squeezed dry is combined with the onions and seasonings and is then stuffed in the bird.

Giblet Stuffing

Giblet Stuffing, a common stuffing even today, is to be prepared by simmering “one set” of giblets until tender and chopping them. Two cupsful of bread are prepared (similar to the recipe above) by soaking the bread in water and squeezing it until “quite dry”. The moist bread is then tossed with two minced apples, two minced onions, prepared giblets, poultry seasoning, and salt and pepper.

Corn Stuffing

Corn Stuffing, not to be confused with cornbread stuffing, is another option. One cupful of canned corn or dried and stewed corn (evidently including the liquid) and poultry seasoning is heated with two tablespoons of butter or butter substitute (think salt pork or bacon fat). Two cups of crumbled stale bread, minced parsley, and “scraped” onion is stirred into the warm corn mixture. It is then ready for stuffing the bird or to be baked as a side dish.

Potato Stuffing

The recipe that I chose to prepare was Ida’s Potato Stuffing. The reason for my choice was twofold. First, the recipe was made up of three cups of mashed potatoes and one cup of stale breadcrumbs with minced onion and seasonings. I love mashed potatoes, and so does my husband, so I knew he would be on board as a taste-tester. We also raised our family on meat and potatoes, so leftover mashed potatoes were always in the fridge. Following Ida’s zero-waste philosophy, mashed potatoes as stuffing would have been a natural fit for my family.

The recipe calls for three cupsful of hot mashed potatoes, and since mine were leftovers, I reheated them in the microwave. My leftovers had been seasoned with salt, pepper, melted butter, and sour cream. However, that is not what the original recipe was calling for, but it definitely elevated the final dish! For the breadcrumbs, I used one cup of panko because that is what I had in the pantry. I sauteed the minced onion in a half cup of butter instead of salt pork or bacon fat. I also sauteed a heaping cup of chopped celery for texture, even though the recipe didn’t call for it. An egg tossed in at the end to bind the ingredients together might have been a luxury a hundred years ago as hens lay fewer and fewer eggs as fall progresses. I baked the stuffing at 325 degrees for about 35 minutes in an uncovered casserole dish just until the edges started to crisp up. My kitchen smelled like Thanksgiving!

The results of our taste test revealed that it was delicious, however, we really missed the texture of bread stuffing. The chopped celery that I added helped texturally, but I should have chopped it more coarsly. In a tight economical situation, I can see using this recipe as a substitute for bread stuffing, and being proud to serve it.

Good luck in your Thanksgiving preparations and/or travels. Check back on Wednesday for a heartwarming story of a Community Friendsgiving from 1922.

Elaine

Cooking With Ida

Crumbs from the Rich Man’s Table

They have a place--
Crumbs. 
Singly--they mean little. 
Part of the whole--they have the same attributes.
O crumbs from the Rich Man's Table, what are you that we have not? 
You are not air, full and free. 
You are not water, clean and pure. 
You are not sunshine. 
Often you represent foolish desire--Waste, envy, or jealousy.
Why live or think in terms of crumbs? 
The penny is a dollar's crumb. 
The crust a part of the loaf. 
The scraps part of the roast. 
The wasted gas, part of the bill. 
"Crumbs" 
They are worth thought for what they can be.
Not the Rich Man's Crumbs. 
Let me gather up my fragments 
And make them whole.

This post begins a new series within my blog titled Cooking With Ida. It is inspired by the works of cookbook author Ida Bailey Allen.

Ida was born in 1885 in Connecticut. As a young woman, she studied domestic science and nutrition in New York and Massachusetts which led to her life’s work. Considered one of the most prolific cookbook writers in American history, Ida Bailey Allen published her earliest cookbook in 1916. Throughout her lifetime she would write and publish over fifty books including her final work Best-Loved Recipes of the American People in 1973, the year she died.

Drafted by the US Food Administration during WWI, Ida became an influential educator and lecturer on nutrition and home economics. She was an active food writer and subsequently became food editor for Good Housekeeping Magazine.

In 1928, Mrs. Allen began hosting a regular daytime radio show. Her show became so popular, it was extended from a one-hour time slot to two hours. In time she branched into television becoming the first female cooking show host. Ida Bailey Allen eventually reached national celebrity status as “The Nation’s Homemaker”. Today her cookbooks are highly collectible.

Using Ida Bailey Allen’s book Cooking, Menus, Service published in 1924 as reference, I will share the recipes and procedures that were required for rural homemakers of her day to prepare a meal for their family. The poem at the top of this post is from this cookbook and accurately represents Ida’s kitchen philosophy — thrift, economy, zero waste, and good nutrition according to the science of her day. The “Crumbs…are worth thought” mindset helped Mrs. Allen guide homemakers through food shortages of WWI, the agricultural depression of the 1920s, the Great Depression of the 1930s, and the food rationing during WWII.

With Thanksgiving in mind, next week Ida will coach us through preparing the turkey for Thanksgiving dinner. See you then.

Elaine