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Gram’s Cookbook – Page 9

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My mom sent me a copy of a picture of Gram, probably in her early 20’s.  I don’t have any pictures of myself like this – all snapshots and the like.  And now days, all digital.  The ambrotype and tintype processes weren’t invented until the 1850’s… and no doubt took a few years to make it to the Kansas area.  Even still, pictures of everyday things weren’t possible, so we are left with these treasured portraits of our family members.

Gram's Cookbook - Page 9

This is the second page that was written on in Gram’s Cookbook.  I decided not to make these as breads are generally the same (well, to me…) and because I just didn’t have time this week.

The recipes:


 3 cups sponge

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup lard


1 cup warm sweet milk

Let raise, work is.

Making into buns let raise.

Bake in a slow oven.

Mrs. A. J. Williams

Baking Powder Biscuit

2 cups of flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

4 level teaspoons baking powder

Sift these three together!

1 heaping teaspoon lard

1 heaping teaspoon butter

Mixed thoroughly in the dry ingredients.

Moisten with milk – not too soft.  Pat and cut out.  Bake in quick oven.

Mrs. Frank T. Frist Clint Tex.

Written near Tulanosa 9-27-17

So, a couple of things jump out from these recipes.  First – sponge?  From what I can determine on line, a sponge is a mixture of flour, water and yeast that is allowed to sit on the counter for around 8 hours until it becomes thick and sticky.  For a recipe on how to make a sponge, please visit the folks at Astray Recipes.

Remember, this is in the days before instant or rapid rise yeast, so this sort of thing was how bread was made back then.  The following is from Wikipedia…

Refinements in microbiology following the work of Louis Pasteur led to more advanced methods of culturing pure strains. In 1879, Great Britain introduced specialized growing vats for the production of S. cerevisiae, and in the United States around the turn of the century centrifuges were used for concentrating the yeast,[12] making modern commercial yeast possible, and turning yeast production into a major industrial endeavor. The slurry yeast made by small bakers and grocery shops became cream yeast, a suspension of live yeast cells in growth medium, and then compressed yeast, the fresh cake yeast that became the standard leaven for bread bakers in much of the Westernized world during the early 20th century.

During World War II, Fleischmann’s developed a granulated active dry yeast for the United States armed forces, which did not require refrigeration and had a longer shelf life and better temperature tolerance than fresh yeast; it is still the standard yeast for US military recipes. The company created yeast that would rise twice as fast, cutting down on baking time. Lesaffre would later create instant yeast in the 1970s, which has gained considerable use and market share at the expense of both fresh and dry yeast in their various applications.

Bet you never thought that there was an “official” yeast of the military, did you?  Or, consider instant yeast to be a convenience  item? 🙂

The next is the baking temperatures.  What on earth is a fast or slow oven?  I happened to recently inherit an old cookbook, printed in the early 1900’s …

In it is a page with baking temperatures.

These would indicate that the Buns should be baked at 275 degrees and the Biscuits at 450 degrees.  I have no idea if Gram had an oven with a temperature scale on it or if she had to stick her hand in the oven and go by “feel”.   Or if she cooked on a wood stove back then still.

It seems we have forgotten much of our baking knowledge – what was common sense then is unknown to us now.  How much has changed since she was my age!

Next week, French Buns.  Happy Cooking!


3 responses »

  1. I love that you are doing this project. I like making bread.

  2. In my journey through my great-grandmother’s cookbooks, I have made many of the same discoveries. These woman knew a lot about baking and cooking and food that we take for granted. My grandmother often raved about the wood stove she had when she was first married, and although she used an electric oven for more than half of her life, would still tell you that everything tasted better when baked in a wood oven!

    • Madalina, si pe mine m-a lasat paf "Fiul ripoqitor&suit;, e una dintre preferatele mele. Si eu am inteles-o asa de bine pe Eva….mai bine decat as fi vrut! Dar numele sa stii ca apare, la un moment dat, in carte, nu mai stiu cine ii spune ca e Secatura sau autorul face referire la el numindu-l Secatura, nu mai stiu. Dar nu l-am inventat eu 🙂


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