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Category Archives: breads

English Fruit Cake

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So, this is the first real recipe out of Hermena’s cookbook.  It was not part of the original cookbook but instead, she apparently cut it out and glued (pasted) it in.   She even used her pinking shears to cut the edges – and I remember those shears in her kitchen when I was a kid.  (I also now have a new pair in my sewing room that I use – predates serger sewing machines and clips a curved seam like magic!)

Because baby Eleanor and I are now gluten free, I’ve updated the recipe and made it gluten free (gf), too.  And it still tastes yummy.

And my husband loved it.  You should know that he HATES bananas.  He tried this voluntarily even though I thought he might be ill for doing so.  I never intentionally trick him into eating something I know he doesn’t like.  So was very surprised at his trying it AND liking it.  That should be sufficient testimony that this is a very yummy recipe!

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So, while this may be CALLED fruit cake, it really seems to me to be more of a banana bread with fruit in it.  In fact, because of the stigma attached to fruit cakes, I would not tell anyone what the real name is if you make it.  🙂

That said – what IS a fruit cake?  It is a cake made with chopped candied fruit (maraschino cherries) and/or dried fruit, nuts, spices and sometimes soaked in alcohol.  It is an old timey recipe and this combination is for a reason – to preserve fruit to eat later.

Long ago, before electricity (or even the internet!) storing food was a problem.  Drying fruit worked well but… so does making candied fruit – which is fresh fruit boiled in a sugar syrup – trading the water in the fruit for sugar.  High concentrations of sugar prevent bacteria and mold from growing – so the fruit is preserved.  With the developement of sugar plantations in the Caribbean in the 1500’s following the western discovery of the new world, sugar suddenly became plentiful and so much cheaper – allowing many more people to preserve their fruit in this manner.

Along these lines, rum is often frequently used in fruit cake.  Rum is made from sugar cane juice (sugar cane is a grass – the juice is squeezed out and the sugar is extracted from the juice – so yes, sugar is just grass juice) and because alcohol also stops bacteria and other creepy crawlies from doing their thing on food, it also was an excellent means of food preservation.

So, you combine a whole lot of candied and dried fruits with a flour dough and then soak them in alcohol and you then have an excellent way to preserve food all winter long.  Makes you appreciate your local grocery store a bit more now doesn’t it!

English Fruit Cake

On to the recipe…

If you aren’t gluten free, you don’t need to worry about this, but if you are, this is the flour mix that I used.

GF Flour Mix – makes 3 cups

2 c white rice flour

2/3 c potato starch flour

1/3 c tapioca flour

1 t xantham gum

English Fruit Cake – updated

1/2 c coconut oil
1 c sugar
2 eggs
3 bananas, mashed (about 1 1/2 c. mashed bananas)
2 c flour
1 t salt
1 t baking soda
1/2 c nuts, chopped
1/2 c chocolate chips – mini works better
16 oz jar stemless maraschino cherries – chop 2/3 of the jar (about 1/2 c) and slice the remaining in 1/2

Directions

Cream together coconut oil and sugar. Add eggs and mix well. Add bananas.

Sift flour, baking soda and salt together and add to batter.

Fold in the nuts, chocolate chips and chopped cherries.

Pour into greased angel food or bunt cake pan.  Top with cherry halves.  Bake at 350 degrees for about 55 minutes or until knife inserted comes out clean.

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It really came out well, not terribly tall, but yummy still.  Mini chocolate chips will work better – the big ones sank down to the bottom of the cake.  Still good though!  (I made the first one without adding the cherries to the top – I like the extra ones showing better!)

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The second version of this cake baked a bit long… and got a bit dark.  Ah well, tasted yummy so no matter!

So, I hope you enjoy this first of many recipes from my Grandma’s cookbook.  Have a lovely day!

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Gram’s Cookbook – Page 11 part 1

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Today is a special day in this cookbook series of mine.  Take a look at the picture of the cookbook – who signed under the first 3 recipes?

“Mother.”  GRAM’s mother – my Great great grandmother!  I have recipes that she loved enough to put into the wedding cookbook of her daughter, my beloved Gram… In her own handwriting, her own spin on the recipe.   The only bit of her that I have (other than a smidging of DNA).

I know very little about my Great great grandmother… I know that she was a twin and that’s about it.  One of the twin’s names was Emma Louise and the other’s was Louise Emma.  That was always funny to me for some reason.   But, I don’t know who was who.  🙂

And, I know that these are very low resolution (my mom took a picture out of a scrapbook and I had to crop down from there to get pictures separated) but… is Gram’s mother possibly in this picture?  It’s a picture of Gram’s wedding!

And this is the happy couple!  (Or, not so much, they ended up divorcing in the early 40’s – scandalous to be sure!)   Hopefully, I’ll get a chance to take better pictures of these pictures at some point in the future…

OK, back to the recipes.  Below are the recipes as written in the cookbook:

Cornmeal Biscuits

1 c. white flour

1 c. cornmeal

2 T. shortening

3/4 t. salt

3/4 c. scalded milk

4 t. baking powder

Save 1/4 c. flour for board.

Pour milk over corn meal, add shortening and salt.  When cold, add flour and powder.  Roll lightly – cut – bake in greased pan – hot oven 12 – 20 minutes.

Rice Muffins

1 c. milk

1/2 c. corn meal

1 T shortening

2 T. sugar or corn syrup

1/2 c. cooked rice

1/3 c. flour

1/2 t. salt

3 t. baking powder

1 egg

Scald milk and pour over meal – add shortening and sugar.  Cool – add rice – flour, salt and powder – add beaten egg.  Beat well.  Bake in greased muffin pans in moderate oven 20 minutes.

Sweet Bread

1 pint of yeast

1 pint of milk – scalded & cooled

1 c. sugar (Brown & white)

1 c. raisins

1 c. lard & butter

1 egg

Little salt – nutmeg – cinnamon.  Let raise – when light add raisins & flour enough to handle.  Soften the butter.  Put in pans – raise – Bake in slow oven 30 minutes.

“Mother.”

Of her recipes, I made the first two – the Cornmeal Biscuits and the Rice Muffins.  As we don’t do milk here, I subbed out vanilla almond milk for cows milk and coconut oil (a solid generally) for the shortening.  Those were my only changes and concessions to our modern diet.

Below is my updated versions of the recipes so that you can give them a try yourself!

Cornmeal Biscuits – updated version

3/4 c almond milk

1 c yellow cornmeal

2 T coconut oil

3/4 salt

3/4 c flour

4 t baking powder

Set oven to 450.  In a mixing bowl, combine the cornmeal, coconut oil and salt.  Heat milk in the microwave until hot (I used the auto cook feature on my microwave – which also heats up water for tea so…).  Pour milk  over the cornmeal mix – stir.  Let cool in the fridge for 5 – 10 minutes.

Add the flour and baking powder.  You will have to mix it for a while as it needs to be a moderately stiff dough.  That said, compared to normal biscuits, this is VERY soft, so handle gently.

Lightly dust flour on your counter-top.  Roll out dough to 1/2 inch to 3/4 inch thick.  Cut out biscuits.  Bake for about 15 minutes until golden on top and bottoms.  Makes 6 biscuits.

It is hard to find recipes like this one on line.  Most have a LOT more white flour than cornmeal, making them more like traditional biscuits.  However, I was able to find one that was just like my recipe.  And, I mean JUST like it.  Which probably means that this is not a unique recipe and may have come out of a cookbook or newspaper or someplace back in the day.   Still, my Great great grandmother had to have had really liked it to include it in this cookbook!

My husband and I really liked these!  In fact, he said that I could make them again and that he would eat them for breakfast on his way to work.   They were a bit like a cross between a normal biscuit and cornbread and were really yummy with honey on them!  In fact, my daughter even ate it and liked it!  High praise from a 3 year old.  Next time, I will most likely triple the recipe though – I happen to prefer leftovers!

Rice Muffins – updated version

1/2 c cornmeal

1 c almond milk

1 T coconut oil

2 T sugar

1/2 c cooked white rice

1/3 c flour

1/2 t salt

3 t baking powder

1 egg

Set oven to 400.  In mixing bowl, put in the cornmeal, coconut oil and sugar.  Heat milk in the microwave until hot.  Pour over the cornmeal and mix well.  Cool in the fridge for 5 – 10 minutes.

In a muffin tin, either grease the tins or line with cupcake papers.

Add the rest of the ingredients to the cornmeal mix.  It will bubble up, so quickly ladle the soupy-ish mix into the tins.  Bake for about 25 minutes until golden brown on the top.  Makes about 8 muffins.

Let muffins cool before trying to take the papers off – otherwise muffin likes to stay with the paper.   Just a tip.

Our opinion on these was… eh.  Interesting to be sure, a quick look on line only resulted in one cooked rice muffin recipe…  No doubt a way to use up the dribs and drabs of leftovers.  I did, however,  find a wild rice blueberry muffin that looks really interesting!  In fact, after finding this recipe, I had intended to make 1/2 of the batch of my rice muffins with blueberries… but then I forgot.  My guess is that the blueberries would greatly add to the taste of the muffin and probably be pretty yummy!  So, as I have a lot more cooked rice left – I might try another round with blueberries tomorrow.

This is already a crazy long post, so I will cover the last recipe on the page tomorrow!

And, to everyone who is leaving comments on these pages – thank you for all of your support.  I LOVE doing this.  I am thrilled that so many of you appreciate this very special project of mine.   I love being more connected to my Gram, at a time when I thought that wasn’t possible any more.  My mother recently mailed me 2 more vintage 1930’s cookbooks, one of which was Gram’s and the other my Grandmother’s.  After this cookbook series is done, I will continue with Gram’s recipes from the other cookbooks, so there will be vintage recipes here for many months to come.

There’s an old saying that goes “The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.” – perhaps a way to know a person is through the recipes that they loved and left behind.

Gram’s Cookbook – French Buns page 10

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Today’s recipe is for French Buns.  Looking at the recipe, I’m not exactly sure why a sweet crust makes it French but…  here’s the recipe as written.

French Buns

1 quart bread sponge

1 quart scalded sweet milk, let cool

3/4 c sugar

salt to taste

flour to make very soft dough

Knead the dough very thoroughly.  Let rise very light – if you like sweet crust – mix a little milk and sugar and brush over top of buns – (that is the French part of it).  This makes about 60 buns.

Hope you will have best luck in the world with these buns.

Mrs. E. J. Adams 

I tried to find a current version of this recipe, but wasn’t able to … so this might be unique.  It could certainly be updated with modern yeasts and actual measurements for the flour.  As I’m not an expert bread maker, I will leave that project to someone who is more skilled… and if that happens to be you, please let me know!  I’d love to feature your updated recipe on the blog!   I did find something along the same lines, so if you’re so inspired to give a French bun a try, there’s a nice recipe on an Amish website here.

As far as scalded milk goes… You should know, my little family doesn’t do much in the way of dairy products.  Just doesn’t do well with our bodies and my 3 year old has never liked it.  She eats cheese but gave up on yogurt at 2 1/2 years old…  (And, it’s not just cow milk that she doesn’t like – it’s anything white and liquid.  Soy, vanilla, goat… we’ve tried them all and she’s just not interested.)  So, I don’t ever have milk in the house to cook with and the only experience I have with it was cooking as a kid (and that was a couple of decades ago!)…  So, I looked up scalded milk.   According to Baking 101, milk used to be scaled to deactivate the enzymes (and most likely kill bacteria) that caused the milk to spoil.  With modern pasteurization that’s no longer a concern (unless you have your own cow?)… But, in bread making it is still done in order to deactivate the whey proteins.  Why proteins apparently weaken the gluten that forms in the flour with kneading and if the milk isn’t scalded, the bread will be heavy and dense.  They also have directions on how to scald milk on their site if you happen to be like me and don’t already know this detail.  🙂

On another note, I found a new site that might be of interest to my recipe loving followers.  Yummly.  It appears to be a search engine just for recipes – and includes recipes from recipe sites and blogs and everywhere else.  You can search by ingredient and can limit results by “without” and “with” ingredients.  This will be very nice for those allergic to some foods!  I only just found it, so I’m not sure what I think about it yet, but it seems interesting!

Next week’s recipe page is full of fun!  There are 2 recipes that I will be trying out and that I’ve never seen in modern recipe-land before.  One is a biscuit and the other a muffin.  And, another recipe is written by a very special person (at least to me)… so stay tuned!

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:

Buns

 3 cups sponge

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup lard

salt

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!