Archive for the ‘cakes & pies’ Category
Several stalks of rhubarb
Premade tart shells or pie crusts
Granulated white sugar
Take the young green stalks of the rhubarb plant, or spring fruit as it is called in England; and having peeled off the thin skin, cut the stalks into small pieces about an inch long, and put them into a sauce-pan with plenty of brown sugar, and its own juice. Cover it, and let it stew slowly till it is soft enough to mash to a marmalade. Then set it away to cool. Have ready some fresh baked shells; fill them with the stewed rhubarb, and grate white sugar over the top.
For covered pies, cut the rhubarb very small; mix a great deal of sugar with it, and put it in raw. Bake the pies about three quarters of an hour.
Miss Leslie’s Directions for Cookery by Eliza Leslie, 1851
Comments: Instructions to use “granulated white sugar” seem redundant today, when that’s pretty much the only way that sugar is commonly sold. In the 19th century things were different. Sugar was produced at the cane-refining mills in molds shaped like cones to make the end product easy to remove. The sugar cones were then wrapped in paper and shipped to market without further processing. Grocers would upon request break off a chunk of smaller size, since few people could either afford a whole cone or had (ant-proof!) ways to store it at home. In either case the cook was often called upon to get the amount needed for an individual recipe from the chunk by means of a hammer and chisel, and then scrape it over a grater to the desired fineness. Brown sugar, since it still contained much of the molasses that had been refined out of the white sugar, was often softer and easier to work with.
2 qts. flour
1 lb butter
All pastry should be made of the best materials: the flour should be superfine and quite new, and the butter fresh and sweet. For fine puff or sweet paste, every particle of salt should be washed from the butter; otherwise, it will not rise well nor have a pleasant taste. For meat pies, dumplings, &c. the butter should be freely washed in cold water, to give it a sweet taste, but salt should be sprinkled in the flour, or the paste will have a flat unpleasant taste.
Sift two quarts of flour, and weigh out a pound of butter; rub half of the butter into the flour, sprinkling in a little salt. Make it into a stiff paste with cold water, and roll it out into a thin sheet; divide the half pound of butter into two equal parts, break them up into small bits, and put one half over the sheet of paste, mashing it smooth with a knife; sprinkle on a little flour, roll up the paste into a scroll, and flatten it with a rolling-pin; roll it again into a sheet, put on the last portion of butter in the same manner, and sprinkling on a little flour; fold it up, roll it again into a sheet the third time, and it will be ready for use. Plain paste is generally used for pies, dumplings, and breakfast cakes. By rolling in the butter in this manner, it makes the paste much lighter and more flaky than when the butter is all rubbed into the flour at first.
The Kentucky Housewife by Mrs. Lettice Bryan, 1839
Comment: Some portions of this recipe can be disregarded nowadays. Since butter is no longer stored in kegs of salt for future use, all that washing business can be ignored. Use regular or unsalted butter as suits your taste.
Pie crusts, known as “pastes” in the time, had their quality judged on the basis of what fat was employed in their making. Butter was considered the best for fine, flaky pastry. Lard was a second choice, sometimes recommended for a bottom crust which would not be seen while butter was called for in the top crust which was more noticeable. Lard was also considered acceptable for meat pies and the like.
At the bottom of the scale in the opinions of most authors of the day was “drippings,” the fat left over from roasted meat. This was deemed acceptable if poverty was such a factor as to make the higher quality materials impracticable, and even then was required to be carefully and repeatedly filtered to remove meat particles and pan scrapings until only pure white fat was left. This was ruled acceptable for “family” usage but not considered advisable to serve to guests, or to the employer if one was cooking as a servant.
Tart apples, sliced
2 sheets pie crust
Nutmeg or lemon
To eat immediately, the following is excellent. Lay the slices into the plate upon an under crust; fill it quite full; sprinkle the rim with a little flour, to prevent the upper crust from adhering to the under one. Bake forty minutes, or till the apple is tender, and then slide off the upper crust and add a small bit of butter, some nutmeg or lemon, and sugar to your taste. Mix them well with the apple with a silver spoon, and return the upper crust to its place.
From The Young Housekeeper’s Friend by Mrs. [M. H.] Cornelius, 1863.
Comment: Apples in the 19th century came in a dazzling array of varieties, most a specialty of a particular geographical region where the peculiarities of genetics and pollination had brought forth a sport. The over-bred, oversized, mushy, tasteless fruits of today, selected more for their ability to look “perfect” and withstand long shipping, were unknown. This dessert would have been a treat available only once a year, at the time when the apples were coming ripe on the trees. Those to be preserved for winter would have to be either canned or packed into barrels where, with luck and dry conditions, they would slowly wrinkle but not rot.
10 c. flour
6 c. sugar
3 c. butter
3 c. buttermilk or sour cream thinned with milk
1 c. wine
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. nutmeg, ground
1 lb. currants
1 lb. raisins
To ten cups of flour, put six of sugar, three of butter, three of sour milk (a little warm), eight eggs, a glass of wine, a large teaspoonful of saleratus, a nutmeg, a pound of currants, a pound of raisins.
From The Young Housekeeper’s Friend by Mrs. [M. H.] Cornelius, 1865.
Comment: We know this is intended to be a “cup cake” because it is in a section of Mrs. Cornelius’ book with that overall label. As the little paper cupcake holders with which we are familiar today had not yet been invented, these were normally baked in, well, cups. Regular cups normally used for coffee, tea or the like. One would probably not use the finest family china for this task, but any sturdy porcelain or other smooth drinking vessel would be appropriate.
“Saleratus” was a precursor of baking powder used to produce rising in baked goods for which yeast was not appropriate. Use regular baking powder in similar proportions. Using the quantity of ingredients listed here will produce a great whacking lot of cupcakes, so for family use one might want to consider cutting the amounts called for in half.
2 large lemons, peeled
4-5 oz. sugar
yolks of 6 eggs
1/2 lb. butter
Boil the peel of two large lemons till they are quite tender, and then pound it well in a mortar, with four or five ounces of loaf sugar, the yolks of six eggs, half a pound of fresh butter, and a little curd beaten fine; pound and mix together, lay a rich puff paste in some patty-pans, fill them half full, and bake them carefully.
From The Cook’s Own Book by “A Boston Housekeeper” (Mrs. N. K. M. Lee), Boston, 1832
Comment: “Curd” is the hard part of cottage cheese. Either get the dry form of this or put regular cottage cheese in a strainer and rinse the milky white stuff out. Unlike modern cheesecakes, those of the period were baked in regular pie crust, not the crushed graham cracker version more common today. The boiled lemon peel should be the yellow part only with as little of the underlying white pith as possible, as it is bitter. It will mush up with the sugar in the mortar more easily the thinner the strips into which it is cut.
“Loaf sugar” is just regular white sugar, which in the 19th century was normally sold in hard blocks or cones and grated into granulated form for use. We can, thankfully, skip that step today.
3 c. flour
3 c. sugar
3 cups of flour, 3 cups of sugar, and ten eggs.
Transactions of the Wisconsin State Agriculture Society–1860
Comment: Yes, that’s the entire recipe, as published in the booklet which was commonly issued after state fairs in those days. (Most of the pamphlet was taken up with lists of the winners in the various categories of livestock competitions, vegetable competitions, flower arrangements and the like, with prominent note of the names of various elected officials and similar exalted citizens who presented the awards. ) Exactly what to do with these ingredients to produce a prize-winning sponge cake was left to the experience of the cook, a tradition we have little choice but to continue.