the Victorian side of baking.
Christmas cookies during the 1800s were usually not the chocolate or glazed types we see nowadays. There were good spicy varieties full of raisins, nuts and other things as well as shortbread and gingerbread styles that would be cut into an endless variety of shapes using cutters. Pictured to the left are Rock Cookies, Sand Cookies, and Ginger Snaps.
It's always fun to try out new recipes and this one is no exception. This recipe for Graham Cake is from an 1884 cookbook and is written in the form of a poem. You can use whole wheat pastry flour if graham flour is not available.
Any reader of this book would like a graham cake,
I give you here a recipe which I quite often make.
First take one cup of sugar white, and butter one half cup,
Together mix, then add an egg, and lightly beat it up.
Then take one cup of pure sweet milk, and well dissolve therein
A teaspoon full of soda so its trace cannot be seen.
Then scatter in a little salt, and flavor it with spice,
A little nutmeg, if you please, or lemon peel is nice.
And then of flour you may put in three even teacups full,
And when you’ve stirred it well around, then quickly pour the whole.
Into your buttered pan, my dear, which ready stands the while,
Then, if you give it a good bake,‘twill be so nice you’ll smile.
Many people steer away from sourdough pancakes and who can blame them. Too often sourdough pancakes end up having the texture of a pair of old galoshes. Here is a recipe that makes a flavorful and tender pancake that everyone will enjoy. This recipe will make 8 -10 good sized cakes.
1 ½ cups sourdough starter
1 ½ cups buttermilk
1 ½ cups whole wheat flour
1 Tbs. sugar
½ tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 large egg
Combine charged sourdough with the buttermilk and let it rest for an hour. Combine the sugar and salt and incorporate them with the wet ingredients. Separate the egg and beat the yolk then add the yolk to the mixture. Add the baking soda to the mixture and let the batter rest for a couple of minutes, you will see the batter start to bubble. Beat the egg white to a meringue like consistency and set aside while the baking soda is working. Gently add and mix in the flour, do not over mix, small lumps of flour in the batter are desired. Add the egg whites and gently fold them in. If done correctly, you will have a very light and airy pancake batter. Pour around ¼ onto a greased grill and cook until the edges of the pancake are dull and the top is bubbly. Flip the cake and cook until the bottom is golden brown.
Many time using the utensils for a period will help when working with old recipes. I often run into recipes in Victorian cookbooks that call for measures like a coffee cup or a tea cup full. I have a beautiful old measuring pitcher that actually has those measures imprinted on its sides - it ends up that a coffee cup is our modern day 8 ounce cup and a tea cup is our modern day 1/2 cup.
Victorian cookbooks also provide detailed lists of what was recommended in the way of tools and utensils, a 1887 cookbook provides the following list. It looks like you would need a pantry the size of a barn.
"The following list will show what articles are necessary for the kitchen, and will be quite an aid to young housekeepers when about commencing to furnish the utensils needed in the kitchen department, and may prove useful to many."
3 Sweeping brooms and 1 dust-pan, 1 Whisk broom, 1 Bread box, 2 Cake boxes, 1 Large flour box, 1 Dredging box, 1 Large-sized tin pepper box, 1 Spice box containing smaller spice boxes, 2 Cake pans, two sizes, 4 Bread pans, 2 Square biscuit pans, 1 Apple corer, 1 Lemon squeezer 1 Meat cleaver, 3 Kitchen knives and forks, 1 Large kitchen fork and 4 kitchen spoons, two sizes, 1 Wooden spoon for cake making, 1 Large bread knife, 1 Griddle cake turner, also 1 griddle, 1 Potato masher 1 Meat board, 1 Dozen patty pans; and the same number of tartlet pans, 1 Large tin pail and 1 wooden pail, 2 Small tin pails, 1 Set of tin basins,1 Set of tin measures, 1 Wooden butter ladle, 1 Tin skimmer, 1 Tin steamer, 2 Dippers, two sizes, 2 Funnels, two sizes, 1 Set of jelly cake tins, 4 Pie pans, 3 Pudding molds, one for boiling, two for baking, two sizes, 2 Dish pans, two sizes, 2 Cake or biscuit cutters, two sizes, 2 Graters, one large and one small, 1 Coffee canister, 1 Tea canister, 1 Tin or granite-ware teapot, 1 Tin or granite-ware coffeepot, 4 Milk pans, 1 milk strainer. 1 Dozen iron gem pans or muffin rings, 1 Coarse gravy strainer, 1 fine strainer, 1 Colander, 1 Flour sifter, 2 Scoops, one for flour, one for sugar, 2 Jelly molds, two sizes, 1 Can opener, 1 egg beater, 1 Cork screw, 1 Chopping-knife, 2 Wooden chopping-bowls, two sizes, 1 Meat saw, 2 Large earthen bowls, 4 Stone jars, 1 Coffee mill, 1 Candlestick, 2 Market baskets, two sizes, 1 Clock, 1 Ash bucket, 1 Gridiron, 2 Frying pans or spiders, two sizes, 4 Flat-irons, 2 number 8 and 2 number 6, 2 Dripping pans, two sizes, 3 Iron kettles, porcelain lined if possible, 1 Corn beef or fish kettle, 1 Tea-kettle, 2 Granite-ware stew pans, two sizes, 1 Wire toaster, 1 Double kettle for cooking custards, grains, etc, 2 Sugar boxes, one for coarse and one for fine sugar, 1 Waffle iron.
Pound cake is a traditional favorite and dates back to the 1700s. Why is it called pound cake? It's called pound cake due to the recipe itself and a ratio of 1:1:1:1 for the ingredients of butter, sugar, eggs, and flour. Using that foundation additional flavorings and ingredients can be added to create quite a variety of cakes. The vanilla and chocolate marbled cake is a very popular choice.
Traditional breads are loaded with flavor due to the coarse crumb. Large pockets in the interior of the loaf help promote the wheat flavor by allowing the evaporation of water out of the loaf while baking. The flavor is intensified when the proteins are more fully roasted. The boule and baguettes pictured above were created using the lean dough, poolish method. The stripes on the boule are the markings from the banneton used to shape the loaf.
It's a ball searching through old Victorian cook books, these old gems hold a wealth of long forgotten recipes and methods. Spice Cake was a very popular treat in the1800's. The recipe pictured is in the Ladies Home Cook Book from 1896 and is close to the one I use for chuck wagon shows.
In a large bowl combine dry ingredients:
3 3/4 cups all purpose flour
2 cups white sugar
1 1/4 cups brown sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 tsp soda
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp cloves
1 1/2 tsp ginger
1 1/2 tsp nutmeg
2 1/2 tsp cinnamon
To the dry ingredients add:
3/4 stick softened butter
1/2 cup oil
1 1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup water
3 beaten eggs
Mix well and pour batter into a lightly greased and floured 12 x 15 sheet pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 - 30 minutes.
I have kitchen goodies hat have been collected over the span of three generations. Whenever I use one of my old shoulder bowls I can't help but wonder how many batches of bread, cookies, cakes, pies and other good things have been prepared in that bowl. I can't help but feel things taste better when they are made using experienced kitchen things.