Monday, February 25, 2008

A Couple of Recipe Successes

I have a recipe that makes some of the tastiest cookies ever, but it’s one of those “contributed by ____ to our school fundraiser cookbook” recipes, so you’re not going to find it easily in any standard cookbook. As with all recipes on my blog, I have modified it, but not as extensively as others, so I still feel like this is not my own recipe. Still, I suspect it will be lost if someone doesn’t preserve it somehow. I’ve done extensive searches online that indicate that only the wording of recipes is copyrightable, not the list of ingredients (nobody owns “3 eggs” because how else can you say it?). So here, paraphrased and slightly tweaked but with full attribution, is the recipe for “Great Grandma Lefler’s Icebox Cookies,” which apparently “men love.” We all love them, and the dough is the hardest to resist ever.

The original was contributed by PJ Holtzman, who donated a good many recipes to the book. It can be found on page 65 of “Reading, Writing and Recipes: A Collection From East Antioch Elementary”, published by Cookbook Publishers, Inc. from Lenexa, KS, in 1996, for the East Antioch PTA. It is one of the better “folk” recipe collections I’ve found, although it suffers still from amateur-cookbook-itis (says too much or too little, but not ever just enough).

½ c butter or margarine
¾ c shortening
1 c light brown sugar
1 c sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla (my addition)
4 ½ c flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt

Cream butter and shortening together. Add sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, and vanilla. Beat well. With the mixer stopped, add flour, cinnamon, salt, and baking soda, in that order (no need to sift!). Mix well. Press dough into an 8x8” pan. Cover and refrigerate at least overnight. When you are ready to use the dough, use a sharp knife to cut it into two 4x8” chunks. When you want cookies, cut off ¼ inch slices and bake them on an ungreased cookie sheet for 6-8 minutes at 400 degrees. You can also cut them into four 2” strips in you want square instead of rectangular cookies. They make good “cookie sticks” for dunking in milk.

The other neat cookbook experience we had came from “The First American Cookbook: a Facsimile of ‘American Cookery,’ 1796 by Amelia Simmons”, which Jon and Chastity gave me for Christmas.

This is the original recipe that caught my eye, quoted here in its entirety because it is in the public domain (or should be since it was first published well before 1920). You can download the entire book, minus the Dover notes and intro, here:

“A Bread Pudding. One pound soft bread or biscuit soaked in one quart milk, run thro’ a sieve or cullender, add 7 eggs, three quarters of a pound sugar, one quarter of a pound butter, nutmeg or cinnamon, one gill rosewater, one pound stoned raisins, half pint cream, bake three quarters of an hour, middling oven.”

Here is what I did:

A 22 oz of sandwich bread has about 22 slices, so I took 16 slices of white bread (I realized after the fact that Amelia Simmons wouldn’t use her white flour, if she had any, for this, but it worked well for me). I tore the slices into pieces and poured 4 cups of milk over it. I stirred it, covered it, and let it sit (at room temperature, but I should have put it in the fridge I guess—but Amelia couldn’t have, and I was trying to make her recipe) for an hour or two.

Then I worked it through a sieve. This was extremely tedious, but it eventually came out a nice light brown thick liquid. It had a unique texture that I couldn’t have achieved by blending it in the blender, or any other way I can think of, so this was a useful step. It also definitely set this apart from modern bread puddings, which I’m not very fond of.

I added the 7 eggs.

Then I had to go to the internet to find out how many cups of sugar are in a pound, and discovered there is no exact consensus, but everyone’s estimates hover around “a heaping 2 cups”. So I put in 2 level cups of sugar and assumed that was about ¾ lb. One quarter of a pound of butter is one stick, so I put in one stick of margarine, which wouldn’t blend up nicely. So I fished it out with some of the mixture and heated it in the microwave until the butter melted. I stirred this all together and put it back into the whole.

At this point I realized my bowl was too small, but I was careful and worked through the rest. I put in a dash of nutmeg and about a tsp of cinnamon, and then I skipped the rosewater. I didn’t want to deal with it! But I did stir in about a half a pound of raisins (about a cup, I guessed), and I didn’t have cream so I put in a cup of whole milk. Normally in this kind of recipe I use evaporated milk as a cream replacement, but I didn’t have that either. So milk it was.

Then I greased a 3 qt casserole (a really big one) and poured the liquid in. The raisins sank to the bottom. Oops. I should have soaked them in boiling water overnight (or at least long enough to plump them) so they would float in the batter. Stoned raisins would have been flayed, more or less, so they wouldn’t have sunk like regular seedless raisins.

I am familiar with the phrases “quick oven” (really hot, like 450-500 degrees) and “slow oven” (most of the heat has escaped and it’s closer to 250-300 degrees), so I guess a middling oven was 350 degrees.

The pudding wasn’t done after 45 minutes. It was brown, but jiggly and liquid in the middle. I have since discovered that the oven here cooks hot (a LOT hot, like 50 degrees off), so I kept cooking the thing until the middle was set like a pumpkin pie, but then the bottom (with all the raisins on it) was on the edge of burning. It took over an hour. I should have cooked it undisturbed at 350 (probably 300 on my oven) for 1 ½ hours, checking after 1 hour and then every 10-15 minutes after.

It came out incredibly tasty. Unbelievably yummy. It had the consistency and texture of pumpkin pie, but was much much tastier. It actually got eaten. By everyone in the family.

So that was a success.

And an adventure.

Cooking is fun.


Brooke said...

Heh. Over President's Day weekend, we took a trip to Valley Forge, where we found copies of Martha Washington's "Great Cake" for perusal. A great cake, indeed -- the recipe began with 40 eggs, 5 pounds of butter, and moved on from there.

I'm wondering if, in the era of daily teatime, it was easier to make huge quantities of cake all at once than bake a little bit every day. Especially if you could pour liquor all over the whole thing and make it last for weeks.

Becca said...

I think probably it was--we've all heard of "baking day". They may have been making enough to last a week or more.

I saw a couple of those kinds of recipes in my book, too. I thought maybe the massive amounts of eggs and milk in some of the recipes was in part due to the fact that there was no refrigeration. If you had a lot of chickens and a cow or two, you had to use those dairy products right up, so "baking day" would be a good way to get rid of them.