Baking History

A Taste For The Past

Announcing Think Spice… …Think Anise

Posted by bakinghistory on November 1, 2008

I am delighted to host the November edition of Think Spice… , a monthly event founded by Sunita of Sunita’s World.  The theme of this month is Anise.

The tiny fruits of this graceful plant, which are commonly called seeds, have been used for centuries and have been mentioned in ancient herbals, as well as in texts on medicine, folklore, cookery, confectionery, perfumery, and witchcraft.

Pliny, in his treatise on natural history, mentions anise and states that the best was grown on the Greek Island of Crete. He also tells us that anise was used to substitute lovage in seasonings, as well as to alleviate headaches, soothe the stomach, clear the eyes, and treat colics and coughs. Pliny, as well as Pythagoras, also strongly recommended anise steeped in wine as a remedy against scorpions.  The ancient Romans also used it to flavor bridal cakes.

According to Democritus the humble anise was the best cure for melancholy.

In England, under King Edward I, anise was used to pay taxes; in early English herbals anise was also called Anny and Annyse.

In early Italian herbals anise was also indicated as helpful for nursing mothers.

Finally, in old astrology treatises anise was associated with the planet Mercury, and according to old plant-lore it protected the lungs.

Apparently, anise was also used to ward off evil, and kept in a small pouch under the pillow to avoid nightmares.

To participate in Think Spice… …Think Anise:

* Make a dish, baked good, or beverage in which anise is used. It can be a traditional recipe or a new creation, sweet or savory. Any information about lore and uses for anise that you are familiar with will be great to be included as well.

*Post your recipe by November 25, 2008. Include a link to this post and to Sunita’s blog. You can of course use the logo.

Send me an email at bkhstATyahooDOTcom

including:

>your name

>your blog name and URL

>name of your recipe and permanent link

>your language and location

> a picture of your dish (200 width)

I look forward to reading many great recipes that include this wonderful spice!!

Posted in Blog Events, Spices | Tagged: , , | 12 Comments »

Pumpkin Pie

Posted by bakinghistory on October 30, 2008

Traditional Pumpkin Pie

Update: Ivy has posted the ROUNDUP

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Ivy from Kopiaste… is hosting another wonderful event devoted to pies, this time sweet ones.  I decided to enter a classic all-American pumpkin pie, a traditional dessert enjoyed in the Fall and always part of the Thanksgiving feast.

The poet John Greenleaf Whittier, born in Massachusetts in 1807, immortalized pumpkins—and pumpkin pie—in his work The Pumpkin, from which the following verses are taken:

What moistens the lip and what brightens the eye,

What calls back the past, like the rich Pumpkin pie?

There are many versions of pumpkin pie, more or less rich, more or less spiced, some sweetened with sugar, others with molasses, maple syrup, or even with honey.

The recipe I feature here is very simple, minimally spiced with cinnamon, and sweetened with very little sugar.  If the pumpkin is very tasty to begin with there is no need to be heavy handed with spices, and sweeteners like molasses might be too strong and overpower the delicate flavor of the main ingredient itself. Even if canned pumpkin is an acceptable shortcut, it cannot compare with freshly roasted pumpkin and the result will be much tastier—and definitely worth the extra time and effort—if the latter were used.

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From the original recipes by Bertha Lippincott Parrish

In: “The ‘Home’ Cook Book”, by the Children’s Summer Home of Cinnaminson, NJ, 1914—USA

and Juniata L. Shepperd

In: “Handbook of Household Science”, 1902—USA

Ingredients

Filling:

1 cup (250 g) roasted and pureed pumpkin

1/4 cup (60 ml) cream or milk

3 tbsp sugar

1 tsp cinnamon or 1/2 tsp nutmeg (according to taste)

1 large egg, divided

1 tbsp butter

1/4 tsp salt

Crust:

1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup (scant) butter

1/4 tsp salt

ice water as needed

Preheat the oven to 375F (190C).

Make the Crust: In a food processor put flour salt and butter (diced), and pulse until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. With the machine running add enough water for the dough to come together. Do not overprocess. Wrap the dough in wax paper and let rest in a cool place for about 30 minutes. Roll the dough to about 1/8-inch thickness and line a deep pie dish, make a decorative rim. I used a small cookie-cutter shaped like a maple leaf to decorate the rim of the pie as well as the top.

Make the filling: Cream the butter and add the sugar little by little, then the yolk, cream or milk, salt and spice, and then the pureed pumpkin.  Beat the egg white till stiff peaks form, and add it to the pumpkin mixture, gently, until well incorporated.

Fill the prepared pastry shell, decorate the rim and top as you like, and bake in a preheated oven (375°F), until the pastry is golden brown and the filling barely wiggles in the center. Let the pie cool on a rack.






Posted in American Cooking, Blog Events, Holidays, Pies & Tarts, Spices, Thanksgiving | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

Cheese Straws (Think Spice… …Think Paprika)

Posted by bakinghistory on October 27, 2008

Crunchy savory biscuits flavored with cheese and paprika

Mimi from  Mimi on the Move is the October host for the Think Spice... event which was founded by Sunita of Sunita’s World. Mimi proposed Paprika as the theme of her edition of Think Spice….

My entry is a recipe that seems to have been around for quite a long time and is still very popular—and deservedly so. Cheese Straws are crunchy savoury biscuits that are made with a good amount of cheese, butter, and some nice spice like, as in this version, paprika. Despite their plain looks they are very tasty and hard to stop eating. Paprika pairs well with a good cheese, providing a pleasant warmth that complements the richness of the other ingredients.

I have used a very good, extra-sharp Vermont Cheddar and Hungarian sweet paprika, but Parmesan and hot paprika would work as well, as would also a 50-50 mixture of each. The only important thing is to bake the biscuits well, so that they are dry and crunchy.

From the original recipe by Janet McKenzie Hill

In: Practical Cooking and Serving, 1902—USA

Ingredients:

1 cup (125 g) AP flour

1/2 tsp paprika (Hot or sweet, or a mix of the two)

1/4 tsp salt

1/3 cup (75 g) butter, cold

1/4 tsp baking powder

1/2 to 1 cup (50 to 100 g) grated cheese (Sharp Cheddar or Parmesan or a mix of the two)

1-2 tbsp ice water (or as needed)

Place the flour, salt, paprika, and baking powder in the bowl of a food processor and pulse briefly to mix everything together. Add the grated cheese and pulse again. Then add the butter, diced, and pulse just until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add 1 tbsp water and pulse again, add more water as needed with the machine running until the dough just holds together. Do not overprocess.

Shape the biscuits with a pastry bag or by hand forming small balls and then flattening them with a fork.

Bake in a preheated oven at 375°F for about 10 minutes, until golden. Lower the temperature to 300°F and bake a little longer, until the cookies are dry and crunchy. Cool on racks and store airtight.


Posted in American Cooking, Blog Events, Crackers & Savory Biscuits, Spices | Tagged: , , , , , | 4 Comments »

World Bread Day ’08—The Roundup and After Hours Party

Posted by bakinghistory on October 26, 2008

World Bread Day '08 - Roundup

Zorra has posted the roundup of WBD ’08. There are 245 amazing breads entered by bakers form all over the world. Take the time to visit each of them and see the wonderful recipes they have chosen for this year’s edition.

Thanks again to Zorra for hosting and to all the bakers that shared their great recipes

Posted in Blog Events | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

Orange Bread

Posted by bakinghistory on October 22, 2008

A very good bread with a citrusy aroma

This recipe results in a wonderful loaf full of the flavor and scent of oranges, thanks to both freshly squeezed orange juice and a good amount of orange zest. The texture is reminiscent of a very light brioche, or even challah, with a moist fine crumb and a thin, soft crust. It is excellent freshly baked, and, later, toasted and spread with sweet butter and a good orange marmalade, to have with tea or coffee.

This bread goes to Susan’s Yeast Spotting Roundup is HERE

From the original recipe by the King’s Daughters Society of Duluth, Minnesota

In: King’s Daughters Cook Book, 1916—USA

Ingredients:

4 cups bread flour

1-1/4 tsp active dry yeast

1/4 cup of warm water

1 cup to 1-1/4 cups orange juice (about 2 large organic oranges, or 3 small ones)

grated zest of all the oranges used for the juice

1 tsp salt

2 tbsp sugar

1 large egg yolk

2 tbsp butter, softened

1 large egg white (to glaze)

Mix the yeast in the warm water and set aside for about 10 minutes.

In a mixer bowl pour 1 cup of orange juice, the grated zest, egg yolk, sugar and flour, mixing on low speed for about 1-2 minutes. Add the yeast and mix for a few more minutes, then add the salt. Mix a little longer, at low speed, and then add the butter. Mix until the butter is well incorporated and the dough is smooth and well developed. You might need extra orange juice, depending on how your flour absorbs liquids. I needed 1/4 cup extra juice, and I used King Arthur bread flour.

It is important to have some extra juice on hand if needed, because adding extra water would diminish the bread’s orange flavor.

Let the dough ferment in a lightly greased covered bowl, until double in bulk. Then shape it as you like (I made a large 4-strand braid), but it can also be baked in two bread pans (9 x 5-inch pans).

If you decide to bake it free-form, sprinkle generously a baker’s peel or a baking sheet with semolina, then place the loaf on it.

Let the prepared loaf (or loaves) ferment, covered, until light, then brush gently with the egg white lightly beaten with 1 tbsp water.

Bake in a preheated oven (350°F) on a baker’s stone if you have one, or simply on the baking sheet on which the bread proofed, for about 45 minutes or 1 hour, depending on the size, until the crust is a deep golden brown. Cool the bread(s) on a rack.





Posted in American Cooking, Fruit, Yeasted Breads | Tagged: , , , , | 15 Comments »

Squash Bread (World Bread Day ’08)

Posted by bakinghistory on October 16, 2008

A wonderful loaf with a moist, chewy crumb and a crispy crust

3rd World Bread Day hosted by 1x umruehren bitte aka kochtopf

For this 2008 edition of World Bread Day, a blogging event founded and hosted by Zorra, I wanted to bake a bread with an ingredient with ties to the region of the United States where I live: New England.

So I chose to bake a bread made with  buttercup squash. The word squash originates from the Massachusett Indian word askutasquash, which indicated a vegetable that was eaten raw.

This bread is one of the best I have ever baked, and definitely one of my family’s favorites in the Fall. The squash provides a very moist and holey crumb, and the most gorgeous golden-orange color. The crust bakes crisp and the bread tastes only slightly sweet. It is great with a hearty soup for dinner on a cool Autumn evening.

The recipe comes from Mary Johnson Lincoln, a Massachusetts native who was a teacher at the famed Boston Cooking School and whose students included Fannie Farmer.

I recommend using buttercup squash because of its superior flavor and texture.

From the original recipe by: Mary J. Lincoln

In: “Mrs. Lincoln Boston Cook Book”, 1916—USA

Ingredients:

1 cup (250 g) baked and pureed  buttercup squash

2 tbsp (25 g) sugar

1-1/2 cups (366 g) whole milk

1 tbsp (15 g) butter

1/2 tsp (2 g) active dry yeast dissolved in 1 tbsp (15 ml) warm water

1 tsp (6 g) salt

3-1/3 cups to 4-1/3 cups (455 g to 595g) bread flour (as needed) I use King Arthur bread flour

semolina or cornmeal for the baking sheet

Scald the milk, then mix in it the pureed squash, butter, salt, and sugar.  When this mixture is cool add the yeast (mixed with the lukewarm water) and enough flour to have a dough that is well developed and supple, but rather slack. Knead well.

The dough should be soft and feel slightly tacky. Let it ferment, in a slightly greased bowl, covered, until double in bulk. Then gently shape it into a loaf on a floured surface, and place it on a baker peel or baking sheet on which  you have sprinkled a layer of fine semolina or cornmeal. Let the bread rise, covered, until light.

Preheat the oven to 450°F (232°C).

Bake the bread directly onto a baking stone if you have one or on the baking sheet for about 40-45 minutes, until golden brown. Add steam for the first 10 minutes, by placing in the oven a small metal pan filled with boiling water. Lower the temperature to 425°F (218°C) after the first 15 minutes.

This is how the crumb will look: (click on picture)

Thank you Zorra for hosting again World Bread Day!!!


Posted in American Cooking, Blog Events, Regional American Food, Yeasted Breads | Tagged: , , , , , , | 21 Comments »

Chess Pie (quiche, tarte, & co.)

Posted by bakinghistory on October 14, 2008

A Southern classic: Chess Pie

Blog-Event XXXIX - Quiche, Tarte & Co.

This is my entry for the event hosted by  Zorra of 1x umrühren bitte .

ROUNDUP IS HERE

Chess pie is a classic dessert in the culinary repertoire of Southern U.S. The flaky crust encloses a sweet, sweet, sweet, and creamy filling topped by an ever-so-thin, crispy layer of meringue.

From the original recipes by:  Mattie Lee Wehrley

In: “Handy Household Hints and Recipes”, 1916, USA

and Juniata L. Shepperd

In: “Handbook of Household Science”, 1902—USA

Ingredients:

Filling:

4 eggs

2 cups sugar

2/3 cups butter

1 tbsp flour

1/2 cup milk or cream

Crust:

1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup (scant) butter

1/4 tsp salt

ice water as needed

Preheat the oven to 375F (190C).

Make the Crust: In a food processor put flour salt and butter (diced), and pulse until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. With the machine running add enough water for the dough to come together. Do not overprocess. Wrap the dough in wax paper and let rest in a cool place for about 30 minutes. Roll the dough to about 1/8-inch thickness and line a deep pie dish, make a decorative rim.

Filling: melt the butter and let cool. Warm the milk and set aside.Beat the eggs at high speed with the sugar until very light (at least 15 minutes), then add the flour, the melted and cooled butter, and the lukewarm milk. If the milk is cold the mixture will curdle. If this happens, blend with an immersion blender until smooth and glossy.

Pour the filling in the prepared pan and bake at 350F (180C), until the top of the filling is golden brown. Let the pie cool in the pan placed on a rack. Serve cold; refrigerate any leftovers.

A note on the pie pan to use: I recommend using a metal deep-dish pie pan. In my experience, pies baked in  glass and ceramic pie dishes often have a soggy, undercooked pastry layer, which spoils the final result. Natural finish aluminum pie pans are best because they bake evenly.

Posted in American Cooking, Blog Events, Dairy, Desserts, Pies & Tarts, Regional American Food, Tarts & Pies | Tagged: , , , , , , | 9 Comments »

Potato Pie

Posted by bakinghistory on September 30, 2008

A tasty savory pie filled with potatoes and onions, milk and a touch of butter.

Ivy of Kopiaste is the host of a blog event all about savory pies. My contribution is a simple one, made with a buttery crust filled with shredded potatoes, onions, milk and butter. The filling is assembled in the pie crust with raw ingredients, which makes the preparation easy and quick. Furthermore, it does not contain any eggs. The result is a truly wonderful pie, with a perfectly flaky crust enclosing a tender, buttery filling, which is best enjoyed warm. Something worth trying for a simple dinner on a cold winter night.

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ROUNDUP IS HERE

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From the original recipes by  Jane Cunningham Croly

In: Jennie June’s American Cookery Book”, 1878—USA

and Juniata L. Shepperd

In: “Handbook of Household Science”, 1902—USA

Ingredients:

Filling:

4-5 large potatoes

1 small onion

1 tbsp butter

1/4 to1/3 cup cup whole milk (or half-and-half)

1/2 tsp kosher salt

Crust

1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup (scant) butter

1/4 tsp salt

ice water as needed

Preheat the oven to 375F (190C).

Make the Crust: In a food processor put flour salt and butter (diced), and pulse until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. With the machine running add enough water for the dough to come together. Do not overprocess. Wrap the dough in wax paper and let rest in a cool place for about 30 minutes. Roll the dough to about 1/8-inch thickness and line a deep pie dish, letting the extra pastry hang over the sides of the pan.

Filling: peel, wash and dry the potatoes. Shred them finely, mix them with the shredded onion and salt.  Put the mixture into the pie plate lined with pastry, then pour over enough milk (or half-and-half) to barely cover the filling. Distribute the butter in small pieces all over the filling, fold over the pastry so that the filling is partially covered. Bake for about 1 hour. Serve warm.

This pie does not freeze well, either baked or raw, because the potatoes turn mushy.


Posted in American Cooking, Blog Events, Dairy, Eggless, Milk, Pies & Tarts, vegetarian | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 10 Comments »

Baked Honey Custards (Rosh Hashanah 5769)

Posted by bakinghistory on September 25, 2008

A golden and velvety dairy dessert flavored with honey and cinnamon

Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, is approaching soon: the celebration begins at sundown Monday September 28th.

It is customary to eat honey to celebrate, in the hope that the new year will be a sweet one.

This simple custard is sweetened entirely with honey and could be a delicious addition to the table for this Holiday. It is milk based, but it could work as well with strained orange juice for a parve version. It is also very easy and quick to assemble.

Other ideas for Rosh Hashanah desserts are these:

Honey Cake—which I posted last year

Honey Cookies—from Miri at Room for Dessert

Magical Honey Cake—from Baroness Tapuzina

September is also National Honey Month and you can read all about it at Louise‘s Months of Edible Celebrations

From the original recipe by the United States Dept. of Agriculture

In: “Farmers’ Bulletin”, 1917—USA

Ingredients

5 eggs

1/2 cup of honey

4 cups scalded milk

1/8 tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp salt

Preheat the oven to 325F (170C).

Mix the eggs, honey, cinnamon and salt, then add the milk in a fine stream. Mix well to combine but try to avoid making the mixture foam too much.

Fill 8-10 ramekins and bake the custard in a water bath: place the ramekins in a roasting pan, preferably placing a rack underneath them, fill the pan with hot water so that it reaches half-way up the side of the ramekins. Cover with a piece of aluminum foil and bake for about 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until the custards are still giggly in the center. Let them cool in the water bath, then refrigerate. Serve well chilled.

L’Shanah Tovah!

Posted in American Cooking, Dairy, Holidays, Honey, Puddings, Spices | Tagged: , , , , , , | 9 Comments »

Seed-Cake (Novel Food, Fall ’08 edition)

Posted by bakinghistory on September 20, 2008

A nice cup of hot tea and a slice of this cake are best enjoyed in the company of good friends

Roundup 1 —-Roundup 2

For this season’s edition of Novel Food—one of my favorite blog events, co-hosted by Simona of Briciole and Lisa of Champaign Taste—I chose to recreate a food item from Jane EyreCharlotte Brontë‘s masterpiece.

This also goes to Susan’s Yeast Spotting

I read the book for the first time many years ago, in Junior High School, and loved it ever since. Over the years I returned to it once in a while, and the story never ceased to fascinate me. In time I realized what I found consistently so appealing in it. The novel contains all the necessary components of Romantic literature: a love story full of passion, mystery and tragedy, a good touch of the supernatural and a happy ending against all odds.

However, besides all of that, what truly brought me back to this novel is how its main character, Jane, is portrayed. She is a young woman, orphaned and destitute, very smart and barely pretty—in other words a person apparently lacking all of the desirable qualities that would ensure her any happiness in life or at least a comfortable place in society.

And yet, even in the worst of her circumstances and situations, Jane never compromises, never gives up her dignity as a person, never loses her solid moral principles. She is able to balance a good heart with cool rationality, always seeing beyond appearances and never settling for the easiest path. It was—and is—her strength in being able to say no, even if compromise would seem to ensure her gaining everything she most dearly wishes, that I find admirable, as is her unshakable belief that the qualities of the heart and the spirit have a value very much above those of wealth, position and social approval.

In the book food is mentioned quite often, from the dreadful meals at Lowood, the boarding school for orphaned girls that Jane attends—and survives—for eight years, to that offered to Jane after she leaves Thornfield and is rescued by the Rivers family.

Among all of the possibilities, I chose to bake a seed-cake, like the one Jane shares one perfect evening with her beloved schoolmate Helen and their teacher Miss Temple. The reason of my choice is that, to me, that simple cake eaten with friends and kindred spirits shows how, despite the dreariest circumstances, the comfort of true friendship can lighten one’s heart and console of any sadness.

Miss Temple invites Helen and Jane for tea: 

“[...] she got up, unlocked a drawer, and taking from it a parcel wrapped in paper, disclosed presently to our eyes a good-sized seed-cake.

‘I meant to give each of you some of this to take with you,’ said she: ‘but as there is so little toast, you must have it now,’and she proceeded to cut slices with a generous hand.

We feasted that evening as on nectar and ambrosia; and not the least delight of the entertainment was the smile of gratification with which our hostess regarded us, as we satisfied our famished appetites on the delicate fare she liberally supplied.”

In the many vintage cookbooks I have read I found different versions of seed-cakes, some rather plain, made with a yeasted and sweetened dough and others closer to pound cakes, very sweet and rich in eggs and butter. The common trait between all of these versions is, of course, the caraway seeds that speckle their crumb. Caraway seed once was used in sweet baked goods such as cakes and biscuits and not limited to savory ones. The effect is amazingly good: the pungency and complex aroma of these seeds, as well as their slight crunchiness provide a wonderful counterpoint to the sweetness and tenderness of the cakes.

As much as I love the flavor of caraway in the tangy sourdough ryes found in the baking repertoire of Central and Eastern Europe, I have to say that tasting caraway in a sweet baked good allows to appreciate this pleasant spice even more.

I tried more than one version, and it was difficult to choose one among all, since all have pleasant qualities that made them worth recommending. Charlotte Brontë does not give a detailed description of the seed-cake Jane and her friends have together with tea. Given the time at which the novel was published (1847) I thought at least I could write off any of the more recent recipes made with actual baking powder, which became popular only in the late nineteenth century. I tried a yeasted version made with only a little sugar and butter and no eggs, and another rather rich made with great quantities of all of these ingredients. The yeasted, plainer version is my favorite, and is the one I feature here.

From the original recipe by Margaret Dods

in: “The Cook and Housewife’s Manual”, 1828—UK

Ingredients

1/2 lb white sugar

2 lbs bread flour

1 tbsp active dry yeast

2 cups whole milk, plus more as needed

1/2 lb butter

1 oz. caraway seeds

a pinch of allspice, nutmeg, and ginger

Mix the sugar and flour in the bowl of an electric mixer. Scald the milk and let it cool to lukewarm. Dissolve the yeast in 1 cup of the warm milk and pour it over the flour-sugar mixture. Mix on low speed until some of the flour and the milk form a soft soupy dough (the rest of the flour will stay underneath. Cover the bowl and let the sponge ferment until doubled and bubbly. Switch to the dough hook, add the ground spices (except for the caraway) and knead until the dough starts to come together, adding the rest of the milk by the tablespoon as necessary (the dough should not be too soft at this point).

With the mixer running add the cold butter, diced, and knead until the dough is well developed, supple and smooth. Once the butter is well incorporated add the caraway seeds and knead a little more until well distributed in the dough.

Let the dough ferment until doubled in a covered bowl. Shape into two oval or round loaves and bake in a preheated oven at 350F (180C) for about 50 minutes, or until nice and golden. The loaves should be allowed to cool on a rack and sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.

If you prefer to use a bread pan, you will need two 9×5-inches pans.

Posted in Blog Events, Dairy, Eggless, Spices, Tea, Yeasted Cakes, Kuchen, Coffee Cakes | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 13 Comments »

 
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