Baking History

A Taste For The Past

Archive for February, 2008

Orange-Graham Muffins & Orange Tea

Posted by bakinghistory on February 29, 2008

A healthy breakfast full of the sunny flavor and scent of oranges
healthy-eats.jpg This is my entry for the Weekend Breakfast Blogging event hosted this month by Suganya of Tasty Palettes and initiated by Nandita of Saffron Trail. Suganya’s theme is “Healthy Eats”.
These muffins contain no eggs, no dairy, and just a minimal amount of sugar and shortening (olive oil). Graham flour provides fiber and freshly squeezed orange juice gives flavor and a moist, tender crumb. The tea is infused with fresh orange slices, and it is so flavorful it does not require any additional sugar.
From the original recipes by:
Alice Bradley In: “Sunkist Recipes. Oranges-Lemons”, c1916—USA
Mrs. J. L. Lane In: “365 Orange Recipes: an orange recipe for every day in the year”, c1909—USA
Orange-Graham Muffins

1/2 cup (65 g) flour

1/2 tsp salt

2 tbsp (25 g) sugar

3/4 cup (100g) Graham flour

Grated rind 1/2 (organic) orange

7/8 cup (205 ml) freshly squeezed orange juice (1 cup minus 2 tbsp)

1/2 tsp baking soda

2 tbsp (30 ml) shortening (extra-virgin olive oil)

Orange Tea

1 thin-skinned (organic) orange

1 qt (1 l) freshly brewed hot tea

Make the Muffins: Preheat oven to 450°F (230°C); if you have cast iron muffin pans preheat them in the oven as well.

Sift flour, salt and sugar; add Graham flour and grated rind of orange. Dissolve the baking soda in the orange juice stirring
until it begins to get frothy, then add the shortening. Pour orange juice mixture onto flour mixture and mix well, then pour the batter quickly into (hot), greased muffin-pans, place the pans in the oven and immediately lower the temperature to 400°F (200°C) and bake for about 20 minutes. Serve warm.

Make the Orange Tea: Slice the orange into paper thin slices, discarding the seeds. Place the slices into a glass jug and pour the hot tea over them. Serve hot or cold and sweetened to taste.

Posted in American Cooking, Beverages, Dairy-Free, Eggless, Fruit, Muffins & Biscuits, Pareve, Tea, vegetarian, whole grains | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments »

Ovis Mollis

Posted by bakinghistory on February 28, 2008

A classic vanilla flavored Italian cookie with a meltingly soft texture
These plain vanilla cookies are truly an example of the best among Italian pastries. Their wonderfully tender texture is achieved by using hard-boiled yolks in the dough as well as some potato or corn starch. They are not too sweet, even with the confectioners’ sugar topping. Ideal to have with tea, they can also be paired with a jam filling.
From the original recipe by Giuseppe Ciocca
In: “Il Pasticcere e Confettiere Moderno”, 1907—Italy
14 tbsp (200 g) unsalted butter
1-1/2 cups (200 g) AP flour, unbleached + extra to roll the dough
1/2 cup (100 g) sugar
3/4 cup (100 g) potato starch or cornstarch
5 hard-boiled yolks
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
confectioners’ sugar
Preheat the oven to 325°F (160°C)
Place the flour and starch in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until well mixed. Add the butter, diced, and pulse until the mixtture looks like wet sand. Add the sugar and pulse until well incorporated. Add the yolks, and pulse until they are crumbled. Add the vanilla extract, and pulse until the dough forms (it might take a few seconds, and it might look like the mixture is too dry, but if the machine keeps working the dough will eventually form. Gather the dough in a piece of wax paper and leave to rest in a cool place (not the refrigerator).
Sprinkle a little flour on the work surface and roll the dough to a scant 1/4-inch (5 mm) thickness. With a cookie cutter cut the cookies (the traditional shape is a ring, which can be made with a donut cutter). Place the cookies on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil (greasing is not really necessary, especially if you use insulated baking sheets).
Bake for about 10 minutes, taking care that the cookies do not darken.
Let the cookies cool on the baking pans. They are extremely fragile while hot, and they will literally disintegrate if removed from the pans while hot.
Once the cookies are cool sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar and store in airtight containers.
Note: to hard-boil the yolks saving the egg whites for other dishes, place a pan filled with about 2 inches of water on high heat. As soon as the water starts simmering, break each egg, separating yolks and whites. Place each yolk on a spoon and lower it ever so gently in the barely simmering water. Repeat with the remaining eggs. Let the yolks cook for about 2-3 minutes, scoop them out of the water with a skimmer and drain on paper towels.


Posted in Cookies, Bars, & Biscotti, Italian Cuisine, Italy | 7 Comments »

Excellent Blogs

Posted by bakinghistory on February 26, 2008


I was delighted and honored to find out that Susan of Wild Yeast included Baking History in her selection of five blogs she considers worthy of receiving the “E for Excellent” Award. Susan, baker extraordinaire, is a source of inspiration for me—I visit her blog daily and never cease to be amazed at her wonderful skills and passion for the joyful art of bread baking. Thus receiving the award from her made it even more special.

Thank you Susan!!!

Recipients, in turn, are entitled to choose five other bloggers they wish to recognize for their inspiring work. It is tough to restrict my choices to only five—all of those listed in my blogroll are favorites. However, among all of them here I wish to mention:

Marye of Apron Strings and Simmering Things: I enjoy reading her posts, not just for the scrumptious dishes but for her sense of humor, enthusiasm and spirit

Nils of Ye Olde Bread Blogge for his wonderful breads and informative tips about techniques

Simona of Briciole for writing a great dictionary of Italian words, interspersed with recipes and memories. She does a truly wonderful job explaining with detail and skill the beauties and intricacies of the Italian language

Robert of TimeFiction— The Time Travel Logs for writing about one of my favorite themes in the area of sci-fi: time travel. The blog is new but the writings that are there so far (The New England Series) are really great.

Ex aequo (so I can mention them both) Louise of Months of Edible Celebrations and T.W. of Culinary Types. Louise’s blog is a gold mine of information about food history and food-related inventions. T.W.’s blog is full of retro recipes and beautifully written stories that provide the perfect context for each dish.


Thank you all for your beautiful blogs.



Posted in Blog Awards | 12 Comments »

Lincoln Cake

Posted by bakinghistory on February 21, 2008


A moist, buttery cake with a delicate lemon scent


I recently read a very interesting post about a luncheon menu for Presidents’ Day written by T.W. from Culinary Types. Every dish featured in the menu was gorgeous, but I was particularly interested in the Lincoln Cake, created in 1865 to commemorate President A. Lincoln. The recipe was published in Godey’s Lady’s Book, while Sarah J. Hale was the magazine’s editor.

The cake is very nice, with a moist crumb and a texture reminiscent of traditional pound cakes, with a pleasant lemon scent. It keeps fresh and moist for a relatively long time, and it is even better after a day or two.

From the original recipe by Sarah Annie Frost

In: “The Godey’s Lady’s Book Receipts and Household Hints”, 1870—USA


2 eggs

2 cups (400 g) sugar

1/2 cup cup (113g) butter

1 cup (237 ml) milk

3 cups (375 g) flour

1 tsp cream of tartar

1/2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp (organic) lemon extract

All ingredients must be at room temperature.

Sift the flour with the baking soda and cream of tartar.

Cream the butter at high speed until fluffy, then add the sugar 1 tbsp at a time, still beating at high speed. It is important not to add the sugar all at once or the mixture will be heavy instead of fluffy, which will compromise the cake’s final texture. Once all of the sugar has been incorporated, add one egg and beat well until thoroughly mixed, then add the second egg and the lemon extract and mix well.

Add 1/3 of the flour (sifted with cream of tartar and baking soda) and mix it at the lowest speed. Add 1/3 of the milk, in a thin stream, mixing it in at low speed, then increase the speed to high and beat the mixture till light and creamy. Add 1/3 more of the flour , then 1/3 more of the milk, and mix as described above. Add the remaining flour and then milk as described before. Beat the mixture for 3 minutes at high speed, until creamy and light.

Pour the batter (which might look like it is too liquid, but that is how it is supposed to be) into a 5.4 x 9.1 inch (13.6 x 23.2 cm) loaf pan, lightly greased. I find that lining the pan with aluminum foil and greasing the foil liner makes it much easier to unmold the cake.

Place the cake in a cold oven and set the temperature  at 300°F (150°C) and let the cake bake for about 2 hours, or until golden and a cake tester comes out clean. Let the cake cool in the pan for about 5 minutes, than unmold it and let it finish cooling on a rack.

P.S. Louise of Month of Edible Celebrations suggested baking the cake at very low temperature and starting with a cold oven. If the oven is too hot, because of the high amount of sugar in the ingredients, the cake will brown too fast on the outside and remain raw in the center.



Posted in American Cooking, Beverages, Cakes | 12 Comments »

Mrs. Sulzbacher’s Chocolate Hearts

Posted by bakinghistory on February 15, 2008

Airy and light, these chocolate meringue cookies are nothing less than excellent.

A heart for your Valentine This is my entry for Zorra’s A heart for your Valentine blog event. These wonderful meringue cookies are featherlight and chocolatey and incredibly good. Really wonderful!

The recipe is rather simple but it is important to follow the instructions to the letter or results can go quickly from heavenly to disastrous.

From the original recipe by Amelia Sulzbacher

In: The Good Housekeeping Woman’s Home Cook Book”, c1909—USA


3 oz. (3 squares, 85 g) unsweetened chocolate

1 lb. (454 g) sifted confectioners’ sugar

1 tsp (5 ml) vanilla extract

3 egg whites (or as needed), slightly beaten

granulated sugar as needed

The egg whites must NOT be added all at once, but little by little or the dough will be too soft and the recipe will fail.

Melt the chocolate over hot water then add it to the confectioners’ sugar in the bowl of a standing mixer.Using the flat beater attachment mix briefly on the lowest speed, adding the vanilla. The mixture will be lumpy and most of the sugar will not be incorporated. Add the egg white 1 tbsp at a time, mixing on the lowest speed. You won’t probably need all of the amount indicated. The dough is ready when it is stiff and holds together when you work it by hand. The final consistency should be like play-dough.

choclate-hearts-dough.jpg (click on the thumbnail to enlarge)

Keep the dough in a bowl covered with a plate–plastic wrap does not work well—the dough tends to dry if left exposed to the air even for a few minutes.

Preheat the oven to 300°F (150°C). If the temperature is higher, the cookies will puff up too fast and loose their shape.

Sprinkle a very generous layer of granulated sugar on a board and take an orange-size piece of dough, leaving the rest covered. Work the portion of dough briefly between the palms of your hands, then place it onto the sugar covered surface and roll it 1/8-inch (3 mm) thick (not thicker). Flip the flattened dough a couple of times while rolling it so that both sides are well covered with sugar.chocolate-hearts-rolled.jpg (click on the thumbnail to enlarge)

Form the cookies with heart shaped cookie-cutters and place the cookies on a very lightly greased baking sheet. The dough scraps cannot be kneaded again because of the granulated sugar, so try to minimize the spaces between cookies while you shape them. The scraps can be baked as well and will make cookies as delicious as the rest, albeit of less perfect shapes.

Bake the cookies for about 10-12 minutes, they will puff up a little and dry like meringues. When they are ready switch off the oven leave them in the oven for a few more minutes to ensure they are really dry.

Cool the cookies on racks and store in airtight containers.

Note: these quantities will yield approximately 4 baking sheets of cookies. You can halve the recipe, but they are so good it would be a pity to bake a smaller quantity.

Posted in American Cooking, Chocolate, Cookies, Bars, & Biscotti, Flourless Cakes, Gluten-free | Tagged: , , , , , | 9 Comments »

Cinnamon Tartlets (Small Tarts Have Big Hearts! Mini Pie Revolution Event #2)

Posted by bakinghistory on February 12, 2008

These plain little tarts hide a tender almond meringue heart scented with cinnamon
For Valentine’s day, in the second blog event hosted by Karyn and Ann, as my contribution I chose these little tarts from a vintage cookbook published in Chicago in 1907.
While reading the recipe I could tell they should be pretty good, but once I made them I realized I had underestimated the results.
Even if their plain appearance might not catch too much attention at first, they actually hide a surprisingly delicate meringue heart in their tender pastry shell.
From the original recipes by Paul Richards
In: “Paul Richard’s Book of Breads, Cakes, Pastries, Ices and Sweetmeats, 1907—USA
Short paste for tarts
2 cups (227 g) flour
1/3 cup (75 g) butter, cold
2-1/2 tbsp (30 g) sugar
1 yolk
1-3 tbsp (15-45 ml) milk (or as needed)
Cinnamon filling
1/3 cup egg white (whites from 2 extra-large eggs)
1/2 cup (100 g) sugar
scant 1/2 cup (2 oz., 60 g) whole almonds, blanched
1-1/2 tsp (3 g) ground cinnamon
extra sugar to decorate ( I used Demerara but any kind will do)
Prepare the almonds: Place the almonds on a baking sheet in a single layer. Toast the almonds in the oven (preheated at 350F°—180°C) for about 10 minutes, or until just lightly colored. Let the almonds cool completely.
Make the short paste: Put the flour in the food processor with the butter (diced) and pulse until the flour resembles wet sand. Add the sugar and pulse briefly to mix it in. Add the yolks and process briefly, then, with the machine running, add milk. Start with 1 tbsp of milk and add a little more at a time, pulsing, until the crumbly dough just holds together. Be careful not to add too much milk or the dough will be wet and sticky.
Wrap the dough in wax paper and let it rest in a cool place for about 30 minutes.
Roll the paste on a floured board to a scant 1/8-inch (3 mm) thickness and line bottom and sides of tartlet molds. I have used heart-shaped tartlet pans that are as big as min-muffin cups.
Preheat the oven to 325°F (160°C)
Make the filling: Grind the almonds with 2 tbsp of sugar (taken from the total) and the cinnamon until they are fine and powdery. It is important that the almonds are cool when you grind them or they will become pasty and oily.
Beat the egg whites at high speed until soft, glossy peaks form, then add the remaining sugar 1 tsp at a time. The meringue should be stiff but not overbeaten and dry. Gently fold in the almond-cinnamon mixture, being careful not to deflate the meringue.
Assemble the tartlets: Fill each pastry shell to the rim with the meringue mixture, sprinkle a little sugar over the filling. Bake in a slow oven until puffed and golden (about 30-35 minutes, depending on the size of your mini pans). Cool the mini tarts on racks.
P.S. I scaled down the original recipes–the short paste recipe called for 3 lb of flour, and you might have a little more dough than filling, depending also on the type of tart pans you have.

Posted in American Cooking, Blog Events, Pies & Tarts, Spices, Treenuts | Tagged: , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Lydia M. Child’s Loaf Cake

Posted by bakinghistory on February 11, 2008

A yeasted cake spiced with cinnamon and rose water
The theme of this blog is to recreate recipes from antique cookbooks which can be a way to have a glimpse of times past. Many of these old cookbooks were written by women who had very interesting lives, and who accomplished a lot in their time.
As Louise at Months of Edible Celebrations mentioned, one of this women, Lydia M. Child was born on February 11, 1802. I baked this cake from Lydia’s cookbook The American Frugal Housewife.
Lydia M. Child was a remarkable woman in many ways, who accomplished amazing things both in the personal and in the social sphere—and her life almost reads as a novel.
She was a member of the Transcendentalist movement—and like many of her generation —she was a passionate social reformer.
She raised a family, worked as a teacher and a journalist, wrote essays and novels devoted to the social causes of her time: she was an abolitionist, as well as an activist for women’s rights and Native Americans’ rights.
Her life has been recently portrayed in a documentary .
From the original recipe by Lydia Maria Child
In: “The American Frugal Housewife”, 1833—USA
2 lb bread flour
1/4 oz. (7 g) active dry yeast
1/2 lb sugar
1/4 lb. butter
2 eggs
1/2 cup warm water
1 cup water (or as needed)
1/2 oz. ground cinnamon
1 tbsp rose water or lemon extract (or to taste)
1-1/2 tsp salt
1 yolk to decorate
Dissolve the yeast in the warm water and set aside. Cream the butter with the sugar, add the eggs and the flavoring (rose or lemon) and mix well. Sift the flour with the cinnamon and the salt. Add the flour mixture to the butter-egg mixture, then pour in the yeast water and the remaining water, kneading on low speed to make a soft, smooth dough. You might need more water than indicated.
Let the dough rise in a buttered bowl, covered, until doubled.
Preheat the oven to 350F.
Shape the dough in a free form loaf or place it into a removable bottom round cake pan, 8-inches in diameter, generously buttered on the bottom and sides. Brush the top of the cake with yolk mixed with 1 tbsp water and make a diamond pattern lightly scoring the top with a sharp knife.
Let it rise, covered, until light. Bake for about 40 minutes and let cool on a rack.

Posted in American Cooking, Spices, Yeasted Cakes, Kuchen, Coffee Cakes | 11 Comments »

Bean Taffy

Posted by bakinghistory on February 9, 2008

Bean taffy, a candy as tasty as it is unusual, is made with pureed beans, sugar, milk and butter
This is my entry for My Legume Love Affair hosted by Susan from The Well-Seasoned Cook .
Pureed beans are used to make this unusual candy, with an excellent taste (it reminds me a lot of Marrons glacés ) and a not-too-chewy texture.
It is not particularly difficult to make, but you need a candy thermometer and some time and patience.
The mixture must be stirred as it cooks, but ever so gently or the candy will be grainy instead of smooth.
It is also important not to cook it too long, or it will harden. If that happens, it can be cooked again with some more milk until it reaches the right consistency.
The book recommended dried Lima beans, but also said that any variety will do—I tried also with Great Northern beans and Navy beans. The dried beans should be picked over, rinsed, soaked in cold water overnight, and cooked in fresh water until tender. They should be pureed and strained to eliminate skins.
From the original recipe by Mary Elizabeth Hall
In: “Candy-making revolutionized; confectionery from vegetables”, 1912—USA
2 cups (400 g ) sugar
1/2 (118 ml) cup water
1 tbsp (15 g) butter (room temperature) + extra to grease pan
1/2 cup (125 g) cooked, pureed beans
1 cup (237 ml) milk

Necessary equipment:

candy thermometer

wooden spoon

cake pan 10 x 15 x 2 inches (25.4 x 38 x 5 cm)

saucepan + tight fitting lid

Place the candy thermometer in hot water, butter very generously bottom and sides of the cake pan.

Mix well and boil together water, pureed beans, and butter. Let the mixture simmer, covered, for about 3 minutes. Uncover and add 1/3 of the milk, bring to a boil again and let boil gently for 3 minutes, stirring gently, scraping the bottom of the pan. Add 1/3 more of the remaining milk and proceed as before, finally adding the last of the milk.

Place the candy thermometer in the pan and let the mixture boil gently, stirring all the time with slow and gentle motion, until the thermometer register 242°F (116.67°C), which is slightly above the soft-ball stage.

Pour the mixture in the prepared pan and when warm cut in squares.

Posted in American Cooking, Beans, Blog Events, Candy & Confections | Tagged: , , , | 8 Comments »

Cornmeal Muffins (Homegrown Gourmet #5)

Posted by bakinghistory on February 7, 2008


Made with yellow corn meal and a touch of sugar, the corn muffin is the official muffin of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts

                                roundup is HERE

This is my entry for the Homegrown Gourmet #5 blog event hosted this time by Gretchen from Canela & Comino and initiated by Bean’s Bistro.

Gretchen’s theme was Quick Breads and she specified that each entry should “somehow represent your home region, hometown, state, or area. Representation can feature a local ingredient, be a traditional dish from your area, or be a creative twist”.

I write from the beautiful State of Massachusetts, so for this event my entry could only be Corn Muffins, which are the official muffin of the Commonwealth.

This recipe gives buttery, very light muffins, with a pleasant crunchiness provided by the stone ground cornmeal, and a nice touch of sweetness. Ideally, they should be baked in cast iron muffin pans, which should be heated in the oven before being filled with batter. This would ensure that the muffins turn out crispy on the outside and nice and spongy inside. Otherwise, regular muffin pans will work almost as well, of course without preheating.

From the original recipe by Lucia Gray Swett

In: “New England breakfast breads, luncheon and tea biscuits, 1891—USA

Ingredients (the recipe can be halved)

1/2 cup (115 g) butter + a little extra to grease the pans

1/2 cup (100 g) white sugar

4 eggs, divided

2 cups (245 g) yellow cornmeal (stone ground)

1/2 tsp salt

2 cups (250 g) AP flour (unbleached)

2-1/4 (535 ml) cups milk

3 tsp baking powder OR 1 tsp baking soda + 2 tsp cream of tartar

Preheat the oven to 450°F (230°C). If you are using cast iron muffin pans preheat them in the oven.

If you are using baking powder, sift it with the AP flour. If you are using baking soda and cream of tartar sift the cream of tartar with the AP flour and dissolve the baking soda in some of the milk. Sift the cornmeal with the salt.

Cream the butter with the sugar, add the yolks, the AP flour (sifted with either baking powder or cream of tartar), and part of the milk (not the amount in which you dissolved the baking soda, in case you used it). Add the cornmeal and salt, then add the remaining milk (the amount in which you dissolved the baking soda if using it). Mix the ingredients quickly, by hand. Finally fold in the egg whites, beaten until stiff.

Grease the muffin pans with melted butter (using a small brush is best). Do this carefully if you preheated the cast iron pans in the oven. Fill each muffin cup for about 2/3 and quickly place them in the oven. Immediately lower the temperature to 400°F (200°C) bake until the muffins are puffed and golden, about 15-20 minutes. Serve warm.

P.S. The book recommended using cream of tartar + baking soda as they would give better results than baking powder, and I found this to be true.


Posted in American Cooking, Blog Events, Cast-iron cooking, Comfort Food, Corn Bread, Grains, Muffins & Biscuits, Regional American Food, State Foods | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments »

Chinese Almond Cakes

Posted by bakinghistory on February 5, 2008


Traditional Chinese almond cakes

here is the ROUNDUP

This is my entry for the Chinese New Year blog event hosted by FoodFreak.

From the original recipe by Sara Bosse and Onoto Watanna [pseud.]

In: “Chinese-Japanese Cook Book”, c1914—USA


2 cups (320 g) rice flour + a little extra to form the cookies

1/4 cup (50 g) almond oil

1/2 cup (50 g) almonds, blanched

1-1/2 cups (180 g) confectioners’ sugar

2 eggs

To decorate: 10-12 almonds, blanched and split in half + 1 yolk mixed with 1/2 tbsp water

Preheat the oven to 325°F (160°C)

Place the almonds, rice flour, and sugar in the bowl of a food processor and process until the almonds are chopped very fine. Add the almond oil and pulse until the mixture resembles wet sand. Add the eggs and process briefly, until a soft dough forms.

Sprinkle some rice flour on a wooden board and roll small amounts of dough into balls about the size of a small walnut.

Press the balls with the bottom of a glass (floured), then brush with egg wash and place a split almond in the center.

Alternatively, you can roll the dough 1/4-inch (0.6 cm) thick, then cut the cookies with a round cookie-cutter.
Bake the cakes on baking sheets for 1 hour, making sure the oven temperature is not higher than 325°F (160°C)

Let the cakes cool on racks and store in an airtight container

Posted in American Cooking, Blog Events, Cookies, Bars, & Biscotti, Dairy-Free, Flourless Cakes, Gluten-free, Pareve, Rice, Treenuts | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments »