Sunday, February 14, 2016

HFF: Sweets for the Sweet

4. Sweets for the Sweet (February 12 - February 25) It’s sugar, and maybe spice, and definitely everything nice. Test out a historic recipe for sweets, sweetmeats and candies - but don’t let them spoil your appetite!

Today was a pretty easy shoe-in for this challenge. I had a very close friend and her 3.5 year old daughter over to "test" a new cake pan I bought, shaped like a dragon. We also had the daughter's very first Big Girl Tea Party.

I forgot to take a pic of the cake (although it was displayed to all with much ooh-ing and aah-ing), so here is a stock photo. But my cake came out quite comparably, although I didn't have enough batter to fully fill the pan, so it was a small dragon with no bed to sleep on.

Roundup: The Challenge: Sweets for the Sweet
The Recipe: Newport Pound Cake
The Date/Year and Region: The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book by Fannie Merritt Farmer, Boston, MA, USA 1934
How Did You Make It:
Newport Pound Cake
-- 7/8 c. butter
-- 1 1/2 c. flour
-- few grains salt
-- 5 eggs
-- 1 1/2 c. powdered sugar
-- 1 tsp. vanilla
-- 1 tsp. baking powder

Cream butter, add flour gradually. Beat egg whites until stiff but not dry, and beat in half the sugar, salt, and vanilla. Beat egg yolks until thick and lemon-colored, add remaining sugar gradually, and add to butter and flour. Beat well. Fold egg whites into mixture. Sift over baking powder. Beat thoroughly. Bake 1 hour in moderate oven (350ºF) in buttered deep pan.
Time to Complete: 2 hours including baking
Total Cost: $0 all was already in house
How Successful Was It?: This was the first time I'd ever added the FLOUR to the creamed butter. It was interesting. The amount of having to move mixtures around so they could get under my mixer was a mild inconvenience, but the toddler helping me thought it was GREAT. Also, I only had 3 eggs, AND punctured one of the yolks. So I was only able to beat 2 egg whites, and I threw two tablespoons of mayo as egg substitute for the other two needed. My cake probably didn't rise as much as it should have. As stated, it didn't completely fill my cake pan, so I wound up with a small cake. I perhaps overbaked it, but even so, it had a very tender crumb. Really, one of the better "pound cake" type cakes I've ever baked.

Also, I oiled and then floured the pan so that the design came out well. Again, this worked wonders and my cake design came out perfectly. Nothing stuck to the pan.
How Accurate Is It?: I don't know if that was a common egg substitute in the 30s, but otherwise, everything turned out well and quite accurately.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

HFF: History Detective

Cue the world's ugliest looking meal

3. History Detective (January 29 - February 11) For this challenge, you get to be the detective! Either use clues from multiple recipes to make a composite recipe, or choose a very vague recipe and investigate how it was made.

I opted to make a soufflé from Traité General de la Cuisine Maigre by August Helié (1897). Original text:
Soufflé à la Parmentier:
Beurrez un moule à Charlotte grassement, chemisez-le légèrement avec de la chapelure blonde; faites cuire des pommes de terre à la vapeur ou au four; lorsqu'elles sont cuites, les passer au tami, les beurrer en les maniant à la cuillère dans une casserole, leur adjoindre une bonne poignée de fromage de gruyère râpé trois jaunes et trois blanc fouettés; emplissez votre moule et faites-le cuire à four modéré; lorsqu'il est cuit, démoulez-le sur un plat et arrosez-le avec du beurre noisette.
My translation:
Soufflé à la Parmentier:
Butter a Charlotte mold well, cover lightly with breadcrumbs; cook the potatoes either by steaming or baking in the oven; when they're done, run them through a sieve, butter them with a fair amount of butter [E.N. direct translation is apparently "butter them with the amount wielded in a spoon in a pot" so I'm going with a cooking spoon's worth of butter], mix them with a good handle [E.N. HA!] of grated gruyère, three yolks and three whipped egg whites; place them in your mold and cook it in a moderate oven; when it's cooked, unmold it onto a plate and sprinkle with hazelnut butter.

So, for all that I own many many useless (or single use) kitchen items, I do not own a Charlotte mold, or a large-size soufflé pan. (I own mini ones!) So I'm using a round clay cooking thingamer. I buttered it really heavily, then dusted it with corn flake crumbs (don't have breadcrumbs). I baked two good-sized baking potatoes (the size I'd be overjoyed to get at a steakhouse), and rubbed them through a steel strainer with a wooden spoon. I have to say, I'm a fan of this method of making potatoes. I'm considering investing in a potato ricer, as it makes a lovely texture. I put a large blob of butter (probably 2 tablespoons at least) in with the hot potatoes, and started dealing with the difficult items. I grated the gruyère (Husband only found smoked, so smoked it is), about 1.5 oz, and added that to the potatoes. I separated my eggs, and put the yolks straight in with the potatoes. Then I started beating the eggs. I wanted them somewhere between soft and stiff peaks, and I hate using the stand mixer for something small like this. Famous last words. I DID discover that twirling the whisk between my hands is much more energy efficient than the traditional whipping motion. But halfway through, I tagged my husband in. And so while he finished beating the eggs, I mixed everything else together. When the eggs were whipped, I folded them into the potato mixture, and put it into my baking container -- evening out the top. I then put it in the still-heated-from-potatoes oven at 350F.

As I write this, it is still in the oven. I'll post an update, but I'm so excited about this I want to post early.

Amusingly, but not surprisingly, my husband both wished we could stick a whisk in the cordless drill (ha!), and said that we should get an egg beater. I've long wanted one, but have so rarely needed one... This is one of the many reasons why I love my husband. :-D

UPDATE: It is delicious! Nice and potato-y. Smells more cheesy than it tastes. The hazelnut would have gone well, as it's a little dry. But light and fluffy! I've never made soufflé, and they're rumoured to be difficult, but this was a success! Also, didn't have the huge dome of soufflé that I was expecting, but I am in no way upset with my meal. 10/10 would make and eat again.

The Challenge:
History Detective
The Recipe: Soufflé à la Parmentier
The Date/Year and Region:France, 1897
How Did You Make It: see above
Time to Complete: 75 mins for baking potatoes, 35 mins for prep time, 40 for baking soufflé Total Cost: $6.99 for Gruyère, $4.89 for eggs, everything else was in the house already
How Successful Was It?:DELICIOUS. Although it stuck to the bottom of the pan when I tried to unmold it, and my foolish decision to NOT photograph it while in the baking container means that I only have ugly pictures.
How Accurate Is It?: I'm skipping the hazelnut butter, but otherwise everything is pretty reasonable. It was also all made by hand, so achievable for the average kitchen in 1897.

Contenders for HFF

Because I have this problem (lookit the humblebrag coming up) where I read antique cookbooks like novels regularly, I am very rarely confused by their instructions. The fact that my family has generally not used measurements in home cooking probably encourages such things. All of our family recipes are a list of ingredients, with no amounts or directions. ... Actually that's probably the reason for my facility with this...

Anywho, I decided that I would pick a French recipe from Traité General de la Cuisine Maigre by August Helié (published 1897 and found on Project Gutenberg). The translation would give me the detective part of this challenge, as I haven't taken French in ... a decade. I feel old. Amusingingly, reading this on my kindle while commuting for the past week must have been amusing for those around me as I mutter French under my breath and get really excited when I figure words out.

Here are my contenders!

Well, the first got eliminated when I realized the word I didn't know was 'tortoise'. No matter if Indian-style Rice Croquettes otherwise sound delicious. Onto number two!

Gnochis au Gratin:
Faites une pâte à choux commune au lait, dans laquelle vous y incorporez du fromage de parmesan râpé, beurrez un plat à sauter et faites des belles quenelles à la cuillère avec votre pâte; lorsque votre plat est plein, mouillez ces quenelles à l'eau bouillante et laissez-les pocher sur le coin du feu. Les égoutter sur un linge, ensuite les placer sur un plat a gratin, les napper avec une sauce au beurre dans laquelle vous y aurez introduit du parmesan râpé et un peu de paprica; semez par-dessus un peu de chapelure et quelques gouttes de beurre fondu; poussez au four pour le faire gratiner et servez.

Number three!

Calecanom à l'Irlandaise:
** side note -- Colcannon is one of my all-time favorite meals, so this is high on my list.**
Ayez des pommes de terre cuites et bien farineuses, brisez-les au moyen d'une fourchette, ajoutez-y un bon morceau de beurre et un cinquième d'herbe potagère bien hachée, le tout assaisonné de beurre, de sel, de poivre et de gingembre; ce mets est très substantiel et assez agréable, servez dans un plat à légumes en en formant un dôme, et l'arroser d'un beurre fondu.

Number four!

Soufflé à la Parmentier:
Beurrez un moule à Charlotte grassement, chemisez-le légèrement avec de la chapelure blonde; faites cuire des pommes de terre à la vapeur ou au four; lorsqu'elles sont cuites, les passer au tami, les beurrer en les maniant à la cuillère dans une casserole, leur adjoindre une bonne poignée de fromage de gruyère râpé trois jaunes et trois blanc fouettés; emplissez votre moule et faites-le cuire à four modéré; lorsqu'il est cuit, démoulez-le sur un plat et arrosez-le avec du beurre noisette.

I'm less excited about the gnocchi, so I'll eliminate that for now (although I might try it eventually). The colcannon requires buying les "herbe potagères" which google tells me are potherbs. That actually does call for some recipe detective as I forget what potherbs are. I'm assuming greens. Especially as potagère alone means vegetable, although there was a secondary definition of beets. I'm also assuming greens because it's colcannon. ... It's just too easy for the colcannon. I've made literally every version of mashed potatoes + stuff that wikipedia lists. Looks like I'm going to try and make the soufflé! I need to buy gruyère, hazelnut butter and eggs. Amusingly, although I had assumed there'd be eggs in there, it being a soufflé and all, there is no mention of les oeufs. But "three yellows and three whites whipped", now that sounds like eggs. The question then becomes, do I own a Charlotte mold? I might have to make something up. Thursday's dinner will be delicious. :-D

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Clearing Some Tabs

Since my husband and I share computers (they're both his), I can't really keep tabs up for ever and ever. So here are some things:

“I’m not a fucking genius. I work my ass off. Hamilton could have written what I wrote in about three weeks. That’s genius. It took me a very long time to wrestle this onto the stage, to even be able to understand the worldviews of the characters that inhabit my show, and then be able to distill that.” — Lin-Manuel Miranda

“Men give me credit for some genius. All the genius I have lies in this; when I have a subject in hand, I study it profoundly. Day and night it is before me. My mind becomes pervaded with it. Then the effort that I have made is what people are pleased to call the fruit of genius. It is the fruit of labor and thought.” — Alexander Hamilton

^ cute way to do a bow neck



Matchstick Cookies

Cute corselet with "panties" of silk georgette. The largest front and back petals button together. source

"All dresses of this time [1913] started out with a boned belt to which everything was attached. This was snugly fitted and usually fastened on the left."

"An underbodice, or guimpe, was attached first. This one has the sleeves in one with the body, kinono-style, which was in fashion at the time. Lace is attached where it will show, and the under fabric is pink silk georgette. The bodice snaps down the left side front, hooks securely to the belt, then the snaps continue around to the side. The rest of the bodice from the left front around the right and across the back to the left closure is attached to the belt."

"Here is the back, showing the simple turned-under edge of the netting, which will not fray, and the georgette. This is gathered to a cotton twill tape and stitched to the belt."

"Over the bodice goes this beautiful silk lace cape, edged with rose weighted silk, which covers the unfinished edges of the netting and meets at the middle front at the beltline. (I have it on inside out here, showing the seams.) Note how the lace is gathered at the bottom to make a drape at the waist. The other side has come unsewn. Look at the dresses for October 1911 and July 1911 at the link I provided above to see similar construction. It has been cut away at the front, but I believe it had been attached to the belt at center front and center back. The other piece of this beautiful dress that remains is the top overskirt. The fronts are finished with the same rose weighted silk fabric. The underskirt, which is missing, probably was made of the rose weighted silk, which you can see is splitting very badly. This underskirt, like the bodice, would have been attached to the belt from the right side around the back to the side opening, and then finished with snaps to the front left. To cover all the busyness at the waist, there would have been a boned sash, probably with long ends finished with lace or tassels."

"Notice how the lace is gathered at center back for more draping. This would have been a diaphanous floaty rustling party dress!"

"The silk lace is still in excellent condition. The only material that is crumbling is the weighted silk, which is to be expected."

Friday, February 5, 2016


Because I've been reading almost nothing but cookbooks lately*, I've been craving cooking and baking. I actively want to make pies and cakes and all sorts of things. What I HAVE made so far has been "Rys" aka medieval rice pudding with almond milk (aka our normal milk), which was ok but not great. I also wanted to make rice waffles using leftover brown rice from last night's dinner and the shiny brand-new waffle maker I received as a wedding present from a student. Surprise surprise, the waffle cookbook she'd also given didn't have rice waffles. Neither did the Breakfasts & Brunches cookbook. Nor did the King Arthur Flour Baking Companion. So I thought to myself: what of my antique cookbooks would have rice waffles? And lo and behold, my first guess was correct. Mrs. Tyree's "Housekeeping in Old Virginia" (pub. 1879) had THREE recipes for rice waffles. I made some slight adjustments, as I didn't have eggs (I added apple sauce and sour cream), but they turned out tasty! "Amusingly", my husband had to go with his third option for topping. As our maple syrup had mold (ew), most of the honey accessible has crystalized, and so it was butter and powdered sugar as the final option.

But all of this has not cured my lust for cookery. And so, having asked my husband to thaw the leftover dumpling filling from the last time I made potstickers (good gods, that was 8/27/15), I am making dumplings today. They are so simple, it's almost a crime to purchase them. I use the pork version from Use Real Butter. And so we shall have tasty tasty potstickers for dinner, with dipping sauce based on what I have in the cupboards more than anything specific. I think it'll be soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame oil, honey, red pepper flakes, minced garlic, grated ginger, and sesame seeds. This will go along with our rice and beans -- new attempts to actually EAT what's in the pantry!

* I'm reading up for the next HFF challenge. I think I'm going to wind up using a French recipe, because I'll have to translate the French and that is enough of a mystery for me! Most of the cookbooks I use are clear enough to follow -- or I have been reading/cooking with them long enough that they're clear to me. I mean, if I see a cake recipe that's only ingredients, I know what to do with them. Either that, or they'll say "make as a sponge cake" and I'd have to just double check the beginning of the cake chapter for sponge cakes. So, I'm going with "I've read them too much to be confused".