by Whitney Ransom McGowan
Do you ever wonder what kinds of foods were served on your ancestor’s dinner table? I love to cook and recently I have been thinking about the food my grandparents, great grandparents, and great, great grandparents ate while they were growing up. My grandmother (I call her Grammie.) is a fantastic cook. I love going to her home because she always makes delicious food, from her famous crepes, to her gingerbread cookies, to her rolls, among many other delicious dishes. Although she always makes my favorite recipes, I wanted to find out what her favorite recipe is, as well as what her mother’s (my great grandmother) favorite recipe was.
Shortly after I spoke to my grandmother, Beverly Christensen, she sent me an email with the information I was seeking.
Here is what my grandmother, the chef, said in her own words: My favorite thing to make and eat is bread. I like to do different things with it and now I like to use some of the quick things you can do with prepared biscuits from the grocery store. Any roll recipe will work fine, but this is a family recipe for cinnamon twists, and I have used it for a long time.
Beverly’s Cinnamon Twists
2 c. milk
3 tsp. salt
1/3 c. sugar + melted butter to sprinkle over twists
½ c. butter (1 cube)
2 T. yeast
¼ c. warm water
4 c. flour
cinnamon sugar (to taste)
Scald 2 cups of milk. Put it in your mixing bowl. Then add 3 tsp. of salt and 1/3 c. of sugar. Then put in one cube of butter. (I cut it up a little. It will help cool the milk.) Also add 2 beaten eggs. Start your yeast using 2 T. of yeast in large cup with 1/4 sup warm water. When yeast has grown to at least twice the size and milk is just warm, add yeast to rest of ingredients. Add about 4 C. of flour. I always sift it first. Beat with mixture to combine all and then beat on higher speed for about 2 minutes. Then add about 3 more cups of sifted four. You want to have the dough just a little sticky rather than stiff. So if it needs a little more or a little less, watch that. Then I let the dough rise until it is double. Flour your board and roll dough, half of it at a time in a rectangle until about 3/4 inch thick. I can usually then cut down the middle lengthwise. Then cut strips about 3/4 inch wide. Dip into melted butter and then cinnamon sugar. Twist two of the strips together and place on pan. On a large pan I put about 6 twists across and three down. Let rise until double. Then bake at 375 degrees or until browned. Dump out on board or wax paper and eat!! They are good until they are gone, but are best, we think when still warm.
Great Grandmother’s Apple Roll
1 c. flour
2 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
1 c. + 1 T. sugar
2 T. shortening.
chopped apples (to taste)
1 c. water
butter (to taste)
You make a biscuit dough of l cup of flour, 2 tsp. of baking powder 1/2 tsp. of salt, l T. sugar 2 T. shortening and enough milk to make a fairly thick dough. Roll out in a rectangle and cover with chopped or thin-sliced apples. Sprinkle cinnamon sugar over the apple and dot a little butter on top as well. Roll up as for a cinnamon roll and slice in one and a half width Bring to boil l cup sugar and l cup water. Put this in bottom of your pan. Put rolled up slices into the sugar water mix. Sprinkle more cinnamon sugar on top, and put small pieces of butter on top of each one. Bake at 350 degrees until apple are tender. Serve with ice cream or whipped cream.
Although it is simple right now to go to the Internet and quickly find a recipe, our ancestors did not enjoy that privilege. Many individuals found new ideas for recipes in their local newspaper.
I searched through some of the newspapers in the databases at WorldVitalRecords.com for “historical” recipes. Here are a few I found:
Taken from Blair Press (Blair, Wisconsin) on February 12, 1931
Angel Food Cake Success is Not in Recipe Alone
Quality of Ingredients, Mixing, and Baking Are All Important
An angel food cake for seventeen cents.
Seventeen cents isn’t much, yet that is all it takes at present prices to pay for the ingredients for this favorite dessert. No wonder that it is often considered the goal which every American housewife hopes to attain in her baking art.
A good recipe alone, is not all that is necessary to produce angel food cake that is “light as a feather”, snowy white in color with a delicate brown crust, and has a fine, even texture and a delicate flavor. Even though the recipe does not tell the whole story, one should be careful to select one that has been tried and found satisfactory and then to follow it carefully, measuring all ingredients accurately.
A recipe which is recommended by the home economics department at the University of Wisconsin calls for 1 cupful egg whites (about 8 whites), 1 teaspoon cream of tarter, 1 cup granulated sugar, ¾ cup cake flour, ¼ teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon vanilla.
The sugar and flour are each sifted separately three times. The egg whites are beaten until foamy. Then the cream of tarter is added and the beating continued until the whites are stiff. The sugar and the flour to which salt has been added are then lightly folded in. The vanilla is added at the last.
The eggs should be as fresh and cold as possible. Although the cake is larger when fresh eggs are used it is possible to make a very satisfactory cake with storage or packed eggs.
In combining the ingredients, the important thing is to carry the process through as quickly as possible after starting. In order to avoid delays and interruption all of the ingredients and utensils to be used should be assembled before the actual beating of the egg whites is begun. Success seems to depend upon folding the ingredients together thoroughly but lightly, so that the air is not driven out of the beaten whites. Undermixing makes coarse grained cake, overmixing makes heavy tough cakes.
Taken from Spirit of Jefferson Farmer’s Advocate (Charles Town, West Virginia) on October 6, 1949
Good everyday cake recipe combine 1 cup of good salad dressing, 1 cup brown sugar, 1 cup warm water, sift together 21/4 cups flour, 2 teaspoons soda. 2 tablespoons cocoa, pinch salt, add to first mixture, then beat good, add vanilla flavoring, bake in loaf pan. When ready to ice make a good carmel icing. It’s delicious. You will bake a second cake.
No matter where you obtain your recipes, I hope you will start keeping a record of your favorite recipes that can be passed on to your friends and family members. You could also have every member of your family send to you one of their favorite recipes and put them into a book. This compilation could become a cherished cookbook. Bon Appetite!