Is Homemade Bread Better than Purchased Bread?

Source: Foods and Household Management: A Textbook of the Household Arts (1915)
Photo source: Foods and Household Management: A Textbook of the Household Arts (1915)

People have worried about bread quality for a long time. In some theoretical sense, I believe that homemade bread is better than purchased bread. That said, I can barely remember the last time that I made bread.

Here is what a hundred-year-old home economics textbook said:

A pound loaf of bread at the bakery should cost five cents, the cost being slightly less when the bread is made at home, even taking the fuel into account. It is an open question, however, whether bread should be made at home or bought at the bakery, all of the circumstances being weighted in the balance by the individual.

In America, we need to learn to dictate and control the methods in the public bakeries because bakers’ bread is being used more and more, although it is said that 50 percent is still made at home. If bread is to be bought, it is necessary for the housekeeper to understand, the bread-making process, and the standard of good bread so that she may criticize intelligently, and force the public bakeries to furnish bread made under ideal conditions.

It must be understood that the baker’s oven is fitted to do better work than the small oven of the average kitchen, and if the public through laws and inspection, will control the quality of the materials used and the cleanliness of the process, baker’s bread will be a useful “ready-cooked” food.

Foods and Household Management: A Textbook of the Household Arts (1915)

Old Opera Cremes Recipe

Opera Cremes

I recently flipped through the pages of the October, 1915 issue of Good Housekeeping and came across this recipe for Opera Cremes. This beautiful, delectable treat is one of the best homemade candies I’ve ever made. The pecans and creamy sweetness blend wonderfully to create a decadent taste sensation.

I don’t know for sure why they are called Opera Cremes, but I do know that a hundred years ago almost every town—even small ones– had an opera house.

When my grandmother was a teen in central Pennsylvania, she sometimes mentioned going to the opera house in Watsontown in her diary. For example, on February 28, 1914 she wrote:

Ruth and I went up to Watsontown with Pa this evening. The senior class gave their play in the opera house. Was the best one I ever was to. Some parts certainly did call forth plenty of laughter. Can hardly begin to describe how much I enjoyed it.

Helena Muffly

Hmm . . . maybe between their laughs, they found time to enjoy a few Opera Cremes.

Opera Creams

3 cups sugar

1 cup cream

1/3 teaspoon cream of tartar

1 cup chopped pecans

approximately 4 dozen whole pecan halves

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

confectioners’ sugar

In a medium saucepan, stir together sugar, cream, and cream of tartar until well blended. Using medium heat, bring to a boil. Reduce to low, and cook about 7 minutes without stirring until a very soft ball (237 degrees F.) is formed when tried in cold water. Remove from the heat.

Allow to cool for a few minutes. When tepid, stir in the vanilla and beat until creamy, then turn out on a board that is slightly dredged with confectioners’ sugar, and knead until smooth, working in the chopped pecans at the same time. Spread out in a shallow buttered pan, press on the pecan halves. Cool and cut into squares. Can also be shaped into bonbons.

Shh .. . .  don’t tell my friends, but I’m already planning to make Opera Cremes again in December to give as gifts.

Old-fashioned Apple Relish Recipe

apple relishSince I love to try interesting meat toppers and relishes, I was excited to see a hundred-year-old Apple Relish recipe in a 1915 Ladies Home Journal.

This recipe is a winner. The Apple Relish was easy to make, and is one of the best tasting relishes I’ve ever eaten. Its sweat-sour, spicy, fruitiness perfectly complements grilled or roasted beef or pork.

Apple Relish

7 cups  apples (chopped and peeled)

2 cup raisins

1 cup vinegar

3 1/2 cups sugar

1 orange

1/2 teaspoon powdered cloves

1/2 teaspoon powdered cinnamon

Combine all ingredients in a large plan. Bring to a boil, then stir occasionally and boil steadily for half an hour.

Ladle into hot half-pint or pint jars. Wipe jar rim, and adjust lids. Process in boiling water bath for 15 minutes.

Makes approximately 8 half-pints (4 pints)

Adapted from Recipe in Ladies Home Journal (September, 1915)

Old Coffee Pudding Recipe

Coffee Pudding
Coffee Pudding

Lattes, coffee-flavored candy, coffee ice cream. . . I like them all, so when I saw a recipe for Coffee Pudding in a hundred-year-old Ladies Home Journal I had to try it.

The verdict — I loved the Coffee Pudding. This delightful dessert was easy to make, and it sort of reminded me of a Frappuccino, but smoother and deceptively light. I thoroughly enjoyed the Coffee Pudding — and tried not to think about the hefty amounts of cream and sugar in it. (I’ll worry about that tomorrow.)

Coffee Pudding

2 eggs, beaten

1/2 cup sugar

3/4 cup cold coffee

dash salt

3/4 heavy whipping cream

Combine eggs, sugar, coffee, and salt; then put through a strainer to remove any clumps of egg white. Put the strained liquid into a sauce pan (use double boiler if available), and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens and boils. Remove from heat and chill.

After the mixture has chilled, put the whipping cream in a separate bowl and beat until stiff peaks form. Gently fold the whipped cream into the chilled coffee mixture. If desired, put the pudding in individual serving cups or bowls.

Adapted from a recipe in Ladies Home Journal (February, 1915)

Old-fashioned Sweet Potato Pancakes (Waffles)

Sweet Potato Pancakes
Sweet Potato Pancakes

When I saw a recipe in a hundred-year-old issue of National Food Magazine for sweet potato waffles, I was intrigued—but I seldom make waffles. I then wondered if the same recipe would work to make pancakes.

Well, I gave it a try, and the Sweet Potato Pancakes were awesome. The recipe called for separating the eggs, and beating the egg whites until stiff. It definitely was worth the extra effort. The pancakes were incredibly fluffy and light.

I served the pancakes with maple syrup. The vivid, yet delicate, sweet potato flavor worked perfectly with the maple syrup to create a lovely taste experience.

Sweet Potato Pancakes would be perfect for an autumn brunch. This seasonal dish will impress even your most discerning foodie friends.

Sweet Potato Pancakes (Waffles)

1 cup mashed sweet potatoes

1/2 cup flour

2 tablespoons sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 eggs, separated

1/4 cup milk

2 tablespoons butter, melted

Combine the mashed sweet potatoes*, flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, egg yolks, milk, and butter. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Gently fold the beaten egg whites into the sweet potato mixture.

To make pancakes: For each pancake, put two heaping tablespoons of the batter on a hot, lightly-greased griddle. Using the back of the spoon gently spread the batter to make a 3-inch pancake. Lightly brown on both sides. Serve with butter and honey or maple syrup.

Makes 12-15 3-inch pancakes

Note: Batter may also be used to make waffles.

*Mash cooked sweet potatoes with a fork until smooth.

Adapted from recipe in National Food Magazine (September, 1914)

Is Your Cooking in a Rut?

Source: Ladies Home Journal (May, 1915)
Source: Ladies Home Journal (May, 1915)

Sometimes I worry that my cooking might be boring, and was recently relieved to learn that I am not unique. People have had similar concerns for at least a hundred years. According to the July, 1915 issue of Ladies Home Journal:

Is Your Cooking in a Rut?

Sometimes an apparently good meal leaves a person in a dissatisfied condition that invariably leads to longing for an elusive something or other that had not been provided.

Conservatism too often stands in the way of the average woman, with many housewives serving the same dishes, year in and year out, that their mothers provided before them.

Another reason that women get into “ruts” is because too many men seem to like monotony, appearing to be satisfied with frequent repetitions of a few good dishes, and often ridiculing any attempt toward growth and betterment in the family menu. The man who growls over the “high cost of living” is too often the one who demands the same old foods.

As appetite craves change, the essential in planning appealing meals is to combine a variety of foods so that they will harmonize.

To evolve meals that taste good, look well, and are digestible, it is a good plan to follow the infallible rule of “enough but not too much” as well as to consider the aesthetic beauty and appearance of the combination.

hmm. . . that sounds easy enough. I just need to balance variety with nutrition and aesthetics (though the devil is always in the details).

P.S. – I like the simpler life style of the early 1900s — but life wasn’t perfect. The gendered nature of these quotes–with women cooking and men “growling” — really bothers me. In 1915 women did not yet even have the right to vote. (They won’t get that right for another 5 years).

Green Tomato Mincemeat Pie Recipe

green tomato mince meat pieTomatoes, tomatoes everywhere.  The tomato plants are heavily laden with tomatoes–many still green.

When I wake up in the mornings I’m starting to feel a slight chill in the air. It won’t be long until there is frost. It’s time to make Green Tomato Mincemeat.

This traditional “mock” mincemeat has been made by frugal cooks for countless years. And, no wonder–it tastes as good, if not better, than real mincemeat and make the perfect mincemeat pie.

For my husband and me, Green Tomato Mincemeat Pie is an Autumn comfort food. We remember our mothers’ and grandmothers’ (and the church ladies) making this scrumptious pleasantly sweet, yet tart, traditional pie with its tangy blend of spices.Mince Meat 1

Green Tomato Mincemeat

6 cups green tomatoes

2 cups tart apples

1 cup raisins

2 cups brown sugar, firmly packed

1 cup strong coffee

1 lemon (grated peel and juice)

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon allspice

Core and quarter tomatoes and apples; put through food processor or chopper. Combine all ingredients in large saucepan. Simmer 2 hours, stirring occasionally. May be canned or frozen.

Amount: This recipe makes enough mincemeat for 2 9-inch pies.

Green Tomato Mincemeat Pie

1 quart (approx. 4 cups) green tomato mincemeat

1/4 cup flour

9-inch double-crust pie shell

milk (optional)

sugar (optional)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Stir the flour into the mincemeat; place in pastry-lined pie pan. Cover with top crust. Seal and crimp. Cut slits in top crust (or poke top crust several times with a fork). If desired, brush with a small amount of milk; sprinkle with sugar. Bake in oven for 10 minutes; then reduce heat to 350 degrees. Bake an additional 20 to 30 minutes or until crust is browned and juice just begins to bubble through slits in crust.