Hundred-Year-Old Asparagus Shortcake Recipe

Usually when I browse through hundred-year-old cookbooks searching for a recipe to make, I skip over the ones that seem particularly odd or strange.  However, I recently read a quote that made me give some of these recipes a second look:

Recipes that a century ago would have been the apogee of culinary chic may no longer be prepared because they are no longer in vogue; they may be considered unappealing, outdated, or unhealthful.

Janet Theophano
(Eat My Words: Reading Women’s Lives Through the Cookbooks They Wrote, 2002)

So  when I saw a colorful illustration for Asparagus Shortcake in a hundred-year-old promotional cookbook published by the KC Baking Powder Company, my curiosity was piqued. Was Asparagus Shortcake an example of a food that once had been at the “apogee of culinary chic”?

Source: The Cook’s Book (KC Baking Powder Cook Book) (1911)

When I made this recipe, I worried that my husband and I won’t like it, so I only made half a recipe so that I won’t have too much left-over.

The verdict: Asparagus Shortcake gets high marks for the “wow” factor when served.  And, while the combination of asparagus and shortcake seemed a bit odd, the dish was tasty. The asparagus in its rich butter sauce worked well with the shortcake. Overall,  Asparagus Shortcake made a satisfying lunch.

Here’s the recipe updated for modern cooks:

Asparagus Shortcake

  • Servings: 2 - 3
  • Time: 35 minutes
  • Difficulty: moderate
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1 1/4 cups flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 cup shortening

1/2 cup milk

1 1/2 cups asparagus, cut into 1 inch piece

1/2 cup water

2 tablespoons butter + 2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons flour

1 hard-boiled egg, quartered

Preheat oven to 425° F. Grease and lightly flour a 6-inch round baking pan; set aside.

In a mixing bowl, combine the 1 1/4 cups  flour, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and baking powder. Cut in the shortening; then add the milk. Stir gently with a fork to create a dough. Place on a pastry cloth or other prepared surface, and gently knead for 15 seconds; then shape into a 6-inch round disc and place in the prepared baking pan. Place in oven and bake 20-25 minutes or until the top is light brown.

In the meantime,  put the asparagus pieces in a saucepan and add water. Using high heat bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat; simmer for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and drain (reserve liquid).

In another saucepan, melt two tablespoons butter using medium heat, then stir in the 2 tablespoons of flour. Add the asparagus liquid while stirring constantly; continue to stir until the sauce begins to thicken. Remove from heat, and immediately stir in an additional 2 tablespoons of butter, then gently fold the cooked asparagus into the sauce.

To assemble the shortcake, split the baked shortcake. Place the bottom half of the shortcake on the serving dish and then spread with half of the asparagus sauce. Cover with the top of the shortcake and spread with the remaining sauce. Garnish with hard-boiled egg quarters. Serve immediately.

Hundred-Year-Old Reasons to Eat Salad Greens

Greens are so good for us – and as spring arrives there’s a renewed focus on these delightful vegetables. Here’s what a hundred-year-old cookbook says about them:

Salad Greens

At no time have greens played such an important part in our diet as they do today. We are realizing and appreciating their beneficial effects on the system more than ever before. Containing, as they do, valuable mineral salts and special medicinal virtues, they should be used liberally, while they are in season.

The tonic greens of spring correct the results of the heavy winter diet. Greens of every sort are held in high esteem for their purifying qualities–spinach, Brussels sprouts, kale, lettuce, cress, dandelion, sorrel, mustard greens, chicory, beet greens, horseradish, and parsley are examples.

Each green is considered as possessing specific medicinal value, and all are aids in clearing the liver, blood and skin.

Serving a variety of greens from day to day provides all the virtues possessed by the different ones. Americans are appreciating the homely garden greens more and more and are utilizing them in salads, soups, sauces, and as garnishings.

In the these days of auto-intoxication, and other diseases, due to accumulated poisons in the body, it is well to make liberal use of nature’s cleansing agents.

  • Water cress grows wild and may be found on streamlets. Like other greens it is an anti-scorbutic, palatable and wholesome.

  • Dandelion greens are regarded as liver and blood purifiers.

  • Lettuce contains an opium principle, is a laxative, introduces mineral matter and helps to provide an alkaline condition of the blood.

    The Housevife’s Cook Book by Lilla Frich (1917)

The statement about lettuce containing an opium principle made no sense to me, so I googled it, and discovered that the white oozy liquid that emerges from lettuce stems when they are freshly cut looks similar to opium. This liquid was once considered to have medicinal properties. It used to be dried and was put into some patent medicines. It was believed to be a sedative and cough suppressant.

Cocoa Angel Food Cake with Boiled Icing

 

A hundred years ago there were some delightful cake recipes. I recently found an old recipe for Cocoa Angel Food Cake with Boiled Icing. It made a delectable light and airy cake with an absolutely decadent old-fashioned gooey frosting.

The Boiled Icing brought back memories of  fluffy, glossy frosting on incredible cakes that great aunts brought to family reunions. (Does anyone still make Boiled Icing?) I’d forgotten how good it is.

Here’s the original recipe:

Source: Larkin Housewives Cook Book (1915)

This recipe makes a relatively small cake. It has a wonderful texture, but it is not as thick as many modern angel food cakes.

And, here’s the recipe updated for modern cooks:

Cocoa Angel Food Cake with Boiled Icing

  • Servings: 6 - 8
  • Time: 1 hour active prep time
  • Difficulty: moderate
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Cocoa Angel Food Cake

1/4 cup cocoa

1/2 cup pastry flour

1 cup sugar

5 egg whites

1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 375° F.  Sift together cocoa and flour, then stir in the sugar. Set aside.

Put the egg whites in a mixing bowl and beat until foamy, then add the cream of tartar and continue beating until the mixture holds stiff straight peaks. Gently stir in the vanilla.

Sprinkle a small amount of the flour and sugar mixture (about 2 tablespoons) onto the whipped egg mixture; and then fold it in. Continue sprinkling and folding the flour and sugar mixture until it all is folded in.

Gently spoon the batter into an ungreased 10 X 4 tube pan with removable bottom (angel food cake pan). Bake for 30 minutes or until the cake is lightly browned and the top springs back when lightly touched.

Invert pan until cool (at least 1 hour) and then remove cake from pan, and ice with Boiled Icing

Boiled Icing

1 cup sugar

1/4 cup water

dash cream of tartar

2 egg whites

1/2 teaspoon sugar

Combine sugar, water, and cream of tartar in a saucepan; put on medium heat. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. Once the mixture reaches a bowl, reduce heat so that there is a slow boil. Continue boiling until the mixture reaches the soft ball stage (240° F.), then remove from heat.

In the meantime, in a mixing bowl beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. Slowing pour the hot sugar mixture over the egg whites while beating constantly.  Add the vanilla; continue beating until cool. Immediately use to ice cake.

Great Hotel Dining Rooms and Kitchens a Hundred Years Ago

hotel-dining-room-gh-4-1917Caption: So many persons are not content with a “perfect day,” but want a perfect evening, too, that a scene like this at the Hotel Biltmore, New York, is set every night.

There were some very elegant hotel restaurants a hundred years ago. Here are a few pictures from a April, 1917 article in Good Housekeeping.

hotel-kitchen-gh-4-1917Caption: The kitchen is the very heart of a hotel, where the tremendous task of feeding a multitude is always in process. This is a busy corner in the kitchen of the Ritz-Carlton, New York.

hotel-dining-room-gh-4-1917-cCaption: Managing the dining-room of a great hotel is, after all, much like managing the dining room of a private home. (Plaza Hotel, New York)

Old-fashioned Leek and Potato Soup with Imperial Bread Sticks

leek-potato-soup

When it comes to cooking, March is the month I find most challenging. Many days the weather is still brisk and windy (with an occasional snow shower) – and winter foods seem most appropriate,  yet I’m tiring of them and yearn for bright and sunny spring foods.

When I searched for the perfect hundred-year-old recipe for this week, I came across a recipe for Leek and Potato Soup with Imperial Bread Sticks that excited me.

The verdict: The Leek and Potato Soup was easy to make, and delightful;  and, just right on a damp and raw March day. The traditional combination of leeks and potatoes in a rich and creamy soup base warmed me, and delicate yellow and green leek pieces floating in the soup provided just a hint of spring.

The recipe called for serving the soup with Imperial Bread Sticks. The bread sticks were made by cutting bread into sticks and toasting. It was fun to replicate how people made bread sticks a hundred years ago – though it I made this soup again, I’d probably either serve it with a warm artisan bread or buy modern bread sticks.

Here is the original recipe:

Source: American Cookery (December, 1916)

And, here is the recipe updated for modern cooks:

Leek and Potato Soup with Imperial Bread Sticks

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Time: 45 minutes
  • Difficulty: easy
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Leek and Potato Soup

6 leeks

6 medium potatoes

water

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1 cup cream

1 tablespoon parsley, chopped

2 tablespoons butter

Clean the leeks and remove the coarse dark green tops. Cut the white and light-green portions of the leeks into thin slices. Set aside.

Peel the potatoes and cut into 1/2 inch cubes. Put the diced potatoes in a large saucepan and cover with water. Put on the stove and using high heat bring to a boil; cover and reduce heat to medium. Cook for 3 minutes, then remove from heat and drain.

Add the sliced leeks to the drained potatoes, and just barely cover with boiling water. (I heated the water in the microwave. In days gone by, it would have been heated in a tea kettle or pan on the stove.). Return to the stove, and using high heat bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and cover; cook until the leeks are tender (about 15 minutes).  (DO NOT drain.) Stir in the salt, pepper, cream, parsley, and butter. Heat until the soup is hot and steamy. Remove from heat, and, if desired, serve with Imperial Bread Sticks.

Imperial Bread Sticks

bread (I used sliced Vienna bread.)

butter

Cut as many slices of bread as desired into sticks 1/2 inch wide. Cut off the crust. Butter both sides of the bread sticks, and then place on a metal baking sheet.  Place under the broiler and broil until lightly browned. Remove from oven and flip, then return to broiler to brown the other side. Remove from heat and serve.

Notes: The process for preparing and cooking the leeks and potatoes in the old recipe was a bit befuddling. The potatoes (which I assume were diced into cubes) were boiled for three minutes, then the water was drained. Next the entire white and light green sections of the leeks were added to the saucepan, and everything was covered with boiling water. This mixture was then cooked until the leeks were tender – at which point, the leeks were removed from the water and thinly sliced; then returned to the water.

When I updated the recipe I simplified the process just a little. Perhaps draining the potatoes after cooking them for several minutes removed excess starch, so I retained that step. And, perhaps pouring boiling water on the leeks and partially cooked potatoes (rather than covering them with cold water which is brought to a boil) affects the texture of the vegetables, so I retained that step.

But, for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out why the leeks should be cooked before slicing. If seems like it would be much more difficult to slice cooked leeks than raw ones, so I simplified that step and sliced the raw leeks before adding them to the potatoes.

1917 “Buy Advertised Goods” Ad (National Biscuit Company Advertisement)

Source: American Cookery (January, 1917)
Source: American Cookery (January, 1917)

Are branded goods that are promoted with advertising of higher quality than similar “no-brand” items? That’s a question that has been around for at least a hundred years. Here’s a 1917 National Biscuit Company (Nabisco) ad which argues that consumers should, “Buy advertised goods – Do not accept substitutes.”

Old-fashioned Rice Pudding with Meringue Topping

rice-pudding

Creamy and sweet old-fashioned rice pudding is always a delight, so when I came across a hundred-old-recipe for rice pudding with a twist, I was intrigued. The recipe called for topping the pudding with a meringue topping.

The meringue turns a favorite comfort food, into a tasty, slightly showy dish that is sure to impress.

Here’s the original recipe:

Source: American Cookery (Boston Cooking School Magazine, February, 1916)
Source: American Cookery (Boston Cooking School Magazine, February, 1916)

Here’s the recipe updated for modern cooks:

Rice Pudding with Meringue Topping

  • Servings: 6 - 8
  • Time: 40 minutes
  • Difficulty: moderate
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2 eggs, separated

3/4 cup sugar + 1/4 cup sugar

2 1/2 tablespoons corn starch

1 cup cold milk + 2 cups hot milk (I heated the milk in the microwave.)

1 cup warm cooked rice

1 teaspoon vanilla or orange extract ( I used vanilla.)

Preheat oven to 350° F. Place the egg yolks in a small bowl, then add 3/4 cup of sugar. Stir until smooth.  Set aside.

In a large saucepan (or double boiler, if available), stir the corn starch into the milk to make a smooth paste, then pour in the hot milk while stirring. Using medium heat, cook while stirring constantly until the mixture begins boil slowly and thicken. If a regular saucepan is used, be sure to carefully stir all the way to the bottom of the pan because this mixture will easily scorch.

Place a small amount (approximately 1 – 2 tablespoons) of the hot milk mixture into bowl with the egg and sugar, stir quickly. Then pour the egg mixture into the remaining hot milk mixture while stirring rapidly. Continue cooking for one additional minute. Remove from heat and stir in the rice and vanilla (or orange) extract. Put the pudding in an oven-proof serving bowl.  (Cook’s note: The egg is first combined with a little of the hot milk mixture to prevent it from turning into scrambled eggs when introduced into the hot milk mixture.)

To prepare the meringue, put the egg whites into a mixing bowl. Beat until stiff peaks form, then beat in 1/4 cup sugar. Spoon the meringue onto the top of  the pudding, and then swirl. Bake in the oven for approximately 10 minutes or until the meringue is a light brown.

rice-pudding-2