Old-fashioned Crusty French Bread Recipe

Recipe for Crusty French Bread
Source: American Cookery (April, 1920)

My grocery store has yeast! It’s the first time that I’ve seen it in months, and I knew exactly which recipe I wanted to make – a hundred-year-old recipe for Crusty French Bread. Several years ago I’d tried to make French Bread – and I’d been disappointed in the results – so I wondered if an old-time recipe might make a more authentic French Bread.

As part of the rising process, the hundred-year-old recipe called for putting the bread dough in lukewarm water, and then waiting for it to float. I had my doubts, but it was easy to do – and I was very pleased with the results.

The Crusty French Bread turned out wonderfully. It was crusty on the outside, and soft and chewy on the inside. This recipe is a keeper, and I feel certain that I’ll make it again.

2 loaves of Crusty French Bread
Source: American Cookery (April, 1920)

Here’s the original recipe:

I had to use more water than the recipe called for when I made the dough by mixing water, yeast, and flour. The recipe called for 1/2 cup of water, but it was not enough to make the dough cling together.

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

Crusty French Bread

  • Servings: 2 loaves
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print

1 packet dry active yeast

1/2 – 3/4 cup lukewarm water + 1/2 cup lukewarm water + additional lukewarm water for use during the rising process (all the lukewarm water should be 110 – 115° F.)

2 cups flour + 1 1/2 – 2 cups flour

1 teaspoon salt

milk, melted butter, or a sugar and water mixture (to brush on the top of the loaves) (I used milk.)

Blend the yeast with a little water in a measuring cup, and when smooth, add additional lukewarm water to make 1/2 cup. Put 2 cups flour in a mixing bowl, add the water and yeast mixture, and stir to combine. If it is too dry to knead, add additional lukewarm water until it can be kneaded. (It should be dryer than for most bread doughs). Put the mixture on a prepared surface and knead to form a stiff dough (about 5 minutes). Form the dough into a ball, and score it a couple of times across the top with a knife.

In the meantime, fill a Dutch oven or other large pan 2/3 full with lukewarm water. Put the ball of dough in the water with the scored side up. If the water does not cover the dough add additional water. Cover, and let the sit in a warm place until the dough swells and floats on top of the water (about 15-20 minutes). Lift the ball out of the pan using a large skimmer.

In a mixing bowl, dissolve the salt in 1/2 cup of lukewarm water, then add the ball of dough. Add 1 1/2 cups flour. (If needed, add additional flour to make the dough the right consistency for kneading.) Put the dough on a prepared surface and knead until smooth and elastic (about 5 minutes). Put in a large bowl, cover with a cloth, and place in a warm spot that is free from drafts until doubled in size (about 1 1/2 hours).

Divide dough into two equal parts, and shape into long narrow loaves. (I rolled each part into a rectangle approximately 9″ X 20″, then rolled starting from one of the long sides.) Place on a greased baking sheet. Score with light slanting strokes of a knife across the top of each loaf. Brush with milk, melted butter, or a mixture and water and sugar. Let rise until doubled (about 30 minutes).

In the meantime preheat oven to 400° F. Put the bread in the oven for 20 – 30 minutes or until lightly browned.

http://www.ahundredyearsago.com

Orange Biscuits with Orange Filling

2 orange biscuits with orange filling

When browsing through hundred-year-old magazines, sometimes a recipe just jumps out at me. Orange Biscuits with Orange Filling was one of these recipes. Back then, there were few photos in magazines, but there was a picture of the biscuits. This recipe was obviously one that the magazine editors really liked, so I decided to give it a try.

orange biscuits with orange filling on plate
Source: American Cookery (April, 1920)

This recipe did not disappoint. The Orange Biscuits with Orange Filling had just the right amount of sweetness, and a bright, sunny, citrus flavor. They are perfect with coffee or milk. The Biscuits would also be a lovely brunch pastry. This recipe is a keeper, and I feel certain that I’ll make it again.

Here’s the original recipe:

Recipe for Orange Biscuits with Orange Filling
Source: American Cookery (April, 1920)

One teaspoon of salt seemed like a lot, so I only used 1/2 teaspoon of salt when I made the recipe. I cut the slices about 3/4 inch thick because it was difficult to cut 1/2 inch slices, and that just didn’t seem quite thick enough. I also could not figure out why the filling needed to be cooked when it was then cooled – and would again become a butter and sugar spread – so I did not cook it prior to spreading on the biscuits. This worked fine.

And, here is the recipe updated for modern cooks:

Orange Biscuits with Orange Filling

  • Servings: approximately 15 biscuits
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print

Orange Biscuits

2 cups flour

4 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons lard, shortening, or butter

3/4 cup milk (may need to use slightly more)

orange filling (see below)

sugar

Preheat oven to 400° F.

Combine flour, baking powder and salt in mixing bowl. Cut in the lard, shortening, or butter. Add milk, and gently stir to combine using a fork. If too dry and does not cling together as a dough, add a small amount of additional milk. Place the dough on a prepared surface and roll into a square about 12″ by 12″. Spread with the Orange Filling, then roll like a jelly roll. Cut into 3/4 inch slices. If needed, gently reshape so that each slice is round. Put in a greased cake pan(s) about 1/2 inch apart. Sprinkle with sugar. Put in oven, and bake about 20-25 minutes or until lightly browned.

Orange Filling

2 tablespoons butter, softened

1/4 cup sugar

1 tablespoon orange juice

grated rind (zest) of 1 orange

Put butter, sugar, and orange juice in a small bowl; stir to combine. Add grated orange rind, and stir to evenly distribute throughout the butter mixture.

http://www.ahundredyearsago.com

 

Old-fashioned Hot Cross Buns

Hot Cross Buns on plate

Hot Cross Buns are a traditional Easter bread. Historically these sweet, spicy buns with lots of embedded currants (or raisins) were a treat as Lent came to a close, and dietary restrictions ended. Bakers have been making Hot Cross Buns for at least a hundred years, and probably much longer. There’s even an old Mother Goose nursery rhyme about them:

Hot-cross buns!
Hot-cross buns!
One a penny, two a penny,
Hot-cross buns!
If you have no daughters,
Give them to your sons;
One a penny, two a penny,
Hot-cross buns!

Hot Cross Buns are obviously a food that has had a special place in the hearts of people for many years. So when I came across a recipe for Hot Cross Buns in a 1920 magazine, I decided to give it a try.

Most modern Hot Cross Bun recipes call for either making the cross on top of the buns with icing after they are baked, or making a cross using a flour and water paste prior to baking. The old recipe instead called for scoring the dough with a knife prior to baking to create the crosses on the balls of dough.

Here’s the original recipe:

Recipe of Hot Cross Buns
Source: American Cookery (March, 1920)

The old recipe called for using a compressed yeast cake; I used an envelope of active dry yeast.

The buns were made by first creating a “sponge” with the milk, yeast, sugar, and a little of the flour. This was allowed to rise; then the additional flour and additional ingredients were added before kneading. The dough was then shaped into balls, and the balls of dough were allowed to rise before baking. When I made this recipe, the sponge rose nicely; the balls of dough, not so well. Perhaps I did not place the dough in a warm enough spot – or maybe the ratio of yeast to flour wasn’t quite right, or maybe there was some other issue.

The verdict: The buns were tasty, but not as light as most modern Hot Cross Buns. This may be because of the problems I had with getting the dough to rise properly. If I made Hot Cross Buns again, I’d probably just go with a more modern recipe.

Here’s the recipe updated for modern cooks:

Hot Cross Buns

  • Servings: 15 - 20 buns
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print

1 cup warm milk (108-110° F)

1 envelope active dry yeast

1/2 cup sugar

1 cup flour + 2 cups flour (scant) (Either all-purpose flour or bread flour may be used)

2 teaspoons ground nutmeg (or 1 whole nutmeg, grated)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup butter, softened

1/2 cup currants (raisins may be substituted for currants)

1/8 cup citron (optional) (I didn’t use citron.)

1 egg, beaten (1/4 cup water may be substituted for the egg) (I used an egg.)

1 tablespoon sugar + additional sugar to sprinkle on top

In a large bowl dissolve the yeast and sugar in the warm milk; add flour and beat until smooth. Cover, and then let this “sponge” rise in a warm place until doubled in size (about 1 hour).

In the meantime, in another bowl, combine the remaining 2 cups flour (scant), nutmeg, and salt. Add butter, and stir to combine. Then add the sponge and stir to combine. Place on a floured surface and knead until smooth (about 5 minutes). Near the end of the kneading process, sprinkle currants on the bread dough- about one-fourth at a time – and knead into the dough.

Break off pieces of the dough, each about half the size of an egg, and roll into balls; flatten to about 1/2 inch thick. Put the balls in a greased baking pan(s) (2 9-inch round pans or 1 9 X 13″ rectangular pan). The flattened balls should be about 1/2-inch apart. Cover with a towel and let rise in a warm spot until doubled in size (about 1 hour). Then use a knife to score a cross on the top of each ball of dough.

In a small bowl stir together the beaten egg and 1 tablespoon sugar; then brush the mixture on top of the unbaked buns. Sprinkle with additional sugar.

Preheat oven to 350° F.  Put the baking pan(s) with the buns in oven, and bake 30 minutes (or until lightly browned).

http://www.ahundredyearsago.com

Old-fashioned White Bread

two loaves white bread with butter and knife on cutting boardOne of the simple joys of life is the aroma of warm homemade bread when it first comes out of the oven. And, when the bread is thickly sliced and smothered with butter, it is one of my all-time favorite comfort foods. Though I’ve been making hundred-year-old recipes for years, I recently realized that I’ve never made a hundred-year-old recipe for White Bread, so when I came across a White Bread recipe in a 1920 cookbook, I just had to give it a try.

The bread did not disappoint. This classic white bread has golden crust, and a light and fluffy texture.

Here is the original recipe:

Recipe for white bread
Source: Balanced Daily Diet (1920) by Janet McKenzie Hill

When, I made the recipe, I substituted a packet of dry yeast for each cake of yeast.

Here is the recipe updated for modern cooks:

White Bread

  • Servings: 4 loaves
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print

2 packets dry active yeast

2 tablespoons sugar

1 quart (4 cups) lukewarm water (110 – 115° F.)

2 tablespoons shortening

3 quarts (12 cups) bread flour

1 tablespoon salt

In a large bowl dissolve the yeast and sugar in the lukewarm water. Add shortening and half the flour;  until smooth beat.  Add salt and then gradually add the remaining flour until the dough reaches a consistency where it can be handled. Turn onto a floured surface and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic (about 10 minutes). Put in a large greased bowl, cover and place in a warm spot that is free from drafts until doubled in size (about 1 1/2 hours).

Punch dough down, then divide dough into four equal parts and shape into loaves. Place in four greased loaf pans, and cover. Let rise until doubled in size (about 1 hour).

Bake loaves in 375° F. oven for 35 -45 minutes or until lightly browned.

http://www.ahundredyearsago.com

Hundred-Year-Old Peanut Butter Bread Recipe

Want a cross between peanut butter cookies and homemade bread? If so, a hundred-year-old recipe for Peanut Butter Bread may be just the recipe for you.

Here is the original recipe:

Source: Ladies Home Journal (January, 1917)
Source: Ladies Home Journal (January, 1917)

And, here is the recipe updated for modern cooks:

Peanut Butter Bread

  • Servings: 1 loaf
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

2 cups flour

1/2 cup sugar

2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup peanut butter

1 cup milk

2 eggs

Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease and flour a loaf pan.

In a mixing bowl, stir together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add peanut butter, milk, and eggs.; beat until well mixed.  Bake 35 to 40 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted into center comes out clean. May be served warm or cold.

The hundred-year-old recipe called for 2 “rounded” teaspoons baking powder. I used 2 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder – and that worked well.

I used less salt than called in the original recipe. One teaspoon of salt seemed like a lot for a loaf of bread, so I reduced it to 1/2 teaspoon.

The old recipe says that this bread is best when it is a day old.  In my opinion, the bread was good the day after I made it – though it also was good shortly after I took it out of the oven.

Sour Milk French Toast

Ever wonder what to do with a food once it’s past its prime? A hundred years ago that was often a problem. For example, the homemade bread would often go stale before it was all eaten, and the non-pasteurized milk that most people drank often soured.

The solution was to make a dish that was even tastier than the original foods. The century-old recipe that I found for Sour Milk French Toast calls for – well, you guessed it – sour milk and stale bread.

I had neither sour milk nor stale bread, but decided to give the recipe a try. I used vinegar to “sour” the milk. (Lemon juice would also work.). And, I used day-old homemade bread (though commercially made bread would also work well).

This recipe made a tasty French toast that I’ll definitely make again.

Here’s the original recipe:

Source: Larkin Housewives Cook Book (1917)

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

Sour Milk French Toast

  • Servings: 2 - 3 slices
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

2 -3 slices bread

1/2 cup milk

1 1/2 teaspoons vinegar or lemon juice (I used vinegar.)

1 egg, slightly beaten

1/3 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon sugar

2 tablespoons flour

butter

shortening or lard

Stir together milk, vinegar, egg, salt, baking soda, sugar, and flour to create a thin batter. Dip each slice of bread in the batter.

In the meantime, heavily grease griddle or skillet with a mixture of butter, and shortening, or lard. (The old recipe suggests that a mixture of butter and lard might add a nice flavor.)  Heat griddle or skillet, and put prepared slices of bread on it. Brown bottom side; flip and brown on other side. Remove from heat and serve immediately.

Old-Fashioned Squash (Yeast) Bread

squash-bread

Have you ever “hidden” vegetables in food to get your kids to eat healthier? I thought that hiding vegetables was a recent trend, but when I made a hundred-year-old recipe for Squash Bread, I discovered that cooks have been hiding vegetables for a long time.

The Squash Bread had a rustic artesian look, a nice texture, and a sunny yellow tinge – but I couldn’t taste the squash in it. It just tasted like the typical homemade bread.

The verdict: If you want to hide vegetables in bread this recipe is worth a try; otherwise, just stick with your usual bread recipe.

Here’s the original recipe:

Source: Lowney's Cook Book (1912)
Source: Lowney’s Cook Book (1912)

Here’s the recipe updated for modern cooks:

Squash Bread

  • Servings: 2 loaves
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print

2 cups milk

2 packages dry yeast

5-6 cups flour

1 cup pureed winter squash (Butternut squash works well in this recipe.)

1 tablespoon shortening (or lard)

1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon sugar

2 teaspoons salt

Scald milk by heating in a sauce pan until the milk begins to steam and form bubbles; use medium heat and stir occasionally. Remove from heat before it comes to a boil. Let the scalded milk cool until it is lukewarm, then dissolve the yeast in the milk.

Put 2 cups flour, squash, shortening, butter, sugar,  salt, and the water and yeast mixture in a large mixing bowl. Beat until smooth. Add enough additional flour to make a soft dough. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic (about 10 minutes).

Place in a greased bowl. Cover; let rise at room temperature until doubled in size (about 1 hour). Turn onto lightly floured surface and knead for an additional 5 minutes. Divide dough into two equal parts and shape into loaves. Place in 2 greased loaf pans, 9″ X 5″ X 3″, and cover. Let rise until doubled in size (about 30 minutes).

Bake loaves in 400° F. oven for 35 minutes or until lightly browned.

I always find old-time bread recipes particularly difficult to interpret because modern yeast is so different from what it was a hundred years ago. Back then it was not dried like the yeast that we generally use today. I guessed that 2 packages of dried yeast would be the equivalent of 1/2 cup (1/2 yeast cake) back then. This substitution worked just fine when I made this recipe.