With the holidays fast approaching, you’ll find my kitchen in constant use and filled with the aroma of holiday baking. From cookies, to cakes, to breads, I love it when Christmas comes around and I can pull out all my holiday recipes. So I thought while we’re on hiatus that I might share some cooking advice and recipes from a couple of early 1800s recipe books. We’ll start today off with some basic baking advice.
From Seventy-five Receipts for Pastry Cakes, by Miss Leslie of Philadelphia, the following preparation advice is offered:
In making pastry or cakes, it is best to begin by weighing out the ingredients, sifting the flour, pounding and sifting the sugar and spice, washing the butter, and preparing the fruit. Sugar can be powdered by pounding it in a large mortar, or by rolling it on a paste-board with a rolling-pin. It should be made very fine and always sifted.
Washing the butter and powdering the sugar? Just two examples of the extra steps women had to go through when it came to baking in the early 19th century. Remember, butter was made fresh, and the buttermilk had to be removed from the freshly churned butter by washing it with cold water. Also, salt was added to the butter to preserve it for longer periods of time, and often some of the salt needed to be removed before the butter could be used.
Powdering the sugar? If you went to the country store in the 1800s to purchase some sugar, you’d notice that sugar came in large cone shaped loaves. Sugar nippers were used to cut smaller pieces off the cone. That sugar then had to be powdered for use in baking.
And then there is some advice that seems to stay the same no matter what century it is given in:
The eggs should not be beaten till after all the other ingredients are ready, as they will fall very soon. If the whites and yolks are to be beaten separately, do the whites first, as they will stand longer. Eggs should be beaten in a broad shallow pan, spreading wide at the top. Butter and sugar should be stirred in a deep pan with straight sides.
Break every egg by itself, in a saucer, before you put it into the pan, that in case there should be any bad ones, they may not spoil the others.