Category: Cooking/Kitchens

CHOCOLATE: A VICTORIAN TREAT? OR MORE? by Charlene Raddon

Today we have guest author Charlene Raddon with us here at the Junction. Charlene is not only discussing one of the best things in this world–chocolate!–she is also giving away two books! One lucky commentor will win an e-copy of To Have and To Hold and another will win an e-copy of Divine Gamble. Take it away, Charlene!

I don’t know about anyone else, but I am thoroughly addicted to chocolate. Dark chocolate, to be precise. I rarely eat milk chocolate. Dark varieties have less calories and are good for the heart (that comes straight from my doctor).

Almost everybody loves chocolate, right? But how long has it really been around? The Victorians adored drinking the liquid version, but did they invent, grow, develop chocolate? No.

The first chocolate house in London opened in 1657, advertising the sale of “an excellent West India drink.” In 1689, a noted physician, Hans Sloane, developed a milk chocolate drink, which was initially used by apothecaries. Later Sloane’s recipe was sold to the Cadbury brothers. London chocolate houses became trendy meeting places for the elite London society that savored the new luxury.

But chocolate goes back much farther than the seventeenth century. The fermented, roasted, and ground beans of the Theobroma cacao (chocolate), can be traced to the Mokaya and other pre-Olmec people, with evidence of cacao beverages dating back to 1900 B.C.

The Maya are credited with creating a drink by mixing water, chili peppers, cornmeal, and ground cacao seeds. The Aztecs acquired the cacao seeds by trading with the Maya. For both cultures, chocolate became an important part of royal and religious ceremonies. Priests presented cacao seeds as offerings to the gods and served chocolate drinks during sacred ceremonies. Chocolate was so revered the Aztecs used it as both a food and currency. All areas conquered by the Aztecs that grew cacao beans were ordered to pay them as a tax, or as the Aztecs called it, a “tribute”.

In 1521, during the conquest of Mexico, the Spanish conquistadors discovered the seeds and took them home to Spain. The Spaniards mixed the beans with sugar, vanilla, nutmeg, cloves, allspice and cinnamon. The result was coveted and reserved for the Spanish nobility. Spain managed to keep chocolate a secret from the rest of the world for almost 100 years. Once discovered, the drink spread throughout Europe.

Somewhere along the way, some European decided a special pot to serve the beverage in was needed. The earliest pots were silver and copper. Later, European porcelain manufactures began producing them as well. These pots had a right-angle handle and a hole in the lid in which a wooden stirrer, called a molinet or molinillo, stirred the mixture. Rather than a log spout which began in the middle of the side of the pot, like coffee and tea pots have, the chocolate pot has a flared spout at the top.

If you look on e-Bay, you’ll see pots of both styles, those with the long side spouts offered as combination coffee or chocolate pots. Prices vary considerably, but a good pot can run as much as $1,000.00, and a set, with cups and saucers and sometimes sugar and creamer, can be as high as $3,000. Although none of mine are this valuable, my personal assortment of chocolate pots numbers around thirty-five. The photographs shown here are from my collection.

The origin of the word “chocolate” probably comes from the Classical Nahunt word xocol?t (meaning “bitter water”) and entered the English language from Spanish. How the word “chocolate” came into Spanish is not certain. The most cited explanation is that “chocolate” comes from Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs, from the word “chocolat,” which many sources derived from the Nahuatl word “xocolat” (pronounced [ ?o?kola?t]) made up from the words “xococ” meaning sour or bitter, and “at” meaning water or drink. Trouble is, the word “chocolat” doesn’t occur in central Mexican colonial sources.

Chocolate first appeared in The United States in 1755. Ten years later, the first U.S. chocolate factory went into production.

I learned all this doing research for my historical romance, To Have and To Hold. In the story, the heroine has a friend who owns a bakery in town and, when Tempest comes to visit, Violet serves her hot cocoa with a chocolate pot.

Antonio Colmenero de Ledesma of Spain published the first recipe for a chocolate drink in 1644 by in his book, A Curious Treatise of the Nature and Quality of Chocolate. The spices included hot chiles, and the recipe goes as follows:

  • 100 cacao beans
  • 2 chiles (black pepper may be substituted)
  • A handful of anise
  • “Ear flower”  *
  • 1 vanilla pod
  • 2 ounces cinnamon
  • 12 almonds or hazelnuts
  • pound sugar
  • Achiote (annatto seeds) to taste –

Ingredients were boiled together and then frothed with a molinillo, the traditional Aztec carved wooden tool. The achiote was used to redden the color of the drink. *Also known as “xochinacaztli” (Nahuatl) or “orejuela” (Spanish).

“Chiles and Chocolate” goes on to provide another chocolate recipe published in France 50 years later. This one has significantly reduced the amount of chili peppers. The recipe was published in 1692 by M. St. Disdier of France, who was in the chocolate business:

  • 2 pounds prepared cacao
  • 1 pound fine sugar
  • 1/3 ounce cinnamon
  • 1/24 ounce powdered cloves
  • 1/24 ounce Indian pepper (chile)
  • 1 1/4 ounce vanilla

A paste was made of these dried ingredients on a heated stone and then it was boiled to make hot chocolate.

Today, the main difference between hot cocoa and hot chocolate is that hot cocoa is made with cocoa powder, which lacks the fat of cocoa butter. Hot chocolate is made from melted chocolate bars mixed with cream.

Charlene Raddon is the award-winning author of nine American historical romance novels and a book cover artist at http://silversagebookcovers.com. She began writing in 1980 and first published in 1994 with Zebra Books (Kensington Books imprint). Her work has received high reviews, won contests and awards. Her latest book, Divine Gamble, is currently up for a Rone.

Find Charlene at:

http://www.charleneraddon.com

http://www.twitter.com/CRaddon

http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/1232154.Charlene_Raddon

https://www.facebook.com/charleneb.b.raddon

https://www.silversagebookcovers.com

Christmas Confections by Shanna Hatfield

Christmas has always been such a beautiful, blessed, wonderful season to me.

A tradition that my mom taught me, one I still carry on, is to bake goodies, infused with love, and share with family and friends.

One year, I spent hours and hours making elaborately frosted sugar cookies. In particular, I recall a little rocking horse that I’d painstakingly decorated with tiny little reins and a saddle accented with mini holly and berries made of icing.

Then my dad and brothers came in for supper and made short work of my creations!

I still make sugar cookies (a recipe I spent years experimenting with until I got it just right), although I don’t spend hours decorating them like I used to.

Sugar Cookies

I also love to make cinnamon rolls and share them with our neighbors when the rolls are warm from the oven and icing is melting into sweet pools all around them.

Cinnamon Rolls

I have an overflowing recipe box with all the traditional sweets I typically make during the holidays.

But while I was researching details for my latest release, I found so many more recipes I’d love to try.

The heroine in the story is a Swedish baker. My goodness! I think I gained five pounds (or ten) just writing about all the delightful pastries and goodies she created in her bakery.

Confection long

The Christmas Confection is book 6 in the Hardman Holidays series, set in the old western town of Hardman, Oregon.

2017 Christmas Confection

Will a sweet baker soften a hardened man’s heart?

 Born to an outlaw father and a shrewish mother, Fred Decker feels obligated to atone for the past without much hope for his future. If he possessed a lick of sense, he’d pack up and leave the town where he was born and raised, but something… someone… unknowingly holds him there. Captivated by Hardman’s beautiful baker, Fred fights the undeniable attraction. He buries himself in his work, refusing to let his heart dream.

Elsa Lindstrom adores the life she’s carved out for herself in a small Eastern Oregon town. She and her twin brother, Ethan, run their own bakery where she delights in creating delicious treats. Then Ethan comes home unexpectedly married, the drunks in town mistakenly identify her as a missing harlot, and a mishap in the bakery leaves her at the mercy of the most gossiped-about man in Hardman.

Mix in the arrival of three fairy-like aunts, blend with a criminal bent on dastardly schemes, and sprinkle in a hidden cache of gold for a sweet Victorian romance brimming with laughter and heartwarming holiday cheer.

Excerpt:

“Well…” Fred gave her an odd look as he stood in the doorway with autumn sunshine spilling all around him.  “There are two other things I’d like.”

“Two?” Elsa asked, wiping her hands on her apron and facing him. “What might those two things be?” She anticipated him asking for a batch of rolls or perhaps a chocolate cake.

“My first request is simple. Please call me Fred. I’d like to think, after all this, we’re friends and all my friends call me Fred.”

Elsa nodded in agreement. “We are friends, Mr. Deck… er, I mean Fred. If you want me to call you Fred then you best refer to me as Elsa.”

The pleased grin on his face broadened. “Very well, Elsa.”

Her knees wobbled at the sound of his deep voice saying her name, but she resisted the urge to grip the counter for support. “You said there were two things you wanted, in addition to cookies. What is the second?”

“It’s a tiny little thing really,” Fred said, tightly gripping his hat in both hands.

“A tiny little thing? Then I shall take great honor in bestowing whatever it is.” Her gaze roved over the kitchen, trying to imagine what in the world Fred could want. She kept a jar full of assorted candy. Sometimes, she used the sweets to decorate cakes and cookies. Perhaps he wanted one. “A piece of candy?” she asked.

Fred shook his head. “No, Elsa. It’s sweeter than candy and far, far better.”

Intrigued, she took a step closer to him. “What is it?”

He waggled his index finger back and forth, indicating she should step closer. When she stood so her skirts brushed against the toes of his boots, he tapped his cheek with the same finger. “A little sugar right here would be even better than ten batches of cookies.”

~ Giveaway ~

red bowed packages on white background

Make sure you enter this drawing for a chance to win a mystery box of Christmas goodies!

button enter now

Wishing you all a bright, beautiful, holiday season!

What’s one thing do you always look forward to baking or eating each Christmas?

A Pinch of This and a Dash of That

Have you ever noticed that some of those old family recipes never taste as good as you remember from your childhood?  Those early cooks didn’t waste a thing, as anyone who inherited a recipe for giblet pie will attest. I also have a recipe that calls for one quart of nice buttermilk. As soon as I find buttermilk that meets that criteria, I’ll try it.

I especially like the old-time recipes for sourdough biscuits. Here’s a recipe from The Oregon Trail Cookbook:

“Mix one-half cup sourdough starter with one cup milk. Cover and set it in the wagon near the baby to keep warm … pinch off pieces of dough the size of the baby’s hand.”

Early cooks didn’t have the accurate measuring devices we have today and had to make do with what was handy—even if it was the baby.

If you’re in the mood to drag out an old family recipe this Thanksgiving, here are some weights and measures used by pioneer cooks that might help: 

Tumblerful=Two Cups

Wineglass=1/4 Cup

Pound of eggs=8 to 9 large eggs, 10-12 smaller ones

Butter the size of an egg=1/4 cup

Butter the size of a walnut=2 Tablespoons

Dash=1/8 teaspoon

Pinch=1/8 teaspoon

Dram=3/4 teaspoon

Scruple= (an apothecary weight=1/4 teaspoon

Gill=1/2 Cup

Old-time tablespoon=4 modern teaspoons

Old-time teaspoons=1/4 modern teaspoon

2 Coffee Cups=1 pint

As for the size of the baby, you’re on your own.

                                                                Weights from Christmas in the Old West by Sam Travers

 

Chuck wagon or trail recipes call for a different type of measurement

Li’l bitty-1/4 tsp

Passle-1/2 tsp

Pittance-1/3 tsp

Dib-1/3 tsp

Crumble-1/8 tsp

A Wave at It-1/16 tsp

Heap-Rounded cupful     

Whole Heap-2 Rounded cupfuls

Bunch-6 items

However you measure it,

here’s hoping that your Thanksgiving is a “whole heap” of fun!

 

For Your Christmas Reading Pleasure

Amazon author page

iTunes author page

Updated: November 12, 2017 — 9:29 am

Fall In Texas

I’m from Iowa, and there it’s easy to tell fall has arrived. The trees change to lovely shades of yellow, orange and crimson. A crispness lingers in the air all day. It feels like fall. I love that time of year. Wearing jackets, snuggling under a blanket with a good romance on Saturday. Walking on crunching leaves.

Now I live in Texas, and fall is different from what I knew growing up. In Texas, it’s hard to tell autumn has arrived. Halloween has come and gone, and Thanksgiving is around the corner. Despite what the calendar says, this week’s forecast is for record high temperatures. We’re talking hitting ninety degrees. When the leaves change, they turn a shade of brown and fall off the tress. Not exactly the ooh-ahh fall colors I spotted in the Midwest.

Saying It’s been an adjustment for me is like saying Texas and Texas A&M have a little rivalry. Over the years I’ve learned fall is heralded in different ways in Texas. First and foremost, we know it’s fall because of the arrival of football season. Yes, it’s true. Football is almost a religion here in Texas. From high schools on Friday night to TCU, Baylor, Texas Tech, Texas and Texas A&M on Saturday. There’s even have a “Red River Showdown” between Texas and OU at the Texas State Fair.

Which brings me to another huge sign of fall in Texas, the state fair. When people start talking about corny dogs, turkey legs, and fried any and everything, I know autumn has arrived. I hear Big Tex’s voice and see pictures of him everywhere. In 2012 when Big Tex caught on fire, it was huge news. We got updates on the progress to rebuild him, including details on changes in his iconic outfit.

But I’ve learned to adjust. I decorate the yard and house for fall, Halloween, and then Thanksgiving. I admit a couple times I had a fire and then turned on the air conditioner because the house got so warm. I bake items that remind me of fall. One of my family’s favorite is pumpkin bread.

Pumpkin Bread

3 1/3 C flour
3 C sugar
4 eggs
1C oil
2/3 C water
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 can pumpkin
½ black walnut flavoring
Sift dry ingredients into a bowl. Make a “well” in the center. Add eggs, water, oil and black walnut flavoring in well. Mix. Add canned pumpkin. Mix. Place in greased loaf pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour.

Now tell me about your favorite fall tradition and be entered in the drawing to win the pumpkin and Home On The Ranch: Colorado.

Updated: November 1, 2017 — 6:28 pm

Happy Halloween!

 

Today is one of the happiest days for children and adults, outside of Christmas and birthdays. Or at least that’s my opinion.  I’m fortunate to share my blog with Fellow Filly Shanna Hatfield.  I’m going to blog about some history and fun facts; before turning it over to Shanna to tell you a little about her special Pumpkins Cookies, yummy!

To my surprise, Halloween has roots in age-old European traditions. It originated with the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, when people would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off ghosts.  In the eighth century, Pope Gregory III designated November 1 as a time to honor all saints; soon, All Saints Day incorporated some of the traditions of Samhain. The evening before was known as All Hallows Eve, and later Halloween. Over time, Halloween evolved into a day of activities like trick-or-treating and carving jack-o-lanterns. Around the world, as days grow shorter and nights get colder, people continue to usher in the season with gatherings, costumes and sweet treats.

In the late 1800’s, there was a move in America to mold Halloween into a holiday more about community and neighborly get-togethers. In the 1920’s and 1930’s, Halloween had become a secular, but community-centered holiday, with parades and town-wide Halloween parties as the featured entertainment. Between 1920 and 1950, the centuries-old practice of trick-or-treating was also revived. Trick-or-treating was a relatively inexpensive way for an entire community to share the Halloween celebration.  In theory, families could also prevent tricks being played on them by providing the neighborhood children with small treats.

Thus, a new American tradition was born, and it has continued to grow. Today, Americans spend an estimated $6 billion, yes with a “B”, annually on Halloween, making it the country’s second largest commercial holiday after Christmas.

I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you all about how Halloween traditions fit in with young women identifying their future husbands and reassuring them that they would someday…with luck by next Halloween…be married. In the 18th century Ireland, a matchmaking cook might bury a ring in her mashed potatoes hoping to bring true love to the diner who found it.

Another fascinating tradition was when young women tossed apple-peels over their shoulders, hoping that the peels would fall on the floor in the shape of their future husbands’ initials; and, some also tried to learn about their futures by peering at egg yolks floating in a bowl of water.

One of the beloved events is our church’s Trunk or Treat which is a safe and fun environment for kids to go trick or treating out of the trunk of member’s cars in the parking lot. It’s open to the public, not just the youth of our home church.

I’m happy to have Shanna Hatfield chiming in with one of her favorite Halloween treats.

“I’m a pumpkin fanatic! The fascination with pumpkin treats started with my aunt’s decadent pumpkin roll and ends with pumpkin pie (which I would eat any time of year). This recipe for pumpkin cookies is a fast, easy way to satisfy a pumpkin craving… and a sweet tooth! Happy Haunting!”

From Shanna Hatfield, USA Today Bestselling Author

Pumpkin Cookies

1 box of spice cake mix

1 small can of pumpkin pie filling

1 cup cream cheese frosting

toppings (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix cake mix and pumpkin until thoroughly blended.

Line a cookie sheet with parchment and drop spoonfuls of the dough onto the cookie sheet.

Bake about ten minutes, until the cookies are just set, but not yet starting to brown.

Remove from oven and let cool.

Warm cream cheese frosting in the microwave for about 12 seconds, or until thin enough to pour. Drizzle over cookies. Top with toffee bits, cinnamon, sprinkles or candied nuts if you want to get all fancy-pants (which I generally do).

Enjoy!

Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

To one lucky reader who leaves a comment, I will give away a copy

of any of my eBooks from Amazon!  Happy Holiday, Phyliss

 

And, thank you, Shanna, for sharing your recipe with us. 

 

 

 

 

 

Updated: October 21, 2017 — 10:15 am

Happy Labor Day!!!

Hello everyone, Winnie Griggs here.

By the time this post goes up it’ll be Labor Day and I certainly hope you all are able to take the opportunity to have a relaxing day with family and friends.

Around our house, Labor Day usually means outdoor cookouts. But for my family, instead of BBQs and picnics, we like to send the summer out with a seafood boil.  This year it’s going to be shrimp.

I love a good seafood boil.  In addition to the shrimp and appropriate seasonings, the pot this year will contain corn, potatoes, sausage, mushrooms, cauliflower, onions, garlic, lemons and limes- a veritable banquet!

Here’s a photo taken from a prior Labor Day feast – doesn’t it look yummy?

 

Of course, no feast would be complete without a great dessert.  So  today I thought I’d share with you one of my favorite summer treats. It’s a sort of trifle that my family calls a punch bowl cake.  It’s super easy to make and as a bonus, especially on these hot summer days, it’s no bake!

 

 

Ingredients:

  • 1 pre-made angel food cake
  • 1 large tub of whipped topping
  • 1 package of either vanilla or cheesecake flavored instant pudding (6 serving size)
  • Approx 1 lb berries of your choice (I prefer strawberries but I’ve made it with mixed berries as well)

Directions

  • Prepare pudding according to directions.
  • Mix together with whipped topping and set aside
  • Tear cake into bite-sized pieces
  • In a large bowl, layer ingredients as follows:
  • 1/3 each of angel food cake, berries and then cream mixture
  • Repeat twice more
  • If desired, garnish top with additional berries, nuts or grated chocolate
  • Refrigerate until ready to serve

So what about you? Do you have any special Labor Day traditions? Any favorite end of summer foods?  Share your answers and I’ll put you in the running for a copy of any book in my backlist.

Updated: September 5, 2017 — 2:11 pm

Game Day! ~ Tanya Hanson

Football enters our homestead every August with our family’s Fantasy League. My team Wild Thang usually ends the season in last place. Mostly I like the smack-talk. We culminate things with a big Chili Cook-off on Super Bowl Sunday, and following this post, you’ll find the recipe I am entering this year. In the meantime, here’s some fun football facts.

Early leather helmets were replaced by plastic ones in the 1950’s

This early helmet with its nose guard is kinda Hannibal Lechter-y.

Anyway, back to the game. Beginning in 1827, Harvard started holding the “Bloody Monday” mob game between freshmen and sophomores–a mash-up of soccer and rugby that kind of presaged modern football’s violent nature. While there were certainly competitions using balls among our country’s first nations, today’s American football got its start from Europe’s historic soccer and rugby games.

Early balls were round, reminiscent of rugby, leather and laces over inflated pig bladders. In 1875, the egg-shaped ball was introduced.

In November 1869, Rutgers and Princeton played the first recognizable football game, although the ball was round. By the 1880’s, Yale’s great rugby star Walter Camp morphed the game into what we know today as football. He developed the line of scrimmage and “downs” and helped legitimize interference—otherwise known as blocking and highly illegal in rugby. Teams had been limited to 20 players in 1873.

Walter Camp (1859-1925), the Father of American Football

Later college coaches such as Knute Rockne and Glen “Pop” Warner helped introduce the forward pass. Football’s popularity grew and grew, with fierce rivalries between colleges, and popular “bowl’” games developed. The “Big Game” between Stanford and University of California at Berkeley in 1892 has long been considered the West’s first big face-off.

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Upon the development of professional teams, paying players for their time and talents was considered unsportsmanlike. William “Pudge” Heffelfinger (1867-1954) became the first professional player in America in November 1892 by accepting $500 from a Pittsburgh ball club. In 1897, the Latrobe Athletic Association became the first pro team to complete an entire  competitive season.

Pudge Heffelfinger (1867-1954)

The 1932 National Football League playoff game was the first to introduce hashmarks and was played indoors due to Chicago’s grim weather that winter. In 1946–the same year Jackie Robinson made baseball history–two of his teammates from UCLA, Woody Strode and Kenny Washington, became the first African American players in the NFL.

Woody Strode, Jackie Robinson, and Kenny Washington pictured together on the 1939 UCLA team. All three made sports history.

Early padding looks like gramma’s quilt.

The first Super Bowl took place in January 1967 and my hubs—just a kid—was in attendance! Now we’re getting ready for our big game day shindig. Not long ago he and I went to the football exhibition presented by the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library~it was full of great info and lots of photo ops.

How about you? Any football lovers out there? Anybody ever enter a chili-cook-off?

***************

Here’s my easy-peasy chili recipe. I promise you it’s good.

Rancho Taco Crocko

2 pounds ground beef or turkey (I use turkey), cooked.

1 envelope taco seasoning

1 ½ cups water

1 can (15 oz) chili beans

1 can (15 oz) corn, or a bag of frozen corn

1 can (15 oz) jalapeno pinto beans. Best to drain these. You can use regular pintos but we like spice around here.

1 can (15 oz) stewed tomatoes

1 can (10 oz) diced tomatoes—recommend a southwest version that includes green chilies or similar additives. Do not drain.

1 can (4 ounces) diced green chilies

I envelope ranch dressing mix. This is the secret ingredient.

(I will be adding pickled jalapenos, too.

Dump into crockpot (mine is shaped like a football LOL), and mix well, cook on high for a while stirring occasionally, then set to warm. Serves about 8, makes about 2 quarts. Calories unknown.

 

********

When it rains it pours….I have two books coming out later this month. Details next time.

Updated: January 30, 2017 — 6:42 pm

Sourdough–My New Project

I have a new project: sourdough bread. [the pic on the left is from King Arthur Flour–not me!] I say project because this isn’t pick up a loaf at the store, or even wake up early on Saturday and decide I’m going to bake a loaf of bread. No, to make sourdough you have to plan ahead.

Okay, I thought, I’m a planner. I can do this. Truthfully, I’m a haphazard baker at best, but, since we’re trying to eat less pre-packaged foods—read foods with less ingredients I can’t pronounce—I decided to start making my own sourdough bread. It’s a simple bread, using only flour, water and time. But sourdough has to be tended, culled, and fed.

Sourdough bread is made by the fermentation of dough using naturally occurring lactobacilli and yeast. Translation: this stuff is ALIVE!

Or, lordy, what have I gotten myself into.

“The origins of bread-making are so ancient that everything said about them must be pure speculation. One of the oldest sourdough breads dates from 3700 BCE and was excavated in Switzerland, but the origin of sourdough fermentation likely relates to the origin of agriculture in the Fertile Crescent several thousand years earlier… Bread production relied on the use of sourdough as a leavening agent for most of human history; the use of baker’s yeast as a leavening agent dates back less than 150 years.” (Michael Gaenzle, Encyclopedia of Food Microbiology)

Bread is older than metal; even before the bronze age, our ancestors were eating and baking flat breads. Until the time of the development of commercial yeasts, like brewers yeast, all leavened bread was sourdough, with it’s slower raise. One reason given for the importance of unleavened bread in the Jewish faith is that at the time of the exodus from Egypt, there wasn’t time to let the dough rise overnight.

Sourdough became a staple in San Francisco during the California Gold Rush of 1849. And the sourdough tradition was carried into Alaska and the western Canadian territories during the Klondike Gold Rush of 1898. Other leavening agents such as yeast and baking soda were much less reliable in the conditions faced by the prospectors. Experienced miners and other settlers frequently carried a pouch of starter either around their neck or on a belt; these were fiercely guarded to keep from freezing—even though freezing does not kill a sourdough starter; excessive heat does.

Sourdough had to have crossed the American west to get to California. Cookies certainly couldn’t take the time to allow a yeast bread to rise—all that bouncing in the wagon…

Even with it’s dislike of heat, it stands to reason sourdough would have appeared in the American West, maybe in leather pouches tucked into saddlebags, or beside the water jugs or barrels. A traveler wouldn’t always need a large loaf of bread, and to make a sourdough loaf you only need an amount in proportion to the size of the final product.

I’ll keep researching to see if cowboys and settlers took sourdough along on their journeys. For the moment, though, I’ve got to go feed the newest member of my family—SOURDOUGH!

The 19th Century Table: Parker House Rolls (including recipe)

Kathleen Rice Adams header

Harvey D. Parker, father of Parker House Rolls

Harvey D. Parker (sculptor John D. Perry, 1874), Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

When 20-year-old Harvey D. Parker arrived in Boston on a packet from Maine, the young man had only $1 in his pocket. Even in 1825, $1 wasn’t enough to sustain him for more than a day, so Parker took the first job he could find: caring for a horse and a cow at a salary of $8 per month. A series of other subsistence jobs followed, until he found one that set him on a career path from which he’d earn a fortune.

While working as a coachman for a wealthy socialite, Parker frequently ate his noon meal in a dingy basement tavern. In 1832, he bought the tavern for $432 and renamed it Parker’s Restaurant. Excellent food served by an attentive staff soon made the place a popular dining spot for the city’s newspapermen, lawyers, and businessmen. By 1847, the restaurant was one of the busiest and most well-regarded in the city.

In 1854, Parker and a partner bought a boarding house that once had been a grand mansion. They razed the structure and built an ornate, five-story brick-and-stone hotel on the site. The elegant hotel, named simply Parker’s, opened with great fanfare on April 22, 1854, and quickly became the establishment for upper-crust travelers. Notable guests included Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr., and Charles Dickens. John Wilkes Booth stayed at Parker’s only days before he assassinated President Abraham Lincoln.

Parker's hotel, where Parker House Rolls were born.

Parker’s (19th century photo by Leander Baker)

At the time, the few existing hotels (most travelers took lodging in taverns or boarding houses) operated on “the European plan,” which included meals in the cost of a room. Meals were served family-style at given hours; if a lodger missed the hour, he went without food.

Parker’s hotel introduced a new concept: Rooms and meals were priced separately. Guests were offered menus appropriate to the time of day and ate virtually anytime they pleased. The upscale food was prepared by a kitchen staff and served in a grand dining room, where members of the public were invited to dine at their convenience, too.

The restaurant introduced dishes that remain popular today, including Parker House rolls and Massachusetts’s state dessert, Boston cream pie. According to legend, the rolls resulted when an angry chef tossed unfinished dough into the oven, accidentally creating a bread diners demanded ever after.

Parker's dining room, where diners demanded Parker House Rolls

Parker’s dining room, ca. 1910

Today, the Parker House is part of the Omni Hotels chain of high-end lodging establishments. Omni chose to maintain the original property’s lux décor, for the most part. The walls remain burnished American oak; lobbies, bars, and the restaurant resonate with the deep colors of yesteryear; massive crystal chandeliers sparkle in the public areas, and elevator doors are overlaid with a patina of burnished bronze.

Recipes for the hotel’s signature dishes reportedly remain unchanged, as well. Understandably, Omni Parker House doesn’t reveal its culinary secrets, but intrepid cooks and bakers take that as a challenge. Recipes for Parker House rolls began appearing in cookbooks in the 1880s. Fanny Farmer revealed what she claimed to be the original in her 1896 Boston Cooking-School Cook Book.

Here it is, with baking instructions for modern kitchens.

Parker House Rolls

Parker House Rolls

Parker House rolls, courtesy King Arthur Flour

1¾ cup scalded milk

¼ cup lukewarm water

2 Tbsps. active dry yeast

1 cup butter, melted and cooled to room temperature

1/2 cup sugar

2 teaspoons salt

1 large egg

6 cups all-purpose flour

Instructions

1. Dissolve yeast in water.

2. In large bowl, combine 1/2 cup butter, sugar, and salt.

3. Stir in water/yeast mixture, milk, and egg.

4. Add 3 cups flour and beat thoroughly. The mixture should resemble a thick batter. Cover and let rise until at least double.

5. Stir down sponge, then stir in enough flour to make a soft dough (about another 2½ cups).

6. Turn dough onto lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes, working in more flour (about ½ cup) while kneading.

7. Shape dough into a ball and place in large, lightly greased bowl, turning so that top of dough is greased. Cover with towel; let rise in warm place (80 to 85 degrees F.) until doubled, about 1½ hours. (Dough is doubled when 2 fingers pressed into dough leave a dent.)

8. Punch down dough by pushing the center of dough with fist, then pushing edges of dough into center. Turn dough onto lightly floured surface; knead lightly to make smooth ball, cover with bowl for 15 minutes to let dough rest.

9. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

10. In 17¼-inch by 11½-inch roasting pan, melt remaining ½ cup butter over low heat; tilt pan so melted butter coats entire bottom.

11. On lightly floured surface with floured rolling pin, roll dough ½ inch thick.

12. Cut dough into circles with floured 2¾-inch round cutter. (Note: The dough may be cut into rectangles instead of circles.) Holding dough circle by the edge, dip both sides into melted butter pan; fold in half.

13. Arrange folded dough in rows in pan used to melt the butter. Each roll should nearly touch its neighbors. Cover pan with towel; let dough rise in warm place until doubled, about 40 minutes.

14. Bake rolls for 15 to 18 minutes until browned.

 

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Pie Trivia and a Giveaway

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Hello everyone, Winnie Griggs here. First of all, I want to wish everyone a very Happy Labor Day.  I hope you all are able to take some time to kick back and enjoy this holiday that’s set aside to celebrate the working man and woman.

The other thing I’m celebrating today is the release of my newest book in the Texas Grooms series, Texas Cinderella. The heroine of this book, Cassie Lynn Vickers, has a dream to one day open a bakery. Her specialty is pies (strange because I love to bake but am no good at pies). So I thought I’d have fun today and give you some Trivia and Fun Facts on the subject of pies.

  • Pies have been around for a very long time. There is evidence that the ancient Egyptians, Romans and Greeks all made pies of one sort or another.
  • The first pies were mostly of the meat pie variety. The earliest published pie recipe came from the 14th century Romans and was a rye-crusted honey and goat-cheese pie.
  • The thick crusts on medieval pies were known as coffyns, which at the time simply meant basket or box.
  • In A Winter’s Tale, Shakespeare includes a recipe for pies that includes ginger, mace, prunes, nutmeg, raisins and, for a hint of color, saffron.
  • Pumpkin pie wasn’t present at the pilgrim’s first Thanksgiving, but it was at the second in 1623
  • The most popular flavors of pies purchased in America are, in this order: apple, pumpkin, cherry, blueberry and Dutch apple.
  • A 2008 survey by the American Pie found Americans consider pie more than just a dessert. 35% have had pie for breakfast, 66% have eaten it as their lunch and 59% have eaten pie as a midnight snack.
  • At one time Kansas had a law on the books that made it illegal to serve ice cream on cherry pie.

So, what is your favorite pie? And do you have any fun facts to add to the list?

Leave a comment to be entered into a drawing for a copy of Texas Cinderella.

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Here’s an excerpt from Texas Cinderella:

22 TC- smallMaking up her mind, she decided to share her plan. “I do have an idea about how I might get around this.”

Mrs. Flanagan straightened. “Well, bless my soul, you do have some gumption, after all.” She leaned back with a satisfied nod. “Let’s hear it.”

Cassie Lynn took a deep breath. “It appears the only excuse my father will accept is if I was spoken for. So that’s what I intend to do—find a man to marry.”

The widow’s brow went up. “Just like that, you’re going to go out and find yourself a suitor?”

“I didn’t say it would be easy.” Cassie Lynn tried to keep the defensiveness from her tone. “And it’s not as if I expect anything romantic.” She didn’t have any notions of finding a fairy-tale prince who would look at her, fall instantly in love and whisk her away.

After all, she’d already contemplated a businesslike marriage once upon a time, so she’d already come to terms with that kind of arrangement.

But Mrs. Flanagan was frowning at her. “You’re much too young to be giving up on love. Don’t you want at least a touch of romance in your life?”

“Romance is no guarantee of happiness. And even if that was something I wanted, in this case there’s no time for such schoolgirl notions. So a more practical approach is called for.”

“I see.” Mrs. Flanagan crossed her arms, clearly not in agreement with Cassie Lynn’s argument, but willing to move on. “Is there a particular bachelor you’ve set your sights on?”

“I’ve been pondering on that and I have a couple of ideas. The main thing, though, is I’ve decided what requirements the gents need to meet.” She’d given that a lot of thought on her walk home.

“And those are?”

“Well, for one, since I want to continue pursuing my goal of opening a bakery, the candidate will need to be okay with having a wife who does more than just keep his house. And it would also require that he live here in town so I can be close to my customers, for delivery purposes.”

“Surely you also want to consider his character.”

“Of course. He should be honest, kind and God-fearing.” She didn’t expect affection?after all, this would be a businesslike arrangement?but she did hope for mutual respect.

“And his appearance?”

Cassie Lynn shrugged. “That’s of less importance. Though naturally, I wouldn’t mind if he’s pleasant to look at.” Like Mr. Walker, for example.

She shook off that thought and returned to the discussion at hand. “But none of that matters unless I can find someone who’s also open to my proposal.”

“And you’ve thought of someone who meets this list of qualifications?”

“Two. But I don’t really know the men here very well, so I was hoping that perhaps you could give me some suggestions.”

“Humph! I’ve always thought of matchmakers as busybodies, so I never aspired to become one.”

“Oh, I don’t want a matchmaker—I intend to make up my own mind on who I marry. I’d just like to have the benefit of advice from someone who knows the townsfolk better than I do. And who has experienced what a marriage involves.”

“Well then, much as I’m not sure I approve of this plan of yours, I don’t suppose I can just let you go through it without guidance of some sort.”

“Thank you so much. I can’t tell you what a relief that is.”

“Now don’t go getting all emotional on me. I said I’d help and I will. Tell me who these two gents are that you’re considering.”

“The first name that occurred to me was Morris Hilburn.”

“The butcher?”

Cassie Lynn nodded. “From what I can tell, he meets most of my criteria. Of course, I won’t know how he feels about having a wife who runs a bakery until I talk to him.”

“Morris Hilburn is a God-fearing man with a good heart, all right. But he is not the smartest of men and he’s not much of a talker.”

“Book learning and good conversation are not requirements.”

“Think about that before you rule them out. Do you really want to spend the rest of your life with a man whose idea of conversation is single syllable responses?”

Cassie Lynn paused. Then she remembered the fate her father had in mind for her. “There are worse things.” She moved on before her employer could comment. “The other gentleman I thought of was Mr. Gilbert Drummond.”

“The undertaker? Well, I suppose he might be someone to look at. Then again, he strikes me as being a bit finicky.”

“There are worse qualities one could find in a man. Besides, a woman in my position doesn’t have the luxury of being choosy.” More’s the pity. “But I’m open to other suggestions if you have any.”

“I’ll need to ponder on this awhile.”

“Unfortunately, my time is short.” She hesitated a heartbeat, then spoke up again, keeping her voice oh-so-casual. “There’s actually a third candidate I’m considering.”

“And who might that be?”

“I met a newcomer to town while I was at the livery. He just arrived on today’s train.”

“A newcomer? And you’re just now telling me about this? You know good and well part of the reason I hired you is to have someone to bring me the latest bits of news.”

Cassie Lynn laughed. “And here I thought it was for my cooking.”

“Don’t be impertinent. I want to hear everything. How did you meet him? Is he a young man or more mature? Is he handsome? Is he traveling alone.” She waved impatiently. “Come on, girl, answer me.”

She decided to respond to the last question first. “He’s traveling with two children, a niece and nephew. I met the little boy first. Noah is about seven and such an endearing child—intelligent, curious, outgoing. The little girl, Pru, seems shy and quiet.”

“Enough of the kids,” Mrs. Flanagan said with a grumpy frown. “Tell me about the uncle.”

Cassie Lynn paused a moment to pull up Mr. Walker’s image in her mind. “He has hair the color of coffee with a dash of cream stirred in, and his eyes are a piercing green.” A glorious shamrock-green that she could still picture quite vividly. “He’s lean but muscular, if you know what I mean, like he’s used to doing hard work.”

“And his age?”

“I didn’t ask.”

Mrs. Flanagan made a disapproving noise. “Don’t be coy with me, Cassie Lynn. Take a guess.”

She hid her grin. “I suppose I’d put him around twenty-four or twenty-five.” Though there was something about the look in his eyes that spoke of experience beyond his years.

“How did you come to meet him?”

Cassie Lynn explained the circumstances as she crossed the room to retrieve an apron that hung on a peg near the stove.

“So what was it about him that made you decide after only ten minutes in his company that he might be the husband you’re looking for?”

“I only said he might be worth considering.” Then, under Mrs. Flanagan’s steady gaze, she shrugged. “I suppose it was the fact that he had two young children in his care—it made me think he might be a man in need of a woman’s help.”

“I agree with you there,” Mrs. Flanagan said. “A single man in charge of two young’uns sounds like a gentleman in need of a wife if there ever was one.”

Purchase at Amazon here: Texas Cinderella

 

 

Updated: September 4, 2016 — 11:17 pm
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