As I’ve mentioned here before, I love browsing thrift stores for old books. I came across one the other day that just called out to me – Sumptuous Dining In Gaslight San Francisco 1875-1915. Its sub-title is ‘Lost Recipes, Culinary Secrets, Flambouyant People, and Fabled Saloons and Restaurants from a Golden Era’ – how’s that for intriguing. The inside jacket reads, in part “From the bawdy Barbary Coast to imperious Nob Hill, San Francisco has always projected a vitality and playfully corrupt character that are irresistible to all. And nowhere is this style more gloriously reflected than in the city’s fabled cuisine.”
There are a multitude of wonderful tidbits in this book about the people, eating establishments and social mores of the time. But what I thought I’d share with you today are just a few of the recipes, along with the snippets of information that went along with them, that are contained within the pages of the book. Naturally, I focused on the desserts. 🙂
According to the author some of the original recipes have been slightly modified to take current cooking methods into account. So let’s take a look at a few of these recipes and their stories:
Charles Schmidt was the chef at the Old Poodle Dog restaurant (don’t you just love that name?). He shared one of his most elegant dessert recipes with the folks at Sperry Products to advance the sales of their flour and so the recipe has been preserved to this day.
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons sugar
Brandy, to cook’s touch
½ cup milk
1 tablespoon flour
3 eggs, separated
1 ounce glace fruit, chopped into small pieces
½ ounce semi-sweet chocolate, grated
Preheat oven to 350F. Rub a tablespoon of the butter inside a medium sized soufflé mold and sprinkle it with a teaspoon of sugar. Crumble the macaroons into a little Brandy, and let them soak for several minutes. Boil half the milk with 2 tablespoons of sugar. Dissolve the flour in the remaining cold milk, add this to the boiled milk and cook it for 2 minutes. Remove the milk from the heat to cool before adding the egg yolks, thoroughly beaten. Bring the mixture to a slight boil, then remove it from the heat. Beat the whites of the eggs and the remaining teaspoonful of sugar until stiff peaks form, and fold them into the warm soufflé mixture. Then, in quick steps, pour half of it into the mold and top it with the fruit pieces, crumbled macaroons and grated chocolate. Pour in the rest of the soufflé mixture and slide it into the preheated oven. Bake the soufflé for 25 minutes and serve it at once.
Delmonico’s. one of the five great restaurants of San Francisco of this era, burned down in the Great Fire of 1906. The following recipe, which is popular to this day, was developed in remembrance of this disaster.
1 pint heavy cream
3 teaspoons white rum, plus additional for flambéing
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup sugar
1 stick cinnamon
3 tablespoons cornstarch
3 tablespoons milk
3 egg yolks
1/3 cup finely grated almonds
1 egg, beaten
1/3 cup saltine crackers
In a small saucepan, scald the heavy cream. Add the rum, salt, sugar, cinnamon, and cornstarch. Dissolve ingredients in the milk. Simmer long enough to remove the starchy taste, then add the egg yolks and transfer the cream to the top of a double boiler. Over boiling water, cook it, stirring constantly, until it is thick. Remove the cinnamon stick and pour the cream into a flat dish to a depth of about ¾ inch. When the cream is cool and firm, turn over the dish and slide the cream out on a flat board. Cut the cream into oblongs and roll in the finely grated almonds. Then dip each oblong in the beaten whole egg and roll it gently in cracker crumbs. Chill the cream. When it is firm, fry the oblongs in oil heated to 400 degrees F just long enough to turn the almonds golden. Pour additional white rum over the fried cream, carefully set it afire and serve the dessert flaming.
After the Gold Rush, an increasing number of no-nonsense Yankee women arrived in San Francisco, ready to set up housekeeping with their own brand of strict traditions and overall thriftiness. The following recipe was taken from an 1872 collection and printed in its original form
CANDIED ROSE LEAVES
Select the desired quantity of perfect rose leaves, spread them on an inverted sieve and let them stand in the air until slightly dried but not crisp. Make a syrup form a half-pound of granulated sugar and a half-pint of water, and boil the mixture until it spins a thread, then lift the leaves in and out of the hot syrup using a fine wire sieve. Then let the leaves stand for several hours on a slightly oiled surface. If the rose leaves then look preserved and clean they will not require a second dipping. Then melt a cup of fondant (basic vanilla icing) and add 2 drops of essence of rose and 2 drops of cochineal (herbal rose food coloring) to the melted icing. Dip the rose leaves into the mixture, one at a time. Dust with fine confectioner’s or powdered sugar and place on oiled or waxed paper to harden. Then pick daintily and enjoy as you would candy drops!
There are many more recipes and stories just like these. If you enjoyed reading them I’ll be glad to share others with you from time to time.