Archive for September, 2007

Here’s another Kraft Oil recipe – the ‘miracle oil’ of the 1950s which I’ve written about here.

This is basically a muffin method of combining wet and dry ingredients until just blended, as is used in the Blueberry Muffin recipe.

The directions appear to call for both baking powder (‘B.P.’) and baking soda (‘soda’) are called for here. According to Baking at Home with The Culinary Institute of America (p.75),

When a recipe calls for both baking powder and baking soda, the baking soda is used mainly to neutralize an acid in the batter, while the baking powder is the element responsible for the majority of the leavening action.

Applesauce Nut Bread

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I love making muffins because they are so easy: wet ingredients in one bowl, dry in another, mix together quickly and you’re done!

Blueberries, especially fresh ones, are still pretty exotic in Singapore today, they must have been terribly rare back in grandmother’s time back in the 1960s. Which makes me think this recipe was another one copied directly from a foreign source, just as grandma did with recipes from McCall’s magazine.

Note also that the oil used is specified as Kraft brand oil, so perhaps this recipe was taken from a recipe distributed by Kraft? Food producers often published little pamphlets with recipes using their products, or included them on the back of labels and packaging – as they still do today. This was especially important with new food products in order to educate consumers as to how to use an ingredient they might not be familiar with. Indeed an internet search reveals many sources selling a 22 page booklet printed by Kraft oil in 1955, entitled 20 Wonderful Cakes Made by the New Kraft Oil Method.

Kraft Oil cookbook

What was so special about this new Kraft oil? An advertisement from 1958 (pictured here) gives us a clue: “So pure – so light – your miracle light touch for all frying, baking and salad dressings. LOOKS SO GOOD IT MAKES YOU HUNGRY Lighter crisper frying, baking and lighter tastier salad dressings with Kraft oil.”

I can’t find any information on Kraft oil per se on the official Kraft company website, but they do have a very useful timeline of commercial food products.

However, I still haven’t found out what Kraft oil is made from. This is a very important question, after all, today we are also very conscious about the oils we use when we worry about the percentage of saturated fats, monounsaturated fats, polyunsaturated fats, and choose between olive, canola, sunflower, soya bean, peanut etc oils for our daily cooking.

There exist industrial-usage kraft oil (uncapitalised ‘k’) and kraft oil paper; see for example the Handbook of Package Engineering – I’d really like to know if it is indeed the same product as this new ‘miracle’ cooking oil of the 1950s!

N.B.: “B.P.” = baking powder.

Blueberry Muffins

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I was just saying, I knew grandma had a recipe for ice cream somewhere… :)

This is another one of the many McCall’s recipes grandmother wrote down. Check out the rest here.

In my previous posting, I wrote a little bit about the background of commercial ice cream. I was surprised to discover the wide range and easy availability of commercially-produced ice cream by Cold Storage in Singapore as early as the mid-1920s!

My grandmother enjoyed ice cream very much and we usually had a tub in the fridge, but for grandma, it always had to be served very very cold and hard. Melting and soft scoop ice cream gave her indigestion she said. Mocha and coffee were her favourite flavours.

Most ice cream recipes I have come across involve taking it out of the freezer at intervals for beating several times. This recipe has a special trick for making “smooth as velvet” ice cream without the need for re-beating! This tip for saving time and energy would have been very welcome for busy housewives :).

The history of housework and technology in the twentieth century is largely about the amount of manpower needed to maintain the desired lifestyle for a household (such as eating fancy stuff like ice-cream). As technology historian, Ruth Schwartz Cowan, writes in More Work for Mother: The Ironies of Household Technology from the Open Hearth to the Microwave, new technology didn’t necessarily eliminate the need for human domestic helpers for housewives. In colonial Malaya (or present-day Singapore/Malaysia), modern technology or not, paid household help was, and still is, very common.

Vanilla Ice Cream

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This is one of the only pie recipes here with instructions for making the pie shell. It’s basically a shortcrust pastry using vegetable shortening (such as Crisco, see my comments here.)

Giveaway sign of an American recipe: the word ‘Jell-O’. In Singapore, we’ve always followed the British usage – ‘jelly’.

Also, the inclusion of vanilla ice cream. From the sound of it, one is expected to have ready-made commercial ice cream available. I’m amazed to read on this page about the history of ice cream that commercial ice cream production began as early as 1851, in Baltimore, USA. (See also here.) For commercial ice cream to be sold in the tropics, refrigeration was all important, and of course this depended on the generation of electricity. Cold Storage supermarket got its name in the days when refrigerated foodstuffs were something special. As company website says,

Established in 1903, Cold Storage was the child of the Industrial Revolution and Pax Britannica, when Singapore was the “Clapham Junction of the Eastern Seas”. Together with electricity and refrigeration, it allowed European agents of change – the colonial civil servants, merchants, miners, planters, traders – to acclimatise to living in the tropics. It can thus be said that if there were no Cold Storage the modern history of Singapore would probably be quite different.

As early as the 1920s, Cold Storage in Singapore was already mass producing ice cream for sale, not just at its own retail outlets, but also at local provision stores and cafes. You can see from the following ads (published in the Malaya Tribune newspaper in from 1925 to 1929) the names of places where Cold Storage ice cream was available, as well as the fact that there were many varieties including Eskimo Pie (1925), Neapolitan (1929), and vanilla, strawberry, lemon, coffee, tutti-frutti, pineapple, banana, maple nut, raspberry, cherry nut, chocolate and fruit salad flavours (1929)!!

Cold Storage ice cream 1925

Cold Storage ice cream 1925 B

Cold Storage ice cream 1929

No wonder grandma always had a penchant for cassata ice-cream, layers of different flavoured ice-cream a bit like Neapolitan. As a child in the 1970s, I remember she would always order cassata for dessert (and I hated the bits of fruit inside the layers :P — only peach melba no nuts no cream for me, thank you).

I’m sure grandmother has a recipe for ice cream somewhere in her notebook…. and here it is :).

Date Nut Parfait A
Date Nut Parfait B

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As I’ve posted so many pie recipes already, it’s about time I put up grandma’s pastry recipe so that you can make the pie shells!

My childhood is filled with memories of homemade shortcrust pastry. We had regular servings of apple pie made by Ah Kum Che but actually, I loved the plain shortcrust pastry more than the pies :). Extra pastry cut into biscuit shapes were made for me, sprinkled with granulated sugar on top but I preferred them plain – please don’t adulterate my wonderfully ‘short’ pastry with hard crystals! I can’t quite remember now how old I was when I learnt to make shortcrust pastry, certainly my first baking adventures are an enduring memory of my pre-school years, but probably I only started seriously making shortcrust pastry after Ah Kum Che retired and I had to find some way to fulfil my craving for pastry biscuits and once-a-year Christmas mincepies (we always used ready-made supermarket mince, Robertson’s brand – which I now realise, reading through grandma’s recipes, was a convenience strategy that grandmother didn’t hesitate to use).

Anyway, grandma’s instructions to make shortcrust pastry with ‘half butter and half Crisco’ in order to get a really ‘short’ texture has always stayed with me. As you can see, this recipe asks for all Crisco, no butter. I’ve never tried it that way myself.

Crisco was introduced in 1911 as the first shortening to use only vegetable oil. In the early days, the cans came with recipe books to teach consumers how to cook with this new product. See the Crisco history timeline here, together with pictures of the first advertisement, the first cookbook, early manufacturing and more. I have also commented on Crisco in other entries on this blog, such as here.

Crisco, being a type of hydrogenated vegetable oil, originally contained four grams of trans fats per tablespoon, but since January 2007, Crisco has been reformulated to contain ‘zero trans fats per serving’ (read the press release), which doesn’t necessarily no trans fats at all, simply that one serving has less than the mandatory minimum required for the item to be declared on the nutritional label (see here).

Reading this review of the new Crisco, it seems to me that even if I did follow grandma’s recipe, the results would never be identical to hers because the very nature of the key ingredient has changed over the years according to new developments in nutritional science and food technology.

Personally, I think I’d rather stick to butter rather than an industrial product like Crisco. I haven’t made shortcrust pastry in recent years, I hope my future Crisco-less attempt will be as good as the shortcrust pastry I remembered in the old days…!

[Update 17/11/07: read all about shortcrust pastry and making the perfect pie crust here. Thanks to Ann Mah for the link, and her report on how well it worked with my grandmother’s Pineapple Pie recipe.]

Crisco Pastry

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Another American recipe from McCalls magazine. Find the full list of other McCalls recipes on this blog here.

I wonder if ‘shortening’ here means specifically (vegetable) shortening? Technically, ‘shortening’ can be any kind of fat, but grandma often used vegetable shortening instead of butter, as was common at the time. I’ve written here about the use of shortening such as Spry and Crisco.

Double Chocolate Drops

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Butterfly Cakes

Cupcakes seem to be all the rage these days and here is a 1960s version.

This recipe is a piece of evidence as to the presence of processed convenience food mixes even in the 1960s — see the first ingredient, ‘1 pkg. white cake mix’. I’d make a strong guess that this recipe is also of American origin, like many of the baking recipes in my grandmother’s notebook, and the degree to which such products were commonplace in the U.S. is no indication of how widely available/used they were in Singapore at the same time.

Convenience foods were probably seen as an expression of a technologically-advanced modern society which made life easier for the housewife-cook, and my grandmother probably would have wanted to use them for that reason.

The result of that development is that today, convenience foods have become deeply embedded in the everyday life of most people. However, we are now well into a backlash against overly-processed foods filled with chemical additives and preservatives which can’t be good for one’s health in the long run.

Butterfly Cakes

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Note the ‘McCalls’ written in the top left hand corner. This is one of several recipes in grandmother’s notebook which came from McCalls, the popular American women’s magazine.

The other McCalls recipes so far are:
Egg Rolls – Wrappers
Banana Bread

Find the full list of other McCalls recipes here.

One ingredient in the frosting recipe emphasises the American origins of this recipe – light corn syrup. I’ve never baked with this before in my life, and it appears that people in other British-influenced parts of the world may not be familiar with it either, if this query from New Zealand is anything to go by. As that webpage explains,

[Corn syrup] is used extensively in the manufacture of processed foods and beverages in the US, because it does not crystallize as readily as sugar and is generally less expensive (although it is also not as sweet as sugar).

It is available to consumers in the US in two forms — light, which has been clarified to remove all color (and which is essentially flavorless), and dark, to which caramel color and molasses have been added. Because of its tendency not to crystallize, it is often called for in recipes for frostings, candies, jam, and jellies.

If light corn syrup is not available, you can substitute a sugar syrup made with 1-1/4 cups sugar and 1/3 cup water, boiled together until syrupy.

Other recipes for light corn syrup substitutes can be found here and here. In recent years, high fructose corn syrup has come under intense scrutiny from critics of the processed foods industry, as you can read here and here.

One of the main brands of corn syrup in the US today is Karo, which started in 1902. Perhaps at the time of writing out this recipe, my grandmother would have been familiar with these images of Karo:

Karo 1949 A Karo 1949 B

“B.P.”, if you haven’t already figured out, refers to baking powder.

Yellow Cake A

Yellow Cake B

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