Instead of butter, this recipe uses hydrogenated vegetable shortening, under the Spry brand name. I’ve commented on the history, use and health considerations of using Spry or its competitor brand, Crisco in an earlier posting. My personal choice would be to use butter, which would probably also give a better taste.
Archive for the ‘cocoa’ Category
Do compare this with the earlier recipe for Marble/Marmer Cake. Both recipes are noticeably generous with the use of eggs, but this one has fewer ingredients. Most importantly, this recipe doesn’t include any raising agent, which indicates that the rise is completely dependent on:
a) the creaming process – remember to cream butter and sugar till extremely light & fluffy, and add the egg yolks a teaspoonful at a time to prevent emulsifying;
b) the whisked egg whites – beat till ‘medium peak’ stage where the whites are still glossy and smooth but distinct marks are left by the whisk as you beat and when lifted, the peaks can hold their shape for a while (this is before you get to ‘hard peak’ stage where the tips of the whites are more pointed). Baking at Home with The Culinary Institute of America says,
This is the ideal stage for foams to be folded into batters… since the whites are still flexible enough to expand without bursting as they get hot.
And of course, fold in the flour and whisked egg whites very gently to prevent knocking out the air from the batter.
There are no instructions for doing the marbling, but of course, grandmother knew the technique well enough not to have to write it down in these notes to herself. One way to do it is to remove a third of the batter, add in the cocoa powder. Then pour the cocoa batter into the bowl of plain batter and swirl lightly before pouring the mix into a baking tin.
Speaking of baking tins, grandmother’s recipes often don’t specify the size of baking tin to be used. According to British cooking guru, Delia Smith, this is a typical problem of heirloom recipes:
One of the primary reasons why cakes sometimes fail is the recipe itself. It might be wrong or simply too vague, like some of grandma’s hand-me-downs which never mention details like tin sizes or oven temperature.
Fudge is very much an American confection, and continues the collection of American dessert recipes that grandma collected. In some cases, grandma would note down that the recipe came from the American women’s magazine, McCalls, such as in some of these recipes.
Fudge is believed to date from the 1880s, becoming popular at women’s colleges such as Vassar, Wellesley and Smith in the 1890s.
The skill in making a good fudge is to produce a texture that is both creamy, yet has a fine crystalline texture. The crucial factor is the temperature, both when the syrup mixture is taken off the heat, and when you start to beat the butter into the mixture. Which is why some people would insist on using a candy thermometer when making this. You also need to watch for the formation of sugar crystals on the sides of the pan whilst cooking, and quickly brush them away with a pastry brush dipped in as little water as possible. Some fudge recipes include corn syrup, which inhibits the formation of sugar crystals, but grandma’s recipe doesn’t have this, so more skill is needed to get a successful fudge out of this.
Fudge, like fondants, are confections cooked to the ‘soft ball’ stage, i.e. when a small amount is dropped in cold water it forms a ball that loses its shape when removed from the water.
‘Essence’ is mentioned in the instructions but not the list of ingredients; this refers to vanilla essence.
The cornflakes in this recipe reminds me of the cornflake cookies that are a popular snack for Chinese New Year here in Singapore and Malaysia. Have a look at sample recipes from some Malaysian food bloggers here, here and here. However, with the cocoa, coconut, chocolate icing and walnuts and almonds, this recipe is definitely quite a different type of cookie.
It’s not stated what form of coconut is required, but as this looks like an American recipe (use of the word ‘cookie’ rather than ‘biscuit’), I assume it refers to dessicated coconut, which is the main form of coconut used in western cooking.
This is another recipe that uses a commercial packaged food as one of the ingredients – Kellogg’s cornflakes. With Kellogg’s cereals today largely being heavily sweetened, highly-processed and not-very-healthy foods aimed at kids, I was most surprised to discover that Kellogg’s cornflakes started out as a vegan health food for the patients at the Battle Creek Sanitarium in Michigan, USA, run by Dr John Harvey Kellogg.
The John Kellogg story is a bizarre and fascinating one involving conflicts with Seventh Day Adventists leaders, anti-sex and anti-masturbation campaigns (cornflakes was part of the cure for over-sexed youths!), as well as the racial segregation and eugenics movements! No wonder his life inspired the novel and film, The Road to Wellville! Now that’s another story :) …..
The origins of dry breakfast cereals was rooted in health concerns, beginning in 1863, when James Caleb Jackson, operator of the Jackson Sanitarium in Danville, New York, invented a bran nugget cereal called granula. This was Jackson’s antidote to lack of fibre in the average the dairy and meat-heavy American breakfast at the time.
Other commercial cereals followed with Dr John Kellogg and his brother, Will, inventing granola (1877) and cornflakes (1894), and one of John Kellogg’s sanitarium patients, Charles William Post, came up with grapenuts (1897). The Washburn Crosby Company (part of General Mills from 1928), the company behind Gold Medal flour and Betty Crocker, began producing its first ready-to-eat cereal, Wheaties, in 1924. We can still see these names on supermarket shelves today in cereal brands and names.
I’ll need to read up more on this but it appears that the turning point in breakfast cereals’ development from unpalatable health food to everyday sugary treat was in the 1950s, when industrialised production and sophisticated marketing became more intensive. Sweetened cornflakes, known as Sugar Frosted Flakes or Frosties, were first produced in 1952, with Tony the Tiger as the colourful mascot.
Check out the present-day cornflakes manufacturing process here. Sugar and another sweetener, high fructose corn syrup, as well as the synthetic antioxidant, BHT (E321) – used as a preservative and which can cause reactions in some people, all feature on the list of ingredients.
The best book on the subject appears to be Cerealizing America: The Unsweetened Story of American Breakfast Cereal by Scott Bruce and Bill Crawford. I haven’t seen the book myself, but like most food history books, it’s a popular publication with no footnotes. Read a brief review and an excerpt about television marketing of cereals.
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.