Monday, November 23, 2015

Countdown to Thanksgiving, Day 4: Breads, Rolls, and Biscuits

Today we discuss one of my late Mother's favorite bits of Thanksgiving dinner, the breads.
Breads, rolls, and biscuits are the place where family traditions carry on through the years. The smells remembered fondly. The burnt bemoaned for generations to come. Whether your tradition is yeast rolls, cornbread, loaf bread, rich buttermilk biscuits, or Pillsbury Crescents; chances are good you have a Thanksgiving memory of breads.

Breads in the 19th century went almost without comment in the Bills of Fare, but were a large portion of every recipe compilation.

Today, I will share three breads. First a twist for the 19th century palate, the French Twist. Then a nod to the cornbread that may have inspired the stuffing traditions of my friends on the Civil War Kitchen. Finally, yes, they really did make pumpkin bread and apple bread in the 19th century.

French Rolls by Martha Stewart 

From: Directions for Cookery by Eliza Leslie, 1840
French Rolls.
--Sift a pound of flour into a pan, and rub into it two ounces of butter; mix in the whites only of three eggs, beaten to a stiff froth, and a table-spoonful of strong yeast; add sufficient milk to make a stiff dough, and a salt-spoonful of salt. Cover it and set it before the fire to rise. It should be light in an hour. Then put it on a paste-board, divide it into rolls, or round cakes; lay them in a floured square pan, and bake them about ten minutes in a quick oven.

From: Miss Beecher's Domestic Receipt Book by Catharine Esther Beecher, 1846 pub. 1850
French Rolls, or Twists.
One quart of lukewarm milk.
One teaspoonful of salt.
A large tea-cup of home-brewed yeast, or half as much distillery yeast.
Flour enough to make a stiff batter.
Set it to rise, and when very light, work in one egg and two spoonfuls of butter, and knead in flour till stiff enough to roll.
Let it rise again, and when very light, roll out, cut in strips, and braid it. Bake thirty minutes on buttered tins.

Buttermilk Cornbread by Southern Living
From: Hotel Keepers, Head Waiters, and Housekeepers' Guide by Tunis Gulic Campbell, 1848
To Make Corn Bread.-- Four eggs to a quart of milk, a pound of butter to six pounds of meal. Stir well until it is about the thickness of good molasses. A tea-cupful of molasses to six pounds of meal--to which add a tea-spoonful of salaratus. Grease your pans well with butter. Put it in a good hot oven; bake three quarters of an hour.

From: The Virginia Housewife by Mary Randolph, 1838
Corn Meal Bread.
Rub a piece of butter the size of an egg, into a pint of corn meal--make it a batter with two eggs, and some new milk--add a spoonful of yeast, set it by the fire an hour to rise, butter little pans, and bake it.

Awesome Apple Bread by Kathy Wetzel of Food Geeks

From: The Great Western Cookbook by Angelina Maria Collins, 1851 pub. 1857
Take two quarts of sweet pumpkin, stewed dry; two quarts of fine Indian meal, two tea-spoonsful of salt, a table-spoon heaping full of lard, and mix them up with sufficient hot water to make it of the consistence of common corn-meal dough. Set it in a warm place, two hours, to rise, and bake it in a pan, in a moderate oven. It will take an hour and a half to bake.

From: Miss Beecher's Domestic Receipt Book by Catharine Esther Beecher, 1846 pub. 1850
Apple Bread.
Mix stewed and strained apple, or grated apple uncooked, with an equal quantity of wheat flour; add yeast enough to raise it, and mix sugar with the apple, enough to make it quite sweet. Make it in loaves, and bake it an hour and a half, like other bread.

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