Thursday, April 28, 2016

1969 Betty Crocker Cookbook

My last post was about the Red Plaid Better Homes and Gardens cookbook.  That cookbook, as I lay out
in my blog, is a classic, old, stand-by, full of wonderful, nostalgic recipes, illustrations and photos.  It was my go-to cookbook when I was first married and remained an important cookbook to this day--especially for standard, basic recipes for cakes, cookies, bread, pies and tips on cooking rice, pasta, and standard comfort foods like chili, mac and cheese, spaghetti, meatloaf, casseroles, etc.  However, a few years later (1969)  the Betty Crocker Cookbook came out in a new form (formerly Betty Crocker's Picture Cookbook, which I own but was never very helpful for me).  I was given one for a gift and it soon earned a permanent spot on my handy, use-all-the-time cookbook shelf.

My sister-in-law was actually the person who started my love affair with this cookbook.  She swore it was the best cookbook in the world and, judging by her delicious food, I was sold.  Of course, I still loved my Red Plaid, but this book soon became my favorite.  Why?

First, the photos in this book are better--and there are a lot more of them--maybe not the same as today's great cookbooks, but a turn for the better.  The recipes are not so much nostalgic classics (though those are in there, too) but newer, more innovative ideas that caught on and became the classics of the future; in other words, they had a younger style.  Some of the recipes from the Appetizers Chapter became ubiquitous, even though they were new in 1969:  Rumaki, Olive-Cheese Balls, Oysters Rockefeller, Guacamole.  It was hard to find a party in the '70s where one or more of these appetizers weren't being served.
In the Bread Chapter, Pumpkin Bread (a quick bread) appears and it has become a staple of today.  Previously, pumpkin as an ingredient, was reserved mostly for pie.  The best recipe in this section, however, is one I use at our Bed and Breakfast all the time and it is always received with rave reviews.  Danish Puff is a streamlined version of the famous Danish pastries which are an all-day affair to make.

Under cakes and billed as "a tender, golden cake for small families, "Dinette Cake" is a favorite of mine.  I use it for regular cakes, put Coconut Broiled Frosting on it or use it for Pineapple up-side-down Cake.  It turns out light and feathery and delicious every time.  A yellow and white sponge cake, dubbed "Daffodil Cake" is exactly like it sounds--as light and colorful as Spring itself. Five pages of decorating ideas for cakes are really helpful. And, my family's all-time favorite frosting, Penuche Frosting, is found in this cookbook.

The Cookie chapter is so stained and tattered that no one could think it wasn't well-used.  I have Pillsbury and the Better Homes and Gardens books with their cookie recipes, but none surpasses the cookies in this Betty Crocker classic.  Among our family's favorites are:  Ranger Cookies, Oatmeal cookies, Pecan Fingers (especially the coconut chew variation), Scotch Shortbread, Deluxe Sugar Cookies, Cream Wafers (fussy, but excellent) Spritz, and Rosettes.

Pineapple Upside-Down-Cake uses the aforementioned Dinette Cake batter and is the best version of this dessert I have had.  Mocha Brownie Torte is easy to make and really good as well.  Other dessert treats that I have served to rave reviews from this cookbook are, Indian Pudding, Lemon Pudding Cake, Hot Fudge Pudding Cake, Cream Puffs, Lemon Schaum Torte and Cherry Berries on a Cloud.

Fondue seems to have made something of a comeback --happily, I think. When our group were all young marrieds that was our favorite way to entertain; easy, delicious, and, of course, you could show off your wedding present fondue set.  This cookbook gives step-by-step directions and includes three sauces for "Beef Bourguignonne" fondue that are easy but delicious:  Blue Cheese Sauce, Hot 'N Spicy Sauce and Horseradish Sauce.

Christmas Eve tradition requires the Swedish Meatball recipe on page 261.  I have tried many other recipes for them, but these are the best.

The "Main Dish" Chapter has a lot of ground beef recipes that are comfort foods at their best.  Hamburger Stroganoff leads the list, followed by Texas Hash, Lasagna, and Chili.  Boston Baked Beans are delicious and much better than canned beans, even when doctored up.

Lastly, the pie section has the premium standard for such classics as Apple Pie, Blueberry, Cherry, Pecan, Pumpkin, Lemon Meringue, and (not so standard and hard to find) a recipe for Black Bottom Pie--Yum!

If you don't own this cookbook and you can get your hands on a copy--by all means do.  You won't be sorry.

Dinette Cake

1 1/2 cups cake flour
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 cup milk
1/3 cup shortening
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla

Heat oven to 350.  Grease and flour square pan, 8x8x2" Measure all ingredients into large mixer bowl.  Blend 1/2 minute on low speed,, scraping bowl constantly.  Beat 3 minutes high speed, scraping bowl occasionally.  Pour into pan.  Bake 35 to 40 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.  Cool.

Easy Penuche Frosting
1/2 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar (packed)
1/4 cup milk
2 cups powdered sugar

Melt butter in saucepan.  Stir in brown sugar.  Heat to boiling, stirring constantly.   Boil and stir over low heat 2 minutes.  Stir in milk; heat to boiling.  Remove from heat and cool to lukewarm.  Gradually stir in powdered sugar.  Place pan of frosting in bowl of ice and water; beat until of spreading consistency.  If frosting becomes too stiff, heat slightly, stirring constantly.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

The Red Plaid Cookbook

I saw on Face Book a picture of a red plaid, 1953 Better Homes and Gardens cookbook with a caption, “Who remembers this?” Many of the replies and comments stated what my own feelings are:  I not only remember it, I use it all the time and have since I was a bride in the 1960s.  I have versions of this cookbook in my collection, starting in the 1930’s and going up to the 2002 12th edition.  Although I enjoy the 1953 version that I own, I actually use the 1962 edition even more—because it was my young homemaking era.

With the huge number of standard cookbooks that are available, what makes this particular cookbook so great?  It begins with the homey, family-centered feel of the book, from the pictures and illustrations to the recipes themselves.  Many of us oldsters remember our own mothers and family mealtimes very much like the depictions in this cookbook.  My own mother used this cookbook religiously when it was the “new, modern” cookbook of her time. Reading through the “Meal Planning” section the menus could have been taken from our family dinners.  

The 1950s were a placid and tranquil time in our history when domesticity was queen.
The illustrations show housewives in the proverbial shirtdresses and high-heeled shoes.  Their cute pageboy haircuts and pin-curl dos harken back to that amazing era of homemakers and, for many, a nostalgic sense of old-fashioned homeliness.    

What are the recipes and tips that all of us who love this book turn to and use over and over?  Begin with the menu planning.  Like my mother taught me, all evening meals or dinners include 6 categories:  meat, starch, vegetable, salad, bread and dessert.  People do not eat like that very often anymore, except perhaps at a celebration meal.  But we weren’t fat!  When you have that much variety at one meal, you don’t over eat one thing—a mental deprivation situation that I think is prevalent today.  When you have two dishes for your whole meal—or even one—you mentally load up on that dish because that’s all you’re having and we don’t like to feel deprived.  The cookbook menu plans even include a category “nice to serve” with foods like relishes, jams and jellies, pickles and olives, fruit juices, appetizer soup cups for a few.  I remember my Grandma always put a dish of jelly or preserves (homemade, of course) on her Sunday table.  It was there for the homemade biscuits, naturally.

In the “Special Helps” chapter of the ’53 version the opening photograph brings waves of nostalgia over me.  The stove is identical to the one my Mom had—the color of the cabinets, the shiny Formica countertops, the electric percolator (makes the best coffee in the world), the canisters—even the dishes are exactly right for the era.  I can see my best friend’s mother frosting a chocolate cake in her red and white kitchen with an apron over her full skirt.  That was real—not just a commercial.  This book is a centerpiece for that era as far as cooking and homemaking go.  The chapter has help for ingredients, measurements, cooking shortcuts, spices, and storage of food.  That’s pretty standard for a utilitarian cookbook—even of today.

The bread chapter is really interesting because so much more bread was baked at home then; although it is true this was the era of Wonder bread—that cottony, fluffy slice of air that we all thought was great—especially for toast or bologna sandwiches.  But that was childhood (look what kids like to eat now!!!)  Does anybody remember coffee cake?  Sunday mornings were reserved for pancakes or waffles or French toast, but an everyday treat that often showed up on our breakfast table was coffee cake.  Not as rich as coffee cakes today, nevertheless, a really delicious treat.  Probably a muffin is the closest thing in today’s cuisine, at least as easy and quick to make—it almost always had a streusel topping where you could vary the ingredients to suit yourself.   Here is a typical and easy version from the 1953 version:

1 beaten egg
½ cup sugar
½ cup milk
2 Tbsp. shortening
1 cup flour
2 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt

Combine egg, sugar, milk and shortening.  Add flour sifted with baking powder and salt.  Mix well and pour into paper-lined (or sprayed) 8x8x2” baking pan. 
Sprinkle with mixture of ¼ cup brown sugar, 1 tsp. cinnamon, 1 Tbsp flour, 1 Tbsp melted mutter, and ½ cup broken nuts.  Bake in moderate oven (375) 20 to 25 minutes.

The 1962 rendition of this recipe has a few very good revisions:

¼ cup salad oil or melted shortening
1 beaten egg
½ cup milk
1 ½ cups sifted all-purpose flour
¾ cup sugar
2 tsp. baking power
½ tsp. salt

1 Recipe topping

Combine salad oil, egg, and milk.  Sift together dry ingredients; add to milk mixture; mix well.  Pour into greased 9x9x2” pan.  

Topping:  Combine ¼ cup brown sugar, 1 Tbsp flour, 1 tsp. cinnamon, 1 Tbsp. melted butter, and ½ cup broken nuts; sprinkle over batter.  Bake in moderate oven (375) about 25 minutes or till done.  Serve warm.

An updated, healthier version—every bit as good!  Maybe Better!

1 beaten egg
¼ cup melted lard or coconut oil
½ cup milk
1 cup unbleached white flour
½ cup white whole wheat flour
2/3 cup sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
1 recipe topping

Mix egg, oil and milk; set aside.  Sift together flours, sugar, baking powder and salt.
Make well in dry ingredients and pour in wet ingredients; mix until just blended.  Pour into sprayed 8x8x2” square baking pan.  Mix topping and sprinkle over batter.  Bake in 375 degree oven for 25 minutes or until testing done.


Combine ¼ cup (packed) brown sugar, 1 Tbsp. flour, 1 tsp. cinnamon, 1 Tbsp. melted butter and ½ cup broken nuts (walnuts have the most omega-3); sprinkle over batter.

The best waffles I have ever tasted come from this cookbook—and you won’t find a recipe with these ingredients in a modern cookbook because the amount of fat in this recipe is higher than we seem to use now.  Yes, that makes them more caloric but what is the use of eating inferior food and feeling deprived or still wanting something more?  My philosophy is to eat the food that tastes the best and if it’s fattening, eat less.  A case in point is milk.  I was raised on whole milk and, although I drank it for years in my dieting days, I never really learned to like skim or low fat milk.  Whole milk has twice the calories per ounce as skim milk.  So—I drink 4 ounces of whole milk instead of 8 ounces of skim and I really feel satisfied and happy.  This waffle recipe is an example of the same theory.  One or even one half of a waffle that is this delicious is superior to two of the low-fat kind.  Try it yourself.

“Oh Boy” Waffles

2 ½ cups sifted enriched flour
4 tsp baking powder
¾ tsp salt
1 ½ Tbsp sugar
2 beaten eggs
2 ¼ cups milk
¾ cup shortening (melted) or oil

Sift dry ingredients.  Combine eggs, milk and shortening.  Combine liquid and dry ingredients just before baking; beat till smooth.  This is a thin batter.  Bake in hot waffle iron.  Makes 8 waffles. 

In the “Raised Rolls” chapter, is my standard go-to recipe for caramel rolls, cinnamon rolls, dinner rolls and all the variations of these.  I do up-date this recipe by doing a few different things which I learned as I baked frequently for the Bed and Breakfast.  I have several bread machines in my house. Most of these I purchased at a thrift store for between $5.00 and $10.00.  They all work for what I use them—which is to mix the dough, knead it and let it rise at the right temperature so that I can shape it and let it rise again and bake it in the shape and pan that I choose.  I am writing the original recipe from the 1953 cookbook, and then my changes:

Plain Roll dough

1 pkg. active dry or 1 cake compressed yeast
¼ cup water
1 cup milk, scalded
2 Tbsp. shortening
2 Tbsps. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 well-beaten egg
3 ½ cups sifted enriched flour

Soften compressed yeast in lukewarm water (85 deg), active dry yeast in warm water (110deg).  Combine milk, shortening, sugar, salt; cool to lukewarm.  Add softened yeast, egg.  Gradually stir in flour to form soft dough.  Beat vigorously; cover and let rise in warm place (82 deg) till double in bulk, about 2 hours.  Turn out on lightly floured surface and proceed as desired under variations.  Either the shortening or sugar or both man be increased to ¼ cup to make richer rolls. 

My Cinnamon Rolls

1 ¼ cups water
1 tsp. lemon juice or white vinegar
1/3 cup powdered instant non-fat milk
2 Tbsp. melted butter
2 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 egg, optional (I don’t use it)
3 ½ cups unbleached flour
1 heaping Tbsp vital gluten flour
1 scant Tbsp dry yeast

2 Tbsp. soft butter
¼ cup cinnamon sugar

1 ½ cups powdered sugar
¼ tsp. almond extract
1 tsp. melted butter
1 Tbsp hot water, or more to make spreading or glazing consistency

Fill sprayed container of bread maker with water, lemon juice, instant milk, melted butter, sugar, salt and egg, if using—in that order.  Put flour in next and top with vital gluten flour and yeast.  Put container in bread maker and set on “dough” setting.  Start machine.  When machine beeps, dump dough out on floured board and flatten to a rectangle 9x12"  Spread softened butter evenly over dough.  Sprinkle entire surface with cinnamon sugar.  Roll up tightly, jelly-roll style, from long edge.  Cut into twelve even slices and put into sprayed 9x13 pan.  Cover and let rise until double.  Bake at 375 degrees for 23 minutes or until golden brown on top.  Mix frosting or glaze and frost rolls or pour as glaze.  Delicious!

The Casseroles and One-Dish Chapter reads like the menu of a comfort food restaurant—but there’s a reason why most of these dishes are classics—they’re good!  There is a very noticeable omission: slow-cooker recipes, because, of course, slow cookers were unheard of in the 50’s. The closest thing to it was a delay oven mechanism which was brand new.  Many ranges still have this feature wherein you can set your oven to turn on at a certain time when you are not home.  Problem:  food has to be safe to sit in your oven until time to turn on or risk illness.

How many of these dishes do you make for your family?:  Chinese fried Rice, Shrimp Creole, Chow Mein, Spanish Rice, Macaroni and Cheese, Italian meatballs and spaghetti, Chicken Pot Pie, Hamburger Pie, Beef Stroganoff, Tamale Pie, Chili, Lasagna, Pizza (yes, pizza was in the 62 version), Chicken Divan, Chicken Strata, Tuna Noodle Casserole.  Tamale Pie was one of our favorites:

Tamale Pie

1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped green pepper
¾ pound ground beef
1 8-oz cans seasoned tomato sauce
1 12-oz can whole-kernel corn, drained
1 cup sliced ripe olives
1 clove garlic, minced
1 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp. salt
2 to 3 tsp. chili powder
Dash pepper
1 ½ cups shredded sharp American cheese

Corn-meal topper:

¾ cup yellow corn meal
½ tsp. salt
2 cups cold water
1 Tbsp butter

Cook onion and green pepper in a little hot fat till just tender.  Add meat; brown lightly.  Add next 8 ingredients.  Simmer 20 to 25 minutes, until thick.  Add cheese; stir till melted. Pour into greased 10x6x1 ½-inch baking dish
Make Corn-meal topper:  Stir corn meal and salt into cold water.  Cook and stir till thick.  Add butter; mix well. Spoon over hot meat mixture in 3 lengthwise strips.  Bake casserole in moderate oven 375 about 40 minutes Makes 6 servings.  (I always put some extra shredded cheese on top of casserole before baking).