Tuesday, July 8, 2014

I deeply regret discovering slice-and-bake blonde brownies

Apparently I'm easy to buy for. Some friends of mine went traveling, and at an antique store, their daughter thought of me and pulled "the most ancient cookbook" (her words) she saw off of the shelf.

I was flipping through the book and most of the recipes looked really good. I may try some of the dated-but-probably-good recipes later, but today I went with a recipe we already have everything for.

Butterscotch Cookies
Why yes, I did cut it in half. I only need so many cookies at once.
2 c brown sugar
½ c shortening
3 cups flour
2 eggs
½ tsp baking soda
1½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
½ tsp vanilla, or a slight splash if you can't be bothered to measure

Heat oven to 400°.
Cream the shortening and brown sugar. Stir in the baking soda, baking powder, salt, and vanilla. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing thoroughly. Mix in half the flour after each egg. Shape into 2 logs, wrap, and refrigerate them.
When ready to bake, heat oven to 400. Grease a cookie sheet and slice the dough thinly. Leave plenty of room for each cookie to expand, and bake 10 minutes or just until cooked through and barely browned at the edges (they may look a bit underdone but they're fine)- too long in the oven and they go hard.

Aaand right away, it's terrible for you!
I've said before that I really like digging recipes out of odd and forgotten places. It's an interesting way to learn more about... something or other. I'm sure it's a cultural insight somehow. Although a lot of the time, it seems like older recipes just find their way to me. Either I accidentally find a digital archive of public-domain cookbooks, or something like this literally gets handed to me.
Just as unhealthy, but now you can't see the shortening slab.
I also get a kick out of making things that have been forgotten; it's fun to rediscover things. Afterward, you get to eat them. I don't go out of my way to try the really scary stuff (although if I could spare the grocery money it does look fun), but I like trying out things that haven't been seen in most kitchens in a long time.
That's a lot of leavening.
Cookbooks like this one really appeal to me. More so than the expensive cookbooks with slick production behind them, they are a really nice insight into what everyday people were eating in previous decades. There are plenty of cookbooks from major publishing houses and magazines that show how a group of editors thought we should cook, but recipe books like this seem to better represent what food you'd find once you stepped out of the industrial test kitchen and into someone's house.
Given how stiff the dough's getting, all that baking soda and powder now makes sense.

The inside cover notes that this is being published by popular demand after the author's cooking classes held in the city two previous years. According to this article, she got her start demonstrating how to cook their way around the food shortages of WWI. By the 1930's, was doing cooking classes in sold-out music halls across the country. Given that half of this book is desserts, I'm not surprised at how popular she was. It is interesting to note that for someone who did shows to sold-out theaters, she's so thoroughly forgotten that I really only found a few old newspaper pages mentioning her and a couple of blog posts about "our city back in the day."

It's surprisingly little dough after it nearly overflowed the bowl.

Every time I make icebox cookies I think of a friend of mine who worked with little kids for a while. As a lesson in waiting for things to pay off, learning to follow directions, etc, she made chocolate icebox cookies with her kids. She timed it so the dough would be firmed up in the fridge just in time to lure the kids back in from recess. Well, she took this chocolate cookie dough and shaped it into a brown log on the table. Inevitably, it wasn't 5 seconds before one of the kids giggled and shouted "It looks like poo poo!" Thus ended order in the classroom.
It was kind of crumbly when I sliced it.
Anyway, the recipe said they bake quickly, and that was true. Rarely do I ever have a batch back out of the oven in 10 minutes. Also, these expanded a lot.

These turned into some seriously big cookies- they were the size of the ones in the Mexican bakery by my grandparents'. I broke each one in half, and look at how big half of one is in my hand.

As for the taste- have you ever had blonde brownies? This was blondies in cookie form. They were so good I had to take them to work lest I eat them all.
Thanks, Mrs. George Thurn!

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