Flour Head Bakery’s Appalachian Trail Mix Cookies

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I have a sneaky feeling that the creation of gravy happened somewhere at the intersection of accident and eureka.

In my imagination, it starts as a little grease fire in a pan.  When cook notices, she grabs a handful of flour left over from kneading the breakfast bread and tosses it into the pan to smother the flame. As the fire abates, she adds a little water to make sure the flame is dead or to keep the mess from sticking too hard, and, curious, she dips her finger in for a taste.  Voila!  Gravy.

Of course, that’s all early morning conjecture, but the history of food is rife with accidental creation not too dissimilar from this imagining.  A quick survey of the inter-webs will tell you that Crêpes Suzette and corn flakes are both the results of happy accidents.

Perhaps it’s merely a eureka moment when inspiration strikes cooks and inventors.  But in the kitchen, I can’t help believe that for every “ah-ha” moment, there are many more ideas born of frugality at times when every bite counted.

It can be hard for some of us to understand frugality in the kitchen. It’s easy to get used to throwing mistakes away and starting over without even wondering, “how can I salvage this?”  And that’s a real waste because it robs the world of some of the most potent and practical creative impulses: ideas born of necessity, the great mother of invention.

What is a pâté de campagne except an inspired assemblage of odd bits?  And those Crêpes Suzette?  They’re a brilliant accident that went onto a plate instead of into the trash after the sauce caught fire.

Mistakes happen – even in careful kitchens.  It’s what you do next that counts.

The cooks and bakers at our sister, Flour Head Bakery, are a precise lot, but accidents happen to the best of us. Like the time when two different kinds of granola found themselves in the same mixing bowl.  Not a great tragedy, I suppose, but it did mean there was a lot of unsalable granola hanging around.  Fortunately, someone said cookies.  And that’s how this recipe came to be.

It’s a hearty combination of some of our favorite things and, though I’m sure nobody felt good about mixing up all that granola, the mistake mixed with a little inspiration made for a pretty fabulous cookie.  And that’s how to turn a kitchen frown, upside down – all without throwing anything away.

 

Flour Head Bakery’s Appalachian Trail Mix Cookies

1 stick Unsalted Butter, Soft

½ cup Granulated Sugar

½ cup Light Brown Sugar, packed

1 Large Egg

1 tsp Vanilla

2 cups All Purpose Flour

½ tsp Cinnamon

½ tsp Ground Clove

½ tsp Salt

1 tsp Baking Powder

½ tsp Baking Soda

1.75 cups Flour Head Bakery Granola

1 cup Dried Cranberries

½ cup White Chocolate Chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In the bowl of your stand mixer beat together butter with sugars until light and fluffy. Add egg, followed by vanilla and beat until mixed.

Whisk together flour, spices, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Gradually add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and mix until incorporated. Add the granola, dried cranberries and white chocolate chips and mix until well mixed.

Drop the cookies by the spoonful or scoop out onto a parchment lined cookie sheet 1 inch apart. Flatten the cookies slightly with the palm of your hand and bake for 12 minutes until the edges are light brown.

Cool cookies and serve.

Dough can be scooped and frozen for up to 4 weeks. Thaw and flatten before baking.

Makes 12- 24 cookies depending on size.

Tomato Head’s Collard and Creamed Leek Pie

I grew up attending a small and fiery little church, where I learned that we were right and you were wrong.   In fact, there was a joke about us…

A Baptist minister who, upon entering heaven, asked St. Peter for a tour of the place.  They moved past many different halls, each filled with hosts of Presbyterians, Methodists, Quakers, etc., until they came to a room belonging to my childhood church.  St. Peter turned to the minister and said, “Shhhh – you must be very quiet now– these people think they’re the only ones up here.”

It’s easy to claim something all for yourself, but the vast nature of the world means that you probably aren’t alone in your special family traditions, and there’s even a chance that your secret handshake isn’t utterly unique.

As the author of Ecclesiastes says, “There’s nothing new under the sun.”

And that’s also true for food.  Just think about BBQ – everybody I know thinks they’re the only people to do it right.  But most things, BBQ included, are shared experiences.  Even something that’s as tied to a culture as much as collard greens are to the South are shared with places far away and, perhaps, long ago, too.

Roman Poet Ovid wrote a lovely poem called “Baucis and Philemon,“ a touching, 2000-year-old story about love and grace and hospitality.   The hospitality part includes two poor folks opening their homes to strangers and offering them a supper of greens with pork.  Ovid might have meant turnip greens, he might well have meant collards, too.  Even so, the whole dish sounds mighty familiar, doesn’t it?

Across time and space, we humans share a lot of experiences (and ingredients too).   The way we interpret and expresses ourselves in terms of those things may vary considerably or maybe that, too, is part of the great, repetitious turning of the world mentioned in Ecclesiastes and made pop-culturally famous by The Byrds in 1965 with “Turn, Turn, Turn.”

Turning to our recipe today, Mahasti takes some liberties with her collards by gently sautéing them and putting them into a pie.  It’s a riff on creamed greens – don’t squint, you know you like creamed spinach even though you may prefer to call it Spinach Maria.  The dish combines two Southern favorites, collards and biscuit, with leeks and Gruyere cheese.

It’s a nice side dish that has a comforting and familiar flavor but has some nuance that sets it apart from the same old thing.  Leeks bring a light onion flavor with a hint of sweet garlic, and a soupçon of maple syrup adds a hint of sweetness and a little flavor mystery that gives the whole thing the kind of uniqueness that we like in food that we put our name on.

But, if you want to call it your own, we won’t out you – you might very well have created it all by yourself.  These things happen.

Tomato Head’s Collard and Creamed Leek Pie

For the biscuit:

2 cups all-purpose flour

½ tsp. Salt

1 Tbl baking powder

½ stick unsalted butter

¾ cup buttermilk

In a medium bowl, mix all dry ingredients together. Cut butter into dry ingredients with a pastry cutter or 2 knives. Stir in buttermilk until a soft dough forms. Pat dough down into a greased 12-inch cast iron skillet or pie pan. Bake in a preheated 400-degree oven for 8 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.

For the Leeks:

¼ cup oil

4 cups sliced leek

½ tsp salt

½ tsp black pepper

¾ cup heavy cream

Heat oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add leeks, salt and pepper and sauté until leeks are tender. Add heavy cream and cook down until cream has thickened, about 2-3 minutes on medium high.

For the Collards:

¼ cup oil

1 bunch Collards chopped, about 8 cups

1 Tbl cider vin

2 Tbl maple syrup

1 tsp salt

Heat oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add collards and cook down for 3-4 minutes stirring frequently. Add salt, cider vinegar and maple syrup and sauté stirring frequently until collards are tender, about 4-5 minutes.

For the breadcrumbs:

1 cup bread crumbs

¼ cup unsalted butter, melted

Melt ¼ cup butter over low heat. Mix bread crumbs with melted butter. Set aside.

To Assemble:

1 cup gruyere cheese, shredded

Spread the collards, followed by creamed leeks, gruyere and breadcrumbs, evenly on top of the partially baked biscuit. Place the pie in a 400-degree oven and bake for 20 – 25 minutes until cheese has melted and breadcrumbs are golden brown.

Allow the pie to cool slightly before serving.

Serves 8

Hummus – Tradition and Invention

Absolutes are dangerous.

Of course, absolutes are also attractive, sometimes very attractive because they eliminate uncertainty and create a kind of level playing ground for the mind.  After all, life is so unpredictable, it’s only natural that we’re drawn to anything we perceive as steady, fixed and resolved.  But the truth is, the truth can vary.

And that’s as true in matters of food as it is of anything.  If you’re a well-traveled southerner or just one with family in more than one state, you probably know this instinctively.  Just you try to declare a definitive recipe for BBQ, corn bread, or, heck, even deviled eggs, and you’re likely to find yourself embroiled in the kind of ruckus that has been known suspend family reunions indefinitely and to rouse normally serene southern grandmothers to expletive laced invective.

In parts of the Middle East, you’ll find the same passion for the absolute in discussions about hummus and the one true recipe.  But if history has taught us anything, it demonstrates that there is no such thing as the one true recipe.  Hummus, like all good food, has as many incarnations as there are hands that make it.

Besides, history is notoriously incomplete in matters of food.  Even today as young writers relish and record family recipes, they’re setting down instructions and ingredients that are often several generations old, passed sometimes by food stained recipe card and sometimes by oral tradition. An old family recipe that insists that Duke’s is absolutely the only mayo for a properly deviled egg is curious to me because both Mama and Mamaw only ever had Helman’s in their kitchens.  Somebody changed that absolute, I know it.  And I know that’s true of hummus, too, because I’ve seen it happen.

Hummus is shorthand for hummus bi tahini which means chickpea with sesame paste.  It’s an old recipe with a first recorded mention sometime in the 13th century, though some folks argue that the first reference is actually in the Old Testament’s Book of Ruth.  There’s no recipe in Ruth, just an invitation to dip some bread in the hometz, and that’s just as well; chickpea cultivation is about 10, 000 years old, and I feel confident that someone, whether by accident or intention, mashed up the chickpea and found it good long before anybody even figured out how to make paper.

The basic ingredients of hummus are chickpeas, tahini, garlic and lemon – and from there it’s a story about invention, adaptation, and experimentation that has launched a thousand little tweaks in kitchens across the globe and close to home, too.

Even here in the Tomato Head kitchens we have a signature recipe that we couldn’t resist fiddling with.  Oh, don’t worry – our original and unsubtle hummus remains as original and unsubtle as ever, but we’ve added some more flavors to the mix.  In fact, there are four new flavors: Beet, Black Bean Sriracha, Carrot, and Classic.

Our new Classic hummus is a traditional, smooth and creamy chickpea centered dip.  The other flavors are just what they sound like because the recipes remain short, simple and fresh. And we make all of them by hand right here at home – that means we roast beets, shred carrots and mash the chickpeas ourselves.

And while they make great dips, don’t get so caught up in absolutes that you overlook all the hummus hack potential – consider the recipe below, Tomato Head’s Beet and Carrot Hummus Sandwich.  It combines 2 flavors of hummus with the taste of market fresh produce for a sandwich of considerable crunch and savor.  And even if the recipe doesn’t pre-date the Common Era and does take some liberties with even older recipes, it’s still absolutely delicious

 

Tomato Head’s Beet and Carrot Hummus Sandwich

For the Corn and Green Bean Salad:

8-10 Green Beans

1 ear Corn

2 tsp Fresh Mint Chopped

2 TBL Feta Cheese

4 tsp Olive Oil

2 tsp Lemon Juice

¼ tsp Salt

¼ tsp Cracked Black Pepper

In a large pot of boiling water, cook the corn for 3-5 minutes just until tender. Remove the corn from the pot. When the corn is cool, cut the kernels off the cob, cutting close to the cob. Place the corn kernels in a medium sized bowl and set aside. Drop the green beans in the same pot of water and cook for 30 seconds. Drain the green beans and immerse them into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. Remove the green beans from the ice water and slice thin. Add green beans and remaining ingredients to corn and toss well.

To assemble the sandwich:

1 – 9 oz tub Tomato Head Carrot Hummus

1 – 9 oz tub Tomato Head Beet Hummus

Flour Head Bakery 100% Wheat Bread

1-2 leaves Lacinato Kale Julienned

1 Green Zucchini sliced thin

1 Yellow Zucchini sliced thin

1 Tomato sliced

Place 2 slices of bread on your cutting board. Spread one slice generously with Carrot Hummus, and the other with Beet Hummus. Top one of the slices of bread with Julienned Kale, followed by Yellow Zucchini, Green Zucchini, Corn and Green Bean Salad and Sliced Tomato. Sprinkle the Sliced tomato with Salt and Pepper. Place the second slice of bread on top of the tomato, hummus side down. Cut sandwich in half. Repeat the process if building more than one sandwich.

Deviled Eggs

My relationship with eggs is a Facebook status:

It’s complicated.

And like many a well-documented social media bond, my affair with eggs has always been mercurial and overly sensitive to the delicate shadings of status updates.

Today, I’m a fan of eggs of all sorts – boiled, deviled, poached and even shirred.  But it’s been a tempestuous affair.

It all started as a child when cousin Johnny and I could happily divide a boiled egg (he the white, I the yolk) until one day, without warning, poof!  The love was gone. I was done.  Just done.  In an instant, even quicker than Tayor Swift can sing, “Never, ever, ever,” my egg splitting days were over.  I don’t know that there was a reason, but, while I continued to hang out with Johnny, the egg and I were over.

Much later, after a late and very merry night, friend Ann made us a boiled egg and toast as a buffer against our indulgence.  It was a medium boiled egg, crunchy with kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper eaten in succession with bites of good bread, well-toasted and slathered with rich, Normandy butter.  Heaven.  A perfectly textured nibble, generously endowed with my favorite treats (salt and fat), it rekindled an old flame burning in my heart.  For years, even long after I abandoned besotted evenings about town, that egg service has remained my favorite snack:  we were reunited and it tasted so good!

Despite that reconciliation, my prejudice against deviled eggs persisted even longer.  It may have a been a lingering and unpleasant memory of limp and tepid examples from church socials where the yolks were so pale and pasty that not even a sprinkle of tasteless grocery-brand paprika could enliven their visual appeal.  First impressions are strong, and this one endured until only a few years ago.  The change transpired at a family Thanksgiving when my new favorite aunt presented a plate of eggs stuffed with a deep yellow yolk flecked with parsley and garnished with a half a green olive on top.  In moment, better far than a metaphor can ever, ever be, I wasn’t just in love – the egg was love:  Delicious, simple but well considered, and pleasing to all the senses.

That, of course, is the truth of all great food loves – a good eat is a well-rounded appeal to at least 4 senses (and sometimes all five if there’s a sizzle involved).  And that’s exactly what this recipe for deviled eggs has going for it.  The addition of a little sriracha deepens the color of the stuffing and puts a little of the devil in it too, giving both the eyes and the tongue a treat. Red onion adds some texture and capers, with a little punch from Dijon, bring a refreshing savor for the aroma and the taste too. But, of course, all these elements perfectly frame the rich and smoky flavor of the salmon which also affixes a luxurious silkiness to each bite.

It’s a festive deviled egg to be sure, but it’s just the right kind of celebratory for the Fourth July or any gathering with the people you love.  That’s the real reason we spend time in the kitchen – it’s a palpable way to show our love, and a good recipe makes it a palatable and enduring affection, too.

 

Tomato Head’s Smoked Salmon, Red Onion and Caper Deviled Eggs

6 large eggs

3 TBL Mayonnaise

1 TBL Dijon Mustard

1 TBL red onion, chopped fine

1 TBL capers, chopped

2 TBL Smoked Salmon, chopped fine

1 tsp sriracha

1/8 tsp salt

¼ tsp black pepper

Boil eggs for 10 -11 minutes. Remove the eggs from the hot water and place in an ice bath. Peel the eggs then cut them in half lengthwise and gently remove the yolks, keeping the whites intact.

Place the yolks in a small bowl. With a fork mash the yolks with the mayonnaise and mustard until smooth and creamy. Add the remaining ingredients and mix well.

Fill the egg whites with the yolk mixture. Cool for 1-2 hours and serve chilled.

 

Chess Pie

Chess pie may not be what you think it is.

There’s the name, of course; unlike apple or peach or even buttermilk pie, chess pie doesn’t sound like what’s in it.  It doesn’t promise a crust filled with bishops or even pawns.  There are many stories about its name, and in one version, as Mahasti explains in the video below, it may have less to do with the pie itself than with where it was stored.  I suppose in the interest of accuracy, we could rename it to Butter, Sugar, Vanilla, and Egg Pie, but that hardly rolls off the tongue.  And, to be honest, I like to know what’s in my treats, but I’m not particularly interested in saying every ingredient aloud.

Aside from the interesting nomenclature, this pie is notable for some modern fiddling.  I say modern, but I really mean is the post-cake mix era.  I can remember the first time I saw a 9×13 Pyrex baking dish holding a rich and gooey filling encased by a golden brown cakey frame.  It was at one of those countless church socials that punctuated my greener days; and when I asked just what it was, I recall hearing a mature southern voice, dripping with disdain, say, “They call it a chess bar, but that’s not right.  That’s from a mix.”

You will understand, I expect, that in some circles, store bought cake mix remains a kind of sad chapter and a blemish in the history of the baking arts. In my own family, there are some who have always believed that while the use of cake mix would not necessarily endanger your immortal soul, it almost certainly indicated the kind of loose moral character that could lead one to perdition.

Still, this “chess bar” is a popular and easy treat.  It’s rich and full of butter, cream cheese and whatever else comes in the box of butter-yellow cake mix. But what it’s not is chess pie.

Now, admittedly, a real chess pie has ingredients that might surprise you.  Of course, there’s the butter, egg, vanilla and sugar, but there’s also a midge of cornmeal and little lemon juice and vinegar, too.   Don’t be skeert, this is the way chess pie is supposed to be.  These interesting ingredients serve dual functions in the pie.  The cornmeal helps stabilize the filling as it sets and contributes to the unique texture of this treat.  As for vinegar and lemon, think of them like buttermilk, which performs a similar function in baking.  The acid helps the eggs thicken at a lower temperature so the pie bakes evenly and that makes for a very nice custard.  It also keeps balance in the flavor of the pie as it offsets the sweetness.

It’s an ideal pie for picnics and potlucks and the like, because it’s delicious at room temperature and, by my standards, even better when cold.  The high sugar content keeps it nice and fresh out of the fridge so it keeps well in the hamper or on the long table of desserts – though I wouldn’t expect it to last very long once people know that it’s there.

But, if you do make this pie (and everybody will thank you if you do) don’t be tempted to take a slice while it’s warm.  The pie must chill completely before it’s actually chess pie.  If you cut it too soon, you may as well call it a mess.

recipe

7 TBL Butter, melted

1 ¾ cup Granulated Sugar

4 large Eggs

¼ c Whole Milk

1 TBL Cider Vinegar

1 TBL Fresh Lemon Juice

½ TBL Vanilla

¼ tsp Salt

2 TBL plus 2 tsp Cornmeal

1 TBL All Purpose Flour

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Place melted butter in a large mixing bowl.  Whisk in the sugar.  Gradually whisk in the milk, and eggs.  When the mixture is well combined mix in the vinegar, lemon juice and vanilla and whisk until all the ingredients are incorporated.  Add the salt, cornmeal and flour and whisk until the mixture is blended well.

Pour the mixture into a prepared 9 – inch pie shell and bake on the center rack for 45 – 50 minutes until the center puffs slightly and sets.  If the pie is getting too dark, cover with foil for the last 5-10 minutes of baking.

Cool the pie to room temperature, then chill for 3-4 hours.  Serve chilled or at room temperature.

Serves 8 – 12

Matzo Balls for Matzo Ball Soup

Recipe

4 large eggs

1 tsp Salt

½ tsp Black Pepper, ground

2 TBL Parsley, chopped

¼ cup Schmaltz (chicken fat), or melted shortening

¼ cup Chicken Stock

1 ¼ cup Matzo crackers, ground

In a medium bowl whisk eggs.  Add salt, pepper, parsley, schmaltz and chicken stock and mix until incorporated.  Add Matzo meal and mix until everything is mixed well.  Refrigerate the mixture for 3 hours or overnight.

To shape the balls: 

Scoop the mixture using an ice scream scoop, or a large spoon.  Roll the scoops into balls and place in a pot of salted boiling water.  Drop the matzo balls into the pot, making sure you leave enough room for them to double in size, and reduce the heat to simmer.  Simmer the matzo balls, covered, for 45 minutes until they are very fluffy and floating.

To Serve Matzo Ball Soup:

Heat and season your homemade chicken stock with salt to taste.  Place some thinly sliced carrots in each bowl.  Place a matzo ball in each bowl and ladle hot chicken broth into each bowl.  Garnish with fresh dill.

Makes 7 large or 10 medium Matzo balls.

Simple Chicken Stock for Soups

Recipe

½ a Chicken

2 medium Carrots

3 stalks Celery

1 large Leek

1 small Yellow or White Onion

4 cloves Garlic

2 – inch piece of Ginger

8-10 sprigs Parsley

20 cups Water

Cut a whole chicken in half, rinse and place the chicken in a large stock pot.  Peel carrots and cut into 2-inch pieces and add to the pot.  Wash Celery and Leek and cut into 2-inch pieces and add to the pot.  Peel the onion and garlic cut into large dice and add to the pot.  Rinse the ginger and cut into strips then add the ginger to the pot.  Add parsley and water.  Bring mixture to a boil over high heat, then reduce to a gentle simmer and simmer for 20 – 30 minutes.

Remove the chicken from the pot.  When cool enough to handle, remove the meat from the chicken and reserve for another use.  Return the chicken bones to the pot and simmer the stock for 3 hours.  Drain the stock through a mesh strainer, discard the solids and allow the stock to come to room temperature.  Refrigerate or freeze the stock until ready to use.

Stock will keep refrigerated for 5-6 days and frozen for up to a month.

Tomato Head’s Grit Casserole with Mushroom Cream Sauce        

I can’t recall my first memory of grits.

I may have blocked it. That’s not because of any dislike, per se, but more likely it comes down to shame.  I suspect that my first

Grits and Cast Iron

encounter with grits involved copious butter with lots and lots of sugar, too.  And as any self-respecting Southerner will tell you, sugar and grits are a dishonorable combination that casts considerable shade over the house that dares to serve it.  You will understand, of course, why I may have repressed any such memory, if, in fact, it ever transpired at all.

Or it may be that I suffered at the hands of hurried or inconsiderate cooks who didn’t care to or know how to cook grits properly and, thus, served up some al dente.  As far as I’m concerned, an underdone bowl of grits is a far greater transgression than a sweet one; and it’s much more horrid to the young and sensitive palate.  Imagine the shock of that first, granular bite – why you’d want to forget that, too.

But whatever it was, something happened way back when to make me more than a little suspicious of this staple; and that’s wreaked havoc with my love of fine dining in town over the last decade or so as there are more grits on pretty plates than you can shake stick at.

In the intervening years, I have managed to accept grits or at least to taste them with an open mind, not because of the number of talented chefs giving grits a loving and careful treatment, but because of an old friend and roommate named Harry who shared his conviction that all grits are improved by good casserole treatment.

Mushrooms and Cream

Harry’s Sunday habits were practically set in stone and included the New York Times, mimosas, biscuits, country ham and cheese

grit casserole.  The paper was for Harry to read aloud to you whether you liked it or not, but everything else was selected for sharing.  Harry’s house was one of those places where you never knew who might show up hungry.  And being a firm believer in hospitality, Harry always had something to offer – provided, of course, that they would listen to his selected readings from the Times.

I don’t recall his exact recipe, but the one that follows is very close.  And, as Harry would tell you, it feeds plenty and can sit happily in line with ham or whatever you serve for any upcoming family feasts or breakfasts or brunches for a crowd, waiting its turn and keeping its good taste and texture as everybody fills up their plate.

Tomato Head’s Grit Casserole with Mushroom Cream Sauce        

2 cups Whole Milk

Comfort on a Plate

1 cup Water

½ cup Heavy Cream

½ tsp Salt

¼ tsp Ground Black Pepper

1 ¼ cups Stone Ground Grits

1 TBL Butter

1 cup Cheddar Cheese, shredded

2 eggs

Place the milk, water, heavy cream, salt and ground pepper in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Whisk until mixture starts to let off steam.  Gradually stream in the grits while whisking, reduce heat to low and whisk constantly until mixture thickens.  Remove the grits from the heat and add in butter and cheddar.  In a small bowl whisk together the eggs, add ¼ cup of hot grits to the eggs and whisk until combined.  Add the egg mixture to the cheese and grit mixture and mix well.

Pour the mixture into a greased 10-inch cast iron skillet and bake in a 350-degree oven for 25 minutes until the top is browned.

Serve the Grit Casserole in the skillet with Mushroom Cream Sauce on the side.

For the Mushroom Cream Sauce:

6 cups Mushrooms, sliced

2 TBL Butter

1 tsp Salt

½ tsp Black Pepper

¾ cups Heavy Cream

In a large skillet over high heat, melt butter.  Add mushrooms and sauté for 2-3 minutes.  Add salt, pepper and cream.  Reduce heat to medium and cook until the cream thickens, about 3-4 minutes.  Remove from heat and pour Mushrooms into a small bowl.

Serve with Grit Casserole

Serves 6-8 people.

 

 

 

Hot Milk Cake

 

Despite the digital age and the ease of having all my favorite books on a portable screen, I’m still dedicated to the real thing.  Books fit my hand, and there’s something particularly satisfying about holding the bottom corner of the next page of between my thumb and index finger; it’s a tease to my anticipation.

And with actual books, when I’m browsing through a bookstore, a sense of the hunt comes over me – and that feeling’s never so intense as when it’s a used bookshop that is my hunting ground.  It’s a treasure hunt, made complete by the enticing, almost delicious aroma of old books and their inevitable dust.  Pages old and new have their own scents that mingle into something that I find almost intoxicating.

But the hunt has other, better rewards if I’m prowling for cookbooks, something I can never seem to stop doing.  Cookbooks can yield the finest treasures, especially if they’ve been well used by thoughtful cooks who scribble notes in the margins that reveal certain truths or elucidate some mystery.  Perhaps they’re adjusted cooking times, or oven temperatures, or some reminder of an improvement – things like, “needs more vanilla” or “better with pecans,” living moments that bear witness to that best of recommendations for recipes and cookbooks, too – that they been used more than once.

If you’re particularly lucky, there may be even more treasure in the form of newspaper clippings, perhaps yellowed and nearly crackling cuttings that help date books for the time of their use – a small window into the past of the book’s owner.  Or, when the fates smile, the book may have the richest treasure of them all: an original recipe.

My favorite of these come on an index card, handwritten in ballpoint pen, stained and faded with use, complete with little corrections, changes that tell that the recipe is tried, true and perfected along the way.

This how our current recipe came to us.

Mahasti found a lovingly used treasure, The Cake Cookbook by Lilith Rushing and Ruth Voss, while on her own used book expedition.  Published in 1965, the book’s cover speaks of an era of doilies under cakes and napkins between fine china tea cups and their saucers.  The authors, sisters, are pictured by their biographies: Lilith, in wise and frameless glasses, also wrote children’s stories for the Farmer-Stockman of Oklahoma City and married a Kansan; Ruth, the younger sister in cat’s eye frames, was the associate editor of the Thomas, Oklahoma Tribune, and lived with her bachelor son.

Two red cardboard leaves are pasted inside the front cover of the book, and on them are written the names Tommy and Kathlyn.  Perhaps one of them, (Kathlyn, Mahasti imagines) also took a black, ball point pen to a 3 and half by five, lined index card to record a recipe for Hot Milk Cake.

It’s a cake that seems to have been fairly standard in the American kitchen from the early 1900’s until faded out of favor in the late 60’s or 70’s.  We imagine that Kathlyn copied the recipe from her mother’s or grandmother’s cookbook, perhaps it was her favorite, perhaps it was the one that mom loved best.

The cake itself is a like a sponge cake but calls for some baking powder to help the cake rise.  It’s one of those rich and moist cakes that tastes of vanilla and butter and comfort.  Often it was served alone without adornment or just touched with a simple glaze.  Kathlyn doesn’t tell us how her cake was finished, but we’re betting it all gotten eaten with or without something extra on top.

HOT MILK CAKE (exactly as it was hand written)

Mix in a Big Bowl

4 eggs

2C Sugar

Sift Together

2C Flour

2 tspb. b. Powder

½ tsp salt

Add:

1C Boiling Milk into which 1 stick of Butter Has been cut up

Add:

1 tsp vanilla

Pour in a well greased & Floured tube cake pan

Bake 50 min in 350⁰

© 2016 The Tomato Head Site by: Robin Easter Design