Thursday, November 11, 2010

Veterans Day and World War I

At eleven in the morning on November 11, 1918 the guns fell silent on the battlefields of Europe. When I was in school we stood at our desks for a minute of silence on that day at that hour in honor of all who contributed to making America safe and secure.

Today I will remember those valiant soldiers, homemakers, and soldiers of the soil as I make WWI wheat-saving bread. "Food Will Win the War" was the watchword. People grew war gardens, put up enough food to last for two years, skimped on sugar and fats and had wheatless and meatless days. The result -- a 250% increase in the export of vital foods to our Allies from savings in every kitchen in the country.

This picture from the Minnesota Historical Society Visual Database shows farm girls demonstrating the proper way to make War Bread at the Minnesota State Fair. The recipe, like the one below, was created by the University of Minnesota home economics department as a way to cut the amount of wheat used in bread so this important grain could be shipped overseas.

In the end, this was not the "war to end all wars." The nation's WWI experiences propelled America to world leadership. It is worth pausing to remember that dedication to peace and goodwill to all

Monday, April 26, 2010

Whole Wheat Chocolate Cookies and Hoover Cake

One way to stretch the supply of wheat during World War I was to use whole wheat instead of the more finely milled and sifted white flour. This plan was not without controversy. The editor of the influential newspaper Northwestern Miller editorialized in no uncertain terms: "By whatever sophistry it may be supported, every argument for increased extraction flour [whole wheat], mixed flour or flour otherwise debased is an argument for a deceptive gain in volume at the cost of more than commensurate loss in nutritive value."

Pure food advocate Dr. Harvey Wiley and Minnesota's food administrator Archie Dell Wilson took the opposite point of view. Wiley wrote of white flour: "Under present methods of milling, there are 18 pounds of waste for every 60 pounds of flour milled . . this 'waste' fed to cows is the most nutritious part of the wheat."

By the winter of 1918, homemakers had no choice. White flour was gone from the shelves. And limits of fats and sugar made the idea of cookies for dessert instead of richer cakes and pies an appealing alternative.

These whole-wheat chocolate cookies were developed by Esther Moran, director of food services for the St. Paul public schools. They are at once rich and hearty. Easy to mix up by hand and good keepers.

Whole Wheat Chocolate Cookies
1/2 cup melted shortening or butter

2 1-oz. squares baking chocolate

1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed

1 egg

1/2 cup milk

2 cups whole wheat flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup chopped raisins

1/2 cup chopped nuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Stir chocolate into melted shortening over low heat until it is melted. Stir into brown sugar and add lightly beaten eggs. Stir in milk and then flour and salt. Mix well. Add chopped raisins and nuts. Drop by teaspoon onto lightly greased baking sheets. Bake until just lightly browned, about 8 –12 minutes. May take longer, but best to check early as they can burn easily.

Remove and cool on a wire rack.

Easy Herbert Hoover World War I Cake

2 cups brown sugar

2 cups hot water

2 tablespoons lard (or butter)

1 teaspoon salt, optional

1 teaspoon ground cloves

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 package (8 ounces) raisins, chopped

1 teaspoon baking soda

3 cups flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Put everything but soda and flour into a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring frequently. Boil 5 minutes after it bubbles, then cool. Stir in soda and flour. Put batter into a lightly greased loaf pan. Bake 45 minutes. Cake keeps fresh a long time and can “be sent to men at the front.”

Monday, April 19, 2010

University of Minnesota World War I Breads

Home economists at the U were among the first to develop wheat-saving breads. By the middle of summer 1917 they were sharing recipes with homemakers up and down the state. Many of these recipes went on to become staples in federal Food Administration publications. They are just as tasty today. The Oatmeal Muffins have about half the flour of a standard muffin and the Rice Corn Bread has no flour at all. It is a moist bread with a lovely corn bite.

Oatmeal Muffins

2 cups old-fashioned oats, uncooked

1 1/2 cups milk

2 tablespoons melted butter

1 egg

2 tablespoons sugar

3 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)

1 cup flour

Mix oatmeal and milk in a medium mixing bowl and let stand one half hour. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Stir the melted butter and then the egg into the oatmeal and milk mixture. Mix very well. Stir in the remaining ingredients until just blended. Spoon batter into lightlygreased muffin cups and bake until lightly browned on top, about 25 to 30 minutes. Cool five minutes in pan before removing to serve or continue to cool on wire rack. Makes 36 gem-sized or one dozen 3/4-cup muffins.

Rice Corn Bread

1 cup boiling water

1 cup yellow cornmeal

1 1/8 cups softly cooked white rice

1 tablespoon melted butter or other fat

1 egg

1 cup milk

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

Pour the boiling water over the cornmeal, stir and let stand until cool. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Combine rice, fat, egg and milk in a food processor or blender and process until rice grains are finely chopped. Stir in cornmeal mixture, baking power and salt. Pulse until just mixed. Pour batter into a well-greased 9 x 9-inch pan. Bake until bread is firm in center, about 15 to 20 minutes. Served warm it is close to a spoon bread. It does firm up as it cools, but still is very moist.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Holiday Fruit Chocolates

During World War I men, women and children across the nation were urged to “save sugar for a soldier.” Sugar was one of the four commodities under short supply. Most of the cane sugar was imported and ships were needed to transport troops, not sugar.

But life could still be sweet. Clever homemakers made good use of nature’s own sweetness and combined dried fruits with honey to make a filling for hand-dipped chocolates as rich and delicious as the sweetest chocolate ganache or creamy fondant.

Make these delicious chocolates for Easter baskets, Christmas gifts, your best Valentine, or any other holiday treat. The honey, orange zest, and juice combine with sophisticated mix of dried fruits enhanced by easy to melt semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips. If you don’t tell, no one will know these might even be almost healthy.

Holiday Fruit Chocolates
1 12-ounce package raisins
1/4 cup water
1 8-ounce package dates -- either chopped or pitted and cut then in quarters
2/3 cup figs -- cut off stem and then cut each into 6 to 8 pieces
1 cup chopped walnuts
grated rind half an orange
2 tablespoons orange juice
2 tablespoons honey
1/8 teaspoon salt, optional
dipping chocolate such as melted dark or semi-sweet chocolate chips

Combine raisins with water in a microwave-safe bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and heat on high for a minute. Let stand until cool. Drain off any remaining water. Put raisins, chopped dates, figs, and nuts into a food processor and pulse until finely processed, but not mush. Add orange rind and juice along with honey. Pulse until just blended. Put mixture into refrigerator until firm. Form into balls, about 3/4 of an inch in diameter. Melt chocolate chips in microwave for one minute on high. Stir and if not completely melted, continue to heat in 10-second increments stirring in between each time. Drop fruit candy center into chocolate, stir with a fork and then lift out to drain. Place on plate for chocolate to harden. Store finished candies in the refrigerator.

No need to make all the candies at once. Filling keeps for weeks sealed in a freezer-style zipper bag in the refrigerator. Just pull some out, roll, and dip when you need a special treat.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

War Yeast Bread -- Loaf or Baguette

During World War I bread was, indeed, the staff of life. Bread was an important part of every meal before the war. A hearty loaf, spread with a bit of butter or other fat formed a key “whole food” for soldiers and citizens in the European war zone. Getting the most from our wheat crop was an important part of Herbert Hoover’s Food Administration nationwide and voluntary food conservation measures.

In this recipe the addition of cornmeal and oatmeal stretched precious war-restricted wheat flour. The resulting bread is firm-textured and moist with a complex flavor. It makes wonderful toast.

Yeast War Bread

1 cup milk

1 cup hot water

1 cup cornmeal

1 cup Old Fashioned oatmeal, uncooked

6 tablespoons brown sugar

1 teaspoon salt, optional

1 package dry yeast

4 1/2 to 5 1/2 cups white flour

Scald the milk by heating it in a 2-quart pot until bubbles appear around the side and then remove from heat and add the hot water. Stir in the cornmeal, oatmeal, brown sugar, and optional salt. Set aside to cool until just warm, about 100 degrees. Stir in the dry yeast and let stand until mixture becomes bubbly. Pour the mixture into a large bowl and stir in the flour and knead until the dough is firm and somewhat elastic. Put in a warm place to rise until doubled. Punch dough down and form into three loaves. Place in lightly greased bread pan or on a lightly greased cookie sheet. Let rise until doubled and then bake in a preheated 350 F. degree oven until well browned. Loaves will sound hollow when tapped. Cool completely before slicing with a serrated knife. Note: this bread dough has less flour-gluten than typical bread dough. It may take a very long time to rise until doubled. The test batch I made for these pictures took nearly 5 hours from scalding milk to fully-baked loaves. Time will vary depending on the warmth of your kitchen and the oomph of your yeast.

Recipe makes three loaves about 1 1/4 pounds each. Bake in an 8 x 4-inch loaf pan for a finished loaf approximately 8 x 4 x 3 1/2 inches. Make free-form baguettes that rise and bake to a finished loaf approximately 12 x 4 x 2 inches.

Copyright 2010 Rae Katherine Eighmey. All rights reserved.

Wheatless Oatmeal Cookies and Victory Cabbage

World War I food conservation measures inspired homemakers to use pantry and garden staples to maximum advantage. Instead of using precious flour, fats and sugar to make cake or pie for dessert, the clever cook served a light and satisfyingly sweet cookie instead. These crisp and chewy cookies certainly fill the bill.

Cabbage is a Midwwestern garden staple. Harvested late in the fall, folks could put the heads down in an unheated basement or root cellar for use well into the winter. Many traditional red cabbage recipes use bacon -- an important food to be shipped overseas to our soldiers and allies. The Victory Cabbage recipe below substitutes the tiniest bit of cayenne pepper and nutmeg to fill in that flavor gap. It is easy and one of the best red cabbage recipes I've ever had.

Oatmeal Crisps

1 egg

1/2 cup sugar

2 teaspoons melted butter or other fat

1 cup Quaker Old Fashioned oats

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Beat egg until thick and lemon colored and add sugar gradually. The mixture will look almost like cake frosting. Stir in remaining ingredients. Drop teaspoons of mixture on well greased baking sheet about 1 inch apart and spread into circular shape with knife dipped into cold water. Bake until just lightly browned, about 8 to 12 minutes. Watch carefully, they can burn quickly. Cool for a minute or two on the baking sheet then carefully lift off and place on wire rack. Enjoy plain or sandwich two together with date filling. Store cookies in a dry place. Makes about 30 single cookies or 15 filled with date filling

Filling for Oatmeal Crisps

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup water

4 ounces chopped dates or figs

Combine sugar and water in a medium sauce pan. Cook over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Add dates or figs and cook, stirring, until mixture thickens. Cool and put spoonful of mixture between cookies and press firmly together. Store leftover filling in refrigerator and serve as a jam or mix with cream cheese for a WWI-style sandwich filling for whole wheat bread.

Victory Cabbage

4 cups thinly sliced red cabbage

2 tablespoons butter

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon minced onion

1/16 teaspoon nutmeg

1/16 teaspoon cayenne pepper

2 tablespoons vinegar

1 1/2 teaspoons sugar

Soak the cabbage briefly in cold water. Melt the butter in a large frying pan. Add the onion and seasonings and cook until the onion is transparent, stirring frequently. Drain the cabbage and add to the frying pan carefully as the water clinging to the shreds will tend to spatter. Cover and cook over low heat until the cabbage is tender, about 10 to 15 minutes, stirring from time to time. Remove lid, add the vinegar and sugar, stir well and cook for 5 more minutes.

Copyright 2010 Rae Katherine Eighmey. All rights reserved

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Meatless Nut Scrapple

Meatless meals were at the heart of World War I food conservation. At a time when most Americans ate meat for at least two of the three daily meals, homemakers scrambled to find appealing, filling choices.

This economical Nut Scrapple is an adaptation of a classic pre-war, waste-not farm recipe where all the trimmings from hog butchering were cooked down and mixed with cornmeal. That old fashioned scrapple sometimes featured savory seasonings including sage, marjoram or thyme to cut the richness of the pork meat.

Serve this version for breakfast with maple syrup poured on top like the traditional scrapple, as a side dish or as a main course with a light mushroom cream or tomato sauce on top.

Nut Scrapple

1 cup corn meal

1/2 cup hominy grits -- NOT quick cooking kind

(Note: Polenta will work if you can’t find regular grits.)

1/2 teaspoon salt

4 cups boiling water

1 cups finely chopped nut meats (I used almonds)

Gradually stir the corn meal and grits into the boiling water. Cook over very low heat until the water is absorbed, stirring frequently. Cool slightly and add the nut meats. Line a 4 x 8 inch loaf pan with plastic wrap or aluminum foil. If you are using foil, spray with a non-stick spray. Pour corn meal mixture into the prepared pan, press to make it even and cover with wrap or foil. Refrigerate overnight. To serve. Lift the loaf from the pan and slice into thin slices -- about 1/4-inch thick. Brown in a frying pan with a bit of butter or bacon drippings, carefully turning them to cook both sides. I cooked the slices from the entire loaf under the broiler in the oven. I lined a baking sheet with foil, sprayed it with non-stick spray and laid the sliced on it then sprayed the top of the slices. I had the broiler on high, but the sheet about 6 inches below it. The browned slices keep nicely in the refrigerator or freezer and can be quickly warmed in a toaster oven or microwave.

Copyright 2010 Rae Katherine Eighmey. All rights reserved

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Hoover Cake

This World War I recipe saved precious sugar by substituting molasses and corn syrup. Chopped and hydrated raisins provide additional sweetness. White wheat flour was stretched with the inclusion of rye flour and corn meal. It is a delicious, rich and flavorful cake. A small slice is plenty.

Hoover Molasses Cake

1/2 cup hot coffee
2/3 cup seeded raisins, chopped
4 tablespoons melted butter or other fat
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1 cup white corn meal
1 cup white flour
1/2 cup rye flour
3/4 cup molasses
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/3 cup light corn syrup

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. (325 for glass or dark pans) Combine the raisins and coffee and set aside for the raisins to soften. Then stir in the melted butter and egg. Combine sugar, baking powder, spices, corn meal, and flours and set aside. Put molasses in medium mixing bowl. Stir in baking soda then add syrup. Stir in half the dry ingredients. Beat in raisin mixture. Pour batter into 2 greased and floured 8 x 4 loaf pans. Bake until firm in center and slightly pulled away from the sides, about 60 minutes. Cake may fall in the center, just be sure a toothpick stuck in the center comes out clean.

Copyright 2010 Rae Katherine Eighmey. All rights reserved.