Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Historical Food Fornightly: Challenge 6

Historical Food Fortnightly Challenge #6

"The Best Thing Since Sliced Bread"

The Challenge: The Best Thing Since Sliced Bread

I really struggled with this challenge. I was hampered by limited ingredients in the house and being a super picky eater. I tried two different recipes.

The Recipe: Banana Bread
According to foodtimeline.org The "Banana bread" recipe is dated 1849 and describes a West Indian dish. "Banana cakes" appeared in the early 20th century but used sliced banana as either decoration or filling. Cookbooks also referenced Hawaiian banana bread recipes using banana flour. In 1920s the mass marketing of baking powder/soda used in making "quick breads" (breads that did not require yeast) and good companies promoting recipes using their flour and baking soda products flooded the market. It was not until the 1930s that the modern banana bread recipes, using mashed bananas, first appeared on the scene. They were classified as quick breads, tea cakes, or desserts. By the 1960s banana bread was actively promoted to the American public as health food.
Banana tea bread

1 3/4 cups sifted flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup shortening
2/3 cups sugar
2 eggs, well beaten
1 cup mashed ripe bananas (2 to 3 bananas)
Sift together flour, baking powder, soda and salt. Beat shortening until creamy in mixing bowl. Add sugar gradually and continue beating until light and fluffy. Add eggs and beat well. Add flour mixture alternately with bananas, a small about at a time, beating after each addition until smooth. Turn into a well-greased bread pan (8 1/2 X 4 1/2 X 3 inches) and bake in a moderate oven (350 degrees F.) About 1 hour 10 minutes or until bread is done. Makes 1 loaf.
Bananas...how to serve them, Home Economics Dept. Fruits Dispatch Company United Fruit Company, Distributors of United Fruit Company Bananas, Pier 3, North River, New York [1942] (Recipe 11, p. 14)


The Recipe: Oatmeal Drop Cakes
During World War I, United States Food Administration, led by future president Herbert Hoover, argued that food was needed to win the war. Food was needed for the U.S. military, and for our Allies in Europe.As America jumped into action to feed our Allies, the government urged Americans to voluntarily stretch the food supply by cutting waste, substituting plentiful for scarce ingredients, eating healthy and participating in the food-conservation program. Americans were told to save meat, save wheat, save fats and save sugar. Old recipes from colonial and pioneer times that used molasses, maple syrup and brown sugar instead of white sugar became popular again. Also popular was the use of Corn Syrup as an alternate sweetener.

Oatmeal Drop Cakes
3/4 cup brown sugar or honey or 1 c. sirup
3 T. shortening
1 egg
2 tsp. baking powder
2 c. rolled oats
1 c. flour
1 tsp. salt
2/3 c. raisins or nuts

*milk about 3/4 cup enough to make a soft dough (Omit this if sirup or honey is used).

Cream together the shortening and sugar (or sirup) and add it to the beaten egg. Sift together the flour, salt and baking powder. Mix this with the rolled oats and the seeded raisins or nuts cut fine. Add these dry ingredients to the egg mixture, with just enough milk, if necessary, to form a rather soft dough. Drop by teaspoons onto greased tin or baking sheet and bake about 15 minutes in a moderately hot oven.

Wessling, Hannah J., Use of Wheat Flour Substitutes in Baking, Farmer's Bulletin 955, Washington: U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1918), 20.

The Date/Year and Region: Banana Bread 1942 New York; Oatmeal Drop Cakes 1918 United States (Also seen in WWII recipe pamphlets).

How Did You Make It: 

I followed the directions but my banana cake batter was a little dry so at the last minute I added a couple of heaping tablespoons of applesauce. The recipe called for milk, but milk was often difficult to get/keep during WWI due to lack of refrigeration. In keeping with the spirit of wartime cooking, I used applesauce. I didn't have one big loaf pan so I used two small foil pans. There was just enough batter for two cakes.

For the cookies, I used dark corn syrup. I crushed up peanuts with a rolling pin tossed them in the batter. I substituted Craisins for raisins. Not exactly historically accurate but I do not like raisins and I thought that sweetened cranberries might add more flavor to the cookies. I didn't use as many as the recipe called for. I made huge cookies because I didn't want 60 potentially unappetizing cookies on hand. I cooked them about 10-20 minutes at 350 degrees. At 15 minutes the big cookies weren't quite done so I cooked them again and some got overcooked. At 10 minutes smaller cookies were over done. 


Time to Complete: The banana bread was very quick- only about a half hour. The cookies took about an hour start to finish.
Total Cost:
I had all the ingredients on hand at the time.

How Successful Was It?: 
The banana bread tastes OK but I'm not a huge fan. Being a WWII era recipe, when sugar was rationed, it's not very sweet. The cookies are not very tasty. The batter smelled like Cracker Jacks, which was promising, but the corn syrup does not equal sugar! Even the Craisins didn't help and the peanuts and Craisins together were an odd combination.

How Accurate Is It?: Aside from adding apple sauce to the bread and Craisins to the cookies, they're very accurate. 95%?

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