Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Vanilla wafers didn't always come for a box, or did it?

The other day I wrote about finding a good banana pudding recipe. However, I wanted to do it from scratch. As I mentioned, there were a variety of ways to make banana pudding, but I wanted your typical traditional type.

Lone Star vanilla wafer ad.
Sales ad, 1931.
Enter vanilla wafers. Just as today, 90% of the recipes I found used vanilla wafers of some kind. Today there is really one basic brand that most use, if not a store brand. Back in the day, there were a number of brands of vanilla wafers. Texans would be proud to know that once there was a Lone Star brand.

I mentioned before how much I love Newspapers.com for searching recipes, but I didn't mention that it doesn't always work out the way you'd expect. Take searching for vanilla wafer recipes. My search, unless I wanted to page through thousands of hits, yielded not a single recipe. All were ads. I tried looking for some recipes in the 1800s, but to no avail. Clearly Newspapers.com was unable to handle the request. They really need to improve their search abilities, but that's another post.

Instead, this time, I had to take to public domain books, namely cookbooks. The problem with Project Gutenberg is that it doesn't search well for the contents of the book. Google does okay searches in its Books product, but it doesn't search as well as it could. I specify public domain free books and it gives me something written last year, which is copyrighted. Seriously Google?

In any case, I found one recipe that amused me tremendously. It's in the Large Families chapter of Mrs. Owens' New Cookbook, pg. 72 (or Google's pg. 78; from here on out, the number in parenthesis after a pg. number will be Google's pg. number). She must be talking a tremendously large family because her recipe calls for a whopping 3 lbs. of flour! Then the very next recipe is also vanilla wafers, but adds "large recipe". Wow. I'd hate to think what 3 lbs. of flour is if it isn't large. The "large" recipe called for 6 lbs.

Well, obviously I don't need to make that many. Jiminy, that's a lot of cookies. Even if I divide that recipe, it's still huge. I decided to continue my search. I then found a really good book, from 1902, that actually had photos of her recipe for rolled wafers, which are not exactly the right kind of cookie. Still, it was excellent sounding recipe with an enormous amount of variations.

That recipe came from Mrs. Rorer's New Cook Book: A Manual of Housekeeping, pg. 622 (698). It has your basic rolled butter wafer, but additions such as the vanilla wafer, chocolate wafer, rose wafer, orange wafer and many others. The photo is on pg. 620.5 (695).

I found a mess of other books too, but finally came to one that had the smaller quantity needed, that sounded reasonable and was not rolled; I was surprised by the number of rolled cookies. The one I liked best was published in 1921 and titled The Boston Cooking-school Cook Book, by none other than our beloved Fannie Farmer. It's found on pg., 487 (531). It refers to using instructions from a ginger snap recipe on pg. 485 (529).

I guess that's the one I'll go with. Off to bake and bake! :)

Vanilla Wafers
1/3 c. butter
1/3 c. lard (or shortening)
1 c. sugar
1 egg, well beaten
1/4 c. milk
2 c. flour
2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
2 t. vanilla extract
  1. Cream the butter, add sugar, egg, milk and vanilla.
  2. Mix and sift dry ingredients, add to first mixture; chill thoroughly.
  3. Toss 1/4 of mixture on a floured board and roll as thinly as possible; shape with a small round cutter, first dipped in flour.
  4. Place near together on a buttered sheet and bake in a moderate (350°) oven.
  5. Gather up the trimmings and roll with another portion of dough. During rolling, the bowl containing the mixture should be kept in a cool place, or it will be necessary to add more flour to the dough, which will make the cookies hard rather than crisp and short.

Well I hope you enjoy them. I'm fairly certain I will. Have a great day everyone!

  • Images graciously provided by Newspapers.com, and used by permission.

Quest for the perfect Banana Pudding recipe.

I know that healthy foods are today's rules for cooks and I have to laugh at so many foodies and food bloggers who claim that their grandmothers cooked without processed foods. Unless their grandmothers are in their 90s today, or would be 90, then they're lying to you. Most food bloggers are in their 30's, or younger, so this is highly improbable. Not to be confused with impossible, but definitely improbable.

Don't drink the food kool-aid! I kid you not. Now, there is nothing wrong with avoiding processed foods, but downright lying? That's wrong, but I digress.

I was in search of a real old fashioned banana pudding recipe. I'm a nurse and did skilled home health (not companions or sitters or live in type, think visiting hospital nurse) for eons. I had one patient who made some old fashioned banana pudding that was so delicious it was absolutely startling.