I adapted these recipes from: (Its full title) The first American cookbook American Cookery: or, the art of dressing Viands, Fish, Poultry and Vegetables, and the best modes of making Puff-Pastes, Pies, Tarts, Puddings, Custards and Preserves, and all kinds of cakes, from the Imperial Plumb to plain Cake. Adapted to this country, and all grades of life. By Amelia Simmons, an American orphan. A Facsimile of the second edition. Printed in Albany, 1796
Have I mentioned that I enjoy collecting cookbooks?
I also enjoy learning about history but not so much the battles and conflict but everyday life, the foods they ate, what they wore, how they spoke and wrote. Things of those aspects.
I was very excited to come across this book on a trip to a pioneer village a few years ago and became instantly intrigued with the writing style as well as the preparations, herbs that were used for flavoring and definitely the quantities! (If you think my recipes are large just wait till you see these). I felt that it took me back in time and connected me to the people of that bygone era and to what life may have been like all those years ago.
Food is a connector. It connects us to people, places and events. This is part of the reason it may be difficult to give up eating animals. It’s a comfort. It’s part of traditional feasts. It’s also been done this way for a long time. That connection we have to people indelibly involves food. It can be hard to break the cycle and find products that fit with the old way of eating as well as do no harm to other beings. This is also why there are a lot of substitutions for meat products as people convert to a vegetarian diet. It also takes time and energy to find the substitute or invent something new.
When perusing this cookbook I went to the baking section to see what historical recipe I could find for a Christmas cookie. How different was it than we have now? Turns out, not too different.
The recipe reads as follows:
“To three pound of flour, sprinkle a tea cup of fine powdered coriander seed, rub in one pound of butter, and one and half pound sugar, dissolve one tea spoonful of pearlash in a tea cup of milk, kneed all together well, roll three quarters of an inch thick, and cut or stamp into shape and size as you please, bake slowly fifteen to twenty minutes; tho’ hard and dry at first, if put in an earthen pot, and dry cellar, or damp room, they will be finer, softer and better when six months old.”
The first thing I questioned was the pearlash which in my research led me to substitute it with baking powder, or magic baking powder as that is what it was, ‘magic’; cutting baking prep time down significantly and allowing baked goods to rise without yeast. Although, I didn’t need to prep the pearlash/ baking powder in milk I did use milk as it needed a wet ingredient and I wanted to try to replicate this recipe as best I could. These cookies did not turn out hard with our modern ingredients and methods and so do not need to be made six months in advance as they would have in the past.
I also have use of modern equipment and standard measures and so I used my best judgement for the amounts and allowed my kitchenaid stand mixer do the mixing!
I also cut the quantity down to a third and my recipe made 4 dozen cookies! If you make them larger as I did with the second recipe you end up with 2 dozen. Still plenty of cookies for families these days. I also found that the recipe is not too sweet, which is absolutely fine but does not match today’s sweetness. I dusted them with powdered sugar but that is not entirely necessary if you are watching your sugar intake. You could cut them out with cookie cutters and/or use a patterned rolling pin instead for it to be palatable to the eye.
Another Christmas Cookey
- 3 cups flour
- 3/4 cup butter, softened
- 1 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/8 cup ground coriander seed
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 3/4 cup milk
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar for dusting if desired
- Preheat oven to 350°F/180°C
- In a bowl or stand mixer add butter and sugar and mix until incorporated and fluffy.
- In a separate bowl add dry ingredients and whisk together until coriander is uniformly distributed. Slowly, with the mixer on low speed add to the butter and sugar mixture then slowly pour in the milk and mix until dough forms.
- Turn out onto a floured board, shape into a ball and roll out to three quarters of an inch thick.
- Use cookie cutters or patterned rolling pin to make a pretty design
- Place on baking sheet and bake for about 15 minutes.
- Remove from cookie sheet onto cooling rack and allow to completely cool before dusting with powdered sugar. (if using)
- Enjoy life in the pink!