22 September 2009

Desserts and Salads

In the late 1800’s Gesine Lemcke ran cooking colleges in New York City and in Brooklyn. She was the author of several cookbooks, including Desserts and Salads. It seems an odd combination for a book. With an exhaustive compendium of over 1000 recipes, there are very little desserts or salads left to chance.

In her preface, Lemcke lays out the instructions for using her book. It has all the didactic poetry of a stern teacher who sent young women into the homes of the rich and famous for a life of relative drudgery!


I ask every one who may become possessed of this book to read the recipes herein contained carefully and thoughtfully before attempting the making of any of them, and also to observe the following instructions:

Weigh and measure all ingredients exactly, and have every thing ready to mix before you commence.

If you measure your ingredients by means of a cup be sure you use one which holds a half pint.

Use neither more nor less of anything than the recipe instructs you, and be sure to have your fire just right, as also instructed be the recipe.

If at first success does not come to you do not despair, but persist in following the advice of the old adage: “Try, try again.”

You should always bear in mind that honest work is never lost and that reward must come in the end.
Recently, the New York Times ran a recipe for chocolate chip cookies that called for the dough to be refrigerated for up to 36 hours. The reasoning was that resting the dough made the cookies more flavorful and easier to cook.

Lemcke’s recipe for these cookies features that same sort of resting period.

Aniseed Wafers

Rub some shallow tin pans with wax, place 1/2 pound of sugar and 4 whole eggs in a bowl, set the bowl into a pan of hot water, beat the contents of the bowl with an egg beater 15 minutes, then remove and beat till cold; add 1 teaspoonful well-cleaned aniseed and 1/2 pound sifted flour, fill the mixture into a pastry bag and press small cakes on to the waxed tins, cover and let them stand till next day, when the little cakes have obtained a crust, then bake them in a slow over.

There is something rather interesting about letting the dough sit out and dry out before cooking. After reading this, I kept thinking of other cookies that might benefit from this “drying out” process. I wonder if any cookie that is supposed to be crisp might benefit from being cut and left to dry. I am not very fond of crispy cookies, but I think it might work.

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