Archive for the ‘FOODWAYS’ Category

Springerle

November 29, 2016

I love including food traditions in the Chloe Ellefson mysteries.  A Memory of Muskets features German heritage. Rosina, the main character in the historical plotline, brings her Bavarian mother’s springerle mold as a treasured memento when she immigrates to America.

People have been making beautiful springerle for centuries. Some food historians believe these cookies originated in pagan times among Germanic tribes. During Julfest, in the darkest days of the year, rich farmers sacrificed animals to the gods. Peasants made token sacrifices by offering cookies shaped like or decorated with animal designs.

The design is made in the surface of the cookie by pressing a mold onto rolled dough. (Or using a rolling pin carved with the patterns.) Today clay and wooden molds have been replaced by resin, and modern bakers make many different flavors.

springerle molds

I had never baked springerle before, and was eager to try it. My friend Andrea, an experienced springerle baker, gave me some tips. It didn’t sound too difficult, and I decided to bake them for the book’s launch party.

springerle

A sample of Andrea’s beautiful springerle.

I made two kinds. The first was a version made with whole wheat flour and sweetened with sorghum, which was an approximation of what my character Rosina might have been able to make in the 1860s. The second was a fancy anise-flavored batch made with white flour and powdered sugar.

The project was a little trickier, and took a lot longer, than I’d anticipated.

I have limited counter space and use a narrow rolling pin. The first challenge was figuring out how thin to roll the dough, and getting it rolled perfectly evenly.

springerle

The second challenge was figuring out how hard to press the mold into the dough. The mold I’d chosen featured a woman spinning flax, which was perfect to reflect A Memory of Muskets. However, I had some trouble getting all the fine details to show up in the cookies.

springerle

springerle

The final challenge was producing cookies with neat edges. I don’t own a pastry cutter, so I used a pizza cutter and a paring knife.

First try. My edges need some work.

First batch after baking. My edges need some work.

I’m sure I just need more practice. Also, there are helpful tools available for purchase, such as rolling pin guides to ensure even (and proper) dough thickness, and cutters that eliminate the need for trimming the cookies.

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Historically springerle were leavened with hartshorn salt, also known as baker’s ammonia (ammonium carbonate). Experts say that cookies made with hartshorn salt have a crisper design, but a softer texture than those made with baking powder.

anise

I ended up taking three days to make each batch.  Day 1, make the dough and refrigerate overnight.

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Day 2, roll the dough, mold and cut the cookies, transfer to a cookie sheet, and let dry overnight. This step helps keep the design sharp during baking.

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Day 3, bake, cool, store.

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There are an amazing number of mold designs available, including many reproductions of historic molds. If you’d like to try making springerle, a quick Google search will provide recipes and all the information needed to mail-order molds and other supplies. A good place to start browsing is http://www.springerlejoy.com, but there are other good ones.

I can see why people get hooked on springerle. And yes, I did serve them at my launch party. Not one person mentioned crooked edges.

springerle

Are you planning to bake springerle this holiday season? If so, I’d love to see pictures!

Cooking With Chloe: Ma’s Vanity Cakes

March 9, 2016

Laura Ingalls Wilder fans likely remember the description of Vanity Cakes in By The Banks Of Plum Creek:

(Ma) made them with beaten eggs and white flour. She dropped them into a kettle of sizzling fat. Each one came up bobbing, and floated till it turned itself over, lifting up its honey-brown, puffy bottom. Then it swelled underneath till it was round, and Ma lifted it out with a fork. She put every one of those cakes in the cupboard.  They were for the party.

They sound deceptively simple, but Laura never learned to make Vanity Cakes.  After the success of her first books, she tried to rediscover the secret. On June 22, 1925, she wrote to her Aunt Martha asking for the recipe:

(Excerpt; original letter in the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library)

(Excerpt; original letter in the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library)

Mother used to make what she called “Vanity Cakes” years ago. They were mostly egg and they were fried in deep fat. When done they were simply bubbles, usually with a hollow center and they were crisp around the edges.  …I would so much like to have the recipe.

Aunt Martha responded:

(Excerpt; original letter in the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library)

(Excerpt; original letter in the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library)

The vanity cake that you ask about is just made out of egg (someone penciled in “one or two”) and flour, a pinch of salt; pinch (off) in little pieces and rolled out as thin as you can and fried in hot lard.  …They were called vanity cakes because there was nothing to them.

If you search the internet for “Vanity Cakes,” you’ll find a lot of blog posts written by people who have tried to make them, most with less than stellar results.

At a program last fall two readers, Kami J. and her mom Sharon, volunteered to make Vanity Cakes and report back. They too were disappointed with the results. (I don’t usually post recipes unless test bakers/cooks are happy with the finished product, but so many people are curious about Vanity Cakes that I’m making an exception.)

Here’s the recipe.

The recipe on this vintage card

The recipe on this vintage card is still available at some of the homesites. (No additional credit provided on this card.)

Note that it does not call for rolling out the dough thinly, as Laura’s aunt instructed.

Kami reported, We ended up adding more than 3 oz. of flour.  The first picture shows the better with that amount.

vanity cakes

There was no way we would have been able to make them into small pancakes without more flour. We added about double the specified amount.

vanity cakes

vanity cakes

We fried them, and rolled them in powdered sugar.

vanity cakes

They tasted OK, but were not very flavorful.

vanity cakes

I checked my copy of The Little House Cookbook: Frontier Foods from Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Classic Stories, by Barbara M. Walker (Harper & Row, 1979).

The Little House Cookbook

Her recipe for 6 Vanity Cakes calls for 1-2 pounds of lard (for frying), 1 large egg, a pinch of salt, 1/2 c. unbleached all-purpose flour, and a shakerful of powdered sugar—almost identical to the printed card.

She notes in the introduction:  …Not all dishes will be greeted with enthusiasm at the table; some are admittedly historic, rather than taste sensations.  But all are revealing in one way or another.

Perhaps Vanity Cakes were simply a novelty for children used to very simple fare. As Laura’s aunt said in the letter, We did not have many receipts (i.e., recipes) (in) those days for we did not have anything to do with (I interpret this to mean they had few supplies to work with.) We used to make them for a change.

If you’re interested in learning more, I do highly recommend The Little House Cookbook.

Have you tried making Vanity Cakes?  If so, I’d love to hear about your experience!

Cooking With Chloe: Steamed Puddings

December 11, 2015
Last spring I invited Chloe readers to try one of the old recipes I collected while writing Tradition of Deceit.  Mary M., who is experienced with period foodways, volunteered to try a couple of steamed pudding recipes. I decided to save her report until the holiday season. If you’ve always wanted to try a steamed pudding, read on!
Version 2

Old cookbooks tend to assume the users have a lot of experience/knowledge.
Mary kindly shared some general instructions; read through those before trying one of the recipes.
* * *
Steamed puddings are basically a cake baked in moist heat and a covered container, as opposed to baking in an oven’s dry heat in an uncovered pan. Steaming was a practical method of baking in the days when ovens were small and stoves were kept burning all day (for example, to heat water).
 
EQUIPMENT

Use:  A pudding mold with a lid. You can find these in specialty kitchen stores or online. It’s important to butter or coat mold with nonstick spray, and equally important to butter/spray the lid, too.

 

Equipment -steamed pudding

Or use:  A large coffee can, buttered or sprayed. Don’t use the original plastic lid of the coffee can! Instead, tie heavy-duty foil over the top of the coffee can, and remember to butter/spray the foil.
pudding 1

(Note from Kathleen – A few years ago my younger sister and I experimented with a Christmas pudding. Since we didn’t have a mold, we used coffee cans.)


You can use: A metal mold intended for desserts or decoration. I tried using my mom’s old decorative copper mold (with a foil “lid”). It worked fine for the pudding, but was a nightmare to clean…and my mom’s mold never looked the same again.

RACK
Use:  I found a round metal rack that fits perfectly in my Revere Ware dutch oven. It sits a good 1/2″ above the bottom of the dutch oven.

Or use:  If you have trouble finding a rack small enough, you can use 2 or 3 metal rings from canning jars. (Don’t use the flat removeable metal lids that go inside the rings; just use the rings.) This works fine.

 

pudding 2

(From Kathleen:  I used canning rings, just as Mary suggests, for the rack.  I fastened them with twisties.)


Don’t use:  Once I tried using a decorative cast iron trivet that barely sits above the bottom of my dutch oven. This did NOT work! There has to be room between the bottom of the pot and the bottom of the mold so that the water can circulate.
OTHER TIPS:

Keep the water in the pot boiling or simmering throughout the steaming process.

The water should come up at least halfway up the pudding mold. Check the water level and add more boiling water if necessary. (Just don’t let the water level get so high up that it goes under the lid and gets into the pudding.)

 

mold steaming

Once steaming is done, take the mold out of the pot and remove the lid. IMPORTANT! Don’t unmold right away!  Test the cake for done-ness (with a toothpick or skewer, or check to see that it’s pulled slightly away from the sides of the mold). If the pudding is done, let it sit for at least 15 minutes. This allows extra steam to escape and helps the pudding keep its shape.  Unmold and then let cool.

After you butter/spray the mold, you can put a little sugar inside, put the lid on and shake to distribute. This can add a tiny bit of “crust” (for a nice “mouth-feel”) before you add the batter.

I have also spooned some seedless jam into the bottom of the mold before adding the batter, to add a nice color and flavor. (Unfortunately, this didn’t work well with the Whole Wheat pudding.)

 

Version 2

The puddings Mary steamed came from the Gold Medal Flour Cookbook (1909).

WHOLE WHEAT PUDDING
 
The verdict:  Hands down, this was the easiest pudding I’ve steamed, though at 3 hours, it was the longest steaming, too.  Results were like a moist, less-spicier-than-gingerbread type of cake.
 
2 c. whole wheat flour
1/2 t. soda
1/2 t. salt
1 c. milk
1/2 c. molasses
1 c. stoned dates
Sift soda and salt with the meal; add dates until they are thoroughly floured; add milk and molasses. This will make a soft batter but the dry flour absorbs a great deal of the moisture. Steam three hours in a closed mould. Serve with any plain pudding sauce or whipped cream.
If sour milk is used add one level teaspoon of soda. Raisins, figs, prunes, or chopped apples make a pleasant variety.
Mary notes:

It didn’t taste heavy like I expected of whole wheat flour, though I used King Arthur Unbleached White Whole Wheat.

Final thoughts:  very easy, made with usually-at-hand ingredients, pleasant tasting, not exciting, but a simple recipe that would be good for a first-time steamer.

 

Pudding cut (800x600) - steamed pudding

Instead of dates, I chopped up a honeycrisp apple. And I also tried one thing that’s worked well for me with other puddings; I put a bit of seedless raspberry jam in the bottom of the mold. With other puddings, I’ve found that adds a nice color and flavor once the pudding is unmolded. But with this pudding, the jam never melted into the cake and remained a slightly gooey mess once I unmolded it. On the good side, the jam actually stuck with the cake and came cleanly out of the mold. But I wouldn’t add the jam the next time I make this.

BLUEBERRY PUDDING

The verdict: 
I have a new favorite pudding recipe!  This one is just as easy as the Whole Wheat pudding. But it’s tastier and steams for only 1 hour (instead of 3). 
3/4 c. sugar
1/4 c. butter
2 c. flour
3 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
3/4 c. milk
1 egg
1 pint blueberries
Mary notes:

I creamed the butter and sugar, then added an egg. Then I added half the dry ingredients, alternating with half the milk, then dry, then milk.  The batter was smooth and thick
.

I used frozen blueberries. I wasn’t sure how much flour to use to flour the berries, but I wound up using two tablespoons.
 
I steamed the pudding for just over an hour, then took it out, removed the lid, and let it sit for 15 minutes still in the mold.
finished pudding still in mold
 When the pudding was still in the mold, the bottom looked pale and not so appetizing. But unmolded, (and flipped right side up), it had a nice brown color. (Although sadly, the blueberries hide my pudding mold’s decorative fluting on top.)

finished pudding from side

The pudding is surprisingly light tasting and refreshing…though the batter was heavy, the final cake is not. Very good and I’ll look forward to making this again.  I wonder if it works with apples or currants or other fruits…

finished pudding cut

The recipe suggests serving the Blueberry Pudding with Creamy Sauce:

1/4 c. butter
2. c. powdered sugar
1 egg
1 t. vanilla

Cream the butter, add the sugar; cream together; add the cream, the egg well beaten, and flavoring.  If it should separate set it over hot water and stir until smooth.  Serve cold.

# # #

If I’d had Mary’s instructions, I probably wouldn’t have had trouble unmolding our Christmas pudding. (It tasted fine, though, and we enjoyed it anyway.)

Version 2

But now I’m psyched to try one of these puddings. If you steam a pudding, let us know how it goes! And huge thanks to Mary for sharing her time and knowledge.

My Cookbook Shelf

June 12, 2015

I’ve spent the last year having fun with old recipes from Minnesota’s flour milling history.

photo

The Wheat and Flour Primer

And I had fun celebrating The Washington Island Cook Book and The Settlement Cook Book.

As I was thinking about a final post for cookbook week, I decided to see what stories my own cookbook shelf can tell.

I grew up in Maryland, and inherited this volume.  I never use it, and I’d never get rid of it.

Maryland's Way Cookbook

The dedication reads, “To the generations of Maryland Cooks who, since 1634, have blended the fruit of bay, field, and forest into Maryland’s way”

Although I didn’t know Betty Crocker’s history, her cookbooks were popular in my house when I was a kid.

Betty Crocker Cookbooks

Top:  1978; and bottom, 1950 editions.  I think these actually came down in my husband’s family, but the older edition is the same as my mom’s. This one was so well use the binding had to be repaired!

When I was a young woman the go-to cookbook was Joy of Cooking, first published by Irma S. Rombauer in the 1930s. I rarely use these anymore, but can’t imagine not having them.

Joy of Cooking

Mass market paperbacks, 1964 editions.  These were the first cookbooks I owned.

My other beloved classic is the Moosewood Cookbook, written by Mollie Katzen in 1974. This one I still use. A lot.

Moosewood Cookbook

I started collecting cookbooks with historic themes when I was in college…

Vintage cookbooks

as well as cookbooks from historic sites.

historic sites cookbooks

When I moved to the Midwest and began working at Old World Wisconsin, I purchased a copy of The Ethnic Epicure. The price penciled inside is $6.95, and when I was living on an interpreter’s salary, that was a serious splurge. But the book helped introduce me to the ethnic food traditions of my new state.

Ethnic Epicure

The cookbook was published in 1973—three years before Old World Wisconsin even opened.

Ethnic Epicure 2

All proceeds from the book, compiled and edited by Mary Joanne VanCronkhite, were “used for the development of Old World Wisconsin by the State Historical Society of Wisconsin.”

Ethnic Epicure3

I scribbled some OWW recipes on blank pages.

Since I began writing the Chloe Ellefson mysteries, which are set in the 1980s, I’ve had fun collecting vintage Wisconsin cookbooks, especially those with ethnic flair.

Vintage Wisconsin Cookbooks

And of course I look for cookbooks and recipes that celebrate the ethnic groups featured in the mysteries. You can check the Foodways link at the right of this page if you’d like to explore featured recipes.

Dusting off some of these old books brought back special memories. I hope you also have a shelf full of food traditions and memories too!

The Settlement Cookbook

June 10, 2015

My dear friend Lynn recently shared a photo of a family treasure—her mother’s copy of The Settlement Cookbook.

Settlement Cookbook

My mom was married in the 1920s, and I think in those days ladies didn’t have the wealth of cookbooks available that we have now. This was my mom’s “go to” for everything.  I remember her having the pages open and making the best meals for all of us.  She and my dad used everything from their huge garden, and she canned all summer long. This cookbook was her treasure.  I think she must have had it from the very beginning of her marriage, as it is so worn out. When she made a cake from the cookbook (cakes were for birthdays and special times—not an every day thing as now), we all waited with anticipation because we knew it was going to be fabulous.

Lynn’s husband notes that the best recipes can be found on the most stained and thumbed pages.

I love exploring food history because food is one of the most tangible connections we have with the past. Just a glimpse of Lynn’s cookbook suggests a wealth of stories.

Settlement Cookbook

There must be many treasured copies of The Settlement Cookbook still in kitchens. First published in 1901 as a fund-raiser, over two million copies have been printed.

The cookbook was compiled by Elizabeth “Lizzie” Black Kander of Milwaukee. Kander had long been involved in civic work, including helping newly arrived immigrants adjust to life in America. She served as president of the organization that founded a Settlement House, and taught cooking classes. But she thought the her students wasted too much time copying recipes from a chalkboard.

To solve that problem—and to help fund the Settlement House programs—Kander suggested publishing a cookbook. She requested $18 to fund the project.  When the Board of Directors refused to finance the project, she worked with a local printer and raised money by selling advertisements.

All the copies printed sold within a year. The cookbook was reprinted again and again, with Lizzie making updates and corrections as needed.

Settlement Cook Book

1924 edition.

In addition to helping immigrants learn how to prepare American dishes, the book contained recipes from some of the ethnic groups represented in Milwaukee.

Settlement Cook Book

Settlement Cook Book

A whole chapter on kuchen!

Settlement Cook Book

Lizzie and her colleagues were so successful in attracting immigrants to their programs that more than once, they had to move to a bigger space.

Abraham Lincoln House - exterior

The Abraham Lincoln Settlement House ( 601 Ninth Street in Milwaukee) opened in 1912.

I was not really aware of The Settlement House Cookbook until I moved to Wisconsin in 1982. To my surprise, however, I found a copy in my maternal grandmother’s small collection of cookbooks after she died. My grandmother was born and bred on New Jersey’s Atlantic shore—daughter of an oysterman—but this cookbook, compiled by a Milwaukee woman of German-Jewish descent, had a place on her shelf.

Settlement Cook Book

1965 edition, published by Simon and Schuster.

Partly in her honor (and in honor of women like Lynn’s mom), I couldn’t resist including a brief mention of the Settlement House and Lizzie Kander’s cookbook in Tradition of Deceit. It fit perfectly with the themes of urban immigration and food history.

Tradition Of Deceit Cover

Has The Settlement House Cook Book been part of your family’s food traditions? I’d love to hear about your favorite stories or recipes!

* * *

And if you’d like to learn more about Lizzie Kander, I recommend A Recipe For Success:  Lizzie Kander And Her Cookbook, by Bob Kann, part of the Wisconsin Historical Society’s Badger Biographies Series.

Lizzie Kander and her Cookbook

Washington Island Cook Book

June 8, 2015

I was thrilled to receive a copy of this community cookbook from a thoughtful reader. It’s a first edition, copyright 1947, compiled by the Trinity Lutheran Ladies’ Aid.

Washington Island Cook Book

“At long last your requests for favorite recipes of discriminating hostesses have been compiled in a ‘Washington Island Cook Book.’ The Island has been known for its outstanding homemakers, who specially (sic) delight in serving coffee to all who cross their thresholds.” (From the Preface)

Several scenes from The Light Keeper’s Legacy are set on Washington Island, and the rest are set on Rock Island—visible in the upper right corner of the map on the cover. Both are off the tip of Wisconsin’s Door County peninsula.

Light Keeper's Legacy by Kathleen Ernst

My husband and I have served as volunteer docents at Pottawatomie Lighthouse, in Rock Island State Park, for the past seven summers.

Pottawatomie Lighthouse

The lighthouse has been restored to its 1910 appearance, when Charles and Mollie Boshka lived there with their two children.

Charles and Mollie Boshka

This cookbook is a treasure for several reasons. First, it includes a number of recipes submitted by Mollie Boshka. Each one is a  tangible link back to that lovely woman in the photo.

Ice Box Rolls

MB's Sour Cream Cookies

MB's Corned Beef

It also reflects the families who settled on Washington Island in the mid-late 1800s and early 1900s.  Many of the women’s surnames are still common on the island today. Many of the recipes reflect Norwegian, Swedish, Danish, and Icelandic heritage.

Swedish Tea Ring

Icelandic Pancakes

Toward the end of The Light Keeper’s Legacy, a Washington Island friend makes Icelandic Pancakes for Chloe.

The recipes also capture an era when old traditions were blending with new.  The cookbook includes recipes for things like head cheese and vinerbrod (Danish pastry), and many include little or no instruction. The assumption was that anyone using the cookbook would just know how to put the ingredients together, or how hot the oven should be.

But the book also includes recipes for dishes like Texas Hash (which calls for 3 Tbsp. of something called “Spry”), Spanish Noodles, and several versions of Chop Suey.

Chop Suey Cake

In addition to several main dish recipes for Chop Suey, this one caught my eye. I have no idea how it got the name.

Finally, the book tells a story about the woman who once owned it.  I’ll never know her name, but I’ve got glimpses of her. She received the book from for Christmas in 1848; the inscription is Norwegian.

Washington Island  Cook Book inscription

And she used the book a lot.  Pages are dog-eared and sometimes stained, and she added notes by some of the recipes. It’s fun to imagine her flipping pages, deciding what to prepare for family or friends.

Pineapple Salad Cream Ring

This one made me smile because I grew up eating similar Jello salads.

I’m so grateful that this particular cookbook got saved, and passed from hand to hand…and ended up in my kitchen.

* * *

To read more about the Boshkas, see Making Jam for Mollie.  To learn more about Pottawatomie Lighthouse or Rock Island history, follow The Light Keeper’s Legacy link on the right side of this page.

Buttercup Cake – 1930s

May 20, 2015

Welcome to Cooking With Chloe! We’re still celebrating the baked goods explored in Tradition of Deceit. This week we have another tasty recipe from Gold Medal Flour, Buttercup Cake with Buttercup Icing. Michelle L. tried the recipe for us.

The verdict: Everyone in my family thought it was delicious, and it smelled heavenly.

Michelle documented the process, and shared the notes and photos below.

Buttercup Cake

Buttercup Cake

1. Gather all of the ingredients and necessary utensils.

DSC_2869

2. Cream shortening , add sugar gradually, and cream until fluffy.

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3. Blend in well beaten eggs.

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4. Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together.

DSC_2872

5. Stir flour mixture and buttermilk alternately into creamed mixture.

DSC_2873

6. Blend in flavorings.

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7. Pour into greased and floured pan. (Recipe calls for 2 8-inch round cake pans, but I used a 13 x 9 inch pan.)

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8. Bake at 350° for 30 to 35 minutes.

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9. When cake is cool, spread Buttercup Icing on cake.

Buttercup Icing

Buttercup Icing

1. Combine egg whites, sugar, and water in top of double boiler and beat together until blended.

DSC_2881

2. Place over rapidly boiling water, and beat with a rotary beater until mixture is white and very light. Icing is done when it holds its shape when beater is pulled out. This will take about 4 to 5 minutes, depending on size of boiler and vigor of beating. Remove from heat.

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3. Beat in flavorings and then beat occasionally until icing is cool.

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4. When icing is thoroughly cool carefully fold in very soft (but not melted) butter.

 5. Spread icing on cake and enjoy!

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I wasn’t sure if the amount of flour was before or after being sifted. I looked in an old cookbook and decided it is after sifting.

It took longer for the frosting to hold its shape than the recipe said it would, but that is probably because I don’t have a rotary beater and used a wire whisk. (I would have tried using an electric mixer but there isn’t an outlet close enough to the gas stove.)

The blend of vanilla, almond, lemon, and orange extract smelled heavenly. I used the same blend in the frosting. (My husband said the frosting tasted just like his Grandma’s.)

I served the cake to after dinner to the family and everyone thought it was delicious.

I would definitely make this recipe again.

# # #

Huge thanks to Michelle for sharing her time and talents with us! I can’t wait to try this one.

Folk Art, Knitting, Murder, and More…

May 18, 2015
I am delighted have my friend Donna Druchunas as guest on Sites and Stories! Donna is an expert knitter, dedicated to documenting and sharing traditional patterns from around the world. Many of her own original designs are inspired by artifact and heirloom pieces. I’ve been a huge fan of her work for a long time. Welcome, Donna!
# # #

My name is Donna Druchunas and I am a writer, knitwear designer, and travel junkie. My passions for knitting, history, culture, and story-telling are at the center of my work. I’ve been a fan of Kathleen since I first met her at a Women Writing the West conference years ago. 

One of my favorite things about Kathleen’s books is the way she always manages to bring something beautiful and handmade into the story, even if it’s a murder mystery! In Tradition of Deceit, the fifth Chloe Ellefson mystery, the folk art that touches the story is the paper-cutting tradition from Poland, called Wycinanki. 

My own research about Lithuanian folk art and knitting motifs led me to discover a similar paper-cutting tradition that has been popular in Lithuania since the sixteenth century and is still being practiced today. Simple pieces of paper are cut into intricate and delicate shapes that look like lace. In Lithuania, beautiful examples of this art form are exhibited in museums and available for sale in shops, such as these pieces that I saw at a folk art shop in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania.

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What I find so fascinating is the endless possibilities for using ancient and traditional folk art motifs in different forms of arts and crafts. The feeling of the lacy white paper art is reflected in this beautiful crochet shawl in the same shop.

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Another example of how malleable folk art can be is the common 8-pointed geometric motif. I love how this same simple shape can be the sun, a star, a flower, or a snowflake depending on where and when it is used. It is used in knitting, embroidery, weaving, wood carving, and in many other crafts. Many of the oldest folk art symbols were used around the world, while some newer motifs and more stylized versions of older symbols have come to be associated with specific places. For example, the 8-pointed snowflake, which is seen as a flower in Lithuania, is most commonly identified with Norwegian knitting today. 

There’s one motif in Lithuanian folk art that I find myself using over and over again. It looks like a tic-tac-toe board tipped on an angle. It is a symbol for the sun and can also represent God. I’ve used this symbol in three different ways in knitting patterns: In beads to decorate a wrist warmer…

LKCT Blue Skies Over Nida IMG_5341 copy-1

in a solid color on another pair of wrist warmers…

LKCT Songs of Palanga IMG_4972 copy - Version 2

and in multiple colors on the cuff of a sock.

LKCT Anklets for Anastazija IMG_5251 copy

I love how adaptable this simple geometric motif is. Before knitting came to Lithuania in the 18th century, this motif had been used in weaving, wood carving, metal work, and to decorate ceramic and clay pots as far back as the Stone Age.

Because Lithuania and Poland are neighbors and were actually joined as one nation for about 300 years–from 1385 until 1795–it’s not surprising to find some similarities between the folk art and aesthetic sensibilities of both countries. If you enjoy the folk art and craft topics in Kathleen’s books and on her blog, you might also enjoy my latest book, Lithuanian Knitting: Continuing Traditions. 

In its pages, you can learn about the history, culture, and folk art of Lithuania. There are also over 25 mitten, glove, and sock projects to knit using traditional Lithuanian motifs and techniques.

http://lithuanianknitting.pubslush.com

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Kathleen also writes about foods a lot, so I can’t resist sharing this photo of the delicious Lithuanian pastries that were served at the shop when I accidentally visited during the launch of a new exhibit.

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At our house, one of the best parts of Christmas was making traditional Lithuanian fried cookies that we called “krushtukis.

Here’s my grandmother’s Krushtuki recipe, which is lacking enough details that you could not make these yummy cookies without first helping Grandma roll, cut, and shape the dough, and fry the cookies in her kitchen.

Ingredients:
1/2 lb butter or Oleo
6 eggs
1 cup sugar
5 or 6 cups flour
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp salt
Crisco
Powdered sugar

 Instructions:
Cream butter or Oleo. 
Add sugar and eggs one at a time, then vanilla, salt, and flour.
Knead until it doesn’t stick.
Roll thin.
Cut in pieces.
Shape.
Fry in Crisco.
Sprinkle with powdered sugar.

 

Donna Druchunas
Knitting books, workshops, and cruises
www.sheeptoshawl.com
www.storiesinstitches.net

Old-Time Molasses Cake – 1930s (Gluten Free)

May 12, 2015

Welcome to Cooking With Chloe! The celebration of food explored in Tradition of Deceit continues.  This week we have another wonderful recipe from Gold Medal Flour, Old-Time Molasses Cake. Colette B. tried the recipe for us.

Molasses Cake 1 Molasses Cake 2

The verdict: An absolutely delicious gingerbread…better than my great-grandmother’s recipe!

Colette adapted the recipe for those with a gluten intolerance. (In general I ask test-bakers to stick to the recipe, but I knew this would be helpful for many readers.)  Her notes and photos are below:

I just followed the directions! Super easy!

I did, however, make a few substitutions to this recipe. Because I have a gluten intolerance, I used gluten-free flour rather than Gold Medal flour and added 1 ½ teaspoons of xanthan gum. (I mix my own blend of GF flour, but I recommend using King Arthur brand of GF flour if you buy your flour.)

I also used butter rather than shortening and used plain, unsweetened kefir in place of the “thick sour milk” called for in the recipe. I read that buttermilk is also a common substitute for thick sour milk, so that might work too. I don’t think any of these substitutions had any effect on the recipe…it was great!

This recipe is quite similar to my great-grandmother’s gingerbread recipe, which is one of my family’s favorites, but it was a richer-tasting cake because of the “thick sour milk” (or kefir or buttermilk). The Gold Medal recipe was easy to follow and quick to make; it produced a very smooth batter and ultimately a moist gingerbread that had a lot of molasses and mild spice flavor. And the kitchen smelled wonderful while the cake was baking 🙂 We all loved it!

Photo 1: Butter, sugar, molasses, egg. If it wasn’t for the raw egg, I would have eaten this…it smelled so good!

Molasses Cake 1

Photo 2: Dry ingredients ready to be mixed in.

Molasses Cake 2

Photo 3: Batter all mixed and ready to pour into pan.

Molasses Cake 3

The only issue I had was the baking time. The recipe says to bake at 325 for 50 minutes, so I did. After 50 minutes, the edges looked and felt like they were done, but the center still was not fully baked; the cake had a dip in the center because of this. I put the heat up to 350 and left the cake in for another 15-20 minutes. At that point, the center was baked but still dipped; I felt that it could have used a bit more cooking but didn’t want to leave it in any longer since the edges were a bit crisp on top. I think that baking the cake at 350 for maybe 40-50 minutes would result in a more even bake.

Photo 4: The cake at the end of the baking time called for in the recipe. It’s a little hard to see, but you can just make out the dip in the middle of the cake where the batter isn’t quite set.

Molasses Cake 4

Photo 5: The finished cake. Yum!

Molasses Cake 5

Many thanks to Colette for doing a trial run of this recipe for us—and especially for making a gluten-free version!

Kuchen

April 29, 2015

Rhubarb is popping up in my garden, so this edition of Cooking With Chloe comes from yours truly.

As curator of collections at Old World Wisconsin, Chloe Ellefson, protagonist of my historic sites mysteries series, is responsible for maintaining the antique stoves in each historic kitchen.  In Tradition of Deceit Chloe skis to one of the German farms one winter day—for purely professional reasons, of course—and bakes kuchen.

At Old World this German coffeecake is often made at the 1875 Schottler farm. The Schottlers’ granddaughter recalled enjoying the treat with her grandparents.

KAE Schottler Sepia enhanced

(That’s me in the Schottler kitchen back in 1982, cutting up rhubarb for kuchen. A friend took the picture and printed it in sepia tones.)

You don’t need a wood stove to bake kuchen, and you can use whatever fruit is in season.

Kuchen

2/3 c. sugar
2. eggs, beaten
1 t. salt
1 c. shortening (originally lard)
¼ t. nutmeg
2 oz. yeast, dissolved in ¼ c. warm water
1 c. milk
3-4 c. unbleached flour
fruit
cinnamon and sugar to taste

Put yeast and water and 1 c. flour in mixing bowl. Let sponge set for about 1 hour. Add sugar, salt, nutmeg, shortening, and egg. Add remaining flour and knead. Let rise until almost doubled, 60-90 ninety minutes. Grease a round cake pan or cast iron skillet. Punch down dough, and form dough into pan. Top with sliced fruit, and/or cinnamon and sugar. Bake at 350 degrees until golden brown, about 35-45 minutes.

Enjoy!