Tuesday, July 31, 2012

KTT: Retro Baking Tip

If you've done much reading here at T+E, you know that I love my vintage cookbooks.  They are handy for many reasons, among them:
  1. They're educational. Many older cookbooks include information on how to make generic recipes and how to vary them.  They also often contain menu plan suggestions and cooking tips.  Sometimes, they include recipes that use cooking techniques that are no longer common (make your own corned beef, anyone?).
  2. They're simple.  Sometime in the 1950's, recipes became more complicated.  They started using more ingredients and more complex preparation methods.  My pre-War cookbooks generally have fewer than eight ingredients, making them an excellent resource when some lone vegetable is languishing in my fridge.
  3. They're American.  I love the cosmopolitan nature of modern American cooking.  Pakistani food is a frequent feature on my menus. However, pre-War cookbooks generally do not include foods specific to different immigrant populations.  They feature a distinctly American cuisine--American in a time before hamburgers.  And that is an education unto itself.
But all of these benefits do not change the fact that kitchens have changed in the last seventy years.  Even though these cookbooks all assume you have access to an oven with a thermostat and electrical kitchen appliances (all of which are still in use today), cooking has changed.  You see, as late as the early 1960's, oven temperatures weren't nearly as reliable as they are today.  Whenever I put something in the oven, and follow my early 20th century instructions, the food ends up dry or burnt.  Here's how I account for it:
  1. If the recipe calls for an oven temp above 350, I lower it 50 degrees and cook the recipe longer.
  2. I keep a close eye (and nose) on the food.  Generally food cooked in an oven gives visual and scent clues when it is done, so the report of my senses can be more useful than the report of the timer.
  3. With baked goods, I generally set the oven to 350 and keep an eye on it.  Baked goods can be so temperamental, that it's just a better idea to bake "manually" than rely on kitchen aides.
In general, cooking with vintage and antique cookbooks is a wonderful experience, so knowing how to adapt them to the modern kitchen is a worthwhile skill.

This post has been linked to Kitchen Tip Tuesday at Tammy's Recipes, Big Family Friday at Holy Spirit-Led Homeschooling, and Works for Me Wednesday at We Are THAT Family.


Tammy L said...

Love these tips, Rachel! :)

suzyhomemaker said...

I love old cookbooks as well. They use less processed ingredients!

Kristen said...

I love my Better Homes and Gardens cookbook because of the kitchen tips and meal planning ideas. I didn't realize other old cookbooks had those! Now I have another excuse to go antiquing :)