Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Milk Cake & Biscuits.

Today I want to continue the milk theme and give you a small selection of bread and cake recipes.

Novice bread bakers are often advised to start with milk breads of the softer, sweeter, quicker rising breakfast variety on the grounds that the dough is more forgiving and the final product closer to cake - so overall it is a less intimidating experiment. Here is a nice easy version from The Cooking Manual of Practical Directions for Economical Every-day Cookery, (1877), by Juliet Corson. You can, of course, substitute regular yeast for the hop yeast, which not too many of us have to hand these days.

Milk Bread.
Take one quart of milk, heat one-third of it, and scald with it half a pint of flour; if the milk is skimmed, use a small piece of butter; when the batter is cool, add the rest of the milk, one cup of hop yeast, half a tablespoon of salt, and flour enough to make it quite stiff; knead the dough until it is fine and smooth, and raise it overnight. This quantity makes three small loaves.

As we have often discussed before, early cakes (before the widespread use of baking powders) were in effect yeast-raised sweet breads. I give you a good example – which we would now call fruit bread - from a source with a most unlikely title for a cookery book.

Sour Milk Cake
Take two pounds of flour, three-quarters of a pound of butter, four eggs, one pound of sugar, one pound of currants or raisins, one-half pint of good yeast; wet it with milk, and mould it on a board. Let it rise overnight. A loaf should bake in three-quarters of an hour.
The Family Doctor, or guide to health, (1844) by H.B.Skinner

The instructions in the next recipe are minimalist to the point of non-existence, reminding us once again that in the not so distant past cooking skills were sufficiently widespread that cookery book writers could assume much knowledge on the part of their readers. Slightly more detailed recipes with the same title have the mixture rolled out and made up into small pieces – so perhaps are ‘cake’ that some of you would call ‘biscuits’?

Hot Milk Cake.
4 eggs, 2 cups sugar, 2 cups flour, ¾ cup hot milk, 2 teaspoonfuls baking powder.
Hanover Cook Book 1922.

For those of you who prefer your cake to be honest-to-goodness, properly cakey cake, may I refer you back to the Chocolate Malted Milk Cake recipe we enjoyed several years ago?

Quotation for the Day
I am thankful for laughter, except when milk comes out of my nose.
Woody Allen


Les said...

Would hop yeast be yeast leftover from brewing beer? I've wondered what bread tasted like before companies came up with yeast cakes and packets we have today.

I've baked enough I could follow the last recipe given!

The Old Foodie said...

Hi Les. As you know, people used to use brewers yeast to raise dough for centuries before packaged yeast, but that was different from hop yeast. As you also know, just about anything can be made to ferment and sometimes things were added to the home made leaven to either speed up the process or to add flavor. My understanding is that there was a popular preference for the bitter edge given by hops to beer, so it was added for that reason. I await correction if that is not the case.
Now you have given me an idea for another blog post.!