Agatha-nominated and Amazon best-selling author Edith Maxwell writes the Quaker Midwife Mysteries and the Local Foods Mysteries, the Country Store Mysteries (as Maddie Day), and the Lauren Rousseau Mysteries (as Tace Baker), as well as award-winning short crime fiction. Her story, “A Questionable Death,” which features the same 1888 setting and characters as Delivering the Truth, is nominated for a 2016 Agatha Award for Best Short Story. Learn more about Edith and her books at her website.
I’m delighted to be here today with a killer recipe! My 1888 Quaker midwife from Delivering the Truth, Rose Carroll, baked in a wood stove, which makes baking a little tricky. You have to remember to turn the pan regularly so it doesn’t burn on one side. Luckily our modern ovens are more forgiving.
One of the reference books I like to use is Miss Parloa’s New Cook Book and Marketing Guide from 1880. It includes all kinds of tips for kitchen hygiene and equipment. For example, in the section on Cooking Utensils, Miss Parloa tells us this: “The essential qualities in a utensil are that it shall be substantially made; be smoothly finished and without grooves or joinings; and that it shall be free from deleterious substances.” I agree!
But when you get to the recipes, they are all really large. “Pluck two chickens,” starts one. A cake might have a pound of butter in it. Her recipe for Soft Gingerbread reads, “Six cupfuls of flour, three of molasses, one of cream, one of lard or butter, two eggs, one teaspoonful of saleratus, and two of ginger. This is excellent.” I suppose it would be – but I don’t have any saleratus around the house, and if the end product turns out not to be excellent, I’ve just wasted a heck of a lot of flour, molasses, and butter.
So I turned to the Fannie Farmer 1896 Cook Book (reissued in 2011). Her recipe for gingerbread is somewhat more restrained in the amounts. And who doesn’t love a nice moist piece of gingerbread – with whipped cream on top, of course!
Here’s the recipe, adapted slightly.
Hot Water Gingerbread
1 cup molasses
½ cup boiling water
2 ¼ cup flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 ½ teaspoons ginger
½ teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons melted butter
Butter a square pan and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Add the water to the molasses. Mix the dry ingredients. Combine the mixtures, add the butter, and beat vigorously.
Pour into the pan and bake thirty-five minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
(The original recipe includes this tip: “Chicken fat tried out and clarified furnishes an excellent shortening, and may be used in place of butter.” Not in my kitchen!)
Readers, what old-fashioned recipe do you like to use? Do you have one that’s been handed down in your family?
Delivering the Truth
Quaker midwife Rose Carroll becomes a suspect when a difficult carriage factory manager is killed after the factory itself is hit by an arsonist. Struggling with being less than a perfect Friend, Rose delivers the baby of the factory owner’s mistress even while the owner’s wife is also seven months pregnant. After another murder, Rose calls on her strengths as a counselor and problem solver to help bring the killers to justice before they destroy the town’s carriage industry and the people who run it.