`The year was 1950 and the cookbook was Betty Crocker’s Picture Cookbook. It was a best seller! Not only was it the top cookbook of the year…it sold more copies than any other non-fiction book that year!
It was also a cookbook ahead of its time with “key” recipes and variations plus lots and lots of photographs that demonstrated steps of recipes as well as the finest food photography of the time. For many, this was their “culinary Bible”.
Recently it has become available again through Rodale Cookbooks, 33 Minor Street, Emmaus, PA 18098.
What a trip down memory lane! Browsing through some of the 1200 recipes I got lost in earlier times, all manner of lifestyle guidelines and the classic and purity of pride women of that day brought to their meals.
Also, as a college student (majoring in Home Economics and Journalism) and a Betty Crocker Scholarship winner, I had the privilege of working in the Betty Crocker Kitchens during summer vacations. I walked into the hallowed halls of these famous test kitchens, knew some of the people written about in the book and was forever change by those experiences. As I read the book, I could hear conversations from those esteemed professionals that preceded me.
Truly this book is a treasury of cherished recipes. It may have some recipes that you, your mother, aunt or grandmother made years ago.
Now, life has changed. A person can buy almost everything in the grocery store. Yet, there is still something that calls forth the passion and creativity of cooking. So, it is my belief this cookbook retains its allure and value.
In reviewing the book, I decided to stay within seasons and have focused on fruit desserts and the really old versions of coleslaw that almost no one makes…maybe because they don’t have the recipe!
American berries and summer fruits are among the world’s best…and Shortcake, I believe, is our invention. Or, make its culinary cousin, a fruit cobbler.
To “cobble up” means to put together in a hurry, according Betty Crocker’s Picture Cookbook published in 1950. Today a cobbler is still a fast way to make a delicious dessert.
Fresh Fruit Cobbler
Ingredients for one-half the recipe for Betty Crocker Shortcake as to the left.
• 2/3 to 1 cup sugar
• 1 tbsp. cornstarch
• 1 cup boiling water
• 3 cups fruit with any juice on them
• ½ tbsp. butter
• ½ tsp. cinnamon
Prepare ½ Betty Crocker Shortcake Recipe as above.
Combine sugar with cornstarch in a saucepan (whisk well to break up lumps). Gradually stir in 1 cup boiling water. Bring to a boil. Boil 1 minute, stirring constantly, then add fruit with any juice on them. Pour into a 10 x 6 x 2-inch baking dish. Dot with butter. Sprinkle with cinnamon. Drop spoonfuls of the Shortcake Dough onto fruit. Bake in a 400-degree oven 30 minutes. Serve warm with the juice and cream.
The good old-time American dessert…still first choice. Remember it, or its companion recipe for Fresh Fruit Cobbler, for satisfying home-style summertime treats.
Betty Crocker Shortcake
• 2 cups flour
• 2 tbsp. sugar
• 3 tsp. baking powder
• 1 tsp. salt
• 6 tbsp. shortening
• 2/3 to ¾ cup whole milk
Sift or whisk flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Cut in shortening with pastry blender or two knives. Stir in milk to make a soft dough. Knead lightly. Pat ½ dough into a well greased 8-inch round layer cake pan. Dot with butter. Pat out other half on top. Bake in a 450-degree oven 12-15 minutes. Split layers apart. Spoon sweetened fruit (not chilled) between and on top. Serve warm with whipped or plain cream. 6 servings.
The simplicity of this version of Crème Brulee reminds all that sometimes progress isn’t progress. You don’t need special cups, a blow torch or a fancy anything to have an elegantly simple dessert. If it was good enough, as the cookbook says, for Thomas Jefferson more than 200 years ago…maybe its good enough for today.
Betty Crocker’s Picture Cookbook says:
“Crème Brulee (Burned Cream) was served at a lovely luncheon by a delightful hostess, Elizabeth Case, co-author of “Cook’s Away.” This elegant dish was a feature of the famous hospitality of Thomas Jefferson’s Virginia home, “Monticello.” He brought the recipe from France in 1790.
• 3 cups whipping cream
• 6 egg yolks
• 1/3 cup sifted brown sugar
• Sweetened fresh strawberries, raspberries or peaches (or green gage plums or pears poached in a simple syrup)
Heat whipping cream until it barely reaches boiling. Beat egg yolks until very thick and blend into the hot whipping cream.
Cook over how heat, stirring constantly until it thickens. Pour into a 12 x 7 x 2 inch baking dish. Cool.
An hour before serving, sprinkle top with a thin layer of sifted brown sugar. Set under hot broiler until sugar melts and forms a glaze, about 1 minute. Chill.
Serve with fresh sweetened strawberries, raspberries or peaches.
Throughout the book, brief introductions tell a bit of the story behind many of the recipes. This human touch made by the corporation that created Betty Crocker, made her a “real” person to millions of persons. And she was the real collaboration of hundreds of professional home economists over decades of work.
“Rich sweet cream over fresh ripe berries…baked together…perfectly delicious. Mrs. Edward Cook of Wayzata, Minnesota, learned this old-time trick with berries from her husband’s mother who brought it from New York state. Edam Cheese was always served with it.”
Betty Crocker’s Berries-And-Cream Pie
• 1 9-inch unbaked pie shell
• 4 cups fresh berries
• 2/3 cup sugar
• 4 tbsp. flour
• ¼ tsp. salt
• ½ tsp. cinnamon
• 1 cup (30%) cream
Place berries in unbaked pie shell.
Mix sugar, flour, salt and cinnamon. Blend in cream. Pour over berries. Bake in a 400-degree oven35-45 minutes or until crust is nicely browned and filling set. Serve slightly warm.