Welcome to “Cooking Through the Decades,” a 10-week journey through the 20th century, where you can let our revamped retro recipes take you back through history. Cook along with us for a chance to win cookbooks and an America’s Test Kitchen apron autographed by Bridget Lancaster.
Setting the Scene: The 1900s
It’s 1905, and you are heralding the advent of cold storage—just don’t misplace your ice pick. Your range might be gas, coal, or oil, depending on your budget and if you need the coal stove to double up as a heat source. Trivets are a novelty and if you don’t own one yet, it’s fine because you likely have servants that help with food preparation. Food is getting put in cans, Karo syrup has just been invented, and passing through Ellis Island daily are not only thousands of new Americans, but soon-to-be American recipes as well, as the country’s cuisine gets ready to absorb the shock of international influences that will soon become American themselves.
THIS WEEK’S RECIPE: Cold-Oven Pound Cake
If the name of this cake makes you stop and think, we’re with you. Baking a cake in a cold oven seems counterintuitive. But in the early decades of the 20th century, newfangled gas ranges were a difficult sell for home cooks accustomed to oil and coal. Manufacturers took to marketing the appliance as a time and money-saver: food could be cooked without preheating the oven! This breach of one of the most fundamental rules of baking—always make sure your oven is properly preheated—is intriguing, and, it turns out, effective. Cooking this pound cake in a cold oven gives it a sturdy crust and a delicate crumb. One 1905 newspaper column, called “Household Matters,” quoted an expert who suggested a rule of thumb: “Loaf cake in a cold oven, layer cake in a warm oven, and no cake in a hot oven.” We don’t know his qualifications, nor can we recommend this advice, but trust this bit of old time wisdom and try this cake—and don’t preheat the oven.
THIS WEEK’S CHALLENGE
Cook like it’s 1905! Minus the servants; plus a running refrigerator.
Bake this turn-of-the-century recipe, and send us a picture of you with the cake! Email it to firstname.lastname@example.org, with the subject line “1905.” Be sure to include your name, mailing address and blog or Twitter URL. Also, feel free to include a caption.
Deadline: Monday, July 2 at 9 a.m. EST.
Two winning entries will will be featured on The Feed next Wednesday, the lucky bakers will win a copy of America’s Best Lost Recipes: 121 Heirloom Recipes Too Good to Forget and an America’s Test Kitchen apron signed by Bridget Lancaster.
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