A fantastic toasted cheese sandwich!

I saw the idea for this combination in a retro cookbook I haven't been able to relocate, but I wanted to share my version with you:


a delicious toasted cheese sandwich

Make your favorite way with, in order,
         your favorite bread for this
         country mustard
         some frozen grilled red pepper (jarred would work great too)
         your favorite cheese for this
         smoked paprika

Refreshing served with coleslaw (I found a nice one in Jamie's America).

The Little Book of Excellent Recipes and Cooking Tips, 1932

By "The Mystery Chef," sponsored by the R.B. Davis baking powder company in Hoboken, New Jersey. The cover is from abebooks' seller The Book Store by Jim Thorpe in Pennsylvania; my copy is missing a cover. A few years later the book cover had color....






It's quite a generous book -- and there's a generous archive offering pictures of some other items from the same company, accessible through https://hoboken.pastperfectonline.com/bysearchterm?keyword=R.B.+Davis+Company :

My book sometimes calls for Cocomalt, which seems to be a chocolate milk mix rather like Ovaltine, if I understand correctly. Here's an old brochure from the same company:



delicious soft whole wheat rolls

These are what I've been looking for – easy healthy rolls you can keep the dough for in the refrigerator and break off bits to bake when you want them!

A standalone mixer is quite necessary here so you can easily work with very sticky dough near the beginning. You'll also need a reliable instant-read thermometer (I adore mine from thermoworks.com, bought directly from the company, which offers good prices and of course then you'll be sure it's not counterfeit like some at a certain big retailer). You'll also want to make sure you have room for a big bowl in your refrigerator before you start. 

You'll need to start these at least 5 hours or so in advance. You can keep the dough in the refrigerator for at least 48 hours; that's the longest I experimented with, and the old recipe didn't mention a maximum time (nor a minimum time, in fact).

This is very adapted from "Master Icebox Roll" in the booklet Baking Is Easy with These Master Recipes from Omega Flour by H.C. Cole Milling Co. in Chester, Illinois, found just this past weekend at an antique shop. It's c1940. There's more about the booklet at http://vintage.recipes/index.php/Cookbook/Baking-is-Easy .



I also followed the fantastic idea from a cooking class I took to add 10% more liquid to whole wheat doughs if one is adapting a recipe for all white flour; the whole grain needs more liquid, though it takes a while for it to absorb.

Sprinkle over 4.5 Tbl of 110F water in a small bowl
         1 package dry yeast
Let sit a couple minutes then stir to dissolve.

Meanwhile, heat to 110F in a small pan
         1 cup plus 1.5 Tbl milk (skim is fine though I'm sure fattier would be even better)
Mix in
         4.5 Tbl olive oil

Stir together in the big bowl of your standalone mixer until well mixed (you can use the paddle or the dough hook until you have added much flour in a moment):
         2 eggs
         ¼ cup sugar
         1 tsp salt
Mix in both of the above mixtures from the bowl and pan.

Start adding gradually
         about 5 cups whole wheat pastry flour, preferably Bobs Red Mill (I know, it's not bread flour, but it's delicious and makes nice soft rolls)

Knead with your dough hook 5 minutes once the flour has been incorporated. If the dough is quite thin add more flour (you want enough so that it would be hard to stir with a spoon but you don't want to add so much the rolls will be dry).

Keeping the dough in the same bowl, wet your fingers very well and push down any dough on the sides until the sides are quite clean.
Then pour over some olive oil on the top and spread it out to cover the top.
Cover the bowl with a smooth kitchen towel wrung out in hot water.
Let rise at room temperature about 1 hour (it might not be doubled, but you have raw eggs and milk in this dough at this point so you don't want to risk any health problems).
Stir or push down to deflate.
Cover the bowl well eg with its lid.
Put in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours, up to at least 48 hours (it's fun to use up the dough over a couple of days, not all at once).

When you're ready to eat hot rolls in about 1.5 hours, take off what dough you need and shape it as you wish into an oiled pan; ideas are below. Let rise, covered, just 1 hour (again, for the eggs and milk safety issue). Bake at 400F for 15 to 25 minutes, until the rolls etc are lightly browned including the bottom (times are also mentioned below). Wait about 5 minutes then enjoy! They refrigerate and freeze nicely.

some shaping and additional flavor ideas
my favorite: cinnamon-raisin "cake"
Place about 1/3 of the dough in an oiled 8x8 or 9x9 pan (preferably glass; it bakes nicely in glass and you can check that the bottoms are done). Don't worry about making it smooth; it's actually better a little rustic.
Gently press in maybe ¼ cup raisins over the top.
Sprinkle/pour over top
         about 1 Tbl melted butter
          about 1 tsp cinnamon
        a generous Tbl or so of sugar (not the white normal kind but the tan-colored "natural" type that's not too finely ground)
Let rise 1 hour, covered.
Bake at 400 for about 25 minutes; it should be nicely but not darkly browned. Let cool 5 minutes then eat – amazing still warm from the oven, but also fabulous heated a bit in the microwave! Store leftovers in the refrigerator because of all the butter.

my next favorite: butter rolls
Place about 1/3 of the dough in an oiled 8x8 or 9x9 pan (preferably glass; it bakes nicely in glass and you can check that the bottoms are done).
Cut into about 12 rolls with sharp kitchen scissors. They don't have to be completely separated.
Pour over top
         about 1.5 Tbl melted butter
Let rise 1 hour, covered.
Bake at 400 for about 25 minutes; they should be nicely but not darkly browned. Let cool 5 minutes then eat – luscious still warm from the oven, but also fabulous heated a bit in the microwave or even cold! Store leftovers in the refrigerator because of all the butter.

straightforward rolls
You can shape the rolls with oiled hands and put them in/on an oiled pan. I prefer mine placed not too far apart so they rise up against each other to be torn apart to serve. For soft rolls I prefer a pan 1 to 2" deep rather than say a cooky sheet.
Let rise 1 hour, covered.
Bake at 400 for about 15 minutes, depending on the size of the rolls; they should be nicely but not darkly browned. Let cool 5 minutes then enjoy. You don't have to refrigerate unless you want to keep them for quite a few days or your kitchen is very humid or hot.

You can get very creative -- how about orange zest and cinnamon and a bit of brown sugar on top maybe?...or roll out, put light fillings on the dough, then roll up and cut for spiral filled rolls...

These are soft and wonderful; I also like crisp and chewy rolls – for that see the incomparable Kneadlessly Simple by Nancy Baggett.

Harvest Home

Last night I read a very interesting history of the first so-called (American) Thanksgiving, which said many of its attendees were not in fact religious and thanking any deity, but that they simply were celebrating being alive and having food! Though some people seem very much to disagree; I've ordered copies of primary sources to check out for myself...

Meanwhile I've read accounts of the traditional British+ Harvest Home, which at least some scholars believe the first "Thanksgiving" really was with all its 1600s British people....

A wonderfully done book on old train dining cars in USA

and other information, written very well, researched thoroughly --

Dining by Rail: 
The History and the Recipes of America's Golden Age of Railroad Cuisine
by James D. Porterfield
He's done other books I'll check out asap...

I remember with great fondness walking with my kids to the dining car and enjoying a relaxing meal on tablecloths with good service even on Amtrak from New York -- especially lovely when we were seeing mansions by the Hudson!...


"How to Serve Meals" in 1889

I have for years found Alessandro Filippini very generous with his ideas on food. Today my copy of The Table: How to Buy Food, How to Cook It, and How to Serve It arrived and I've been learning that at a nice dinner you would want to...

Keep the dining room "neither too hot nor too warm; the temperature should never exceed 60 degrees"! Brr!

You'd want salt at each place. Why? So your guests don't need to ask your servants for it, of course.

You'd have a floral centerpiece, of course, but also, at each place, a "bouquet" for each lady and a boutonniere for each man. I vaguely remember having a fancy meal in Philadelphia in the 1970s where this was still done.

You'll want a menu card at each place as well.

Also on the table:
  • a plate of radishes and/or olives
  • a plate of celery (without this and the above, it would "look like a boarding house table"!)
  • little dishes of black pepper and of red pepper
  • 2 fruit stands, 1 on each side of the floral centerpiece, with the best seasonal fruit
  • assorted cakes next to the fruit (though the fruit and cakes aren't actually eaten until late in the meal)
  • your wines, liqueurs

The glasses at each place include a green one for the sauterne and a red one for the Rhine wine, of course, plus glasses for sherry, Champagne, Latour wine, Chambertin red wine, and water (the last one is placed closest to each person's plate).

You may wonder if there's room for the rest of the food on the table. Well, probably not; M. Filippini suggests your servants hand it around and serve it, and gives detailed instructions.

Yes please! home design

There's a wonderful home, still available as I write, that has "a separate kitchen wing with both a breakfast room and a snug"! as reported in, well, next month's The English Home US edition. You can see much more at its realtor's site: http://www.jackson-stops.co.uk/cgi-bin/properties/summary-details.pl?propID=81976 , which mentions more food glories: "Lying between the drawing room and study is an internal corridor with steps up to a cloakroom and apple store with original safe. The study has a cosy feel and has steps down to the wine cellar with brick divisions providing storage bins." And if you like me realized I never really knew what a snug was outside of a pub, here are ideas: https://www.houseandgarden.co.uk/gallery/stylish-snug-idea .


Homemade TV Dinners!

September 10 is National TV Dinner Day! Last year I sort-of missed it and really wanted to make my own this year! I ordered trays from https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B012BZDOHC/ that turned out to be perfect for this! Here's my first try:


It was really tasty!! But a bit too much food! I got the ideas from the 1972 edition of the Betty Crocker Do-Ahead Cookbook, pictured here with a Sweet Peas Meals! bit and a menu I made up for us for a little health concern:

BUT so far the only thing I've used from the book are the TV dinners ideas, which basically are to put these in a covered oven-safe divided dish:
MEAT: Always cooked. Either have a very tasty juicy meat (like the leftover sausage patties we had) or have one with a sauce.
VEGETABLES: Use frozen ones, put some butter on top. (We had carrots and green beans plus a marvelous potato latke -- a potato pancake with onion -- we find here sometimes.)
RICE: Use instant/Minute rice in the proportions of 3 tbl rice to 1/4 cup water plus some salt, pepper, and if you'd like a flavoring like a bit of curry powder. (We had instant brown which I hadn't actually frozen, but I think that was ideal because it takes longer to cook and this way it was perfect.)

To cook: 450 in a convection oven for about 25 minutes (in a normal oven same if you only have 1 tray, otherwise maybe 5 more minutes).

Of course my favorite part of TV dinners was always the desserts!! For any that need a crust to get crispy near the end, the tops of these pans would not work really because you'd need to uncover a bit, though I guess you could put the crusty food in a corner and turn the pan's lid to the side?

In this age of microwaves, though, I wondered, how in the world did my mom keep us kids from burning ourselves on the pans on the rare days she served TV dinners?! I've asked her...