Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Then and Now

Recently, my husband and I went to a local consignment auction and as I was sifting through boxes of cookbooks, the hubs came across a tattered old cookbook whose cover read, “Chesterfield Science Club Cookbook 1913”. Now, Chesterfield being the small Illinois town that he grew up in, he was immediately interested. We know of two other Chesterfield cookbooks, one from the sesquicentennial year in the mid ‘80s, and the Y2K edition, both of which we own. This edition is a typical “contribution” cookbook, with the names of each contributor listed. As Matt’s step dad (among others) was born and raised in Chesterfield, we started looking for names we recognized.

We’ve been flipping through the book here and there (yep, that’s right, my husband was the high bidder and we now own it as well as the other two editions), and while my parents were out here visiting, I thought it would be fun to try a couple of the recipes from the book, just as a kind of throwback to days gone by. Many of the recipes have very little instruction, and even some questionable ingredients, so picking one was a challenge. One recipe jumped out at my mom as she was leafing through the pages. Amber Pie.
I ask you – what exactly makes a pie “amber”? Well, the ingredient list wasn’t much help. It called for 1 ½ cups jam (what kind, you may ask? I chose Strawberry, simply because I didn’t want to waste my jar of fig if the recipe went badly.), 1 ½ cups sour cream, 1 cup sugar, 2 TB flour and 2 eggs.
The directions go something like this.
Mix all together. Take one crock of cream and whip. Pour on top of pie in unbaked shell. Makes enough for two pies.

I. Kid. You. Not.

Do you bake it? If so, how long? At what temperature? You don’t really put the whipped cream on before baking, right?

So, using our common sense (we hoped), we mixed the four pie ingredients together (I halved the recipe to make one pie), poured it into an unbaked crust (yes, I cheated and used a frozen one from the store), and baked it in a moderate oven (350), hopefully until the filling “set”, and, we waited.

At about 30 minutes, the filling was still liquid.
At forty minutes, it was boiling. Spewing fat little bubbles up from the middle of the pie. But the crust was definitely not done. Hmmm....
Ten minutes later, it was a puffing and heaving mass of phlegmy looking curdles that reminded me of a festering cesspool. I was mildly disgusted and somewhat horrified.
Finally, at an hour and ten minutes, there was a distinct change that had taken place, the puffing had subsided and it appeared to be a consistently gelled mass, apart from a bit around the edges that was caramelizing aggressively.
We removed the pie from the oven and allowed it to cool. After lunch, we decided to brave the beast. Cutting small slices from the pie, we passed them around the table, daring each other to take a bite.
As it turns out, it was....not bad. It tasted only vaguely of strawberry, but held a strong resemblance to a curd, in texture. It was intensely sweet, and the whipped cream helped cut the sugar a bit. All in all, not a bad result, if a bit disturbing in the process. I hope to try a few more obscure choices over the next month or so, and bring a taste of historic Illinois to my blog!

Oh, and just to salvage our sense of the present, we also made the Snowball Cake featured on the cover of the last Kraft Foods magazine. It was easy to make and turned out great! A creamy, coconut-y confection that my co-workers were happy to help me get rid of yesterday.

Snowball Cake
1 pkg. (2-layer size) devil's food cake mix
1 pkg. (8 oz.) PHILADELPHIA Cream Cheese, softened
1 egg
2 Tbsp. granulated sugar
1 pkg. (3.4 oz.) JELL-O Vanilla Flavor Instant Pudding
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 cup cold milk
1 tub (8 oz.) COOL WHIP Whipped Topping, thawed

HEAT oven to 350ºF.

PREPARE cake batter, in 2-1/2-qt. ovenproof bowl, as directed on package; scrape side of bowl. Beat cream cheese, egg and granulated sugar until well blended; spoon into center of batter in bowl.

BAKE 1 hour 5 min. or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool cake in bowl 10 min. Loosen cake from bowl with knife; invert onto wire rack. Remove bowl. Cool cake completely.

MEANWHILE, beat dry pudding mix, powdered sugar and milk in medium bowl with whisk 2 min. Stir in COOL WHIP. Refrigerate until ready to use.

PLACE cake on plate; frost with pudding mixture. Cover with coconut. Keep refrigerated.


Kim said...

What a great post! It's kind of like you were playing the cooking detective! Sounds like it was fun to guess the directions and see the outcome - pretty cool :D I've never heard of amber pie before, and I have to say that I would be interested based solely on the name alone.

The snowball cake looks AWESOME! I could definitely throwdown some of that!

ARLENE said...

That recipe reminds me of some of the patterns I've used to make quilts. I think I'd have given up after an hour. No wonder it's a "scientific" cookbook. There must be a reason why it went through those stages. Darned if I know what it is. Great looking snowball cake!

Krista said...

Oh, this made me laugh..."Ten minutes later, it was a puffing and heaving mass of phlegmy looking curdles that reminded me of a festering cesspool. I was mildly disgusted and somewhat horrified."

I've seen recipes like this in old, old cookbooks in my grandma's kitchen. It's both fun and frustrating to translate them into the new millenium. It looks like it turned out pretty good to me. It reminds me a little of sugar cream pie.