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Experiment with old recipes

I had several people stop me and ask for my recipe for “Rainy Day Snickerdoodles.” I thought it would be easier to just include it in my column this week so here it is. This recipe is from an old recipe book, “Dexter Heritage.”

In a mixer put 1 cup butter flavored shortening; 1 1/2 cups white sugar. Mix this until thoroughly blended. Add 2 eggs and mix until light and fluffy. Add 1 cup all-purpose flour, 2 teaspoons of cream of tartar; 1 teaspoon baking soda and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Mix until well blended. Then add 1 3/4 cups all purpose flour.

In a small separate bowl mix 1/4 cup white sugar and 2-3 teaspoons of cinnamon. Roll the dough into small balls; then roll the small balls in the cinnamon/sugar mixture. Place on an ungreased baking sheet and bake at 400º for about nine minutes.

My kids love these. They do take awhile to make and be sure to use cream of tartar. It is the “secret” ingredient.

I love old cookbooks. They hold a wonderful treasury of recipes of days gone by. I love cooking. I find it very relaxing – especially when it comes to kneading bread. It’s a great way to work out your aggravations.

Now, anyway, the first time I made bread was when I was a newlywed. I wanted to surprise my hubby with fresh homemade bread. Well, I surprised him – but it was with a brick! I’m not kidding my first few loaves of “homemade” bread were more like “homemade” bricks. They could have been used for doorstops!

Anyway, back to old cooking books. Don’t be shy about trying some of those good old-fashioned recipes. I will warn you that sometimes it takes a bit of experimenting to make the old recipes come out right. When I first started using old-fashioned recipes I ran across a few difficulties. For example, I ran across an ingredient I had never heard of: oleo. What on earth was oleo? I couldn’t remember having seen it in a grocery store. The next time I was visiting my grandmother I thought to ask her. She kind of chuckled and said, “Well, that’s what you all call margarine.” Margarine? Yep, you bet margarine.

The next problem I ran into was a recipe called for a No. 2 can of some ingredient. A No. 2 can? I’d never heard of that either. I once again called my grandmother. She told me that was the size of the can. OK, so what size is a No. 2 can? Her reply, “That’d be about a medium size. Just use your common sense. If you need a lot of it use a big can; if not use a small can.” See what I mean about experimenting?

I also want to caution you to be careful about food safety. I have ran across many recipes that with today’s knowledge we know are no longer safe to eat. For example, I’ve come across many ice cream recipes that call for raw eggs and no cooking. Today we know that raw eggs are not safe to eat. There are some ice cream recipes that have eggs in them that are cooked before chilling so they are considered safe.

This “raw egg” information has me in constant trouble with my children, because I won’t allow them to eat raw cookie dough that has eggs in it. I know I grew up eating raw cookie dough and didn’t die.

My response is that I also had a terrible case of mumps – so should I allow my kids to have them? Of course, not. Just be careful when it comes to food safety, better safe than sorry. And my personal favorite, “When in doubt – throw it out.”

Another problem I ran into with recipes from old cookbooks was the temperature of the oven. Many recipes called for temperatures such as: a slow oven, a medium heat or even a hot oven. What? So what was the temperature? I could figure out “slow oven” meant it cooked things slowly, but what was the temperature?

Once again: “Grandma!” She kind of sighed at this point, then she said that you just used your instincts. My thought? “What instincts?” I think she actually should have said, “your experience.” So this has become my method. For a slow oven, I usually set the temperature between 250 and 300º. A medium oven around 350º and a hot oven is usually about 450º.

My last piece of advice if you’re tempted to try your hand at using old recipes is to remember that if all else fails – order pizza!