I love cooking. Baking is my favorite though, probably because I have a sweet tooth. I especially love baking from scratch. I try to never use mixes because once you get the hang of baking, it really is not difficult, just mainly time consuming. I find satisfaction from taking all these different ingredients and somehow they form together to make delicious treats. It provides a sense of accomplishment for me.
However, there was a time where baking from mixes was not even an option. This was the world the Delord women lived in. You had to bake from scratch, and it was not always easy. Today, we have technology that helps with baking, including stand up mixers and hand held mixers. When you watch the Food Network, most of the chefs do not combine ingredients by hand, but by machine. I personally do not own a stand up mixer (they are quite expensive) and hand held mixers are used more to combine cakes and frostings, so I can relate to the Delord women. Have you ever tried to mix cookie dough batter by hand? Your forearms ache. It is not easy. Women who baked during the time of the Delord women definitely had some strong arm muscles.
There were other differences too. For one, there was not a standard way to measure. Betsey Delord left a “receipt” book behind (really a recipe book) that includes measurements that are not traditionally used today. Betsey used a wineglass and a teacup to measure ingredients for recipes. A wineglass would be the equivalent of 4 ounces; a teacup would be 6 ounces. Betsey also used the terms “size of a walnut” and “size of an egg” for measurement.
During Betsey’s time, it was also common to use recipes that made an astronomical amount of food. Many of Betsey’s recipes calls for pounds of flour instead of cups, a measurement most commonly used today. The only time I really see pounds used in recipes is when I deal with butter. Another difference would be ingredients. Betsey refers to saleratus, which is baking soda. She also refers to pearleash, which was a commercial carbonate of potassium, a forerunner of baking powder. Ingredients Betsey lists are also not spelled the way we spell them today. For instance, coconut was spelled as cocoa nut. Misspellings were common because there was not always a set way to spell words, especially without the convenience of the internet and spell check that we have today.
Lastly, the biggest difference would have to be the time and temperature used for the recipes. Back in the time of the Delord women, there was no way to determine the temperature of the oven. Many used cast iron cooking stoves, and others would use brick ovens that did not have a convenient temperature nob. Women had to be experts of their own cooking device because each stove and fireplace heated up differently to determine when to start baking and when to take the finished product out. I for one am glad we have the modern technology where we know the length and temperature for baking.
Baked treats had different consistencies back then too. Most desserts had coarse and heavier texture than what you find today, along with richer flavor.
If you are interested in learning about desserts from back in the day and would like to try some, the Kent-Delord House Museum is hosting an Old Fashioned Holiday Treats event this Saturday October 20th from 12-3PM. It is free!