By Muriel Bristol | December 14, 2018
Mrs. N.W. and P., of Milton, NH, corresponded with the True and Tried Cooking column of the Boston Globe in 1895 and 1896. They submitted recipes of their own as well as making requests for those of others.
I have transcribed below their cookie and drop-cake recipes, which might be fun to try over the holidays. (Cakes and other things might follow sometime). The recipes are mostly just lists of ingredients with little or nothing in the way of instructions. Why waste space on instructions when everybody and their mother knows what to do? I have supplied some general parameters from other sources.
These women were using wood-fired ovens or chimney-side ovens. There were no temperatures settings. They had to guess the temperature and manage it, by stoking the oven with wood kindling. The temperature could be assessed by gauging how long one could keep one’s hand in the oven. Yikes!
A few of these recipes guide their user somewhat by suggesting a “rather quick” oven or a “quick” oven. A “quick” oven temperature is said have been in the 400° to 425° range. Lower temperatures and longer times tend to produce thinner, crisper cookies (and need wider spacing), while higher temperatures and shorter times tend to produce thicker, softer cookies. No times were given.
Modern cookie recipes tend to fall more to the 350° to 375° range, with times of between 8 and 11 minutes (larger cookies requiring more time). One imagines a “quick” oven would require less time. Good luck.
Newport Cookies. One egg, 1½ cups of sugar, ⅔ cup of butter, ½ cup of sweet milk. 4 cups of flour, 1 cup of chopped raisins, 1 teaspoon of cream of tartar, ½ teaspoon of soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and salt to taste. Drop out in teaspoon and bake. Mrs. N.W. Wilton [Milton], N.H. (Boston Globe, April 7, 1895).
Mama’s Molasses Cookies. In looking over some February papers I saw where a lady in Sanford, Me, asked for my mama’s molasses cookies. One cup of molasses, 1 cup of sugar, 1 cup of sour milk, 1 cup of shortening. 1 small tablespoon of saleratus, ginger and salt to taste. My mama uses a coffee cup. These cookies are very nice, and will keep as long as you wish. Mix with pastry flour. All cookies should be made of it. Nine-Year-Old. Ayer. (Boston Globe, April 19, 1895).
Saleratus was the precursor to baking soda.
Spice cookies for M.J.B. – One cup of sugar, ½ cup of butter, ½ cup of milk, 2 cups of flour, 1 cup of currants, 1 teaspoon of soda, spice of all kinds. Cheap marble cake – Two eggs, 1 cup of sugar, ½ cup of shortening, ½ cup of milk, 2 cups of flour, 2 teaspoons of cream of tartar, 1 teaspoon of soda. Take ½ the above. and add 2 tablespoons of molasses and spice of all kinds. and marble the two kinds together in the tin. Milton. N.H. Mrs. N.W. (Boston Globe, May 9, 1895).
Cocoanut Cookies. One egg, 1 cup of sugar, ⅓ cup of butter, 1 cup of cocoanut, 2 tablespoons of sweet milk, 1 teaspoon of cream of tartar, ½ teaspoon of soda. Mrs. N.W. Milton, N.H. (Boston Globe, May 12, 1895).
Date Cookies. If Mrs. N.W. will make date cookies like this recipe, I think she will find them nice: One large cup of dates, stoned and cut in small pieces, 1 cup of sugar, 1 egg, little salt, ⅔ cup of butter or lard, or half of each, little cinnamon and nutmeg, ½ teaspoon of vanilla, 2 cups of flour sifted together with 1 teaspoon of soda and 2 of cream of tartar; then add ½ cup of sweet milk or water; use more flour if needed, roll quite thin and bake in rather quick oven. South Berwick. (Boston Globe, May 15, 1895).
Sugar Cookies. Two eggs, 2 full cups sugar, large, 1 cup butter, ½ cup milk, 1 teaspoon cream of tartar, ½ teaspoon soda. Flour to roll stiff. Currants may be rolled lightly on the dough, and are very nice. P. Milton. N H. (Boston Globe, July 12, 1896).
Newton Puffs. One cup of molasses. 1 cup of milk, 1 cup of sugar, 4 cups of flour, ½ cup of butter and lard mixed, scant teaspoon of soda, 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, scant measure, salt to taste; mix the ingredients all together at once. adding soda last; drop in great spoonfuls in a pan a little way apart, and bake. Children like these very much. Mrs. H. C. L. North Weymouth. (Boston Globe, February 22, 1895).
Vanilla Drop Cakes. A cup of sugar and ¼ cup of butter, creamed together; 1 egg well beaten, 1 tablespoon of vanilla, 10 tablespoons of sweet milk, 1 teaspoon of cream of tartar, ½ teaspoon of soda. 2½ cups of flour. Drop out in teaspoonfuls on a biscuit tin and bake in a quick oven. Milton, N.H. (Boston Globe, April 7, 1895).
Sponge Drops. Three eggs; beat the whites to a stiff froth. add yolks, 1 cup of sugar, and a heaping cup of flour, into which 1 teaspoon of cream of tartar and ½ teaspoon of soda are mixed. Flavor and drop on buttered tin sheets, three inches apart. Bake instantly. Please try and report. Mrs. N.W. Wilton [Milton], N.H. (Boston Globe, April 11, 1895).
I tried Mrs. N.W.’s sponge drops, and found them very nice, also L.B.S.’s sponge ginger bread, which was splendid. Minnie M. Arlington Heights. (Boston Globe, April 28, 1895).
All of The Globe recipes which I have tried have been nice. Among them are orange pie by Mrs. F.H.C., May’s silver cake, which is lovely; cream pies by M.L.G., molasses chewing candy by N., banana pudding by Mrs. E.M.H., and molasses cookies by Nine-Year-Old. Milton, N.H. Mrs. N.W. (Boston Globe, May 9, 1895).
Questions and Answers. Will the lady from Rockland (I think) please send recipe for molasses cookies that called for 1 pint of molasses boiled 15 minutes? I have misplaced it, and would like it, as they were the best I ever ate. P. Milton, N.H. (Boston Globe, January 5, 1896).
And, for those that might want to go professional:
Female Help Wanted. WANTED – To pay $1 per day for first-class cook, steady job. Milton hotel, Milton, N.H. (Boston Globe, June 29, 1896).