cracking old-school crackers

crackers.jpgWe’re back to flipping through Great-aunt Helen’s recipe box, but this time we look outside of that box. Turns out there are two smaller recipe books in her collection as well and while they contain fewer recipes than the boxes, they have charm and personality. The first20160524_125526.jpg has a slightly puzzling (and beautiful) inscription on the inside cover.20160524_125542.jpgThis was a “wow” discovery for me. I knew Great-aunt Helen as an older lady and she’d never had a man in her life as long as I’d known her. So this comment about “The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach” floored me. It spoke of an era I knew nothing of. Who drew the lovely sketch, I’ve no idea. (The pencilled-in lines sandwiched between the photo and quote are hard to decipher.) This priceless doodling is, in my mind, where the written word far surpasses anything we do digitally.

But this week’s recipes came from an old-school wood-covered book.20160524_125514.jpgAt first glance, I thought I’d be making graham crackers, but containing only milk, cream, and flour, they would not be sweet. Much of this “recipe” was left to the imagination, but I figured I had enough to go on to at least try.cracker-recipe.jpg.jpeg

My attempt to translate:

Crackers – graham cream                                       1979

1 part cream to 4 parts milk; mix with flour; as soft as can be handled; knead 20 minutes; roll very thin; cut square and bake quickly. Handle carefully white hot; pack away in a stone jar when cool.

p 318 – Kate Field’s Cookbook (mother’s) 1910 or so

delicious – like Peek Frean biscuits – good with salad & cheese

4-7-84 if using whole wheat flour, make with some white flour. Bake about 10 minutes in 350 or 375° oven – break in pieces to store in tightly covered tins. (Norwegian class)

Though I was unable to dig up anything about this “Kate Field’s cookbook” online, I did find mention of Peek Frean biscuits. Their history intrigued me.

As for the recipe itself, there was a lot of guesswork, but in the end it looked something like this:

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup whole milk
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons cream

Heat oven to 375°F. In bowl, stir together 2 1/4 cups flour, the milk and cream until dough forms. Turn out onto work surface. Knead, working in as much of the 1/4 cup extra flour as needed, 10 minutes (20 was more than I could manage) or until smooth dough forms. Roll until very thin (Helen was master of this – her sugar cookies were paper thin.); transfer to baking sheet. Bake 10 to 15 minutes or until lightly browned. Transfer to wire rack to cool.

20160524_125604.jpgThe verdict? Helen’s suggestion to serve with salad and crackers seemed the best bet as these were plain (dare I say boring?) crackers. A touch of salt in the dough would have improved the flavor ten-fold.

20160524_131341.jpg

croutons on the side

But then I tried the crackers with a touch of butter and jam. And then hummus. Guacamole. Creamed honey. Now I love these crispy, sturdy crackers. (That said, I’d still try a bit of salt just because I can.)

Better yet, they are truly reflective of who great-Aunt Helen was. On the surface, she was plain. Her shag haircut was sensible as was the salt-and-pepper graying of her hair; her sturdy shoes were sensible; her plaid polyester pants, navy blue turtleneck, and navy socks were eminently sensible.

Yet Helen was a classic and had staying power, just like these crackers. Consider: it’s been nearly 40 years since this cracker recipe was “published” in her treasured recipe book and they’re still being made. As well, these crackers are hard-working, forming foundation for any number of sweet and savory toppings. Helen was an incredibly hard worker, dedicating much of her life to social work with the University of Minnesota. If one were to personify food (and I am one that will), these crackers are pure Helen.

This post will finish as do the others in Helen’s Recipe Box series, with an invitation to return next week to see what adult beverage we’ll be sipping with these basic but classic crackers.

crackers.jpg

DIY crackers circa 1979

 

 

27 thoughts on “cracking old-school crackers

  1. I love old recipes and love that book, the sketch is wonderful and I am always amazed at the directions which can sometimes be vague in comparison to the directions now days. Very nice crackers, always good to have crackers ready for quick snacking or when company comes.

    • Yay, it’s you! Thank you for coming over 🙂 I think of you everytime I receive a Mary’s Secret Ingredient box. Still love those.

      Appreciate your kind words very much. Now off to see what you’ve been up to!

  2. This is crazy! I loved this post. What a find and so funny about the inscription. Are you sure it’s hers and didn’t come with the book? Amazing. As for these crackers, what an amazing homage to a cool woman. I love that you thought these would be graham crackers and then that they were plain, but discovered it’s good use and staying power, which made them like the woman herself. I love that you have 2 more notebooks now and let her live on through her food. I don’t know why these posts to posterity make me weepy if I think too long about the beauty of what you’re doing here.

  3. i love the wooden book and the one with the handwritten notes, too. i like a good, sturdy cracker, that is plain flavor. it doesn’t take away from the taste of whatever you have going with it –

  4. What a great recipe for it’s simplicity. It makes me crave crackers even if they aren’t graham. Can’t wait to see what you pair with these crackers. 🙂

    The drawing and inscription is a great clue to who your great aunt was. I’m glad you’re back doing the series!

    • Would love to know more about your favorite cracker recipes, Joan. Topped with apple butter, of course 🙂 Thank you much for coming over!

  5. The crackers look very similar to pita chips. Good neutral carbs for any sweet or savory. And I love the two chefs rolling the rolling pin. Goodness, so cute! Rosy cheeks and all. That sketch is really cool, too. Looks like late 20s, early 30s hairdo. And you know I love aprons. Now I’m wondering about the men in Helen’s early life. Maybe there will be a recipe called Lasagna for Long-Lost Lance?

    • Yes, neutral carbs for sure. The sketch is my favorite. So arty 🙂 And she looks so very chic in that apron. Ha, Long-Lost Lasagna Lance – love it!

  6. This is definitely a good base recipe. Sprinkle some everything seasoning on top and you’ve got some high end crackers you would pay a lot of money for at the store. Plain goes well with goat cheese and jam. Like the salad idea too. The cookbooks are fantastic! Your Au t He,en reminds me of my Great Aunt Kate. She too never had a man in her life and was similar in personality. Imagine the shock when we all found out after her death that she had been married and had it annulled when she was younger!

    • You’re making me hungry with your talk of goat cheese and jam and seasoning, Gretchen! Always love your thoughts. And how cool that you had a similar sort of great-Aunt. These older women were pioneers, for sure. Divorce was shocking back then for sure.

    • You’re a cracker fan, then Mum? 🙂 These won’t compare to packaged crackers as those are usually fried. But if it’s all about the topping you’re good with these! Thank you for coming on over.

  7. What a great basic homemade recipe for crackers! It looks so easy and so simple. You can pretty much add anything you want. Thanks for sharing Liz. And thanks for stopping by my blog and liking one of my posts. Have a great week ahead. 🙂

    • Thanks, Anna. Glad to have connected with you again. I wish I were a better follower of other blogs–like yours–as the community is so amazing. Appreciate you being here.

      • It’s my pleasure, Liz. It’s understandable. We can only do so much. No one knows the life any of us lead. Some bloggers can post daily and reply to comments almost immediately. I can’t. And it’s okay. I don’t stress over it anymore. Does this mean I’m ignoring them? No. Family comes first. I just try the best I can to visit other blogs whenever I can. And if I can’t do it all at once, there’s always the next day or next week. 🙂 Best wishes to you Liz.
        ~Anna

        • What a lovely reply, Anna! I still feel the guilt as folks are so nice, but you’re right that we can only do what we can do. Agreed that family comes first.

          • It is difficult sometimes because no one really knows what’s in your heart. But, God does. It’s human to feel guilty. I was too. But, no longer. To me, as long as I know myself that I tried my best to keep up with the community, that is all that matters. If they don’t understand, then there is nothing I can do. I wish you well, Liz. Enjoy the rest of the week. 🙂

  8. I appreciate your dedicating these crackers as representative of how your Great Aunt lived. Such an apt description of both her dedication and straightforward way of life and the durable use of crackers! Liz, this was such a warm and friendly post!

    • Thank you 🙂 You are so kind with your words, always. It’s been fun to bring Helen back a bit through her recipes. She’s been gone a long while but she was such a force in our family’s life. She helped me, my brother, and her other four grand-nieces and -nephews get through college so in a way we are part of her legacy 😀

      • This is definitely a wonderful gift she passed on as her education funding, Liz. I like to draw pen and ink drawings so forgot to mention how really nicely down was the inside cover for Aunt Helen. The wooden cover is unique to me on the other recipe cookbook, although it may have been just less done in my family. Great sounding crackers and I liked your sangria post, too. 🙂 Now, if someone could only figure out her love story?! 😉

        • Thinking I’ll never know. My mom was the oldest of her nieces and her siblings (one of them, my grandpa) are all gone. Very cool that you are also an artist!

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