I’m a collector of many things…but one of my most favorite things to collect are cookbooks. They remind me of the stable, happy, warm and cuddly childhood that I didn’t have.
The books that I buy were once owned by people, most likely other women who had survived heart aches, tragedies, endured child birth, lived through the depression and who hopefully had found happiness on their lifes’ journey. These books speak to different times; rationing during the war to the fad of convenience foods in the sixties and seventies. And sometimes, if I’m lucky, I find books with notes from their previous owners;”too much sugar, this one’s a keeper” or “more salt”. And every so often, I find a book that contains a handwritten recipe or two. These recipes embody the lives of the women who cooked…evidence of someone’s life who was not made immortal through an invention or great accomplishment, but a life none the less worth living. Someone who was hopefully loved through life and mourned upon her passing.
From my 19th.ed. of The Blue Ribbon Cook Book pub. in 1924 the best brown bread that I have made, found on a back page, ingredients only, no method, none was needed, everyone knew how Aunt Helen made it…I don’t know who owned this little book, or who Aunt Helen was, but in their honour bake the bread, and make their lives, their history part of yours. Women’s History = Hand Made, Home Made, Keep their stories alive.
Aunt Helen’s Brown Bread
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups all purpose unbleached flour
1 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup Crosby’s molasses (the best in Canada)
2 cups buttermilk (or soured milk)
1/2 cup raisins if desired (I always add them)
Preheat oven to 425° F. and grease a 9×5 inch loaf tin
In a large bowl, combine both flours, baking soda and salt. Stir with a fork to combine. Set aside.
In a smaller bowl, combine molasses and buttermilk, stir lightly.
Make a well in the centre of the flour mixture, add the liquid ingredients, add the raisins if using and stir with a heavy wooden spoon, scraping down the sides with a spatula until just mixed (no more then 3 or 4 minutes). Scrape into prepared loaf tin and bake for approx 45 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Remove from tin and return to oven to bake on the rack to crisp the crust. This step isn’t necessary but does result in a bread that has more of a crust.
Remove to rack to cool, and cool completely before slicing. Makes great toast, with a toast rating factor of 5 out of 5.