From the kitchen of One Perfect Bite...We've reached the third week of a challenge that explores the food and recipes of the women who made Gourmet's list of the 50 most influential women in the food industry. It might surprise some to know that Fannie Farmer, a name that becomes less familiar with the passage of time, garnered third place on the list. The first spot went to Julia Child for her cooking and the way it stimulated interest in food and how it is prepared. Alice Waters took second place for her part in the greening our kitchens, and her efforts to simplify
and improve the quality of the food we eat by inspiring the use of fresh and local ingredients in its preparation. Fannie Merritt Farmer, closed ranks behind them and grabbed third place because of her recipes. The Fannie Farmer Cookbook, formally known as The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book, was the first cookbook to include standard, or exact, measures in its recipes. Her book was first published in 1896. A stroke at the age of 16 kept her at home for many years and she turned to cooking to help pass the time. She became an accomplished cook, and, as her health improved, she was able to formally study cooking at the prestigious Boston Cooking School. Her true interest, however, was in the science of food and nutrition and she wanted to share what she had learned with home cooks. Little Brown agreed to publish her first book, but they had so little faith in the possibility of its success, that she had to pay for the printing of the first edition herself. The arrangement proved to be fortuitous because it made her sole owner of the book's copyright. Her book has been continuously in print since its first publication, some 4,000,000 copies ago. Newer editions of the cookbook look nothing like the one that was first published and its recipes now follow a formula common to modern cookbooks. That's fine and prudent, but I wanted to follow a recipe as she had written it all those years ago. Call it whimsy. I finally settled on one I had found for rhubarb custard pie. It is an old fashioned delight. It will never replace the strawberry-rhubarb pie made in today's kitchens, but it's not half bad, and, sometimes, not half bad is good enough. Her original recipe for the pie appears below, courtesy of Bartlelby.com. I doubled the ingredients to produce the pie photographed for this post. Each category that is covered in the book begins with common instructions for all the recipes within that group. That is followed by a breakdown of ingredients needed for a specific recipe. The section on pies looks like this.
PASTE for pies should be one-fourth inch thick and rolled a little larger than the plate to allow for shrinking. In dividing paste for pies, allow more for upper than under crusts. Always perforate upper crusts that steam may escape. Some make a design, others pierce with a large fork.
Flat rims for pies should be cut in strips three-fourths inch wide. Under crusts should be brushed with cold water before putting on rims, and rims slightly fulled, otherwise they will shrink from edge of plate. The pastry-jagger, a simple device for cutting paste, makes rims with fluted edges.
Pies requiring two crusts sometimes have a rim between the crusts. This is mostly confined to mince pieces, where there is little danger of juice escaping. Sometimes a rim is placed over upper crust. Where two pieces of paste are put together, the under piece should always be brushed with cold water, the upper piece placed over, and the two pressed lightly together; otherwise they will separate during baking.
When juicy fruit is used for filling pies, some of the juices are apt to escape during baking. As a precaution, bind with a strip of cotton cloth wrung out of cold water and cut one inch wide and long enough to encircle the plate. Squash, pumpkin, and custard pies are much less care during baking when bound. Where cooked fruits are used for filling, it is desirable to bake crusts separately. This is best accomplished by covering an inverted deep pie plate with paste and baking for under crust. Prick with a fork before baking. Slip from plate, and fill. For upper crusts, roll a piece of paste a little larger than the pie plate, prick, and bake on a tin sheet.
For baking pies, eight inch perforated tin plates are used. They may be bought shallow or deep. By the use of such plates the under crust is well cooked. Pastry should be thoroughly baked and well browned. Pies require from thirty-five to forty-five minutes for baking. Never grease a pie plate; good pastry greases its own tin. Slip pies, when slightly cooled, to earthen plates.
1-1/2 cups rhubarb 1 egg
7/8 cup sugar 2 tablespoons flour
Skin and cut stalks of rhubarb in half-inch pieces before measuring. Mix sugar, flour, and egg; add to rhubarb and bake between crusts. Many prefer to scald rhubarb before using; if so prepared, losing some of its acidity, less sugar is required.
Additional recipes and tributes to Fannie Farmer can be found on these excellent blogs.
Val - More Than Burnt Toast
Joanne - Eats Well With Others
Taryn - Have Kitchen Will Feed
Susan - The Spice Garden
Claudia - A Seasonal Cook in Turkey
Heather - girlichef
Everyone is welcome to participate. If you'd like to join us next Friday when we salute Martha Stewart let me know via email.