Friday, September 11, 2009

Book Review: Heirloom Baking

This morning as I sip my hot coffee, I am also enjoying a sweet butterscotch bar with a taste reminiscent of sugared pecans roasted in the oven during the holidays.  This past weekend while at Half Price Book's Labor Day sale, I found a lovely baking cookbook that is quite unique from others I have seen.  Not only does it have the most comical looking sisters on the front cover but it also boasts some of the most delicious recipes from several past generations.  The full title of the book is Heirloom Baking with the Brass Sisters: More than 100 years of recipes discovered from family cookbooks, original journals, scraps of paper, and grandmother's kitchen.  Whew!  There are recipes from the late 1800's like Grandmother's Biscuits (sugar cookies) and Grete Leonard's Canadian Butter Tarts, a recipe from the 1990's named Chocolate Graham Toffee Fingers, and some very unique recipes like Dorothy Brass's Pineapple Pie and Mama's Apricot Strudel with Cream Cheese Crust (YUM!).  The pictures that accompany some of the recipes are mouth-watering and make me want to bake every single recipe from the book (hello, exercise!).  There is also a section in the back for recipes you may want to write down and a cute little pocket for recipe cards you may have been given from your own grandmother.  
Yesterday,  I chose the Butterscotch Bars with Brown Sugar Meringue Topping from the 1930's for my first recipe to try.  As I was mixing the egg whites with the brown sugar, I began thinking about how amazing it is to be baking from a recipe that was used in the past generations' kitchens.  It is something that links women together and creates a special bond by knowing that those women who have gone before us were also figuring out the whole homemaking thing.  They were the homemakers who knew what it was like to try a new recipe only to burn the delicate crust or scorch the blueberry strudel.  They were the homemakers who understood how special it was to bake something lovely for a tired husband when he came home.  They were the homemakers who found joy in baking with their children, teaching them their cherished recipes that had been passed down from grandmother to mother to child.  And now, we are those homemakers. 
 It is vital that we understand the importance of homemaking.  The family as a whole has gotten so busy and so scattered that we forget what baking does for a family.  It causes a family to slow down and savor the goodness of something you prepared just for their enjoyment.  As Edith Schaffer states, "And it is time well spent in really having a family life, in making home more fun than any other place, which makes other 'attractions' seem boring by contrast." (She is talking about creative recreation but I think it also goes for other types of homemaking.)  There is a sense of excitement as the smell of chocolate chip cookies baking in the oven fills the house on a rainy day.  There is a sense of welcome when one comes home from work, opens the door, and is greeted with the smell of fresh baked bread awaiting their arrival.  It makes coming home something one can look forward to.  Baking is important and a tradition that homemakers must not forsake.  Slow down, enjoy the process of leveling, pouring, mixing, tasting the batter with your finger, and give your family and yourself something sweet to savor.


  1. This was a great post, Renee! I love your can tell you really enjoy both what you're describing and the writing process as well. Have you read N.D. Wilson's latest book, Notes from the Tilt-a-whirl? Our church is doing a book study the end of this month, so we just got it and I'm reading it right now, and I think you'd LOVE it.

  2. No, I haven't heard of that book. In fact, I haven't read any of N.D. Wilson's books...only Nancy and Douglas. I will have to read that one! Thanks for the compliments. :~)