24. December 2009 · Comments Off on Christmas Baking, Part One · Categories: General

My favorite part of Christmas is the baking. Unfortunately, Dec was a very busy month for me, so last weekend was my first chance to really bake, and last weekend I came down with a doozy of a head-cold. Yesterday I finally felt human again. I have today off work, so I’ll be doing marathon baking today, to make up for lost time (and also finally sending out my Christmas cards, I hope, although at this point I might as well call them epiphany cards, or at least New Year cards).

Mostly Cajun posted yesterday about a recipe he dug out of a book and tested in his own kitchen, with his own unique additions to it. It sounded delicious (well, except for the raisins), so I’m trying it this morning.

I’m not going to recreate his post, written in his own inimitable Cajun Tanker style, but I’ll share the recipe, and my changes to it. The recipe comes from a book called “How to Cook a Wolf,” by MFK Fisher – it’s a recipe book for when the larder is bare, apparently. Anyway, there’s a recipe in the book called “War Cake,” so named because it was created during wartime, and made allowances for limited foodstuffs. He links to the book in his post, and to the cool website that led him to the recipe. If you like history, and cooking, you should go read his post and follow his links, in between your last-minute Christmas preparations.

The recipe:

2 cups flour
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder

Sift these together

1/2 cup shortening (bacon fat will do)
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp other spices (because you can use whatever’s in your cupboard that you think will work)
1 cup chopped raisins or other dried fruit (figs/prunes, etc – YUCK)
1 cup sugar – white or brown
1 cup water (note: you can substitute coffee for part of the water)

Put these ingredients in a pan and bring to a boil. Cook five minutes. Cool thoroughly. Add the sifted dry ingredients and mix well. Bake 45 minutes or until done in a greased loaf pan in a 325-350 oven.

MC used 1/2 tsp nutmeg & 1/2 tsp ginger for his other spices. That sounded good to me, so I did too. He added chopped pecans. That sounded good too, so I did, as well. HE had some raisins that had been soaking in rum for a week or so, and used those. I cannot abide the taste of raisins. BUT I had fresh apples (hankering for an apple pie), so I diced up an ambrosia apple. Oh, and I had some coffee leftover from yesterday afternoon, so I used about 2/3 cup cold coffee and 1/3 cup water. I used white sugar on this batch, but want to try it again with brown sugar.

I’m currently at the “cool thoroughly” part. He said it reminded him of banana bread, and was so good that he and his son devoured 1/2 of it in the first 30 minutes.

I’ll let you know how mine turns out. I already screwed up the “cook five minutes” part, because I didn’t see that on the recipe. But I know the pot was on the hot burner for at least that long, even if it wasn’t boiling the entire time, so I’m not going to re-do it. Unlike war-time cooks, I have enough ingredients on hand that I can make another batch, if this one is ruined.

p.s. If y’all have never read Mostly Cajun, you need to add him to your list. Down-home common sense, good humour, AND the ability to explain technical electrical doodads, gadgets, and thingummies in a way that even a soft-science person like myself can understand them. He helps keep the energy flowing from the gulf coast to the frigid north so that our yankee friends can be warm.

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