Heirloom Baking with the Brass Sisters: More than 100 Years of Recipes Discovered from Family Cookbooks, Original Journals, Scraps of Paper & Grandmother’s Kitchen lovingly collects those intriguing bits of family history in the form of recipes scribbled on the backs of bridge tallies, grocery sacks, and yellowed bits of paper. Collected from used bookstores, flea markets, yard sales, and from friends, the dozens of vintage recipes ranging from the 1800s to the 1960s and today are snapshots in time, from the frugality of war rationing (Miss Emma Smith’s War Cake) to bridge snacks (Graham Cracker Fudge, Mah Jong Candy) to Jewish comfort foods such as mandelbrot, hamantaschen, and challah.
Sheila and Marilynn Brass have tested, tweaked, and updated these long-lost gems to the modern kitchen, an all-important step to ensuring success. Why is this important? In the good old days, measurements could be imprecise, the texture and type of flour depended on the mill it was ground at, and sugar came in the form of hard cones of loaf sugar that had to be broken and pulverized. Often, oven temperatures were omitted. In addition, they have chosen to use commonly available ingredients (and they include a handy primer on essential ingredients and tips on what was used in the test recipe), making these heirloom baked goods accessible to everyone.
The recipes are grouped loosely by occasion, from breakfast (Pineapple Walnut Breakfast Bars, Helen’s Coffee Bans, Cranberry-Orange Cream Scones) to immigrant recipes (Hazelnut Cake, Libby’s Coconut Linzer Bars, Canadian Sugar Pie, Mrs. Mattie James’ Jamaica Caramel Ice Cream), church recipes (Christian Service Cookies, Reverend Brown’s Cake, Black Pepper Hush Puppies), bridge snacks, holiday recipes , and a chapter on chocolate (French Chocolate Cake with Mocha Frosting, Mocha Ricotta Cake with Ganache Topping, Chocolate Coconut Bread Pudding).
The authors make heirloom baking accessible to the modern cook, and add insightful notes on the original bakers along with kitchen tips on substitutions and variations. This is a wonderful gift for anyone who’s longing to recreate the smells and tastes of grandmother’s kitchen and a joyous ode to simpler times.
One small caveat: according to their website, there is a misprint in the recipe for Mrs. Marasi’s Butterballs, on page 252. Change the amount to 1 cup of butter, not 2 cups of butter.