Updated: Feb 5
The winter holidays are a time for baking, whether you're making holiday bread, cookies, pies, or other goodies! So in the spirit of the upcoming winter holidays, it's time for some more heritage recipes from the 1964 Cook Book Edition of the Transcona News. And this time, I am going to be ambitious and try not one, but two dessert recipes for the Transcona Museum Staff's Holiday Bake Exchange!
RECIPE #1 - BUTTERHORNS
To start, I chose a pastry called "Butterhorns" which are a lightly sweet, golden roll with a sugar filling. The main host of ingredients - flour, butter, sour cream, eggs, and salt - were not hard to acquire since I had them on hand in the pantry. As for the filling, the only ingredient I had to purchase was the walnuts. The sugar and cinnamon I had, too.
The first part of the recipe called to "Mix like pie crust" the main ingredients. When it comes to making pie crust, the simplest instructions I have been able to find are those provided by Chatelaine in their "Baking School" video series, specifically their How to Make a Pie segment. Their suggested techniques to mixing pastry dough are great for beginners - like me - and require no fancy tools.
If done correctly, the dough mixture should look somewhat dry and loose with larger clumps of dough - which mine was!
When it came to rolling out the dough, I found the dough to be crumbling on the edges. Despite this, the dough did roll-out nicely with minimal sticking to the countertop (thanks to the flour and a spatula). Next, I cut the dough into a circular shape and divided it as I would a pizza into triangles. The rest of the recipe was very fussy: sprinkle the dough with the sugar filling and roll the triangles into a croissant-shape. When I started to roll the triangles, the filling would spill-out the ends of the butter horns. I had to pinch close the ends as best I could, but the pastry did look like sad-croissants on the baking sheet. At 350 degrees, the butter horns were baked in the oven for 20 minutes until just lightly browned.
RECIPE #2 - SHORTBREAD
What better recipe to make for a holiday bake exchange than shortbread? This basic butter shortbread is a simple 3-ingredient cookie/square and was sure to be a hit. To make this recipe my own, I decided to add 1 tsp of orange extract to the creamed mixture before I incorporated the flour.
Now this recipe is a great example of heritage baking in that there is very little instruction. As the recipe stands, there is no guidance on what to do with the shortbread dough once it's made. Should the dough be baked as cookies or as squares? If squares, what size of pan and how thick/thin should the squares be? As well, at what temperature should the shortbread be baked and for how long? Reasonable questions all, for a modern baker. But not necessary for a baker of the 1960s or earlier.
The difference in recipes produced then is that there was an inherited knowledge when it came to baking. Knowing how to assemble and prepare a shortbread recipe would have been assumed as common knowledge. Consider once again the Butterhorn recipe and its directive to "mix like pie crust". Or consider how our mothers and grandmothers can simply complete a recipe without needing to consult a cookbook or the Internet every 30 seconds. It's a kind of knowledge that should be admired more often.
Unfortunately, this is a knowledge I am definitely lacking and so I consulted with my Mom, whose Scottish Shortbread is absolute perfection. I needed to preheat the oven to 300 degrees, pat the dough into the bottom of an ungreased 13 x 9-inch baking pan, and bake for 40 minutes until just lightly browned. Once I removed the shortbread from the oven, I should pierce the squares with a fork and cut into bars. I also let them cool completely before removing them from the pan.
HOLIDAY BAKE EXCHANGE
I am quite proud of the results of my vintage holiday baking. At the bake exchange, my baking was joined with other desserts such as Cranberry Chocolate Bread, Rice Crispy Caramel Marshmallows, Puppy Chow, Chewy Lemon Snowdrops, OREO-Cherry Cookie Balls, Portuguese Chocolate Salami, Eggnog Cookies, and more. So much holiday dessert goodness and joyous overindulgence!
In my opinion, the shortbread was the better of the two recipes. I made two batches of the shortbread and it's a very consistent recipe. The final results were rich and flaky, without being too dry and tough. As well, the basic recipe allows for great variation and I would consider flavours ideas such as cinnamon, lavender, hazelnut, almond, chocolate, etc.
I was concerned about how the butter horns would turn out after baking, and I was pleasantly surprised! The dough was so wonderfully buttery and flaky, and the sugar filling reminded me of a nice warm, cinnamon bun. I was disappointed though, that the recipe did not produce that many pastries and I had lots of the sugar filling leftover. While making a pastry from scratch is rewarding, I would consider purchasing a pre-made croissant dough to save time and ingredients.
I hope this blog post inspires many readers to go out and try some new holiday recipes this season. The curators and volunteers of the Transcona Museum wish you Good Luck and Happy Holidays!
2 cup four
1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup dairy sour cream
1 egg yolk
1/4 tsp salt
Mix like pie crust, divide dough in half, roll into round balls, and flatten. Chill in refrigerator for 2 hours. Roll dough thin and round, cut in 3 inch triangles. Sprinkle with filling consisting of:
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup crushed walnuts
1/2 tsp cinnamon
Roll up and bake in moderate oven (350 degrees) until light brown, about 20 minutes.
Recipe courtesy of Mrs. Jean Bodner of Dugald.
3 cups flour
1 cup butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
Beat til sugar is dissolved in the butter. Sift in 2 cups of flour, gradually work that in well. Use the other cup of flour on the board while making your shortbread.
Recipe courtesy of Mrs. C.S. Edie of Dugald.