Fun Vintage Discovery
Recently, I made a fun discovery finding a selection of vintage booklets from the Wisconsin Electric Power Company. My maternal grandparents lived in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where my mother grew up. After my grandmother passed on, my mother kept this undated booklet and four others dated 1939, '45, '46, and '52.
Seeing this particular booklet sparked my interest in learning more about early electric stoves and ranges, and I will share some of that information below, plus leave informative links at the bottom of this page under "Sources."
I will also share three recipes from this vintage booklet that we tested, which called for bread flour as an ingredient. You can see my results using that product in the three cookie recipes below.
Evolution of Cooking Methods
Most people have come a long way since the days of only cooking food over open fires. Today it is often done for fun when camping and roasting marshmallows, for example. But there was a time going back in ancient times when our forebears had few other options.
Advances in using clay to fashion an implement to contain fire took place during the Qin dynasty. That was an early rendition of what we now recognize as a stove dating back to 221 to 207 B.C.
Wood and coal were the supplies of choice for burning fires before gas became more widely utilized. A patent by James Sharp (from Northhampton, England) for a gas stove was filed in 1826.
Thomas Ahearn (a Canadian executive) assembled the first electric range in 1892, and William S. Hadaway Jr. received the first U.S. patent on June 30, 1896, for an electric stove.
In the 1930s and '40s, as rural electrification projects took place across the United States, people living in the countryside could join those living in cities in having electricity available to their homes and businesses. Those people shifting from gas to electric generally appreciated the ease of keeping the stoves clean. They were also less expensive than the gas ones in existence at the time.
Following World War II, consumers saw many advertisements for these newer electric ranges and began purchasing them. I remember seeing the one with a deep well cooker on my parents' stove in the 1950s. They have gone out of fashion these days on stovetops.
At the six-minute mark in the video below, you can see a deep well cooker on a 1950s electric range.
"Change is always good. You can't keep tradition all the time. Yes, Grandma cooked on a wood stove but she would have used electricity if she could."
— Alvin Leung, chef and TV personality
"Benjamin Franklin may have discovered electricity, but it was the man who invented the meter who made the money."
— Earl Wilson
With instructions on "how to use your electric range," this booklet consists of 19 pages. There are numerous recipes, including the following topics: yeast bread, rolls and biscuits, cakes, cookies, and pies.
Under the subject of Dinner Menus, they include mixed grills, meats and fowl, fish, casserole dishes, vegetables, miscellaneous, puddings, desserts and sauces, pickles, preserves, and jelly.
Cookie Recipes and Bread Flour
I decided to test three cookie recipes that all use bread flour as an ingredient. Previous to this, I had never used bread flour in a cookie recipe.
Bread flour has more protein content in comparison to other types of flour. That type of flour gives baked goods higher strength and structure. The cookie recipes I tried out of this booklet held their initial form and did not spread out on the cookie sheet as most other cookies do.
You can learn much more about different types of flour by watching the video below. That includes whether the flour comes from hard or soft wheat, red or white wheat, the different grinds, protein content, and components such as the endosperm, germ, and bran. It makes a difference when following recipes to be using the correct type of flour.
Recipe 1: Swiss Cookies
Surprisingly, despite the amount of grated lemon peel and lemon juice in this recipe, the predominant flavor comes from the cinnamon and sugar topping instead of the lemon. It is not an overly sweet cookie, and I prefer that.
When first trying to roll out the dough, it did not work. After tightly scrunching it together in my hands, it was after that I could roll it out. I had to do that with all of the seemingly dry cookie dough. The result was satisfactory, but merely following the original recipe, I wondered if it was somehow flawed. One of my photos shows the recipe as written.
Also, the 1/2 cup of sugar with a tablespoon of cinnamon made more than what I needed to top the cookies. I used it generously but still had some leftovers. I will leave it in the instructions if you decide to use more than I did. Or, like me, you will have some excess for your next bowl of oatmeal or a piece of buttered toast.
- 1/2 pound butter
- 1 cup of sugar divided
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 1/2 cups bread flour
- 4 egg yolks divided
- Grated rind of 2 lemons and 1 teaspoon of lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon cinnamon
- Cream the butter, add 1/2 cup of the sugar, and blend well.
- Slowly add some of the flour, two egg yolks, lemon juice and rind, salt, and the remainder of the flour, blending well.
- Chill in the refrigerator for a couple of hours.
- Roll to 1/4 inch thickness and cut into the desired shape with a cookie cutter. (This is where I had to squeeze the dough together before rolling it.)
- Brush the tops of the cookies with the remaining two beaten egg yolks and sprinkle with 1/2 cup of sugar and a tablespoon of the cinnamon mixture.
- Bake in a 400-degree Fahrenheit oven until golden brown (10 to 15 minutes).
"Baking is both an art and a science."
— Sherry Yard
Recipe 2: Soft Molasses "Cooky"
This recipe is apt regarding the soft label, and the spelling of cooky is not a misprint.
The directions were to drop the cookies on greased cooky sheets. I did that by using rounded teaspoons full of batter. You can see by my photos that the baked product held its initial form because of the more firm bread flour. If you wish to have a smoother result, you might consider using a small scoop like that for melon balls.
The original recipe says you will have between 35 to 40 medium cookies, but making it the way I did, I ended up with five dozen tasty medium-sized cookies.
- 1 cup shortening (2/3 lard, 1/3 butter)
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1 cup molasses
- 1 cup hot water
- 5 cups bread flour
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Sift together the flour, baking soda, spices, and salt.
- Cream the shortening and sugar together, then add the well-beaten egg.
- Mix the hot water and the molasses.
- Add the liquid and dry ingredients alternately to the bowl with the shortening, beating only enough to mix well.
- Drop on greased cookie sheets and bake for about 15 minutes in a 375-degree Fahrenheit oven.
Recipe 3: Scotch Scones
I think of a scone as more of a light biscuit type of product rather than a cookie, but I was intrigued by the small number of ingredients and decided to try this Scotch Scone recipe. It is a delightful little cookie, making a total of seven dozen, and it turned out to be a favorite of some of our neighbors.
The original directions were to bake them for 10 or 12 minutes, but it only took 7 to 8 minutes in our oven.
- 1 cup butter, softened
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 1 cup powdered sugar (minus 2 tablespoons)
- 2 cups bread flour
- Put the brown sugar into a 1-cup measure and fill the rest of the cup with powdered sugar.
- Cream butter, add sugar, and cream well.
- Add flour, mix well, and form into two rolls about 5 or 6 inches long.
- Place in refrigerator overnight.
- Next morning, slice very thin and bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 7 to 8 minutes.
- EDinformatics: Gas and Electric Stove History
- From announcingit blog: Electric Appliances Timeline
- ThoughtCo: History of the Oven From Cast Iron to Electric
- Wikipedia: Electric Stove
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2022 Peggy Woods