Bless Your Spoon: A month to celebrate history and food

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 16, 2023

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By Stephanie Williams Dean

This week we’re celebrating March as Women’s History Month — the perfect time to focus on women who helped build and shape America. I want to point out one groundbreaking female artist who made contributions to cultural development in early America. A woman named Patience made a name for herself in the medium of sculpting — she was America’s first professional female sculptor.

Seeing how this is a food column, you’re probably wondering what artists and sculptors have to do with ingredients, foods or recipes. Well, read further. With fewer resources back in the old days, flour was used in many interesting ways, and not just to make cakes.

The daughter of a well-to-do Quaker family, Patience Lovell Wright was born in 1725 and grew up on a farm. To entertain herself, Patience enjoyed sculpting small figures made from wet flour. To decorate her dried figurines, the artist made colored paint by using the extracts of native plants.

Patience married a Quaker farmer in 1748, and the couple eventually had five children. Patience would entertain her children by forming expressive faces out of moldable dough made from wet flour. As the story’s told, Patience would shape figurines under her skirt and then delight her audience by pretending she had birthed a baby. Can’t you just hear the raucous laughter? She must have been quite a character and quite creative.

Sadly, Patience’s husband died when she was pregnant with their fifth child. But she continued to work on her art and later opened a studio. Patience became well known for her sculpting methods and works in molded wax. Much of her work didn’t survive, but one life-sized sculpture of William Pitt, the Earl of Chatham, still stands in London’s Westminster Abbey.

As a way to honor the sacrifice of my Patriot ancestors, I recently joined the Elizabeth Maxwell Steel Chapter of NSDAR, National Society of Daughters of the American Revolution in Salisbury. We meet to foster good citizenship and to emphasize the duty of patriotism and privilege. Members give thanks and honor the memory of their patriot ancestors who dared to settle this land, aid in the cause of American independence, and build our nation.

In keeping with their national motto of God, home and country, February’s program featured student essay winners who read personal writings that fell under topics of education, Americanism and patriotism.

The meeting was held in the messenger room of the Roman Museum where members brought finger foods — a collection of traditional recipes to be shared with students and their parents. The tasty, simple, old-fashioned desserts and savory snacks were made with — guess what? Flour.

Like the Elizabeth Maxwell Steele Chapter, established on Dec. 29, 1898, these foods are some of our long-enduring and personal favorites — still relevant in today’s culinary scene. I like to think of them as rooted in legacy and honored by time. The dessert recipes are ones we go back to again and again — our go-to’s — and often part of our family’s culinary history, as well.

And all just as American as apple pie.

May we all strive to protect and preserve our heritage so we continue to live in freedom and peace.

Red White & Blue Pound Cake

• ½ cup softened salted butter

• 4 ounces softened cream cheese

• 2 cups granulated sugar

• 3 large eggs

• 1 large egg white

• 3 cups all-purpose flour, divided

• 2 cups fresh blueberries, divided

• 1 tsp. baking powder

• ½ tsp. baking soda

• ½ tsp. salt

• 8 ounces lemon yogurt

• 2 tsp. vanilla extract

• ½ cup powdered sugar

• 4 tsp. fresh lemon juice

• Sliced fresh strawberries/blueberries

Icing

• ½ cup powdered sugar

• 4 tsp. fresh lemon juice

In a mixer bowl, cream butter, cream cheese and sugar. Add eggs and egg white, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Measure out flour and remove 2 Tbsp. to toss with blueberries in a bowl. Then add remaining flour, baking powder, soda and salt to butter mixture while alternating with yogurt and vanilla. Mix well. Gently fold in flour-coated blueberries. Bake in a greased and floured 10-inch tube pan in a preheated 350-degree oven for 1 hour and 10 minutes or until tests done. Cool for 10 minutes and remove from pan. While still warm, place small whole or sliced fruit on top. Drizzle icing all over cake and fruit. For icing, combine sugar and juice until smooth.

Patriotic Pecan Squares

• ½ pound softened, salted butter

• ½ cup sugar

• 1 egg

• ¼ tsp. salt

• 1 finely grated rind large lemon

• 3 cups sifted all-purpose flour

Filling:

• ½ pound cut up, softened butter

• ½ cup honey

• ¼ cup granulated sugar

• 1 cup plus 2 Tbsp. dark brown sugar

• ¼ cup heavy cream

• 5 cups pecan pieces

For crust, in a mixer bowl, cream butter and sugar. Beat in egg, salt and grated lemon rind. Add flour gradually until mixture is smooth and holds together. If dough is sticky, flour your fingertips. Press dough mixture over bottom and sides of a 15 x 10 x 1 jelly roll pan and prick with a fork. Chill 10 minutes. Bake in a preheated 375-degree oven for 20 minutes or until half-baked and lightly colored around edges. Remove from oven. For the filling, in a heavy saucepan, heat butter and honey until butter melts. Add sugars and stir to dissolve. Bring mixture to a boil for 2 minutes without stirring. Remove from heat and immediately stir in cream and pecans. Mix well. Spread hot mixture over prebaked crust. Return to hot oven and bake additional 25 minutes. Allow to cool completely. Cut around the sides to release, and then cut into small squares.

Passionate Pear-Apple Pie

• 3 cups peel/thin slice ripe pears

• 3 cups peel/thin slice tart apples

• 3 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice

• 1 cup mild-flavored honey

• 1/8 tsp. salt

• ¼ cup cornstarch

• ½ tsp. nutmeg

• 1 9-inch pie crust pastries

• 2 Tbsp. salted butter

In a large bowl, combine pears and apples. Sprinkle with fresh lemon juice. Gently stir in honey. In a bowl, combine salt, cornstarch and nutmeg. Add to the fruit and lightly toss to evenly distribute. On a floured surface, roll out one pie crust pastry and fit into a 9-inch pie plate. Turn filling into the pastry and mound high in center. Dot fruit with pieces of butter. Trim pastry ½-inch past rim of plate. Roll out remaining pastry. To move it, fold in half, lift and cover half of pie. Unfold, trim, seal and flute pie edges. Make several slashes in center of pastry to allow steam to escape. Bake 50-60 minutes in a preheated 425-degree oven or until fruit is tender and crust golden brown. Slightly cool and serve warm or at room temperature. In season ripe peaches can be used in place of pears.

Americana Caramel Coconut Brownies

• 2 beaten eggs

• 1 tsp. vanilla extract

• 2 cups packed brown sugar

• 1 cup all-purpose flour

• 2 tsp. baking powder

• 1 tsp. salt

• ½ cup plus 2 Tbsp. Wesson oil

• 1 cup chopped pecans

• 1 cup coconut (optional)

In a mixer bowl, beat eggs. Add vanilla. Add sugar and mix well. Add flour, baking powder, and salt while alternating with vegetable oil. Mix well. Bake in a greased and floured baking pan in a preheated 350-degree oven for 20-25 minutes or until done. Allow to cool.

Love Of Country Lemon Cupcakes

• 4 beaten eggs

• 1 box Duncan Hines butter yellow cake mix

• 1 box Jello lemon instant pudding

• ¾ cup Wesson vegetable oil

• ¾ cup water

Glaze:

• Fresh lemon juice

• Powdered sugar

In a mixer bowl, beat eggs. Add cake and pudding mixes while alternating with oil and water. Mix well. Pour into greased or paper-lined cupcake tins. Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 15-20 minutes. Dip tops of cupcakes in glaze while cupcake is still hot from the oven. Allow to cool. For the glaze, squeeze fresh lemon juice into a bowl. Add just enough powdered sugar according to form a glaze.

Trudy’s Red Velvet Cookies

• 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour

• 2 ½ Tbsp. Hershey’s cocoa

• 1 ½ tsp cornstarch

• 1 tsp. baking soda

• 1 tsp salt

• 8 Tbsp. softened, salted butter

• 6 Tbsp. Crisco shortening

• 1 ½ cups sugar

• 1 egg and 1 egg yolk

• 1 ½ tsp. vinegar

• 1 ½ tsp. vanilla extract

• 1 Tbsp.  red food coloring

• 1 1/3 cups white chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375. Whisk together flour, cocoa, cornstarch, baking soda and salt; set aside. Using a mixer set on medium speed, combine butter, shortening and sugar. Mix for about 5 minutes until fluffy. Add the eggs and mix until just combined. Add vinegar, vanilla and food coloring and mix with a spoon. Slowly add the dry ingredients. Add chocolate chips and mix with a spoon or spatula. Drop cookies (1 ½ T) onto a cookie sheet and mold into a round shape. Do not flatten. Bake 8-9 minutes. Yields about 36 large cookies

Patriot’s Apple Cake

• 3 beaten eggs

• 2 cups sugar

• 2 tsp. vanilla extract

• 3 cups all-purpose flour

• 1 tsp. salt

• 1 tsp. baking soda

• 1 tsp. ground cinnamon

• 1 ½ cups Wesson vegetable oil

• 3 cups peeled/cored/finely chop tart apples

• 1 cup finely chopped nuts, garnish

Icing

• ¼ pound softened salted butter

• ¼ cup canned evaporated milk

• 1 cup light brown sugar

For the cake, in a mixer bowl, beat eggs. Add sugar and vanilla extract. Mix well. Add flour, salt, baking soda and cinnamon while alternating with vegetable oil. Mix well. Fold in chopped apples. Mix well. Bake in a well-greased and floured tube pan in a preheated 325-degree oven for 1½ hours or until tests done. Allow cake to completely cool. For the icing, in a saucepan, bring butter, milk and sugar to a boil. Continue to cook to soft ball stage (234 degrees) for about 10 minutes. Beat with a mixer. Frost cooled cake. Garnish with chopped nuts.

Loyalist Shortcakes with Fruit

• 1 ½ cup biscuit mix

• 2 Tbsp. sugar

• ½ cup heavy cream

• 1-pint fresh fruit/berries

• 2 Tbsp. sugar

• 1 tsp. grated orange rind

• ½ cup heavy cream

• 1 Tbsp. sugar

• ½ tsp. vanilla extract

• Whole fruit berries, garnish

In a mixer bowl, combine biscuit mix, sugar and cream. Stir until dough forms. On a lightly floured surface, knead 10 times and roll dough into circles ½-inch thick. Cut 4 circles with a floured 2 ¾-inch biscuit cutter. Arrange biscuits on greased cookie sheet. Bake in a preheated 450-degree oven for 12 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool. For the fruit, crush 1 cup of berries. Add sugar and orange rind. Slice remaining berries in half if large berries and add. Chill. Split biscuits, spoon fruit mixture over 4 halves. Top with remaining biscuit halves. Whip cream until soft peaks form. Fold in sugar and vanilla. Spoon over shortcakes. Garnish with additional fruit.

Patriotic Cocoa Brownies

• 1 cup softened, salted butter

• 2 cups sugar

• 2 tsp. vanilla extract

• 4 eggs

• 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

• ½ cup Hershey’s unsweet cocoa

• ½ tsp. salt

• 1 cup chopped nuts

Icing

• 1 stick softened, salted butter

• 4 Tbsp. Hershey’s unsweet cocoa

• 6 Tbsp. evaporated milk

• 16 ounces powdered sugar

• 1 tsp. vanilla extract

For the brownies, in a mixer bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add eggs one at a time, mixing thoroughly between each addition, and vanilla. Beat in flour, cocoa and salt. Mix well. Fold in chopped pecans or walnuts. Bake in a greased and floured 9 x 13 baking pan in a preheated 350-degree oven for 20-22 minutes or until done. Don’t overbake. For the icing, in a saucepan, bring butter, cocoa and milk to a soft boil. Remove from heat and stir in powdered sugar and vanilla until smooth. Pour icing over brownies. Allow to sit until icing hardens.

Allegiance Lemon Squares

• 2 sticks softened, salted butter

• 2 cups all-purpose flour

• ½ cup powdered sugar

• 4 beaten eggs

• 2 cups sugar

• 6 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice

• 1 Tbsp. all-purpose flour

• ½ tsp. baking powder

• Powdered sugar

For the crust, in a bowl, combine softened butter, flour and powdered sugar. Press into bottom and up sides of a 9 x 13 baking pan. Bake in a preheated 325-degree oven for 15 minutes. For the filling, in a mixer bowl, beat eggs. Add sugar, lemon juice, flour and baking powder. Mix thoroughly and pour into still warm crust. Bake in the preheated 325-degree oven for 40-50 minutes. Cool 5 minutes and sprinkle with powdered sugar.

National No-Bake Oat Cookies

• 2 ½ cups quick-cook oatmeal

• 1 stick melted, salted butter

• 2 cups sugar

• 4 Tbsp. Hershey’s cocoa

• ½ cup whole milk

• ½ cup smooth peanut butter

• 1 tsp. vanilla extract

In a large bowl, pour oatmeal and set aside. In a saucepan, bring melted butter, sugar, cocoa and milk to a boil while constantly stirring for exactly 1 minute. Remove from heat and stir in peanut butter and vanilla until combined. Pour the mixture over the oatmeal and mix thoroughly. Drop by spoonfuls onto wax paper. Allow to completely cool. This is an old Macy’s Department Store recipe.

Ancestor’s Amaretto Cake

• 6 beaten egg yolks

• 2/3 cup sugar

• ½ cup Amaretto liqueur

• 1 envelope unflavored gelatin

• ½ cup whole milk

• 1 pint whipping cream

• 1/3 cup sugar

• 6 stiffly beaten egg whites

• 1 large angel food cake

Frosting:

• ½ pint whipping cream

• ¼ cup sugar

• Maraschino cherries

• Toasted sliced almonds

In a saucepan, combine beaten egg yolks, sugar and Amaretto and cook over medium heat until thickened. In a bowl, soak gelatin in milk. Add gelatin milk mixture to the hot egg mixture. Continue to heat until gelatin is dissolved. Set aside. In a mixer bowl, beat egg whites until stiff and set aside. In a mixer bowl, whip cream with sugar, and then fold in the beaten egg whites. Fold the egg white mixture into the set-aside egg yolk mixture. Tear cake into bits and stir into custard mixture. Pour all into a springform pan. Chill thoroughly. When ready to frost, remove the cake from the mold. For the frosting, just before serving, whip cream with sugar. Frost with whipped cream and garnish with cherries and toasted almonds.