Category Archives: Biscuits

Day 344: Ginger Biscuits

The busy season is here. Tonight I went to the annual year-end gathering of area museum colleagues and I’m putting the finishing touches on a talk I’m giving tomorrow night to a Home Economics Association. This means I have less time to cook tonight so I’m going to try a Christmassy sounding recipe from the Biscuit section of The New Galt Cook Book (1898). It’s called Ginger Biscuits by Mrs. R. Barrie.

I decided to cut this recipe in half so I put 1 cup of brown sugar and tried to figure out half of 3/4 cup of mixed lard and butter. I creamed those together and then added 1/2 cup of molasses and 1 beaten egg. Next I added 1/2 tablespoon baking soda, 1/2 tablespoon vinegar. Finally I measured and added 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon ginger and 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg. It took more than 2 cups of flour to make a stiff batter. I rolled some out and put the biscuits on a baking sheet. I baked the ginger biscuits for 7 minutes at 375 F.

Mrs. R Barrie is Isabella Redpeth. She was born in Scotland in 1824 making her one of the oldest contributors to this cookbook. I don’t know when she came to Canada but she was living here by 1851 and married to farmer Robert Barrie. They already had two little children. I’m surprised that they have just one more child. The children are very spread out in age making me wonder if there were children in between who didn’t survive. By 1891 the children have moved out and Isabella and Robert live on their own with a servant named Katie Caven. Robert died just a year after this cook book was published but Isabella lived until 1920 making her 96 when she died.

Ginger Biscuits are wonderful but they are cookies not biscuits as I know them. Isabella must have been using the term biscuits as it is used in Britain. These cookies are nicely spiced, light tasting and not overly sweet — just right with a cup of tea. I put away the butter and jam I’d planned to have with my biscuits and instead enjoyed my ginger cookies.

Mrs. R. Barrie

One cup molasses, one of brown sugar, three-quarters cup of butter and lard mixed, one tablespoonful of baking soda, one of vinegar, two beaten eggs, one teaspoonful o cinnamon, one of ginger and one of nutmeg, a little salt, flour enough to make a stiff batter. Roll out and bake in a brisk oven.


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Day 332: Tea Biscuits

I’ve made several of the recipes in the Biscuits section of the 1898 New Galt Cook Book but for some unknown reason I haven’t tried Mrs. Radford‘s recipe for Tea Biscuits. Tonight I’m going to try this detailed recipe for a simple product.

I am going to cut this recipe in half so that I don’t have an abundance of biscuits. I put 2 cups of white flour in a sifter and added 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda and 1 teaspoon of cream of tartar. I sifted them together and then added a little more than 1/2 tablespoon of butter. I rubbed the butter into the flour. Next I added regular milk to make it a stiff batter.  I wasn’t sure if these are drop or rolled biscuits but I treated it part way as a rolled biscuit. I took chunks of the dough and rolled it and flattened it before placing onto a greased baking pan and baked the biscuits for 20 minutes at 375 F.  They had risen and were browning round the edges when I removed them from the oven. It was time to taste.

Mrs. Radford is probably Mary Robertson Phillip. She was born in 1865 in Galt and was just 17 when she married Joseph Henry Radford in 1882. He was a doctor and you can read all about him here since he was inducted into the Cambridge Hall of Fame for his service to the community. This write up mentions that Mr. Radford went to Winnipeg for a bit to look into setting up a practice. Did Mrs. Radford go too or did she stay at home? Was she his nurse when he got typhoid fever? Was she ever worried about him bringing home contagion to their two children.

The best thing about these biscuits is the description about how to make biscuits. There’s nothing wrong with them but they aren’t anything special either.


Mrs. Radford

Measure out four cupfuls of patent process flour, put in a sieve, add to the flour an even teaspoonful of soda and two teaspoonfuls of cream tartar and sift the whole through the sieve twice. Rub through the dry ingredients a large tablespoonful of butter. Rub butter thoroughly through the flour. The longer the shortening is mixed the more delicate the biscuit. Mix into the flour and butter just enough sweet milk to make a batter as stiff as it can be stirred. It must be almost a dough, yet not dry. The longer the soda and cream tartar are mixed through the flour the better the biscuit will be. Bake twenty minutes in a hot oven.

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Day 322: Cornmeal Cake

Tonight at work we had our Christmas training. On top of talking about food we had some delicious cookies and chili to eat. I’ve just arrived home after picking up some groceries and I don’t know what to make. I finally decided to make Cornmeal Cake since I think of cornbread as a good accompaniment to chili. Of course this recipe comes from the 1898 New Galt Cook Book, a book without any recipe for our modern chili. Instead this recipe appears in the Biscuit section and was contributed by Mrs. Blackwood.

I like this sort of recipe since I don’t really need to think about what order each ingredient is used. I dumped 1 1/2 cups of cornmeal, 1 1/2 cups of what turned out to be whole wheat flour, 1/2 cup brown sugar and 3 teaspoons of baking powder together and stirred. Then I melted 3 tablespoons of butter and poured it in and finally I beat 3 eggs and added them to the rest. I beat it well and realized I still needed to add some water. I used just a bit less than 1 cup of water. I think the batter resembled sponge cake batter by then. I greased a square cake pan and poured in the mixture. I baked it for 30 minutes at 375 F.

Mrs. Blackwood is probably Jane Veitch. She was born in Galt in 1859 to John and Agnes. Jane married 27 year old John Douglas Blackwood in 1882 when she was 21. The record of their marriage lists his occupation as engineer. I can’t find a trace of the couple until the 1901 census when they appear in Galt. By then they have a daughter Agnes born in 1884 and a son Roy who was apparently born in Cleveland Ohio in 1895. The 11 year gap between the children is interesting and that they must have spent time in Ohio. John is still an engineer in 1901 but they have returned to Galt. Like other contributors they live on Main street in 1911. Their address is listed as 87 West Main Street in Galt. For some reason in 1921 the family now includes 23 year old Willa Blackwood, Roy’s new wife. John is now a machinist and Roy is a bookkeeper. They live at 36 Cedar street . Jane dies in 1933.

The cornbread is good. It was very satisfying and would have gone well with the chili. I still like the cornbreadd recipe Edna Staebler included in her Food that Really Schmecks series of cookbooks but this is a good substitute.

Mrs. Blackwood

One and a half cupfuls cornmeal, one and a half cupfuls of flour, one half cupful brown sugar, three eggs, three tablespoonfuls butter, three tablespoonfuls baking powder, melt the butter, mix all together, add enough water to make the batter as thick as sponge cake. Bake in a hot oven.

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Day 294: Light Tea Biscuit

I need to take a break from preserves tonight, especially after a rather lengthy trip home from work. I’m opting to make the recipe for Light Tea Biscuit contributed by Miss Sharp for the 1898 New Galt Cook Book. This is quite a large recipe so I’m reducing the quantity of each ingredient.

I put 1 1/2 pints (3 cups) of flour, and 1 1/2 teaspoons of cream of tartar in a bowl and once they were well mixed I cut in 1/8 of a pound (1/4 cup) of butter and then added 1/2 pint (1 cup) of regular milk with 3/4 teaspoons of baking soda dissolved in it. Sweet milk simply means fresh milk instead of sour milk. Once the biscuit dough was blended I rolled it out and cut out the biscuits. I baked them at 375 F. for 15 minutes. I prepared to taste.

I made one of Miss Sharp’s recipes back in May but I wasn’t able to determine her identity. There were two families with several unmarried girls and a few of them might be old enough to contribute recipes however, I might have found a connection. Miss Cowan contributed recipes but I wasn’t sure about her identity either as there were several possibilities. However, one Miss Cowan was a lodger in the home of a Miss Sharp in 1891. That Miss Sharp was Margaret the daughter of James and Isabella. Her mother was born in the United States while her father was from Scotland and became a farmer. I used Waterloo Region Generations website to help me find out some details. Margaret was born in 1841 and seems to have been an only child. Her mother died when Margaret was in her early 20s and her father was gone by 1881. She became the head of household and started taking in lodgers. I think the home was at 21 State street in Galt. Margaret was still going strong in 1921. She was 80 years old and still had a couple of lodgers. I haven’t been able to find out anything about when she died,

This was a great chance to test my apple and grape jelly and the grape preserves. I tasted a bit of the biscuit on its own and then with the various grape spreads. The plain biscuit was good. It was flaky and not as bland as I expected. However, it made a great base for the sweet and sticky grape jelly and preserves.


Miss Sharp

Three pints flour, one pint sweet milk, one-quarter pound butter, three teaspoonfuls cream tartar, one and one-half soda. Dissolve the soda in the milk, put cream tartar in the flour, add butter and milk last, roll, cut into cakes and bake in a quick oven.

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Day 275: Gems

I’m looking for a small recipe tonight — one that doesn’t make a lot of food. I found this recipe for Gems in the 1898 New Galt Cook Book. It was contributed by Mrs. Radford. Gems are baked in a pan something like cupcakes or muffins.

I put 4 teaspoons of white granulated sugar in a bowl, and creamed it with 2 teaspoons of lard. Next I added the well beaten egg. I slowly incorporated the 1 1/2 cups of milk along with 2 teaspoons of baking powder and a little salt. I used 2 cups flour. Since I think these are supposed to be like muffins I didn’t over beat them. Once everything was mixed together I spooned the batter into greased muffin cups filling them just 3/4 full. I’m wondering if I should have used a bit more flour since the batter was quite liquid.I baked them in a preheated oven at 375 F. for 20 minutes and waited eagerly for them to be ready to eat.

Mrs. Radford is probably Mary Robertson Philip, a life long Galt resident. Her parents John and Helen were from Scotland. Mary was 17 when she married 24-year-old Joseph Henry Radford in 1882. He’d grown up in Lanark County and became a doctor setting up a general practice in Galt. Mary’s father was also a doctor so she must have known what to expect.  They had two children a boy and girl. I don’t have any more information about the family except that I know Mary died in 1934.

I didn’t wait for my gems to cool before sampling. I took one out of the pan, cut it open and slathered it with butter and a bit of jam. It was delicious. Although these are not perfect muffins they are quite good. I think playing a bit with the amount of flour plus the time and temperature would result in an even better gem. This is an 1898 recipe that I’m going to keep on hand for historic meals. There’s nothing special about it for the 21st century but since muffins are few and far between in the late 19th century– at least in the familiar Canadian doughnut shop style, Mrs. Radford’s Gems will do very well. Modern cooks can substitute vegetable shortening for the lard.

Mrs. Radford

Four teaspoonfuls sugar, two of lard, one egg well beaten, one and a half cupfuls milk, a little salt, two teaspoonfuls of baking powder, mixed with sufficient flour to stiffen.

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Day 184: Cornmeal Cakes

I am making Cornmeal Cakes for no other reason than that I love things made with cornmeal. This recipe was shared by Mrs. C. B. McNaught from Toronto for The New Galt Cook Book (1898).

I decided to put together the ingredients in a typical way. I creamed the 1/4 cup butter and 1/2 cup sugar in one bowl and then mixed the dry ingredients in another — that’s the 1 cup cornmeal, 1 cup flour and 3 teaspoons of baking powder. I also beat up 2 eggs with 1/2 cup of milk and then mixed it all together. I opted to make these following the first baking method. I don’t have a popover pan so I used a muffin tin. Popover pans have deeper cups but I hoped I could still make something similar since there didn’t seem to be enough batter for a regular baking pan. I greased the muffin cups and filled them 3/4 full. There was exactly enough batter to make one dozen “popovers”. I baked them in a 400 F. oven for 12 minutes and they looked good when I removed the pan. They were just beginning to brown at the edges. It was time to taste.

Mrs. C. B. McNaught of Toronto could be Violet Louisa Seath. She married Charles Boyd McNaught on September 20, 1898 so they are cutting it close to be the right couple. However, the cookbook wasn’t published until December so it is possible. Violet’s father John was born in Scotland but her mother Caroline Louisa McKenzie was from Dundas Ontario. These two are the age of many of the contributors but it is their newly married daughter who appears to have a recipe in this Galt Ontario cook book. Violet was born on June 21, 1874 in Dundas like her mother but at some point they moved to Toronto. In 1891 the family is living with Violet’s grandparents and her mother has died just a few years earlier. It is there that Violet married Charles Boyd McNaught. Their only child is born in 1902. I can’t find a trace of them again until the 1920s when they are still living in Toronto. The three of them live at 33 Dunvegan Road and have a 29-year-old domestic servant named Amy Lees from England and a 33-year-old cook named Artson Fong from China. Amy emigrated in 1914 and Artson came in 1910. Mr. McNaught is an insurance broker. The McNaughts travelled quite a bit in the late 1920s and early 1930s including a trip to Italy. Turns out Charles was on the board of Canada Steamship Lines. Violet died in 1936 of a cerebral hemorrhage.

Mrs. C.B. McNaught’s recipe for Cornmeal Cakes makes a very nice cornmeal muffin. It isn’t too sweet and there’s no underlying baking powder flavour. The cornmeal isn’t gritty either but you can tell it is cornmeal — a perfect blend in my opinion. This is the sort of recipe that suits a smaller family like Violet’s. The precision of the recipe probably reflects her youth too. It appears in the biscuit section of the cook book so I’m assuming it is to be served in a similar way. You can add this to the growing list of 19th century recipes that can be used in the 21st century too.

Mrs. C. B. McNaught, Toronto

One cupful cornmeal, one cupful flour, one-quarter cupful butter, one-half cupful sugar, one-half cupful milk, two eggs, three teaspoonfuls of baking powder. Bake in a pop-over pan, or as ordinary Johnny cake in a hot oven.

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Day 121: Drop Tea Cakes

My family is visiting and it was 10 pm before I realized I hadn’t cooked a recipe from The New Galt Cook Book (1898) yet today. We’d gone out to dinner with some friends and time flew by and then we talked for a while when we got home. Now I’m skimming through the pages looking for something I can make quickly and quietly since everyone else is heading for bed. I’ve decided to try Miss Bessie Allan‘s recipe for Drop Tea Cakes and since she says half the recipe will be enough for a small family, I’m making half the recipe too.

I put 3 cups of all-purpose flour in a bowl and added 1/2 cup of white sugar. Next I added 1/2 cup of currants. I think I should have added them later but for some reason I thought they needed to be floured. I added 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder and skipped the pinch of salt since the butter was salted. In went 1/2 cup of butter and 1/2 cup of lard. Again in hindsight I probably should have “cut in” the butter and lard. That’s when you use two knives (or a pastry blender) to cut the fats into small pieces. Instead I just stirred with a spoon. Finally I added 1 well beaten medium egg. I stirred and then started adding milk. Unfortunately I don’t know how much milk I used as I just kept adding a bit and then stirring and then adding a bit more. I dropped the dough by teaspoon onto a greased cookie sheet and baked it for 12 minutes at 400 degrees F.

Miss Bessie Allan was born about 1875 to Thomas and Margaret and had at least one brother and one sister. I don’t know much more about her although I have found her in the 1901,  1911 and 1921 census. Her father was dead by 1901 but her brother was still at home. Eventually it is just Bessie and her mother sharing the household along with a domestic servant or a cousin. Bessie doesn’t appear to have had a paid employment.

This is one of those recipes that makes me think of the British Isles and I really like the result. Cooking historic recipes has really made me appreciate the humble currant. This recipe has just the right proportion of currant to tea cake. The texture was a bit off and I think that was due to the way I mixed it up not through any fault of the recipe. My only concern is the sweetness of these tea cakes. They are sweet but not so sweet that I think dessert immediately and yet they are sweeter than the usual tea biscuit. I think you’ll have to try them for yourself and decide whether to reduce, increase or leave the amount the same. I’m keeping Miss Bessie Allan’s Drop Tea Cakes recipe handy and plan to try it again paying closer attention to my method. I might also increase the baking temperature.

Miss Bessie Allan

Six cupfuls of flour, one cupful sugar, one cupful butter, one cupful lard, one cupful currants, one egg beaten, pinch of salt, three teaspoonfuls baking powder. Mix all together with milk enough to make a stiff batter and drop into buttered pan and bake in a hot oven. One half this quantity is enough for a small family.

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