Re-perusing Anne Fadiman’s Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader, I came across the section on recommended reading – a section I hadn’t paid enough attention to before. Included in the list was a book by Linda Wolfe with a wonderfully long title: The Literary Gourmet: The Pleasure of Reading about Wonderful Food in Scenes from Great Literature, the Delight of Savoring it in the Recipes of Master Chefs, and all Seasoned with Anecdotes and Little Known Facts about the Art of Cooking. Several minutes of internet searching later I knew this was a book for me.
That was a while ago, but I finally received the book through Interlibrary Loan. Now, I knew it would have writings about food and books, but that it has authentic recipes too was thrilling to learn. The book also receives bonus points for being a culinary history lesson from Ancient Egypt to The Great Depression.
Originally, I set out to make something from Jane Austen’s Emma, but most things (besides unappetizing plain thin gruel) were more complicated than I was looking for. Skimming the authors and recipes I moved to The Importance of Being Earnest and wittily indulgent baked goods. Cake, not English muffins, for me. But, I didn’t have all the ingredients and didn’t feel like a trip to the store. Okay – moving on through the years.
The following comes from the section on Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Since I don’t have any kind of obsession with the story or the author making this recipe first doesn’t feel quite right, but I had all the ingredients and cookies sounded perfect.
The recipe below is as Wolfe printed it, but I made half the amount. The parenthesis are the changes Wolfe made from the original in order to make it fit into present day.
It looks a little like a gooey mess, but turns into chewy, puffed cookies perfect for breakfast. Also, because I have some crystallized ginger to get through some of them got a little sprinkle of this on top.
Ginger Cake Cookies
From Old Dutch Recipes, 1885
1 cupful of sugar
1 cupful of butter (¾ c)
1 cupful of molasses
½ cupful coffee (½-¾ c)
1 tsp baking soda
1 T ginger
(flour, about 4 cups)
(1 tsp salt)
(Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs and molasses, beat well. Sift dry ingredients. Add to creamed mixture alternating with coffee. Drop by spoonfuls onto greased cookie sheets. Bake at 350° 15 minutes.) Mine cooked faster than this. Makes 2-3 dozen.