Food: Cocoa Rediscovered
Being a full half an hour from town and finding no brownie mix in the cupboard, I asked my mother-in-law about home-made brownies. She said the recipe she used as a teen-ager came from a book published by The Racine Journal-Times in the 1940s. She came out of her recliner to look for it, and soon had one dated November 1957 in her hand.
“This must be the newer one,” she said, flipping through the yellowed pages.
She found the recipe, and I quickly had the ingredients working together. (Word to the culinary cravers: best not to succumb to a temptation to put a chocolaty mixture of baking cocoa and water anywhere near your mouth. No matter how good it looks. Or how long ago it was that you learned this lesson about this so-called cocoa.)
Once baked, the brownies did not have the fudge-like quality of those from a box, but they also did not have the list of ingredients that sounded like they came from a lab. And the pan was empty in less than 24 hours. Next time we’ll try them with frosting. The kind that doesn’t come in a plastic tub, hopefully. Nothing against pre-made frosting. It’s all good.
One is just better.
Having a child with unidentified food sensitivities, the idea of being able to identify everything that goes into a recipe appeals to me. But I admit, this cocoa thing can be a little fuzzy.
When I was growing up, cocoa was just another word for hot chocolate, that post-sledding beverage that brought you back to room temperature. My grandmother mixed powdered milk with Nestle Quick to make hot chocolate mix that just needed hot water.
For my mother-in-law, cocoa is an ingredient that went into making the beverage. They added sugar and water or milk and heated it on the stove. When I asked her for the recipe, she said that actually, she never made it. Her mother did. She only drank it. (Google to the rescue.)
When I looked through the 1957’s cookbook, I saw that the ads reflected opinions that aren’t subscribed to so much anymore. A glamorously jeweled woman urges us to “try Pepsi at mealtimes, too,”; the Wisconsin Electric Power Company claims “You’ll never know what a Good Cook you are until you use an electric range.”
But our connection through recipes does not change. The forward in the 1957 cookbook says, “As our 101st year draws to a close, we are happy to continue our service….with recipes you’ve always wanted in this book – some new, some old,…some you’ve thought were lost forever.”
I don’t know who first came up with the idea to publish recipes and news side by side. Maybe it gave cooks, spanning generations and countries, a good reason to sit down with a cup of coffee and open the pages. With few exceptions (liver), recipes should not be lost forever.
My children enjoyed a brownie dessert from a recipe that their grandmother had used at their age, seven decades ago. That connection makes me smile. There is something fulfilling about serving your loved ones some of the same recipes that your grandparents sank their baby teeth into, don’t you think?
Brownie Fudge Squares
Contributed originally by Mrs. Eugene F. White
1 cup firm butter
2 cups granulated sugar
½ cup (baking) cocoa
½ cup boiling water
2 cups cake flour (regular flour works), sifted
1 tablespoon vanilla
½ cup milk
1 cup broken walnuts
Add boiling water to cocoa to form paste. Cream butter, add sugar and beat well. Add cocoa paste and beat well. Add eggs all at once and beat for three minutes. Add flour alternately with milk, and last the vanilla and nuts. Bake in two greased and floured pans, 8x8x2 or 9x9x2, at 350 degrees for approximately 40 to 45 minutes.
Home-made Hot Chocolate
This one I pulled from MOMables.com. Very good.
¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
½ cup granulated sugar
? cup hot water
? tsp salt
4 cups milk (dairy or non-dairy)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Combine the cocoa, sugar, water, and salt in a medium saucepan.
Over medium heat, stir constantly until the mixture boils. Cook, stirring constantly for 1 minute.
Stir in the milk and heat, but do not boil.
Remove from the heat and add vanilla; stir well. Serve immediately.
For an extra kick, add a cinnamon stick, a pinch of cinnamon, or a drop of peppermint extract at step two.
Hearty Southwest Turkey & Black Bean Chili
Another score for baking cocoa. I found this recipe on a cracker box. We like it as much or more than the traditional version.
19 oz fresh ground turkey
1 large Vidalia sweet onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 red pepper, chopped
salt and black pepper to taste
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 15.5 cans of diced tomatoes, drained
1 cup of canned or frozen corn, rinsed and drained
1 8 oz can of tomato sauce
1 6 oz can of tomato paste
1 cup of water
2 15.5 oz cans of black beans; drained and rinsed
Brown turkey with onions and garlic, red pepper, salt, and black pepper. Cook until the turkey no longer appears pink, breaking up meat into small pieces as you brown. Drain excess juice.
Reduce heat to medium low and add remaining ingredients. Simmer for 30-45 minutes until desired consistency is achieved.
Serve hot, garnish with shredded sharp cheddar cheese, fresh chopped cilantro, and chopped green onion with tops