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Praline Thumbprint Cookies (1989) – Rubenstein Library Test Kitchen:

Fri, 08/28/2015 - 13:00

Now that we’re all moved into our new building, we’re excited to bring back our test kitchen series! New here? On the fourth Friday of every month we share a recipe from our collections that one of our staff members has found, prepared, and tasted.

The Campus Club has been around since 1914, starting out as a social and educational group for the wives of faculty members. Open to all women of Duke, the Campus Club is a social and activity group that hosts a wide variety of events and interest groups. Interest groups meet regularly, allowing members to explore new foods, drink, activities, and culture. A long-lasting and highly active group within the Campus Club is the Morning Gourmet group, which selects a particular topic or theme and invites members to prepare a dish related to the topic or theme, bring the dish, and share the recipe with the group.

Processing a recent accession from the Campus Club, I was distracted again and again by the many intriguing recipes this group has tried over the years. Some themes were related to national or cultural cuisines, others to parts of a meal or an ingredient. But when I stumbled across the Praline Thumbprints, I found my personal winner.

 

This is a very recent recipe from an archivist’s perspective, appearing in a 1989 Southern Living (I was actually alive when this recipe was published, so: recent). It seemed very simple and straightforward, with modern measurements and guidance, and seemed like no problem at all. I’ll admit here that the above image is a photocopy I made of the original item in the collection, which is itself a typed version of the recipe as it appeared in the magazine. After a bit of digging, I discovered the recipe appeared in the May 1989 issue of Southern Living, in an article titled “Moms and Daughters Bake Cookies,” and you can see a PDF copy of the original through Duke’s subscription to the electronic version of Southern Living here (libraries hooray!). This also led me to discover that the version in the Campus Club records includes comments, recommendations, and modifications by the person who typed it up, and which were very helpful.

I got my ingredients together and got rolling. The first thing I needed to do was grind up some pecans nice and fine. I bought some pecans in bulk at Whole Foods (this is cheaper than buying pre-ground or bagged pecans, but requires an extra step) and put them briefly through the food processor to get them finely ground.

Then I mixed together the cookie ingredients and got a pretty sticky dough, with lovely bits of pecan mixed in. I rolled it up into balls as instructed, but I am not so good at accurately replicating the size mentioned in recipes. I also only have one cookie sheet and a very tiny oven, so the shaping and baking part took me a while.

Eventually I shaped, placed, pressed, and baked the cookies until I had many scooped cookies. I ended up with probably close to the 4-5 dozen described in the recipe (I didn’t count, but it seemed like a lot). I don’t have a picture of the plain baked cookies, but it should be noted that since they do not contain any egg, they are a little powdery and can crumble very easily.

Due to underestimating the amount of time it would take me to actually get all the cookies finished, I didn’t get a chance to make the praline topping until two days later, at which time I had several fewer cookies to fill. I added the ingredients to a pan I usually use for candy-making (a regular, good-quality pan with a thick bottom).

The praline filling is essentially a candy, and candy-making can sometimes be tricky. I have a candy thermometer, but I recommend in this recipe paying a little more attention to the time passing than to the precise temperature. I was very concerned with getting to the recommended temperature, which took waaaaaay longer than the prescribed two minutes, and the candy set up before I could finish scooping it onto the cookies, leaving me with a pan like this:

Luckily, it’s pretty much just sugar and will dissolve in hot water. But even though it set sooner than I expected, it didn’t get really hard and I could still cram it into the cookies. And it was SO. WORTH IT. This stuff is AMAZING. All those little crumbly bits at the bottom of the pan were extra; the recipe even notes you’ll make more filling than cookies. Maybe I was supposed to make three batches of cookies and two of filling? LOL, no. That’s too much work and the extra filling was crazy good on its own. I recommend putting it on ice cream or just eating it with a spoon (no judgments).

I ended with some pretty nice looking and definitely delicious cookies. They were very popular when I brought them to work (safely quarantined from the materials) and had some friends take some home, which is the only thing that prevented me from eating them all myself. As mentioned above, the cookies are a bit crumbly and I accidentally made the praline a bit crumbly as well, so be warned: just put the whole thing in your mouth at once.

More recipes tried by the Morning Gourmet group and lots of other information about the Campus Club can be found in the records described in this collection guide.

Post Contributed by Tracy Jackson, Technical Services Archivist for University Archives

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Pie, Punch, and Jello Cake (1977) – Rubenstein Library Test Kitchen

Fri, 06/26/2015 - 11:37

If there is one truism about librarians it is that as a general rule, librarians are excellent cooks and bakers and they love to share their food. On the flip side, I’ve never seen food go to waste in a library. Your experimental cookie recipe didn’t turn out quite as you expected? Take them to work, someone will eat them.

This month, Amy McDonald and Beth Doyle of the Rubenstein Test Kitchen turn their attention inward to focus on our very own food culture. The recipes this month came from Duke University Recipes: A Collection of Recipes from the Duke University Community, Compiled by the Duke University Library Staff Association (DULSA). This cookbook, dated 1977, was one in a series of annual cookbooks compiled by DULSA.

Our first impression of the recipes in Duke University Recipes is that they are reminiscent of a particular type of independently-produced cookbooks (e.g. those created by churches, social clubs, member groups, etc.). If you are a fan of this genre of cookbooks you will recognize many of these recipes if not verbatim then by familiarity. They seem to be firmly situated in the culinary traditions of the 1970’s. The recipes often mix prepared food stuffs (so much Jell-O) with fresh (or “fresh”) foods to create something not quite from-scratch but better than from a box alone.

While there are many worthy entries in this cookbook, we wanted to pay homage to our colleagues by choosing three recipes submitted by Duke Libraries staff members who are still working at the library.

Orange Jello Cake (Recipe by Robert Byrd; baked by Beth)

This recipe is one of those that is still popular today. It is usually called a “no bake cheesecake” or some variation of that theme. The recipe consists of a graham cracker crust, a cream cheese and whipped topping layer, and a Jell-O layer with canned fruit and orange sherbet added to the gelatin. When I asked Bob Byrd about this recipe he said, “I have only a vague memory of this recipe, and I disclaim all responsibility for it.”

The first two layers came together fine. The Jell-O layer was weird. It had so much liquid added to the Jell-O that it never really solidified, which was fine until it was served up. When cut and plated, the orange layer just slid off the base. But, as one taster said, “It all mixes in your stomach anyway.” True enough.

Pretty layers. Kind of like a sunrise at the beach, no?

Taste-wise, it wasn’t half bad. The squishy Jell-O layer played nicely with the cream cheese layer. The graham cracker crust provided a textural contrast to the soft upper layers. In terms of preparation, I think if you omitted the sherbet the Jell-O would set properly and not be so messy to eat.

And, as a final note, one of our colleagues (who was born way after the 1970s) commented, “This tastes exactly like what I imagine the 1970s to have been like.” So there you go.

DULSA Punch (Recipe by Cathy Leonardi; poured by Amy and Beth)

We were surprised at how many recipes in this book called for bourbon. We were pleasantly surprised we found one we wanted to try. According to Cathy Leonardi, “DULSA only served alcohol at one party each year, the Christmas party. The DULSA punch was the punch that was served.  Wink was like 7-Up.  The beauty of the punch was that it was easy to make.  I didn’t invent the recipe.  It was given to me by someone who had previously made it for the Christmas party.  I put the recipe in the cookbook so that it would be easy to find for future parties.” And are we glad she did!

As far as punch recipes go, this is an easy one. The hardest part was finding the Wink soda (or is that pop?). Yes, Wink is still available but it is often found in the mixers section, not with the other sodas.

It mixes up to a beautiful reddish color. This is a very sweet punch with a little hint of Southern Comfort. Admittedly, we purchased the lower alcohol Southern Comfort since we planned on serving this at a reception at work. (We made a non-alcoholic version, too, but . . . that was less popular.) The general consensus was that it was the best thing on the table when we taste tested the recipes.

Southern Comfort chilling in the staff refrigerator, along with everyone’s lunches. Strawberry Pie (Recipe by Vickie Long; baked by Amy)

This is a pretty simple recipe. I started out with tons of strawberries and a store-bought crust (yesssss!). Half of the strawberries got sliced and dumped (or arranged prettily, if you prefer) into the baked crust, and the other half got mashed and cooked with the cornstarch and baking powder into what I like to fondly call the “strawberry goop.”

I have a tremendous fear of burning things, so I may not have let the strawberry goop cook—and thus thicken—quite as long as I should have. I poured it into the pie, let the whole thing set in the refrigerator, and the result was a sort of sweetened strawberry soup, with bits of crust. Not terrible, but maybe not what you want to serve at your next dinner party. Or maybe it is? You do you, you know?

A little . . . soupy. There’s a piece missing.

As a saving grace, I was going to make real whipped cream, but Beth thought Reddi-wip would be more authentic. And archivists are nothing if not historically authentic.

Duke University Recipes is available through the Duke University Archives, as well as online at the Internet Archives. There is also a copy of this 1977 edition in the Perkins Library that you can check out.

Let us know in the comments if you try any of the recipes!

Post contributed by Beth Doyle, Leona B. Carpenter Senior Conservator and Head, Conservation Services Department, and Amy McDonald, Assistant University Archivist.

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