Tuesday, November 23, 2010

"Brookline Biscuits" for Thanksgiving

Care to add a little local flavor to your Thanksgiving meal this year?  Try adding Brookline Biscuits to your holiday table as recommended by the Boston Cooking-School a century ago.
Brookline Biscuits as shown in the November 1907 Boston Cooking-School Magazine
Brookline Biscuits as shown in the Boston Cooking-School Magazine in 1907

The November 1907 issue of the Boston Cooking-School Magazine of Culinary Science and Domestic Economics provided Thanskgiving menus for five different settings.  "Brookline Biscuit" was included in two of the five: the "City Home" and "Country Home" Thanksgiving meals.
1907 Thanksgiving Menus with Brookline Biscuit
1907 Thanksgiving Menus (Click for larger view)

Most of the recipes for the menus were provided by the magazine's long-time editor Janet McKenzie Hill.  But the recipe for Brookline Biscuit was attributed to "C.J." This was most likely Charlotte J. Clark (née Wills), a teacher at the Boston Cooking-School and the former assistant to Fannie Farmer when Farmer was the school's principal. (Farmer had left to open her own school in 1902.)

It's not clear what, if any, connection Clark—or the biscuits—had to Brookline.  The recipe (uncredited to Clark) was used again in Janet McKenzie Hill's 1916 Nyal Cook Book ("Practical recipes that have been tested in actual use") published by the Detroit-based Nyal drugstore chain.

Nyal Cook Book cover

Here's the  recipe for Brookline Biscuit, as it appeared in 1907 and again nine years later. Give it a try, and let me know how it works out.

Have a pint of sifted flour in a bowl; into this rub two level tablespoonfuls of butter. Scald one cup of milk and when lukewarm add one-fourth a cake of compressed yeast, dissolved in one-fourth a cup of lukewarm water.  Stir this into the flour and set to rise overnight.

In the morning work in sufficient flour to make a dough and knead it until it is elastic and does not stick to the fingers. Let rise until very light, then take from the bowl to the bread board, without working, and roll out into a rectangular sheet longer than it is wide, and half an inch thick. Spread softened butter upon this and fold the dough evenly, to have three layers.

With a sharp knife, dipped in flour, cut the dough into strips three-fourths an inch wide. Take hold of a strip at the ends, pull gently to lengthen it, then twist the ends in opposite directions and form the shape of the figure eight, joining the two ends underneath. 

Place the biscuits in buttered pans so that they will not touch, and when light bake in a rather hot oven to a delicate brown.  The recipe makes two dozen biscuit.


From "Feeding America" The Historic American Cookbook Project" at Michigan State University

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