Yesterday not having done any Christmas shopping, decorating, or baking, I finally bought a box of cards – my first tentative step towards getting ready for the holidays.
I consider myself a Christmas minimalist, but even so this lack of activity seemed alarming even to me.
Today I wrote one card and packaged it up nicely and wrote the address on the envelope.
And then I gave up and started thinking about baking.
I was leafing through some seriously old cookbooks trying to get inspired and ended up getting lost inThe Best Way Book No 3, which predates copyright laws but was apparently published in 1916 – during WWI. It states on the cover that “Every Home Should Have This Book.” Fortunately for me, I do and this is the first time I’ve ever looked at it.
There are advertisements for Cockerells Coals for Comfort – the Coal Merchants to His Majesty the King. And there are helpful hints for everything from how to Renovate a Feather Boa to a chapter entitled, The Sick Room, and an entire section called, The Housewife’s Hands, with instructions for how to make Lettuce Cream for Sallow Skins.
Plus there are recipes for all kinds of fun things, like Bread Soup. In case you want to make it, this is the recipe, exactly as it appears…
Bread Soup – Fry two onions in a saucepan with a little lard, add a pint of water and three slices of bread cut rather thick. Season with pepper and salt and boil for ten minutes.
Tucked in my book was an old handwritten recipe for coconut macaroons. I have no idea whose writing it is or where the recipe came from. But I decided to make it, with slight adaptations. I doubled the recipe since it hardly seemed worth making a recipe that made 18 macaroons. I also converted the measurements from weights to cup measures.
They’re perfect! Because sugar was scarce during WWI these macaroons aren’t so sweet that they’ll make your teeth-ache. And they’re gluten and dairy free. Perfect for a platter of holiday baking.
And then because I had two left-over egg yolks after making these – I made a batch of gingerbread biscuits which handily used up my yolks. I’ll post that recipe soon. I guess it’s fair to say that the holiday baking is now under-way.
3 ½ cups desiccated, unsweetened coconut
½ cup sugar
2 large egg whites
1 tsp vanilla essence (I used 2 teaspoons)
Whip the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Gradually add the sugar and continue beating until the sugar is dissolved. Stir in the coconut, salt and vanilla essence.
Using a tablespoon measure, drop onto well-greased cookie trays. Bake at 325°F for 12-15 minutes or until lightly browned.
Allow trays to cool for a moment or two and then transfer macaroons to a wire rack. Makes about 3 dozen.