Posts Tagged With: heirloom baking

1904: Madame Melba prompts Madame De Ryther to write about puddings

Nellie_Melba_1

Australian opera singer Nellie Melba (1861-1931), 1896 (Credit: United States Library of Congress’s Prints and Photographs division under the digital ID cph.3b11681–Public domain in US)

Well, it’s the Monday after Thanksgiving, and food is now the farthest thing from my mind. I’ve cooked and baked enough in the last week to happily sail through the next few months without doing either, but I promised you a series of “Madame De Ryther Mondays” until Christmas… So here is a 1904 article in which she discusses how to make puddings: rice pudding, tapioca pudding, chocolate pudding, and one other whose name is concealed by the Fulton History site’s logo label. Since I honestly can’t bear the thought right now of unwrapping another stick of butter or spooning heaping tablespoonfuls of sugar into anything, I am currently psychologically unable to try any of these recipes out myself. But don’t let that stop you if you have managed to remain “on your kitchen feet,” both mentally & physically, in the aftermath of Thanksgiving ;-).

In her article, professional-singer-turned-food-writer Madame De Ryther opens with a comment made by Madame Melba (1861-1931), an Australia-born, world-renowned opera star, with whom Madame De Ryther was obviously acquainted, their singing careers, perhaps, having brought them together at some point.

Who was Madame Melba?  Per Wikipedia: Dame Nellie Melba GBE (19 May 1861 – 23 February 1931), born Helen Porter Mitchell, was an Australian operatic soprano. She became one of the most famous singers of the late Victorian era and the early 20th century. She was the first Australian to achieve international recognition as a classical musician. She took the pseudonym “Melba” from Melbourne, her home town. And, yes, “Peach Melba,” “Melba toast,” “Melba garniture,” and “Melba sauce” were all created in her honor by a French chef named Auguste Escoffier. I must admit that I often heard mention of Melba toast and peach Melba while growing up, but it was not until writing this post that I’d heard of Madame Melba (I’m embarrassed to say) and was able to put 2 and 2 together (much like discovering Italian opera singer Luisa Tetrazzini last year, and making the link with Chicken/Turkey Tetrazzini). (Note: Viewers of season 4 (2013) of Downton Abbey would have seen Madame Melba (played by Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, New Zealand’s famed soprano) perform for Lord and Lady Grantham; I was not a Downton viewer at that time.)

The_Magic_Pudding

Australian children’s classic: The Magic Pudding (1918) by Norm Lindsay; Yes, Madame Melba was from a country that most certainly knows a thing or two about pudding! (Credit: Wikipedia – Image in Public Domain in US)

Getting back now to the article, Madame De Ryther reports that Madame Melba had once lamented to her the lack of good puddings in America, and having traveled the world and sampled desserts along the way, she indeed must have known a thing or two about the topic. In 1904, when this article appeared, everyone in America would have heard of Madame Melba, so using Melba’s opinion about America’s lack of good puddings was certainly a clever way for Madame De Ryther to hook her readers.

However, the food writer is not all that excited about replicating European puddings, more specifically English puddings, which she considers to be too heavy by American standards (and if you’re familiar with British cuisine, you know what she means—puddings here in the US are very different; Jello-type pudding comes to mind or rice pudding or tapioca, not hearty, classic fare like sticky toffee pudding, bread & butter pudding, spotted dick, and the like—puddings that I personally like, albeit usually in small doses).

The recipes Madame De Ryther includes here are for much lighter and “daintier” versions that she feels would suit the American palate better than English-style puddings which were designed to “to drive the heavy fog from [English] stomachs,” according to one French chef.

Of course, at this point neither a heavy pudding nor a light one could drive away the heavy Thanksgiving fog in my stomach! But that is neither here nor there. I’m sure Madame De Ryther’s recipes helped her readers “whip up” some divine puddings.  I’ll just wait ’til I’m fully “recovered” to give them a try! 😉

PS: With Christmas fast approaching, for a fun and superbly informative post on English Christmas puddings that has lots of great images, click here. And for a few Madame Melba YouTube videos, scroll down below the article. Have a great day, all!

New York Press, 1904 (exact date unknown) - Credit: FultonHistory dot com

New York Press, 1904 (exact date unknown) – Credit: FultonHistory dot com

Categories: Christmas, Food: Family Recipes & Favorites, Luisa Tetrazzini, Madame Jule de Ryther, Thanksgiving | Tags: , , , , , , | 16 Comments

1904: “Two Good Cakes” from Mme. De Ryther, “the best gentlewoman cook in America”

Fourth Estate: A Weekly Newspaper for Publishers, Advertisers, Advertising Agents and Allied Interests, Fourth Estate Publishing Company, 23 January 1904, p. 16.

Fourth Estate: A Weekly Newspaper for Publishers, Advertisers, Advertising Agents and Allied Interests, Fourth Estate Publishing Company, 23 January 1904, p. 16.

Two Good Cakes

New York Press, 1 January 1904 (Credit: Chronicling America dot loc dot gov)

New York Press, 1 January 1904 (Credit: Chronicling America dot loc dot gov)

To continue with “Madame De Ryther Mondays” in the run up to Christmas, I would be remiss if I did not first mention (on Thanksgiving Eve) that a post I created last year contained Madame’s recommendations for a festive Thanksgiving dinner (click here).

Now back to this post. Here is a clipping from 1904 that offers recipes for two cakes.

The first, which is for a molasses/gingerbread cake, includes ground mace, a spice that seems to be absent these days from most grocery stores. I am not sure why that is, but, in any case, you may have to go to a specialty store or order it online. Amazon carries it in both the ground and blade form. Mace is the outer covering of the nutmeg seed and blade form seems to be more highly praised for its flavor than ground. But for this recipe, it seems logical to go with the ground version.

The second recipe, for “Surprise Cake,” contains nothing that most kitchens would not have on hand. So I decided to try this one. It’s short and sweet, and to the point. After doing a bit of investigation, I learned that “sweet milk” simply means whole milk as opposed to buttermilk. I only had skim on hand, so that is what I used. The addition of all that baking powder resulted in a very robust-looking batter. The recipe calls for a little grated nutmeg; I only had ground on hand so I added 1/8 tsp.

After getting the batter in a cake pan, I put it in a 350-degree oven for 25 minutes but checked it with a toothpick (not a “broom splint,” as Madame directs) and decided it needed an extra five minutes. That seemed to do the trick (bear in mind, we are at a very low elevation, so more time may be required for those not in low-lying locations).

For the icing, I cheated horribly and used a tub of Betty Crocker’s vanilla icing (Madame De Ryther no doubt did an eye roll) and then sprinkled chopped walnuts on top (see image below).

I served slices of the cake for dessert with a bit of pistachio frozen yogurt. My “guinea pigs” gave it “two thumbs up.” The cake was very moist and light. The nutmeg was not too overpowering, but I do think I’d use a little less next time or try vanilla or lemon flavoring, alternatives the recipe suggests. But, overall, Madame De Ryther delivers what she promised: a cake that is “cheap, easy to prepare, and much better than the store-bought article.” Well, I can’t honestly say it is better than store-bought given how many superb bakeries exist today, but—straight from your oven—it will certainly be fresher.

At the start of her article, Madame De Ryther described cake-making as becoming a lost art among city women—thanks to the rise in popularity of store-bought cakes. I don’t think my grandmother on my father’s side would have been swept up in that trend. She would have been 22 at the time this column appeared, and she was quite the baker. My Dad used to wax lyrical about her culinary specialties. She probably would have devoured anything and everything Madame De Ryther wrote. My Mom’s mom, on the other hand, would definitely have been one to head to the bakery! She just did not enjoy cooking or baking, although she had the know-how. Let’s face it, some love to bake and some don’t. As the saying goes, “To each their own,” and Vive la différence!

Well, if anyone out there tries either of these recipes, feel free to share your results below!

cake5

Madame De Ryther’s “Surprise Cake”

Categories: Food: Family Recipes & Favorites, Madame Jule de Ryther, United States | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

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