Saturday, October 9, 2010

1911 Bovina UP Church Cookbook - French Rolls

I took my first stab today at trying a recipe from the 1911 Bovina UP Church Cookbook, choosing to make 'French Rolls.' (See my July 15, 2010 posting for further information about this cookbook.) Here's the whole recipe:

Scald two cups milk, add three tablespoons butter, 2 tablespoons sugar, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 cup yeast and 2 cups flour. Beat thoroughly, cover and let rise. Cut down and add enough flour to knead. Let rise again, put out on floured board, roll out and shape. Let rise in pans and bake in a hot oven fifteen minutes.

This recipe presented several challenges. My main confusion was over the 1/2 cup of yeast. I ended up dissolving a package in 1/2 cup of warm water. It made the dough too wet (see the picture below). I let it go ahead and raise, and it did raise some, but I had to more than triple the flour to be able to handle it after the first raising. I wonder if the recipe should have read 1/2 cake of yeast. No time for the raising was given, so I assumed the dough needed to double in bulk after each raising. And I wasn't sure how the rolls should have been shaped, so I just did them as dinner rolls.

I used some modern substitutions, including bread flour and skim milk instead of whole milk. I did not scald the milk - I understand that is a holdover from pre-pasteurization days. And I used a Kitchen Aide mixer to knead the dough. With no temperature, I had to go with my own experience. I baked the rolls at 375 degrees. They took about 25 minutes to bake, so I suspect the oven wasn't hot enough and that 400 would have made more sense.

I have a friend and former colleague from the New York State Archives, Pamela Cooley, who is an expert at historical recipes - she's already tried some of the recipes from this cookbook. I'll be touching base with her for any thoughts she may have about this.

But when all is said and done, the rolls turned out just fine and were served at a dinner I made for my sister and brother-in-law. And the verdict from them is that they are very good.

This recipe was submitted by Eva B. Maynard. Eva was Eva Belle Scott. She was born in 1879 and married William H. Maynard in 1899. Eva joined the UP Church in 1890 was a member for 23 years when she transferred her membership elsewhere, probably because she left the area. Eva died in 1961.

More recipes from Bovina's past are coming, so get your appetites ready for further culinary treats.


  1. Reading how they went together, its amazing that they look like a roll should (and according to you, taste great also).

  2. My friend Pamela responded to my questions about this recipe - I've posted this below"

    "Despite your confusion, it appears from the look of your final product and comments from your family, that your (baking) instincts served you very well. Those rolls look beautiful! So as you requested, I’ll use the rest of my Comment to explain my thoughts about Ms. Scott's recipe.

    "About the yeast: What Eva Belle was referring to when she listed 1/2 cup of yeast was what is called “starter” today. It is the yeasty flour and liquid mixture saved from the last batch of bread to start the next batch. And the type of bread made with starter is now usually called “sourdough bread.” I bet that Eva’s rolls, made with her starter, would have had a “sour” taste that yours lacked.

    "That you dissolved a package of dry yeast in 1/2 cup of warm water was spot on, although another time if you wanted to make fewer rolls, you might try dissolving the dry yeast in a couple of tablespoons of warm water instead.

    "About how wet the dough was for the first rise: This is fine, and typical of some bread recipes.

    "About the amount of flour you eventually used: For 2 1/2 cups of liquid, I would expect that 6+ cups of flour is about right. Many early bread recipes leave the final measurement of flour up to the baker (i.e. “add enough flour to knead”). This is because of inconsistencies in the make up of different flours, the humidity on bread baking day, and other vagaries.

    "About scalding the milk: You are right about not needing to scald the milk because milk is now pasteurized. If I understand correctly, something in raw milk (I’m not quite sure what) had a tendency to kill the yeast, and that “something” was killed in turn by the scalding. But, in this recipe, there was another advantage to using the scalded milk: it would have melted the butter and kept the temperature of the mixture warmer so the yeast would have worked more quickly.

    "About the shape of a French Roll: I bet a different shape wouldn’t have made your rolls any tastier than they already were, but traditional French Rolls are shaped in a longish oval, scored on top lengthwise with a sharp blade, and placed on a sheet to bake so that they don’t touch each other and get crusty all round."