Boston- It’s Got More Than Beans, Pie, and Brown Bread!

Cover of US Regional Cookbook

Cover of US Regional Cookbook

Last weekend on the spur of the moment I wanted to make cookies and I decided to branch out beyond Aunt Lillian’s recipe book. I’ve been avidly collecting cookbooks that date from c. 1890 – 1948 the year she passed away and have quite a nice collection now. They are invaluable in helping me learn how to cook Aunt Lillian’s very scant recipes that never include instructions, oven temperatures, or cooking times – little details that I desperately need!

I was going through my very cool 1947 edition of The United States Regional Cook Book, edited by Ruth Berolzheimer and I found an interesting recipe for Back Bay Cookies. Having lived in Boston for many years it caught my attention, looked easy, and most importantly I had all the ingredients on hand. So I decided to dive right in.

The history of Back Bay cookies is somewhat a mystery even after quite a bit of sleuthing. The recipe is essentially the same as Boston Cookies found in Fannie Farmer’s Boston Cooking School Cookbook as far back as 1889. Earlier then that I’ve not found a reference to the cookie so it is quite possible that Fannie Farmer invented the cookie. Although I didn’t find many other recipes for it on the Internet, it seems that Boston cookies were a somewhat popular vintage cookie thanks to Fannie Farmer.

Here’s the recipe from the United States Regional Cookbook which has Back Bay Cookies squarely places where they should be – in the New England section of this awesome cookbook:

  • 2/3 c. butter
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 2 eggs, well beaten
  • 2/3 cup chopped seeded raisins (guess raisins were both bigger than those we get today, thus needing to be chopped and came with seeds!)
  • 1/2 c. chopped nuts
  • 2 c. sifted flour
  • 2/3 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp salt
Back Bay Cookies and Recipe

Back Bay Cookies and Recipe

Cream butter or other shortening and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add eggs and beat well. Add raisins and nuts. Sift remaining ingredients together and add to the wet ingredients. Mix thoroughly. Drop by teaspoonfuls, 1 inch apart on a greased cookie sheet. Bake in a moderate oven (350) for about 12 minutes. Makes about 2 1/2 dozen cookies.

The result – WOW! Were these delish especially warm right out of the oven. We had a hard time not eating them all at once. They became crisper the next day, so make sure you don’t over bake them. On subsequent days we popped them in the microwave for a few seconds to warm and soften them. They had a nice cinnamon and nutty taste to them. Really lovely.

One blog I read mentioned that her mother made them every year for Christmas and I can see why. They do sort of remind me of a Christmas cookie. But don’t wait. Make them right away and think of the Boston patriots who gave their lives so that we can eat cookies whenever we want to!

Plus, as an addendum to the last post, I redid for a third time the waffle recipe since I was still unhappy with the toughness of the waffles. After reading a 1930s era Home Ec. manual I own, it seems Fannie Farmer’s recipe has too much flour for the proper flour to liquid ratio. And so armed with this useful information I found another, better vintage recipe which I tried and loved!

I share that recipe with you now from The New Royal Cook Book, produced by the Royal Baking Powder Company in 1920. These came out much better – still cake like which seems to be what waffles used to taste like – very thick. Really like the Belgian waffles we have but not so sweet.

Waffle Recipe

  • 2 c. flour
  • 4 tsps. baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 3/4 c. milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tbs melted shortening ( I used butter)

Sift flour, baking powder and salt together; add milk to yolks of eggs; mix thoroughly and add to dry ingredients; add melted shortening (cooled) and mix in beaten whites of eggs (these should be beaten to dry peaks – the secret to great waffles!). Bake in a well greased hot waffle iron until brown.

Caution – if you are big eaters or have a big family this only made 4 waffles. Granted they were very thick and rich! Enjoy!!!

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