I’ve decided to experiment with encaustic painting. Encaustic is an ancient method of combining beeswax, damar resin, and pigment. It requires some equipment: a heat source to melt the wax (in this case an electric griddle), another to fuse the layers on the painted surface (I’m using a heat gun but a blow torch works too), and some space to lay out paints, boards, brushes and pots near an electrical outlet. One of the realities of living in a 20′ x 30′ house is that a project like this will require moving something else out of the way first.
The space I’m clearing is chock ablock full of computers, CD’s, video games, books, and one of my mother’s metal recipe boxes. I think I have six of them scattered around the house (time to pass some on to the nieces) and this one probably should not have been stored precariously on an upper shelf as a head wound waiting to happen. I levered it down and started to go through the cards and now I’m making a blog post rather than continuing to clear out new studio space. There was just no resisting categories like Dream Cakes, Not-Bad Fudge, and Risin – which turned out to be cakes made with yeast, not misspelled raisins. Or neuro-toxins.
I need snack food for a meeting on Monday, so tonight I’m starting the Connecticut Raised Loaf Cake, below. It is neatly typed on onion skin paper and the folds have worn thin but there’s very little spatter. There was a similar recipe on the next card attributed to Elsie Dresser Barnard but it makes 5 loaves and requires a fifth of brandy so I’ll wait to try that another time. Not that there’s anything wrong with adding 4 C of alcohol to a cake recipe, not at all.I can already tell that I’ll have to publish a post with all the changes I’ve made to this recipe. I added the shortening – where I used unsalted butter and my mother would have used Crisco – to the scalded milk, both to cool it quickly to a good temperature for the yeast and to avoid having to melt it separately later in the process. I plan to double the mace and nutmeg but then I find myself increasing the spice amounts with every old recipe. Were my grandmother’s flavorings that much more potent? Or her taste buds less spoiled by extremes? I imagine it’s the latter, in the days before candy bars came in flavors like dark-chocolate-pasilla chili-cayenne-cinnamon.
This recipe for “Caraque Cookies” is next in line. Three and a half sticks of butter, 6 egg yolks, filling AND icing – perfect for celebrating Valentine’s Day.