Pan Cakes and Hot Cross Buns

This is the first article in February of the School for Housewives 1910 series published on February 6, 1910, and gives a couple different recipes related to pancakes for Shrove Tuesday. There is also a nice recipe for hot cross buns!

Transcribed from the Sunday edition of the The Buffalo Sunday Morning News.

Pan Cakes and Hot Cross Buns

IT WAS while I watched in idle amusement a group of Adirondack guides making ready the supper for our hungry hunters that the probable origin of the immemorial pancake occurred to me.

We name it “immemorial” carelessly, because we have heard of it all our lives, and our fathers ate pancakes for generations before us. Shakespeare says, “As fit as a pancake on Shrove Tuesday.” Country-bred and self-made Benjamin Franklin growls of the croakers of his day;

“They will never think it good times until houses are tiled with pancakes.” That was his ideal of extravagant luxury.

But to our Adirondack woodmen. They baked no bread for us all the while we were in camp, except what we called “pancakes” and they dubbed “flapjacks.” When I volunteered to bake biscuits over the wood fire in the broad, shallow pan into which they were used to pour their hastily made batter, they let me have my way; acknowledged that the “cakes” we made were “nice enough for a change”—and mixed pancakes for the next meal.

“You see,” observed one to whom I gently hinted the possibilities of varying the diet by other combinations of flour and water, “living on the jump-like, as we do for months together, flapjacks come easier than anything else. Many’s the time I’ve got breakfast, and help eat it, and had the frying-pan strapped up and slung over my shoulder—not quite cold—before sun-up.”

It may have been the touch of the kitchen utensils slung over the traveler’s shoulders that suggested the train of thought beginning with the hurried exodus of the Israelites from Egypt, when—

“The people too their dough before it was leavened, their kneading troughs being bound up in their clothes upon their shoulders. * * * And they baked unleavened cakes of the dough, which was brought out of Egypt, for it was not leavened, because they were thrust out of Egypt and could not tarry, neither had prepared for themselves any victual.”

Why should not this be the genesis of the pancake? I asked myself the same many years thereafter, when I saw the Arab women stir up unleavened batter in a wooden bowl just stiff enough to handle, mould it swiftly into round cakes and bake these upon stones heated in a fire of thorns or chaff.

“Pancakes again—all but the pan!” quoth I, recollecting the Hebrews’ flight and the guide’s hurried breakfast.

And why not? Is there not a dim reminiscence of the Passover, and the subsequent forty years of wandering in the desert, in the Shrove Tuesday preceding the Lenten fast of forty days?

It would be too long a digression were we to pursue that question of the significance of the numeral “forty” in sacred history. It rained forty days and forty nights; Elijah went in the strength of angel food forty days; forty stripes save one was the limit of scourging, and a fast of forty days preceded the temptation in the Wilderness.

The word “shrove” is rooted in “shrive,” and Shrove Tuesday, for which the English pancakes were named, was the date on which the church enjoined a general confession and “shrift” (or absolution). The day following was Ash Wednesday.

Pancakes are still eaten in England and Wales upon Shrove Tuesday. I have talked with old people who recollected the custom as nearly universal in Puritan New England. It is safe to say that not one in a thousand of cooks and eaters had any suspicion of the churchly authorization of the practice.

The hot cross bun is venerable, although it may not claim equal antiquity with the pancake and the “Fassnacht,” eaten in Germany on Shrove Tuesday, and having, undoubtedly, the same pedigree with the English cake.

The Good Friday bun is found in all Roman Catholic countries, and in most Protestant. Mother Goose taught us to chant:

“Hot cross buns! Hot cross buns!
One a penny! two a penny!
Hot cross buns!”

It was one of the London cries while America was still a royal colony.

Old Virginia Pancakes (No. 1.)

Beat five eggs very light; add three cupfuls of milk, two tablespoonsful of shortening—butter or lard, melted—and—a handful at a time—a quart of sifted flour with which has been mixed a teaspoonful of salt. No baking powders were added by our grandmother. She depended upon the beaten eggs and quick mixing to insure lightness.

Have a large frying-pan on the fire which enough melted butter in it to reach every part of the bottom. Pour in enough batter to cover the bottom of the pan, and shake slightly in cooking to loosen the cake from the iron surface. Run a broad spatula under one edge of the pancake in three minutes to see if the lower side be nicely browned. If it is, turn the cake dexterously, without breaking or ridging it.

In the very old times—so the story goes—the skillful cook turned her pancakes by tossing them clear of the pan, and in such a fashion that they turned a somersault in the transit and alighted on the other side in the pan. Tradition has it that a young woman proved her culinary cleverness by tossing the cakes straight up the wide-throated chimney to the very top and catching them in good shape, the cooked side uppermost, as they shot down. My old mammy boasted that she had seen this feat accomplished in her youth. The art was lost before I appeared upon the scene.

When done, the pancake was rolled up and sent to table with a good pudding sauce.

Old Virginia Pancakes (No. 2.)

One pint of sifted flour. Four eggs beaten very light. Half a teaspoonful of salt and the same quantity of soda, the latter mixed, just before it goes into the batter, with a teaspoonful of vinegar. Two and a half cups of milk. Beat the yolks very smooth, stir into the milk; then the salt and soda; finally, with few, swift strokes, the flour and stiffened whites alternately.

New Jersey Pancakes.

One cup of flour, sifted twice with a teaspoonful of baking powder and a quarter of a teaspoonful of salt. One cup of milk. Four eggs, the whites and yolks beaten separately. Mix the yolks with the milk; add the flour and the beaten whites, alternately, whipping fast but lightly. Melt a tablespoonful of butter in a hot frying pan and pour in enough batter to cover the bottom of the pan thinly. Brown on both sides. Care will be required to prevent earing the half cooked cake in turning. Before taking it up, strew the pancake with powdered sugar and cinnamon and roll upon the mixture.

French Pancakes.

Make according to any of the recipes given above, then spread with jelly or marmalade; roll up and sprinkle sugar upon the top.

Two things are essential to success in pancake manufacture; quick mixing and quick yet careful baking. The cook must give her whole attention from the beginning to the end of the task. And the pancakes should be sent to table direct from the fire. They get clammy and viscid with waiting.

Hot Cross Buns.

To a quart of sifted flour add three cupfuls of milk. This should make a rather thick batter. Have at hand a cake of compressed yeast well dissolved in half a cup of lukewarm water, or a half cup of baker’s or home-made yeast. Beat this into the batter and set in a sheltered corner to rise for six or eight hours. It should double the original bulk. In the morning beat in hard and long four tablespoonfuls of melted butter, a generous pinch of grated nutmeg and a saltspoonful of salt. Have ready a cupful of flour that has been sifted three times with an even teaspoonful of soda. Knead for 10 minutes. The dough should be just soft enough to handle. Set again to rise and double its bulk. It should do this in from four to five hours.

Turn out upon the kneading board; roll into a sheet half an inch thick and cut into round cakes. Arrange in greased baking-pans and leave, covered, for the last rising. When they are high and puffy cut a deep cross in each with a knife. Bake in a steady over, covered, for 20 minutes, then brown lightly.

Wash the tops of the buns, while hot, with beaten white of egg mixed with powdered sugar.

They are best when fresh.

Marion Harland

Family Meals for a Week
The Housemothers’ Exchange

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