Simple bread croutons I can’t make

The 1916 Cookbook Project:  More Croutons

The humble crouton. This recipe seems idiotically simple but it makes sense that it’s in Grandpa’s book. Remember the year is 1916 and his audience are people from a very different culture; croutons are a Western idea. There was no internet, not every home had a telephone, nobody carried a smart phone. The purpose of his book was to teach his audience how to cook for the American palate, not the Greek one.  After a less than auspicious start with the Royal Croutons, I was relieved to see the second recipe in Grandpa’s book involved good old fashioned bread.  I’m so naive.

Recipe 2  Bread Croutons

The translation:

Cut thin slices of bread in small square pieces and fry with butter until golden. Use for cream soups.

So simple, right?

What I Did:

Two slices of english muffin bread with crust removed and cut into cubes. Coated the bread croutons in panbottom of a cast iron skillet (the one in the picture was his) with butter, tossed until golden. Add more butter as needed. I used about two tablespoons.  Here’s the kicker – it’s not so easy to get evenly golden, not burnt, little pieces of toast.

My second pass:

A slice of english muffin bread (a weakness of mine from Delicious Orchards, Colts Neck, NJ) cut into cubes, tossed in 1 T melted butter mixed with 1t poultry seasoning, salt and crouton ingredientspepper to taste. On to a cookie sheet and top with grated cheese. Bake in a preheated 350F oven, baked for 15-20 minutes.croutons with cheese
finished cheesy croutons

My Conclusion

Would I make this again?  Yes.

Do I think I made something reasonably close to what he meant?  Not so sure about the first try; definitely not with the second try. 

How would I modify it in the future?   I would use the oven.  Toasting is so much easier in an oven.  A non-stick skillet on a low flame might work as well.

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No peasant croutons here; they’re “Royal”

The 1916 Cookbook Project Starts

It was a dreary Labor Day here in New Jersey when I finally started translating my grandfather’s cookbook.  What was I THINKING??  The first chapter is on soups.  One hundred thirty-eight recipes.  Ironically the first recipes aren’t soups at all; they’re croutons for decorating the soups.

I have many cookbooks that belonged to my mother and what I find interesting is how cookbooks evolve over time.  Today’s cookbooks have precisely measured ingredients listed in the order of use; photographs to guide us and numbered steps to walk us along.  Often they even include the amount of prep, cooking, and rest time involved.  Go to the internet for a recipe and you have the added benefit of comments from people around the world who made the recipe before you.  How they adjusted it; what worked and what didn’t.  A cookbook from the early 20th Century doesn’t necessarily include those nice lists and definitely doesn’t have step-by-step photographs. Some recipes might be only a couple of lines because you learned how to do something earlier in the book.  Food processors, stick blenders, and other small electric appliances were never mentioned.  Chop, slice, dice, knead, whip, and puree were all manual skills.  Grandpa’s book is of this sort.  Although it technically has 1,500 recipes, many are only a few sentences long.   Now put such a cookbook in another language and then give it to me to translate.  This could get ugly fast.  Still, I committed to this project and I’m doing my best even if it gets me committed.

Royal Croutons on Soup

Recipe 1  Royal Croutons

The translation:

Separate the yolks of 6 eggs and joined them with half a glass of milk, and beat well with wire then put in a skillet greased with butter. Then put two whites in a saucepan as the yolk. Whites in one of two colors it saucepan lightly green (have no idea what that sentence was all about). When prepared the three pots you put them inside in a pan with hot water in the oven and allow about twenty minutes to coagulate the egg whites. When you remove them from the oven let them cool and then and then chop into small square pieces like dice backgammon.  These three colors, white, green and yellow are the Royals crouton,which will need for soups and soup.

What did I get myself into??

What I Did:

Decide that I didn’t need to use half a dozen eggs; two would do.Royal Croutons Ingredients
Buttered three small ramekins to use as pans.
I separated two eggs, keeping the two whites in two separate bowls. The yolks were beaten with the milk and put into one of the ramekins.  Next I put one of the whites in a second ramekin. Now for the green eggs. Green eggs; really? Dr. Seuss kept flashing through my head each time I read this recipe. Green had me stumped. The word, “prasinada”, kept coming up as a town in Greece; I’m confident grandpa didn’t mean for me to add a town to the eggs.  I decided to add chopped herbs, in this case parsley, to the last egg white. I mixed in the parsley as well as possible and put the glop in the third ramekin.  The ramekins were then set in a pan of water and put in a 350F oven until they solidified; about 28 minutes.Ramekins for oven

Once completed I carefully lifted each one from its ramekin onto my cutting board.  This was not as easy as it sounds; part of the eggs stayed in each.  The yolk was more of a soft custard that crumbled as I tried to cut it.  Baking in the oven created a clear skin that was very difficult to cut through. I tried using my smallest cookie cutter which, unfortunately, is a delicate snowflake.cutting board mess  The picture on the left shows the mess on the cutting board; the final product floating on a plate of chicken broth is at the bottom of the page.

My Conclusion

Do I think I made something reasonably close to what he meant?  Yes.

Would I make this again?  Yes.

How would I modify it in the future?   First, I would use  a non-stick skillet with a lid on a very low flame.  Baking in the oven created a skin that was difficult to cut.  Next, I would either use no milk or no more than a teaspoon for two egg yolks.  Lightly season the egg to compliment the soup it will float on.  I might even make cutouts to decorate a platter.

Royal Croutons on Soup