The Last Crouton – Beads of Profiteroles

The 1916 Cookbook Project:  The Last Crouton

Technically Grandpa didn’t title this recipe as a “crouton” but it is yet another soup garnish.  I found it interesting that he used choux pastry to make a garnish; I’ve always thought of creme puffs as a sweet, not savory, dish.  I also thought of them as large items requiring a fork and knife; not tiny morsels delicately floating on a plate of soup.

Reading through the thin instructions, I realized this was a recipe where I might have real, not “sort of”, success!  I grew up helping Ma make avgolemono chicken soup (greek chicken soup with lemon and egg), carefully pouring hot chicken soup broth into the raw eggs and lemon juice she frantically whisked the concoction.  We did this without ever curdling the eggs.  My tyropita (cheese pie) recipe involves whisking a raw egg into the hot cheese mixture.  I had the experience; I had the technique.  Yes, I finally found something that might be in my wheelhouse…or so I thought.

Recipe 4  Beads of Profiteroles

The translation:

In a saucepan put a glass of broth, water, a piece of butter the thickness of half an egg. Bring this to a boil. Remove from the heat and add enough flour to make a tight paste. Next add three eggs, one after the other, mixing well. Knead the dough and make small, chickpea sized, beads. Bake them in the oven.

Once again I was facing a recipe with no real measurements, no temperatures, and no estimated cooking time.  Heck, this time he didn’t even define what type of broth.  Chicken? Vegetable? Beef?  I wondered – had the printer charged by the letter to publish the book?

What I Did:

Guesstimate of the ingredients:ingredients for profiterole beads

½ cup beef broth
½ cup water
2 Tbs butter (½ oz butter = 1 Tablespoon)
1 cup flour ( 135 grams)
3 eggs (put each in a separate container to make adding them easier)

I combined the beef broth, water, and butter in a saucepan as directed and brought it to a boil.  Actually, I put the broth and water in a pot, forgot the butter, added the flour, realized why I shouldn’t have forgotten the butter and started over.

Next I removed the boiling mixture from the heat and started adding the flour, gradually mixing it in until the entire cup of flour was evenly combined with the hot, wet ingredients. dough before adding egs So far, so good. Finally I mixed in one egg at a time into the hot mixture.  (The first dough picture is before I added the eggs; the second, after.)  I did this slowly and never stopped mixing at a furious rate.

dough with eggs

Next I had to make the beads.  I took a look at the dough and thought it would be a pretty darn cold day down south before I attempted to knead and roll out little beads; enter the pastry bag.  I decided to try a star tip to make something that didn’t look droppings on a tray; I’m not very good with a pastry bag.

profiterole beads before baking

True to fashion, I used a Silpat so I can’t tell you if you would need to grease a baking sheet if you were putting the dough directly on it.   This went into a 400˚F oven for a while (yes, I forgot to write the time down; 20-40 minutes, I think) .  The result was a golden, crisp, light puff of air.  I could see how these would be a great addition to a consomme.  Of course, you could also do what we did and simply eat them as though they were M&M’s.


My Conclusion

Would I make this again?  Probably.

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

How would I modify it in the future?  Compare other profiterole recipes to get better ideas about consistency and cooking times.  Add a definite flavor such as an herb or spice.

1496 recipes to go.


Croutons Souffle

The 1916 Cookbook Project:  More Croutons

Croutons souffle.  Souffle?  Really, Grandpa?  I approached the third recipe in Grandpa’s cookbook with a bit of exasperation – the third, but not the last, crouton recipe.  Yes, there’s one more after this one.  Still, not one to give up easily I moved forward with “Croutons Souffle”.
finished croutons souffle

You may remember when I started this project I mentioned that a cookbook from the early part of the 20th century is very different from today’s familiar volumes.  Imagine opening up a book today and seeing a recipe written like this:

Make a stiff dough with a glass of milk, two eggs, a little lard, and flour. Cut the dough into small rectangular pieces and bake in a moderate oven. Use on consommes and other soups.

Yeah, that’s a detailed recipe (not). And lard. This is the first time I have lard in the house.  I don’t have anything against it; my mother never used it and I always have vegetable shortening in the house. Still, Grandpa’s recipe calls for lard and I’ll use it; at least this time, anyway.

Recipe 3  Crouton Souffle

What I Did:

Guesstimate the ingredients:croutons souffle ingredients
8 oz milk
two eggs
3-4 cups flour
¼ cup lard

I mixed the eggs and milk in a small bowl.  As soon as I did this I realized I was going to need a lot of flour; a lot of flour means a lot of dough.  I wasn’t thinking and should have gone with one egg, 4 oz of milk, etc.  Oh well, error number one.  Next I put 3 cups of the flour in a large bowl and cut in lard.  Gradually I mixed the liquid into the flour, adding more flour as needed to make a stiff dough (I used 4 cups this particular day).  Working the dough I suddenly understood why Ma said her father’s hands were like ham hocks; large, muscular, and very strong – no Hobart mixer when he made doughs!

combining dry and wet ingredientsOnce the dough was ready I rolled it out to about 1/4” in thickness and cut into small rectangular pieces.

dough rolled out

To me “moderate oven” is 350F so I baked in a preheated 350F oven for about 40 minutes.  Surprisingly these puffed up a bit giving them more of a  pillow like shape. They stayed pale; only the bottom browned; nice and golden I might add, the way Recipe 2 was supposed to turn out.   They were tasty, if a bit bland, and had a lovely texture.

finished croutons souffle


I took some of the dough, rolled it out thinner, and used a smallish round cookie cutter to cut it up. I pierced it with a few times and baked in the 350F oven. Cocktail crackers!  Since the dough is so bland I should have added a topping (poppy seeds, sea salt, sesame seeds, crushed dried garlic, or similar).  Adding herbs and spices to the dough to make flavored croutons and crackers should work well, too.

croutons souffle crackersPlaying around I tried baking a few with salt and no piercings; they puffed up!  Of course, if I had been thinking, I would have realized this would happen.  The croutons puffed up, right?  Now I understand why crackers always have perforations in them – to keep them flat.  Unfortunately I don’t have a picture of the puffs (thought I did, but I don’t) but you should definitely try making them.  Puffed up they reminded me of a crisp pocket pita.  Flavor the dough and you would definitely have a tasty snack (I didn’t say “healthy”; I said “tasty”).  Perforated or puffed, this is an easy to make recipe that’s a nice accompaniment with cheese and cocktails.

Try it out and let me know how you modified the recipe and what you think.

My Conclusion

Would I make this again?  Absolutely.  Why would I make crackers when there are so many excellent ones on the market?  Simple – to say I followed Grandpa’s recipe.  So my cousins and I can actually taste something he might have made for us.  We grew up hearing all the stories but never had the opportunity to actually experience his cooking (he died long before any of us were born).

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

How would I modify it in the future?    We liked these even if they were bland.  Remember they’re a garnish for soup.  They would need salt and seasoning if made as a snack or cracker. 

Only 1,497 recipes to go.
I’m an idiot.


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.

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