Fannie Merritt Farmer’s The Boston Cooking School Cook-Book was an instant best seller when it was first published in 1896, and remains in print to this day. Called “The Mother of Level Measurements,” Farmer was known for her insistence on accurate measurements, unusual in a time when many recipes used vague quantities such as a “heaping spoonful” or a “handful.”
In addition to using accurate measurements, Fannie Merritt Farmer wrote her recipes with clear, detailed instructions, making them easy to follow even for beginners. This is the second recipe I have made from her book; the first, Berry Muffins, was also delicious and easy to make.
Many of Fannie Merritt Farmer’s recipes were also very practical. This is one of several recipes she provides for bread puddings, which are an excellent way to use up stale bread. Naturally, I went with the chocolate option.
I didn’t have an actual pudding mold the right size, so I baked mine in a 9×9 baking pan and then cut it into squares to serve. It took a little over an hour at 350 degrees.
Fannie Merritt Farmer includes an entire chapter of pudding sauces. I chose to make this one, titled “Hard Sauce,” because I happened to have all the ingredients on hand. I normally think of a hard sauce as one that includes alcohol; in this case, I think the sauce may be named that because of the texture. It’s very thick and much more like a frosting than a sauce.
Stale bread has never tasted so good. The pudding had a beautiful moist texture; the sauce was sweet and lemon-y; the chocolate flavor was subtle, but definitely still there.
Baked in a square pan, this is certainly not the prettiest pudding out there; the squares were thin and oozed a bit when cut in a manner reminiscent of wet cat food. This is not the fault of the recipe, but mine for not owning a proper pudding mold.
Still, it has all the hallmarks of a Fannie Merritt Farmer recipe: simple, practical, easy to make, and delicious. I’m sure I’ll be coming back to The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book many times in the future.
Farmer, F. (1896). The Boston cooking-school cook book. Boston: Little, Brown, and Company. https://d.lib.msu.edu/fa/8#page/1/mode/2up
Fannie Merritt Farmer, The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book, 1896. (2017). In Veit H. (Ed.), Food in the American Gilded Age (pp. 224-314). East Lansing: Michigan State University Press.
Moskin, J. (2018, June 13). Overlooked no more: Fannie Farmer, modern cookery’s pioneer. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/13/obituaries/fannie-farmer-overlooked.html
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