Baking in Colonial America

Rebecca Grossman
7C1 ID4
Early Settlers
Early settlers brought with them small amounts of extra
food. Once they arrived in the new world they relied on what
was around them to survive. They hunted for meat but needed
to balance what they ate.
Colonists learned by trial and error and they needed to
change their eating habits to meet the resources of the new
In the woods around them they were able to find many
different kinds of berries which were rich in vitamins and fiber.
Some examples of the berries they found were blueberries,
blackberries, gooseberries, cranberries and raspberries. Settlers
quickly learned which berries were good for cooking.
Blackberries became a favorite for pies since they were sweeter
and easy to dry.
Sugar and other
White sugar was
grown in the south and
was only available in a
limited supply. Sugar
was very expensive and
was only available to
buy in the general store.
The settlers used it only
for special occasions.
maple sugar which was
free and found in the
woods. Settlers learned
about maple sugar from
the Indians who taught
them to tap the sugar
from the maple trees,
then to boil it down to
syrup and sugar.
Making Butter
Making butter is a very interesting process. Fresh
milk was put into a stone crock in a cool room
and was left there for a day or two. It was during
this time that the cream would rise to the top.
The cream was skimmed (removed) and put into
a churn. It was important that the churn and all
the utensils being used were clean because the
butter would absorb all the smells around it as
was being made.
The process of churning the butter would
include rolling the stick between your fingers
and pumping it up and down to set the cream.
The butter is ready when small pieces are formed
and start to float in the cream. The liquid that
doesn’t form is called buttermilk. The buttermilk
is strained from the butter which is washed over
and over until the water runs clear.
Once the process is complete the butter is
salted and a drop of carrot juice was added for
Cooking in Colonial Times
In a colonial household all food took a long time to
make. There were no stoves, refrigerators or running
water in colonial times. Cooking was hot and tiring
All the responsibility for cooking fell to the women
and girls in the house.
In wealthy homes it was a task often done by servants
or slaves. The young girls in these families learned to
cook so they could direct the work of the servants and
slaves and manage their own households.
Colonial Kitchens
Colonial kitchens had very large
fireplaces which took up the whole
wall. The fireplace was so large that
a person could stand up in it.
At first fireplaces were made of
logs and clay. Sometimes the logs
would catch fire and the house
would burn as well.
Bread was often baked in a
smaller oven in the wall next to the
fireplace. The pan they used was
called a bake kettle.
A heavy brown bread was cooked
by the steam from a stew which
might have been cooking in the
Kitchen Layout
The colonial kitchen was filled with
storage chests and barrels. The wall had
windows to keep the room cool and
high ceilings. The kitchen had a brick
or packed earth floor which was cleaned
If people had slaves they often slept
in the kitchen. You might find a loft
area in the kitchen which would have
been where the slaves slept.
Wealthier families had a separate
kitchen building. This would keep the
heat and smells out of the house.
Poorer families had the kitchen as part
of the house and did their own cooking.
Sweet Pies
English colonists as well as the French, Dutch and Scandinavians
brought their recipes for pie with them to the New World. Ingredients
were very expensive and low in supply. Pies were one way to stretch these
ingredients and make them last longer. Pies used less flour than breads.
Pies could also be filled with ingredients the colonists had dried, such as
apples and berries, which could be kept through the winter.
Savory Pies
Savory pies also played a role in the diets of the early
Americans. One commonly made pie was the
mincemeat pie. This pie often contained leftover meats,
vegetables and fruits. Potato pies in both a sweet and
savory form found a place in the colonial world.
Cookies and Tea Cakes
Cookies were brought to
the colonies by immigrants
from England, Scotland, and
Holland. English teacakes and
the Scotch shortbread were
among those eaten by the
colonists. In the south
colonial housewives were very
proud of their cookies which
were often called tea cakes.
These were simple cookies
flavored with butter and
sometimes had a few drops of
rose water added for flavor.
Johnnycakes are a very simple recipe
which is made from cornmeal, boiling
water and a little salt. Like the popular
pancake of today the batter should be
thin. Johnnycakes are cooked on a hot
griddle or pan. These cakes could be
carried on long trips and cooked on the
road and were sometimes also called
journey cakes.
The early settlers in New England
learned how to make these cakes from
the local Indians. In the early 1600’s
when the early settlers were starving the
Indians showed them how to grind corn
and use it for cooking. Most of the flour
they had brought with them on the
journey from Europe had spoiled on the
way to the New World.
Typical Colonial Breakfast
A typical colonial breakfast would
include johnnycakes, bread, and
breakfast puffs. In addition to these
baked goods hasty pudding made
from corn was often the main dish. It
was cooked in a brass pot which was
an important tool.
To make hasty pudding the pot was
filled with water an put over the fire
to boil. Home ground cornmeal was
thrown in and it was cooked as
quickly as possible.
maple syrup, milk or butter were
eaten with it.
In order to increase the nutritional
value and balance of the meal berries
were often added into baked breads.
Tea Cake Recipe
1 cup butter
2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
2/3 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 cups flour
Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, milk, and
vanilla; mix well. Stir in flour; refrigerate until chilled and easier to
handle. Roll out on a floured board to 1/2-inch thick, adding more
flour if necessary. Cut into shapes; place on a greased baking sheet.
Bake at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes.
Johnnycake Recipe
 1 cup corn meal
 1 Tbsp. sugar
 1 tsp. salt
 1 cup boiling water
 3-4 Tbsp. milk
 Combine ingredients. Scald with boiling water. Cook
5-6 minutes on each side, or until crunchy.
Hasty Pudding Recipe
Serves 4
2 cups milk
2 cups light cream
3 tablespoons stone ground yellow cornmeal
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup maple syrup
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
½ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
Pinch ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
2 eggs, beaten
In a heavy pan scald milk and cream. Gradually
sprinkle with yellow cornmeal and bring to a boil,
stirring briskly. Stir in sugar, maple syrup, butter
and all the other dry ingredients. Let the mixture
cool slightly.
In a small bowl beat the eggs with the milk/cream
mixture. Pour the batter into a buttered 1 ½ quart
baking dish and bake in a moderately slow oven
(325 degrees F) for 2 hours.
Dictionary of Colonial Baked Goods
Pandowdy is a deep-dish dessert that can be made with a variety of fruit, but is most commonly made with apples that are sweetened
with molasses or brown sugar. The topping is a crumbly type of biscuit.
Shoofly pie doesn't contain fruit, but, it will forever be linked to apple pandowdy after the old song. It is a traditional Pennsylvania
Dutch dessert that is made with a filling of brown sugar, molasses and butter.
Slumps, brambles and grunts are all old-fashioned New England desserts, usually made with berries and topped with a type of sweet
dumpling mixture. They are all simple variations of cobblers.
There are several regional variations of these same dishes. In the Boston area, slumps are made by dropping dumplings into
simmering fruit, covering the pot and steaming the mixture on top of the range. In other parts of New England, brambles and grunts
are baked with the dumplings on top so that they crisp up.
In some parts of New England, a grunt isn't a type of cobbler at all; it is a steamed pudding with berries.
Fool, which dates back to the 16th century, is a simple combination of fruit and cream or whipped cream. Sometimes the fruit is
stewed, then folded into the whipped cream. Originally "fool" was a term of endearment, which might be how this dessert got its
name. It has origins in England, where it was probably made with gooseberries. When it was made here, however, it was made with
blueberries or blackberries.
Buckle or crumple is a type of cake that is made in a single layer, with berries added to the batter--usually blueberries. The batter is
quite thick, and as it bakes, it forms a thin bottom layer. The topping is similar to a streusel, which gives it a buckled or crumpled
Cobbler is a deep-dish fruit dessert that is topped with a biscuit crust. Depending on the region, it might also be called a bramble,
grunt or slump. It can be made with almost any type of fruit, including peaches, nectarines, plums and blackberries.
Betty was a popular baked pudding made during Colonial times. It's made by layering spiced fruit with buttered bread crumbs. All
sorts of fruit can be used, but apples are the most common. You might find it in recipe books listed as "Apple Brown Betty."
Shortcake is a classic American dessert made with a rich biscuit. It's split in two and topped with fruit and whipped cream.
Strawberries are traditional, but peaches and apricots are also quite tasty.
Roly-poly is made by rolling fruit up in a type of pie pastry, wrapping it in cheesecloth and steaming it. Sailors made this dessert and
often called it a duff.
Crisps and crumbles are different from cobblers in that they are made with a shortbread crust rather than a biscuit. The fruit is
cooked on the bottom with the crust on top. As it bakes, the top becomes crisp and crumbly. The difference between the two is simply
regional. Crisps are the homey, American versions of the British crumbles.
Crunch is similar to a crisp and a crumble, but in a crunch, there's a shortbread crust on the bottom as well as on the top.
Plate Cake: Fruit is topped with rolled biscuit dough and baked. When done, the dessert is flipped, and the biscuit topping becomes
the bottom crust.
Grunt: Fruit topped with biscuit dough, covered, and baked so that biscuits steam rather than bake. Also called a slump.
Athan, Polly, Rebecca Sample Bernstein, Terri Braun and Jodi Evert. Felicity’s Cook Book.
Middleton, WI: Pleasant Company Publications Incorporated, 1994.
Penner, Lucille Recht. The Colonial Cookbook. Don Mills, ON: Saunders of Toronto, Ltd.,
Kalman, Bobbie. Food for the Settler. New York, NY: Crabtree Publishing Company, 1982.
Erdosh, George. Food and Recipes of the Thirteen Colonies. New York, NY: The Rosen
Publishing Group, Inc., 1997.
“The History of Pie.” (January 2,
“Fresh Blackberry Pie.”
Recipe&recipe_id=10000000458978 (January 2, 2011).
“History of Cookies.” (January
2, 2011).
“Johnnycake History.” (January 2, 2011).
“Rhode Island.” 08/06/
if_you_go_making_johnny_cakes/ (January 2, 2011).
“Colonists Breakfasts.” (January 2, 2011).
“Cobblers & More.” (January 2, 2011).

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