Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Taste of Fall

Things have been pretty hectic at work lately, and when I get stressed I bake.

As the leaves started to change colors, I was feeling pretty inspired to make all things New England Fall...unfortunately, the brutal work schedule combined with some pretty terrible weather meant I didn't get to go apple picking during peak season, so I ended up grabbing another autumn staple: pumpkin.

Pumpkin has been a staple of the New England diet for centuries, which makes sense given that it's a native squash and goes well with most other Fall crops. In fact, we know the early residents of Massachusetts Bay Colony picked it up from the Native American people in the area, and it became a pretty common part of their diet. Colonial Williamsburg's blog quotes this poem written in MA in the 1630s:
Stead of pottage and puddings and custards and pies
Our pumpkins and parsnips are common supplies, 
We have pumpkins at morning and pumpkins at noon, 
If it were not for pumpkins we should be undoon.

Pumpkin in the kitchen, 1738
In the 18th and 19th centuries, pumpkin was used for savory dishes such as squash pies and mashed pumpkin (like this one recreated by Townsend and Son), sweet dishes (like this recipe for "pumpkin pudding" from 1820), and even beer. In the 21st century, we add it to just about everything when September hits, from muffins to pies to lattes. I won't complain--I am totally guilty of this. I love pumpkin-flavored things.

pumpkin pancakes with cinnamon cream cheese icing (made last year)--another pumpkin recipe with historical roots

So a couple of weeks ago when I got the twitchy, stressed-out urge to bake, I went pumpkin. I've also been drinking a lot of chai to get through long days (particularly perfect for Fall, although I end up drinking it year-round), so I ended up riding that inspiration and combining the two.

These turned out even better than expected, so I'm sharing it with you! 

Original cookie recipe from Sally's Baking Addiction, doubled and adjusted slightly:

3 c. all-purpose flour
12 tbs. Pumpkin puree (I used canned—but fresh would also be good!)
1 c. melted butter, unsalted
½ c. dark brown sugar
½ c. granulated sugar
1 ½ tsp. vanilla extract
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. (heaping) baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
3 tsp. ground cinnamon
3 tsp. pumpkin pie spice

Chai-Inspired Spice Coat

¼ c. light brown sugar (but you could use dark if you needed to)
1-2 tbs. granulated sugar (to keep the brown sugar from clumping. Start with one and add a second only if you need to)
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. allspice
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tsp. ground cardamom
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350F. Melt butter and beat with sugar. Add pumpkin and vanilla, mix until just combined. Add dry ingredients and mix—dough will be sticky. Refrigerate for 30 minutes (you can leave it longer, but I don’t really recommend letting it sit in the fridge overnight—you want the cookies to rest for at least 6 hours once baked, rather than letting the dough rest). While the dough is chilling, make the spice coating in a bowl or shallow dish.

Roll about tablespoon-size bits of dough into balls. Roll the balls in the spice coat and place on a buttered cookie sheet, then press lightly on the balls to flatten them a little bit. These don’t spread much, so you can place the cookies pretty close together. Bake for about 6 minutes—they should look firm on the edges and still soft in the middle. Leave on the cookie sheet to rest for about 5 minutes, then move to a cooling rack. Let stand for several hours to get a little chewy.

Happy Fall!

Friday, October 3, 2014

Underpinnings: My Achilles Heel

I have a serious sewing problem: I always magically lose motivation as soon as I have to make undergarments. Which is probably why I'm still wearing the same chemises and drawers I acquired in high school (with a few additions over the years). My corsets are all in dire shape (they're only two years old, but they get a lot of wear), and I need new ones. I'm also embarking on a new period for the "Mother/Daughter Dress Project" and I need the proper undergarments for 1870s so I can fit the clothes over them.

So of course, I haven't actually done any sewing in a week. Because I have to sew bustle pads, corsets, and petticoats...and I just feel so "meh" about the prospect. So in an attempt to motivate myself and get my project momentum back, I've been looking at pretty undergarments. Here are a few to motivate you too!

Does anybody else have a particular costuming thing that you always have trouble with? Please share in the comments!

tiered whitework petticoat, 1870s
striped petticoat, late 19th century (via the Met)
petticoat c.1875 (via the Met)--interesting ruffle arrangement
pink petticoat with lace, 1880 (Met)
corset, 1864 (via the V&A)
corset, 1890 (V&A)
corset c.1880s (V&A)
I was looking for tartan drawers, meaning the kind you wear (or did in the 19th century, anyways)...I found this instead!