It was such a treat to win The Little House Cookbook: Frontier Foods from Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Classic Stories recently from Barbara H. from her Laura Ingalls Wilder reading challenge.
It was so much fun to browse through the cookbook. It contains not only many recipes, but also information from the Little House days — what it must have been like to cook in that era (hint: not easy!).
I wanted to make a recipe from the book, but that was a challenge. So many of the recipes involved lard, cracklin’s, and other things either not readily available or perhaps not something we’d relish eating in our improved-and-modern world.
I finally settled on the Heart Cakes. Remember, from Little House on the Prairie?
Those stockings weren’t empty yet. Mary and Laura pulled out two small packages. They unwrapped them, and each found a little heart-shaped cake. Over their delicate brown tops was sprinkled white sugar. The sparkling grains lay like tiny drifts of snow.
The cakes were too pretty to eat. Mary and Laura just looked at them. But at last Laura turned hers over, and she nibbled a tiny nibble from underneath, where it wouldn’t show. And the inside of that little cake was white!
It had been made of pure white flour, and sweetened with white sugar.
Ma’s Heart Cakes
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. In a 2-quart bowl, mix 1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose white flour, 1/3 cup granulated sugar, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, and a pinch of ground nutmeg. With cold fingers, rub 1/4 cup chilled lard into the dry ingredients. Make a well in the center, add 1/3 cup cultured buttermilk, and work with one hand into a dough that can be rolled out.
Dust rolling surface with flour. Shape the dough into a ball and roll it out into an 8-inch circle. With a table knife dipped in flour, cut the circle in half, then the halves in thirds, to produce six equal wedges. Shape each wedge into a heart.
Grease baking sheet and place hearts on it so they do not touch. Bake for about 15 minutes, until cakes are puffy and nicely browned. Remove from oven and sprinkle tops immediately with sugar (the crystals will melt slightly and stick.) When cool, eat or wrap for gift giving.
We ended up eating our heart cakes with strawberries. I regret to say that nobody just nibbled theirs, nor were there any exclamations over the lovely white color of the inside (in a touch of irony, I actually tried to make them a bit healthier by using some wheat flour). What can I say? Compared to the Ingalls family, we’re definitely wimps.