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Vintage Recipes and Recollections

A friend noted the high oven temperature for the cookie recipes in previous posts. To be honest I’d never questioned it before. The recipes have always produced good results  even though 400F and 500F definitely seem out of the norm for cookie baking.  So I did a little investigating….

Many recipes from the early 1900s were developed in homes that relied on gas ovens. An electric oven patented by a Canadian no less was beginning to make it’s way into the marketplace at about the same time, but electricity was far too expensive for most households.  While gas and electric ovens produce the same temperature levels, gas ovens, particularly early models tended to heat faster with less temperature control – it seems reasonable that home cooks would be used to their ovens being “hot” when baking.  Gas ovens also produce more moisture – a byproduct of the gas.  The added moisture would not only moderate the heat but aid in the leavening action produced by eggs, baking powder, and/or baking soda found in the recipe. Gas ovens would tend to produce a moister cookie, typical of the Boiled Raisin Cookies in our recipe.

The bottom line? Test your oven temperature. Often oven thermometers are inaccurate. If your oven, either gas or electric, tends to run hotter than usual, reduce the heat by 25F. If using an electric oven and you’re looking for a moister cookie, it’s been suggested to include a tray of water under the cookie sheet to provide a bit more moisture. This should result in a higher, rounded,  moister cookie rather than ones that are flatter and crispier. And be mindful of the time noted on the recipe.  Cookies baked at higher temperatures need less time in the oven.

Hope this is helpful!

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