The unique items that I encounter in these decades-old cookbooks have definitely been the most entertaining, if not always appetizing, thing about researching for this blog. For example, can I interest you in a Satan's Velvet Robe cake, whatever that is? (Best part being that I found it in a church cookbook.) Or perhaps some Shady Lady Pie, which somehow manages to combine marshmallows, instant coffee and orange jello? Whether or not they are combined successfully is anyone's guess. What about some wedding ring salad, a jello mold with peaches and maraschino cherries which the author instructs you to unmold onto lettuce leaves and serve with mayonnaise? I hear it's the perfect accompaniment to goofy burgers, an amalgamation of chopped ham, stuffed olives and hard cooked eggs that you adhere together with salad dressing and chili sauce. Seriously. The author of this one even added a footnote--SUPER GOOD!--to try to entice all the leery, wide-eyed readers who skim through and ponder, "what in the hell?" I would say you can't make this shit up, but clearly someone did.
But quite a few things in my old cookbooks are ubiquitous, too. Open any book, for example, and you'll find a recipe for various forms of nut bread, or layer cakes, or cheesecakes, or sugar cookies, or jello salads. Or, as we've previously discussed, donuts. The last time I flipped through a bunch of my books, another commonly recurring item that jumped out at me was chiffon pies. Our culinary ancestors chiffoned the hell out of everything. Citrus of all kinds, various berries....even pineapple and pumpkin. And, oh yes, I WILL be revisiting pumpkin chiffon pie in the fall. Because of course.
I'm dealing with gestational diabetes right now, so I'm not even supposed to be eating desserts, but I'll do this for you, just this once.
Strawberry Lemon Chiffon Pie
You'll need a deep dish 9" pie plate for this recipe. One of those shallow pyrex plates that come like 3 to a pack would definitely overflow. Although you could do just the lemon chiffon layer in a plate that size and be fine, if you don't feel like / aren't interested in the strawberry lemon layer. This dessert can be made entirely without turning on your oven. I baked my crust for a few minutes, but I'm pretty sure the world would keep turning if you used your crust unbaked if you just didn't feel like heating up the oven.
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs (somewhere around 10 to 12 whole graham crackers, but you should measure after you grind them up to make sure)
3 Tbs. sugar
5 Tbs. melted butter
Process all 3 ingredients in a food processor until well combined. Dump into a deep dish pie plate and press into the bottom and up the sides. If desired, bake for 8 to 10 minutes at 350 degrees. If not, throw it in the freezer to firm up a bit while you move on with the fillings.
Strawberry Lemon Layer
3 cups chopped strawberries
1 cup sugar, plus a Tbs. or 2 for sprinkling on berries
1/2 cup lemon juice (about 3 to 4 medium lemons)
4 Tbs. cornstarch
Sprinkle the strawberries with a little sugar--about a Tablespoon or two--to get them macerating. Let them sit for a bit until they're looking juicy. Once your crust is cooling, (or chilling, as appropriate) process the strawberries in a food processor until pureed. Pour the puree through a fine strainer to remove any seeds and solids. Combine the strawberry puree and 1 cup sugar in a saucepan. Discard the strawberry solids. Whisk the cornstarch into the lemon juice and then slowly whisk the lemon mixture into the strawberry puree. Bring the mixture to a boil and cook for about a minute while whisking; it will thicken quite a bit. Remove from the heat and pour into the prepared crust. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the warm mixture and chill while you drive on with the next step.
Lemon Chiffon Layer
1 Tbs. unflavored gelatin
1/4 cup cold water
4 eggs, separated
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup lemon juice (about 3 to 4 medium lemons)
1 tsp. grated lemon zest
Sprinkle the gelatin over the cold water and set aside. In a double boiler, or in a heat proof bowl over a pan of water, whisk together the egg yolks, 1/2 cup of sugar, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Bring the water to a low boil and whisk the lemon / egg yolk mixture constantly until thickened. Add the gelatin to the lemon mixture and whisk it in until completely dissolved. Remove the heat and chill briefly until it thickens a little more. Do not let it chill too long on this step or the gelatin will totally set up and you'll have trouble folding the egg whites into it.
In the bowl of a standing mixer, whisk the egg whites until frothy. Slowly add the remaining 1/2 cup sugar to the egg whites and continue beating until the whites form stiff peaks. Fold the beaten egg whites into the slightly chilled lemon / gelatin mixture until well combined and no streaks remain. Retrieve the pie from the fridge and dollop the chiffon mixture over the strawberry-lemon jam layer. Smooth the chiffon layer out with a spatula and chill the pie until set, a few hours. Serve with whipped cream.