What Would Jessie Dish? A New Wednesday Feature: Introduction to the Project and the German Pancake

My grandmother is just 16, at her high school graduation in 1920.

She could dish it up, but can I make it?

In helping my mother get ready to move into an assisted living apartment recently, I came across my mother’s copy of The Joy of Cooking.  She no longer wanted it, had not used it in many years, and said I should take it.  However, it was not it until I had returned home, when I discovered that the book had a 5” x  7” Manilla envelope containing a number of recipes from my late grandmother, Jessie.  She died nearly 20 years ago.  I cannot imagine that anyone knew whatever happened to these recipes.  So I was excited to have stumbled on this treasure trove.

There were nearly 20 recipes, half typed on 3″ x 5″ cards, with the others were written in her careful handwriting on various pieces of scrap paper (“Waste not, want not!” Jessie would implore, having lived through the Great Depression).  Most of the recipes are for baked goods (hooray!), and I do remember having eaten most of these dishes.  There are a few I am sure she did not make for me, so re-creating other recipes my grandmother made intrigues me as well.

I decided that it would be a fun feature on IslandEAT to prepare each and every one of the recipes, expanding or clarifying the directions, and assessing the results.   Many are in the short-hand of an experienced baker – and cook – who knew her technique well, so the steps are implicit – that is fine if you know the technique, of course, and, fortunately, I have developed a sense for baking over the years and am familiar with many similar recipes.

However, some recipes, especially the handwritten ones,  are completely vague and lacking directions – and even titles.   I will have to experiment to see if I can re-create what I think she had intended. What they all have in common is a no-nonsense, non-fussy simple approach with relatively few ingredients.  The recipes are primarily American or, in a few cases, European.  Some are still current and even in vogue, while others do seem rather vintage, e.g., “apricot mold”, which uses apricot jello and evaporated milk — not the kind of thing I generally make, but I am ready to try it.

From now until I have prepared all 18, I will feature a Wednesday recipe from the past, with a scan of the original recipe (and sometimes, the odd bits I have found on the reverse side), aiming to do this every week until the end of summer.  I expect to include some recollections of her, as she was a bit of a character, with a very good sense of humour, unusual turns of phrases, and quite the sharp tongue; Jessie was not afraid to ask – or ask repeatedly – for what she wanted or to let people know exactly what she thought.  I hope this summer project helps IslandEAT’s readers get a glimpse into her personality.

For more on the German Pancake and the What Would Jessie Dish? Recipe Roster

Interestingly enough, there is only one about  which I have blogged already.  It is David Eyre’s Pancake, where you will find detailed directions.  Grandmother Jessie called it, simply, “German Pancake.”  This recipe also is the only one with two versions – one almost exactly like the recipe from Craig Claiborne but with the ingredients increased by 50% (see above) while the other with a slightly different ratio of egg (one more) to milk and flour:

I actually have used an extra egg in the latter case, and this makes the pancake eggier than I prefer.   Of course, I will put in my plug for serving it with lingonberries, as we always did in my family.  Coincidentally, I tried the former version to feed four people at a brunch we were hosting, and that worked quite well, which is here:

Here is the list, with the order, more or less, depending on mood and weather, for the What Would Jessie Dish? Project:

  1. German Pancake (two versions of the recipe)
  2. Brownies
  3. Banana Muffins
  4. “Mystery” Dough (you will see why)
  5. Chocolate Nut Revels
  6. Hot Fudge Pie
  7. Rice Pudding
  8. Madeleines
  9. Souffle Sandwiches
  10. Strudel
  11. “Mystery” Cheese Pancakes
  12. “Mandle Bread” (aka, “mandelbrot”)
  13. Apricot Mould
  14. Sponge Cake
  15. “Pan” Cakes
  16. Brown Sugar Cookies
  17. Yorkshire Pudding
  18. Pork Tenderloin
  19. Swiss Roll

At the end of the recipes, we will see how I do in response to the question behind this project, “She could dish it out, but can I make it?”

Jessie loved freshly squeezed lemon.

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60 responses to “What Would Jessie Dish? A New Wednesday Feature: Introduction to the Project and the German Pancake

  1. can`t wait to see the mystery dough! Souffle sandwiches also intrigue me…

    • Thanks, Theresa. The mystery is that the dough has a handful of ingredients, with amounts, a cooking time, and temperature, but no title or directions – kind of like a black box challenge, in an odd way….I might have to call on you for your gold-medal expertise. The Souffle Sandwiches are very intriguing, as you will see.

  2. That’s so awesome to have found all those recipes from your grandmother. I look forward to seeing what you dish up!

  3. Hey Dan, your’e so lucky to find that envelope. A glimpse into the life of someone we love is a special thing.This would never happen to me though. My grandmothers just made hamburger helper (smile).
    I’ll be sure to check in for Jessie Wednesdays.

  4. I love it! I look forward to following the series!

  5. I thought I would tell you that a friend of mine is going to Minneapolis this weekend, and when she mentioned she would be popping into Ikea, I asked her to pick up some lingonberry preserves for me (I did find them at my local grocery store, but they’re $6.99/jar, and that’s just a bit more than I really want to pay). I’m going to make the puffed pancake again, and try it with some lingonberries–I’ll let you know what I think!

    • Hi, Rachel. Thanks for letting me know about the lingonberry hunt. I recall that IKEA up here cost something like $2.99 or $3.99 a couple of years ago, so I agree that $6.99 is really high. Do tell me if you like them – or not!

  6. Wow what a find. I am really looking forward to reading your blog and what you make, very curious.

  7. Pingback: Double-Chocolate Double-Malt Frosted Brownies: Recycling and Reusing Recipes | IslandEAT

  8. Pingback: The Original Chicago-style Deep-Dish Pizza: Have Yourself a Merry Little Pizza Slice | IslandEAT

  9. I absolutely LOVE the fact that you feature your Grandmother’s recipes – and the photos of the original recipe cards, too! It’s great to “meet” you, and I’m looking forward to enjoying your recipes!

  10. this is AWESOME!! i have my mom’s old recipe box with many of the recipes written in her handwriting, and some in my dad’s writing. it’s absolutely a TREASURE to me, and there’s nothing to compare to the cooking/baking of the 40s, 50s, 60s and 70s. Things changed after that, for sure! I’m going to search your site for more of Jessie’s recipes since I just stumbled upon this blog! Happy Cooking!

  11. I couldn’t get the written/printable recipe. How long do you bake this & what size pan or glass dish? Thanks so much…can’t wait to try it! Do you have a hot fudge sauce recipe or does one go with this?

  12. WHERE is the entire recipe for the Hot Fudge Pie?

  13. Hody I am so thrilled I found your weblog, I really found you
    by error, while I was researching on Google for something else, Regardless I am here now
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  14. I’m so happy to of found your blog. I can’t wait to make the Hot Fudge Pie this Christmas! :)

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