rise up, rise in the morning

Aunt Daisy’s Favourite Cookery Book might appear fairly unpromising at first – a narrow, yellowing fliptop book with no pictures apart from the occasional persuasively worded ad. But it’s an absolute diamond, a paragon of everything you’d hope a cookbook from 1956 to be. Zillions of recipes, roughly 140 of which are for jam, and several of which come with the word “Mock” before or “(Good)” afterwards. It’s funny, there’s this idealisation of your grandma’s era as being so natural and the way to be, but in this book there’s plenty of urging you to set things in gelatine and to add synthetic flavourings to your food. There’s one chapter on vegetables, half of which is devoted to salads made of egg, cheese and potato, while baking and puddings are luxuriated in across several lengthy chapters. It’s fun.

It’s hard to tell if the hilarity is intentional or just of the time. I suspect the latter. It’s partly because of Aunt Daisy’s blunt delivery (“bake in the usual way”) partly because of the things we don’t tend to eat these days – salads set in gelatine, boiled offal as recuperation food for the unfortunate convalescent, and partly her delicious titles – “Matrimony Jam” made of marrow and gooseberries, pudding “(from a man)” and “Lady Windemere Salad”.

My dad’s mother Zelda died in 2002 and I ended up with her Aunt Daisy cookbook in the above photo, as well as a notebook of handwritten recipes and clippings. As far as I know she wasn’t much of a cook (I remember Dad looking doubtfully through the notebook saying “well she never made that“) and to be honest the only food-related memories I have from staying with her are 2-minute noodles and marmite on toasted North’s wheatmeal bread – one of the most hole-prone and flavourless slices around, although I always thought of her when I saw it and was sad when they gussied up their branding recently. Mini kit-kats, and orange juice mixed with lemonade was a very special treat. I really did love 2-minute noodles and Marmite on toast, so these are good memories, by the way.

The fact that she may not have used this Aunt Daisy book doesn’t bother me, the fact that I actually have it is enough. And I’d like to think that since she held onto it at all, for all those years, it must have had some value to her. Over Christmas Mum had the book beautifully rebound for me by this woman in Waiuku and in its new, hardcover, less fragile incarnation I’ve been moved to not just read through it in wonder, but actually cook something from it for the first time in ages.

As soon as I discovered the following recipe I knew that it and I were meant to be in each other’s lives. Because it’s a recipe for bread with condensed milk in it, and that kind of idea and the concept that I could bake it is what gets me out of bed in the morning. It distills into a paragraph everything that was good about the time it was written. I’d been thinking about that soft, sweet bakery bread recently thanks to this conversation, and I wondered if this ingredient would kinda replicate that – it didn’t – but it was still wildly good stuff. And easy as to make – stir, rise, stir-knead-rise, shape, rise, bake. Apart from the kneading – because of the hefty amount of dough the mixture will seem all shaggy and reluctant at first, but it does eventually come together.

White Bread (or “condensed milk bread” as I’ve been referring to it as)

Adapted from Aunt Daisy’s Favourite Cookery Book, 1956 edition

  • 4 dessertspoons sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 1/2 cups lukewarm water
  • 1 sachet dried yeast
  • 7 cups high grade/bread flour
  • salt

Mix together the condensed milk, water and yeast till a little frothy, then stir in 1 cup of the flour and leave, covered, for 15 minutes till somewhat puffy and bubbly.

Stir in the remaining 6 cups flour and a generous amount of salt – Aunt Daisy reckons a dessertspoon – and knead till springy and supple.

Cover and leave to rise for 3/4 of an hour.

At this point, Aunt Daisy says to roll it out to around an inch thick, quarter it squares, then shape and place two pieces each into two loaf tins. I found this slightly confusing, but figured she knew what she was doing, so rolled each piece up and tucked them in pairs into two loaf tins.

Set your oven to 220 C/440 F and leave the loaves for about 15 minutes to become puffy and further risen. I brushed them with melted butter at this point. Bake at this temperature for around 8 minutes and then lower it to 180 to bake them for 45 minutes.

You end up with two brown, somewhat gloriously buttock-like swelling loaves of soft white bread, which are – for all that there are those saucy dessertspoons of sticky-sweet condensed milk – barely sugary. In fact this recipe is pretty austere, with no quantities of milk, no butter, no oil, none of the usual things I’m used to massaging into dough. It has a tense, tight texture which makes it perfect for slicing into adorably small sandwiches and toasts up beautifully, with the slight, fluttery caramel taste of the condensed milk just making itself known. I actually reckon you could comfortably double or even triple the amount of condensed milk in this – but for now I’m extremely happy with these loaves as they are.

I love making bread so much. I realise it comes across as a total mission and it kinda is, but if you’ve never made bread before and you’re curious as to what the fuss is about then this isn’t a bad place to start. I took some slices to work today for lunch, toasted them and spread em with butter and Marmite – still one of my favourite things to eat.

Question + Preamble: Tim and I are stepping up the pace on the glacial path to our trip overseas in March/April and have booked a few important things…we still have a ton more things to book but we wanted some advice: who here has travelled overseas and bought vinyl? What’s the best way to pack it so that you don’t get to your local airport, pick up your bags and discover that your precious records have been smashed into jigsaw puzzle pieces stored in an attractive sleeve?

Title via: The extremely excellent Idina Menzel and her song Rise Up, she’s never actually recorded it but for a while it was an integral part of her live shows and eventually came to have the title it does. Dedicated to her sister, for a few years there was one version which she updated around 2008 to include a punchy chorus. Of course I recommend you listen to both the emotion-soaked original, and the slicker, but still beautiful recent rewrite.

Music lately:

Tim and I went to see the play Diamond Dogs at Bats tonight – apart from the fact that we totally recommend it because it’s fantastic, it also does a decent job of getting Bowie in your head. While I’m not sure it’s really his finest moment, Modern Love is easily one of our favourite Bowie songs and the recurrent nature of its chorus allows it to all the more easily be stuck in your mind.

By the Throat from the (late) Eyedea and Abilities. Amazingly good.

Next time: Possibly Brian O’Brian’s Bran Biscuits, from the same book, if I’m up for it…I have so many things to blog about, just no time to do it in so it depends what I feel like on the day I guess.


13 thoughts on “rise up, rise in the morning

  1. Robyn says:

    Since I saw you tweet about them earlier in the week, I am slightly obsessed with Brian O'Brian's Bran Biscuits. I like that 1) there's a guy with that name and 2) he made some bran biscuits or perhaps 2b) someone made them in his honour – maybe he was constipated. So I hope you do explore B O'B's BBs.


  2. hungryandfrozen says:

    Robyn: I think that's why I was obsessed with them too, they're not much to look at but after all this I think they deserve their own dedicated blog post. Nice to run into you yesterday!

    Anna: Yay! And yeah, it really was – it'll last for heaps longer now.


  3. Mairi @ Toast says:

    We were channeling our Grans! I got the Glasgow Cookery book from mine, they sound like they are of the same ilk & at times quite hilarious to read. Sadly all my Gran's handwritten recipe books got mislaid! I am a bread lover & especially love white bread, it has been so bahsed & maligned it now seems like such a decadent treat! Adding this one to breads to bake.


  4. Hannah says:

    Once again you amaze me with your yeast prowess! I adore old-fashioned cookbooks like this. So many laughs and, often, some good advice to be found in the pages.

    P.S. I can't help thinking this bread might be glorious toasted and spread with butter and then an extra drizzle of condensed milk…


  5. Anonymous says:

    You now realise, of course, that you need to provide recipes on how to use up the rest of that condensed milk before it mysteriously disappears spoonful by spoonful?!


  6. paula says:

    funny I have bread rising at the moment, unfortunately its got no condensed milk in it …. I made your cinny buns this weekend, so good straight out of the oven (well you know once the butter and sugar stopped bubbling) …….. evil yet so good 🙂


  7. Millie @ Gusty Gourmet says:

    Thanks for getting Modern Love stuck in my head (too damn catchy!) and gosh I love things with names like Lady Windemere Salad (is that an Oscar Wilde reference?!).

    I wonder if it'd taste more like bakery bread if you increased the SCM like you said? Or was it more to do with the texture being different? Still, nothing like home baked bread – this looks fantastic.


  8. Kay says:

    Followed the link to the fav bakery blog and discovered that I drive past one of them every day…would never have given it a second look previously but now I am definitely tempted. Gotta love the old recipes… and Aunt Daisy's measurements…”a good amount”. Wonderful imagery of buttocky bread, too. Looking forward to hearing what you do with the rest of the SCM – try good old-fashioned salad dressing made with SCM and vinegar for starters.


  9. Foodycat says:

    That bread sounds awesome!

    The thing about the 50s of course is that synthetics and horrible convenience foods were being embraced as the way forward, instead of setting us up for some of the problems we now face.


  10. DARIAN ZAM says:

    I think my last comment disappeared…does this edition gave any food and drink products in it besides the Edmonds ads?
    Aunt Daisy's Cookery Book 1954 edition had advertising for Vi-Max, Hansell's, Vi-Meal, Vi-Bran, Edmonds cornflour, Bournville Cocoa, and Champion Vinegar.
    The 1952 edition has ads for Edmonds custard powder, baking powder and Acto powder that I know of – probably others. I'm compiling a list of the editions and the ads they had in them. Sometimes if they don't have a publishing date/edition date the only way to sort them is by differing ads. Cheers.


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