Posts Tagged ‘Valentine’s Day’

img_0888-1In yesterday’s post I showed my chocolate bread as I mixed it, let it rise and baked it. This morning we reaped the rewards of my baking day and feasted on chocolate bread, strawberry cream cheese and Harney & Sons Valentine Blend tea, a black tea with chocolate and pink rosebuds. It was  perfect!



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Yeast Raised Gingerbread paulawalton.com

Instead of cookies, cakes or candies, this year I am baking bread to give for Valentine’s presents.  There is nothing cozier than freshly baked bread to warm a winters day.pear tree in winter paulawalton.com

I wanted to bake sweet yeast breads redolent of 18th century flavors, something delicious that would evoke, but not copy the past.  I began my baking experiments with dark chocolate and coffee, both important beverages in 18th century England and her American colonies.

Chocolate Yeast Bread paulawalton.comChocolate Yeast Bread

This dark dense chocolate bread makes a wonderfully indulgent breakfast.  Loaves keep well at room temperature for several weeks during the winter, or may be frozen.  If by some miracle you have any left long enough for it to get a bit dried out, it makes an amazing bread pudding!

6 cups flour

2 cups warm brewed coffee

1 cup dark brown sugar

3/4 cup Hershey’s Special Dark cocoa

1 cup Hershey’s Special Dark chocolate chips

3 Tbsp. active dry yeast

1/2 cup melted butter

Measure all dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl.  Add warm (110-115 degrees) coffee and cooled melted butter.  Mix by hand with a large wooden spoon or use an electric mixer with a dough hook.  When your dough is completely mixed, shiny and smooth, stir in chocolate chips.  Turn out into an oiled bowl, lightly oil top of dough.  Cover with a clean cloth and set in a warm spot to rise until doubled.  heart shaped chocolate yeast bread paulawalton.comPunch down, and shape into heart shaped loaves on parchment or silpat covered baking sheets.  Chocolate yeast bread in terra cotta heart pans paulawalton.comAlternately shape into smooth loaves and put in heart shaped terra cotta bread pans.  Cover loaves and keep warm to rise.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees, or build a brisk fire and ready reflector oven or dutch oven.

Cross my heart!

Cross my heart!

Slash tops of loaves in an X using a sharp knife.  Bake for 20- 40 minutes depending on the size of your loaves, being careful not to burn.

Chocolate and peanut butter, a classic combination...

Chocolate and peanut butter, a classic combination…

Delicious with whipped strawberry cream cheese.

Delicious with whipped strawberry cream cheese.

Red currant jam, alone or mixed with cream cheese compliment the deep rich chocolate.

Homemade red currant jam, alone or mixed with cream cheese compliments the deep rich chocolate.

After playing with chocolate I turned my hand to yeast raised gingerbread.  I had originally planned to stud my loaves with handfuls of crystallized ginger, but my husband found out that I was making gingerbread and immediately asked me not to put “those chunks” in it…  He knows me too well… I hadn’t even taken the ginger out of the pantry yet!

This recipe makes a soft moist bread,  not overly sweet, with a bite of ginger.  It can be baked into rolls or loaves and would make an outstanding base for cinnamon rolls.

Yeast Gingerbread Hearts paulawalton.comYeast Gingerbread

6 cups flour

2 Tbsp. yeast

1 Tbsp. baking powder

3 Tbsp. ground ginger

1 Tbsp. ground cinnamon

1/2 cup melted butter

1/2 cup molasses

1/2 cup sugar

2 cups warm Earl Grey tea (I used Earl Grey Extra from Simpson and Vail)

1/2 tsp. sea salt

1/2 tsp. orange oil

2 Tbsp. rum

Measure all dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl.  Add warm (110-115 degrees) tea and cooled melted butter, molasses, orange oil and rum.  Mix by hand with a large wooden spoon or use an electric mixer with a dough hook.  The dough will be soft and slightly sticky.

Turn out into an oiled bowl, lightly oil top of dough.  Cover with a clean cloth and set in a warm spot to rise until doubled.

Heart shaped yeast gingerbread paulawalton.comPunch down, and shape into heart shaped loaves on parchment or silpat covered baking sheets.  Or shape into rounded balls and put in a heart shaped cast iron muffin pan. Cover loaves and keep warm to rise.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees, or build a brisk fire and ready reflector oven or dutch oven.

Slash tops of loaves in an X using a sharp knife.  Bake rolls for 15 – 20 minutes. Bake bread for 20- 40 minutes depending on the size of your loaves, being careful not to burn.

Serve with butter and ginger spread or apple butter.

Serve with butter and ginger spread or apple butter.

An Unexpected Yeast Bread…

Mace Shortbread CookiesMace Shortbread

3 cups flour

1-1/2 cups powdered sugar

1-1/2 cups butter

1/2 tsp. yeast

1/4 cup warm water

1 tsp. mace

1/2 tsp. nutmeg

*Proof yeast in warm water for 5 minutes.  Measure flour, powdered sugar, mace and nutmeg into a large mixing bowl.  Add slightly softened butter and mix until all of the butter is worked into the dry ingredients.  Pour proofed yeast/water into bowl and beat until thoroughly incorporated.  Cover bowl with a clean dry cloth and set in a warm place for 1 hour, then chill for 30 minutes.

Roll dough out on a well floured surface to a scant 1/4 inch thickness and cut out with heart shaped cookie cutters.  Emboss the cookies by stamping them with new, washed rubber stamps that have been dusted with flour.   If desired, lightly brush ground nutmeg into the stamped designs before baking.  Bake at 350 degrees for 8 – 10 minutes, until just starting to very lightly brown at the edges.  Cool completely before removing from cookie sheets.

* 18th century shortbread receipts call for the addition of barm (yeast).  I followed this tradition when I developed this recipe.  I love mace and decided to add it, along with nutmeg to the cookies (both spices are part of the seeds of the nutmeg tree).

To see more Mace Shortbread Cookie photos visit my Izannah Walker Journal.

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About thirty years ago my mother gave me several vintage Valentines and managed to pass on her fondness for emphera to me.  Unfortunately, according to my husband, she also passed on her love of dolls, dishes, granite ware, antique and vintage cooking implements, quilts, baby shoes, antique furniture, etc., etc., etc…  🙂

Now whenever I see vintage Valentines I think of my mom.  For me the memories and feelings that my collections invoke are one of the most precious things about collecting.   I don’t really consider myself a Valentine collector, I just happen to be a person who owns several dozen vintage Valentines.  I’m not really sure what the magic number is that you have to pass, to turn the things you own into a collection, but I don’t think I’ve gotten there quite yet.

In addition to my vintage Valentines, I also save Valentines from my husband, children and friends.  I have one friend who often hand makes all of the Valentines that she sends out.  I tell  myself that I need to do the same, but I have to admit that I rarely manage to fit in time to make my own.  If you are better at time management than I am and would like to try your hand at making Valentine Puzzle Purses, you can find the directions here. Happy Valentine’s Day!

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Scottish Shortbread

1 pound butter

1 cup sugar

4 cups flour

Cream butter and sugar.  Add flour a little at a time until it makes a stiff dough.  Pat into a large cookie sheet or 9 x 13 pan, or roll and cut out with tin cookie cutters.  Bake in a slow oven (300 degrees) for 30 minutes or till golden.  If you baked one large sheet, cut it into squares as soon as you remove it from the oven and cool in the pan.

Last Christmas Christine Crocker posted a wonderful idea for shortbread. It’s taken me over a year, but I finally gave it a try. 🙂 Drop in and read Christine’s post, it’s sure to start you on a mad hunt for pressed glass!


(Fanny Pierson Crane, Her Receipts, 1796, adaptation)

1 cup light brown sugar

1/2 cup butter

1 egg

1- 1/2 cups sifted flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 cup cracked chocolate (pieces)

Cream together butter and sugar, add egg and vanilla and stir well.  Mix dry ingredients together and stir into creamed mixture. Fold in chocolate.  Drop from a heaping tablespoon onto a greased cookie sheet 3 inches apart.  Bake in a medium hot oven for 12-15 minutes.  (for the cookies shown in the photo I substituted cinnamon chips for the cracked chocolate pieces)

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If you have been looking for a Valentine’s Day project, let me suggest two heart-shaped pincushions from the Amusing Work section of  The American Girl’s Book; or, Occupation for Play Hours by Miss Eliza Leslie, Boston: Munroe and Francis; New York: C.S. Francis, 1831.












The American Girl’s Book, or Girl’s Own Book as is printed on the spine and cover title, contains games, plays, riddles and sewing projects for young girls.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the book, it became a childhood standard whose immense popularity resulted in 16 editions in its first 23 years alone. The final paragraph of the introduction to the book states, “The author of this little book has not aimed at compiling a juvenile encyclopedia. – It is simply an unpretending manual of light and exhilarating amusements; most of which will be found on trial to answer the purpose of unbending the mind or exercising the body, and at the same time interesting the attention.”

Miss Leslie, author of The American Girl’s Book, was an amazingly prolific writer and editor, all the more astonishing for a woman during the time in which she lived. Eliza Leslie was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to Robert Leslie and Lydia Baker Leslie on November 15, 1787 and died at the age of 70 in Gloucester, New Jersey on January 1, 1858.

When her first cookbook, Seventy-Five Receipts for Pastry, Cakes, and Sweetmeats, was published in 1828, it was credited as being written by “a Lady of Philadelphia”.  By 1831, Miss Leslie felt confident enough to publish The American Girl’s Book under her own name. Her written works for children and adults include a novel, short stories, magazine articles, cookbooks, and manuals on housekeeping and etiquette.

Miss Leslie edited an annual book entitled The Gift that included such illustrious contributors as Edgar Allan Poe. In 1843, she edited Miss Leslie’s Magazine, which contained the writings of Lydia Huntley Sigourney, Park Benjamin, and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow among others. The magazine underwent two name changes before eventually merging with Godey’s Lady’s Book in 1846.

By the end of her life, Miss Leslie was a well-established celebrity in Philadelphia and known for her work throughout the United States. In fact, Mary Todd Lincoln is known to have purchased one of Miss Leslie’s cookbooks while the Lincolns were living in Illinois.

Many of Miss Leslie’s receipts, games and projects, like these pincushions, are as delightful now as they were 180 years ago. Intended as a sewing project for a beginning seamstress, the pincushions are  a wonderful parent and child project or a charming Valentine’s gift for any of your dear friends that sew.  I think that Miss Leslie would be pleased that her “amusing work” is still “interesting the attention” of people today.

Project Instructions

A Heart Pincushion

Cut two pieces of linen into the shape of a half-handkerchief.  Sew them  together, leaving a small open space at the top, and stuff them very hard with bran, or wool.  When sufficiently stuffed, sew up the opening and cover the pincushion with silk, sewed very neatly over the edge.  Then make two upper corners of the pincushion meet, and fasten them well together.  This will bring the pincushion into the shape of a heart.  Put a string to the top.  Emery bags are frequently made in this manner.  Pincushions should always be stuffed with bran, wool, or flannel.  Cotton will not do.

1. I started this project by cutting out a 7 inch square of linen and of red polished cotton for the pincushion and a 2-1/4 inch square of canvas (I picked canvas over linen to keep the emery from seeping through the weave)  and a 2-1/4 inch square of red polished cotton for the emery.  I didn’t have any red or pink silk on hand, but I did have some lovely vintage scarlet polished cotton.  You may certainly cut to triangles like the original instructions advise, or you may decide to simple fold a square, like I did and skip sewing one seam. 🙂   You may also change the size of the triangles/squares until they meet your preference.

2.  I folded my squares into a triangle and sewed along the edges of the linen, leaving an opening for stuffing, then turned them right side out.  I repeated this step with the polished cotton, leaving quite a large opening in one side so that I could insert the linen triangles after they were stuffed.





3.  Stuff your pincushion firmly with wool.  I find bran very difficult to come by, and Miss Leslie was absolutely correct in stating that cotton will not do, because it is quite difficult to stick pins into something that is firmly stuffed with cotton.  If you are making an emery, it is easiest to pour the emery into the opening using a small baby’s spoon.   Sew the openings closed after stuffing.

4. Slip the stuffed triangles into the decorative outer covers and sew the opening in the seam closed with matching thread.

5. Stitch two points of your triangle firmly together and put a string or ribbon through the top.  I chose to use silk ribbon that I dyed to match my scarlet fabric.

A Bunch of Hearts

Cut out ten or twelve hearts of double paste board; that is two pieces of pasteboard for each heart.  Cover them with different shades of red silk, crimson, scarlet and pink, sewing them very neatly at the edges.  Sew a string of narrow ribbon to the top of each, and tie the ends of all the strings together.  Stick pins round the edge of each pincushion where the two sides unite.  These  bunches of hearts look very pretty when hung on a toilet-glass.

1. To start this project I cut out several paper hearts and chose the one I liked best.  Then I traced the shape of the paper heart on to lightweight card board.  You will need two pieces of cardboard for each heart you make.  Next I cut out the cardboard hearts.

2.  I used my paper heart to trace the same shape onto red polished cotton, adding 3/8th of an inch for a seam allowance all the way around. Then I cut out the fabric hearts.

3. I stitched the two fabric heart together, making sure that the right sides of the fabric were turned to the inside.   Make a 1/4 inch seam, you need that extra 1/8 inch for the thickness of the cardboard. Leave a large opening in one side so that you can insert the cardboard.

4. Turn the heart right side out, tuck two cardboard hearts into the fabric heart.  Sew the opening closed and sew a matching ribbon to the top of the heart.

5.  Add pins around the edges, I used vintage brass pins.  Repeat to your heart’s content. 🙂  Then dangle them from the mirror of your dressing table (aka toilet-glass).

One Additional Heart

Since I already had all of the right fabric and notions out, I did make one more heart.  I was inspired by a photograph of a lovely heart that  Christine Crocker posted on her blog last February.

I chose one of my cutout paper hearts and traced it onto the front side of my red polished cotton with a pencil, next I added a 1/2 inch seam allowance and cut the heart out of a double thickness of fabric.

I pinned the two fabric hearts together and handstiched along the pencil line, leaving an opening along one side of the heart.  Next, without tying off my thread, I stuffed the heart firmly with cotton, then finished sewing along my pencil guideline.

Finally I hand pinked the edges using a sharp pair of embroidery scissors.  Pinking sheers will not work for this, you must hand pink.

While I don’t love my heart quite as much as I do Christine’s, I am quite pleased with the results.  I think it would be fun to make up one to hang in every window (in my case that means I need to get busy and make 42 more!)

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The following is the verse written upon an intricately folded and paper cut 18th century Valentine.  Both the sender and his recipient were residents of New Milford, Connecticut.

Come, Mary dear, and let me twine
A wreath round thee, my Valentine.
I love those jetty laughing eyes
Altho they fill my heart with sighs.
As twinkling stars in dark midnight.
Like brilliant meteors, they impart
A light that penetrates my heart.
And, Oh, that form so neat and straight,
That moves along with graceful gait,
Methinks that Venus cannot be
Compared in lovliness to thee.

But, Oh, dear Mary, how I wish
You were a tender, little fish.
That I might take my Rod and line
And catch you for my Valentine.
And when at eve I went to sup
I’d cook you well and eat you up.
Or if you were a Bird like mine
That’s cut upon this Valentine,
I’d go and get my fowling piece
And shoot you dead as slick as grease.
Then I’d preserve you in a cage
To gaze upon your fine plumage.
Or I might send for Mr. Peale
To fix your feathers so genteel.
That he might offer a large sum
To put you in his museum.
But you are neither bird nor fish
And so there is no use to wish.
You are a lovely human being
As everyone knows by seeing,
But everybody cannot see
As pretty things as you and me
And I’m in hopes you’ll still incline
to come and be my Valentine.

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