A Prize from the County Fair
When we were kids, my sister and I loved the annual Hawaii County Fair. Thrilling carnival rides, hot dogs and cotton candy, the smell of sawdust, strings of night lights, booths offering free stuff…it was quite the highlight of our year, growing up in small town Hilo.
Other kids may have been bored with the exhibits of foodstuffs and crafts by local homemakers. But we couldn’t wait to check them out because each year, mom would submit entries for competition and we were proud of her talents.
Mom was a skilled seamstress as well as a good cook, and her entries were bound to win. Through the years, mom amassed a bunch of blue ribbons, along with some red and white, that she mounted in a scrapbook.
Sometimes, in addition to ribbons, mom won prizes, such as the Woman’s Home Companion Cook Book, which I still treasure today. According to a Google search, Woman’s Home Companion was a monthly magazine (1873 to 1957) that had a circulation of 4 million in its heyday during the 1930s and 40s.
The cookbook provided a rich compendium of information every woman of that period needed to know about table setting, nutrition, cooking, baking and preserving. The photography captures the lifestyle of the period as vividly as old Turner Classic Movies.
Recently, perusing the cookbook while reorganizing the hundreds of cookbooks in my library, I came across a recipe for Strawberry Bavarian Cream. Having just purchased a flat of organic strawberries from the farmers’ market, I thought I’d give this retro recipe a try.
Bavarian cream was first popularized in the U.S. in the 1880s. It was made in a fluted mold, which is risky business if the mold doesn’t release the dessert in one piece. So, I took the easy way out by chilling the dessert in a bowl, scooping out portions in dessert dishes, and garnishing with sliced strawberries.
Strawberry Bavarian Cream
About 2 pint baskets strawberries, divided
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
½ cup sugar, plus more if berries are too tart
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons cold water
1 envelope (.25 ounces) unflavored gelatin
1 cup whipping cream
Mint sprigs, for garnish (optional)
Hull 1 basket of strawberries and purée in a food processor to make 1 ½ cups. (You may need more berries from the second basket.)
In a medium bowl, combine puréed berries, lemon juice, sugar and salt. Taste mixture and add more sugar if berries are too tart.
Bring a kettle of water to boiling.
In a small pot, add 2 tablespoons of cold water. Sprinkle gelatin over the water to separate the granules and let stand 1 minute to soften. Pour a few inches of boiling water into a larger pot and keep the water simmering. Put the small pot over the larger pot so the boiling water heats the small pot, and stir until the gelatin is dissolved—the liquid will look clear with no lumps.
Pour the gelatin into the strawberry mixture and stir to blend thoroughly. Be sure the use a spatula to scrape out any gelatin left in the pot.
Chill mixture until almost set, about 45 minutes. Whip cream until stiff and using a rubber spatula, gently fold the whipped cream into the strawberry mixture. Return to the refrigerator and chill 4 to 6 hours or overnight.
To serve, hull remaining strawberries and quarter or slice them; sweeten with sugar if berries are too tart. Spoon Bavarian Cream into 6 dessert bowls. Scatter strawberries around the edges and garnish with mint, if desired.
Makes 6 servings.
Recipe adapted from Woman’s Home Companion Cook Book, c. 1955.
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