Batter Bread – A 1940s Recipe

One of my Christmas gifts this year was a small 4-½ x 6 inch leather bound book engraved “Cooking Recipes”, purchased at an antique mall in Sugar Creek, Ohio.  The pages are edged in gold and there are 10 index tabs for food categories.  

The real gold in this book, though, is the collection of handwritten recipes.  There aren’t a lot of recipes – just 25, 22 of which are desserts.  The book itself could have been from the 1930s, but I believe the recipes are from the 1945-1950 era.  This is based on a lot of recipes calling for shortening, for using the word “oleo” rather than margarine in most recipes and the attention given to oven temperatures.  I believe it’s post-World War II because of all of the sugar-laden desserts.  

The handwriting is clear and ingredients are listed correctly, although most of the recipes give no idea of how the item is to be prepared, what kind of pan to use or how long to bake.  That’s why I’ve decided to make each of the recipes, using the products specified, and adding my own instructions.  I like to think that the woman from the 1940s kitchen (who would have been about my mother’s age) would enjoy having someone fuss around with these recipes again and turn out some delicious food for the family.

This is the only recipe in the book that uses yeast.  I substituted oil for shortening and I know the 1940s housewives were using cake yeast which is hard to find now.  I use fast-acting yeast (Fleischmann’s Rapid Rise yeast  – Quick-Rise in Canada) and a quick mix method for all of my bread-making.  That makes this batter bread even simpler and quicker to make.

Your choice of spices, herbs, cheese, etc., could be added.  For this test, I made it plain and it was delicious.  The bread is soft with a nice crunchy crust.

BATTER BREAD (No Kneading)

  • 1-¼ cup water, 130 degrees F
  • 1 Tblsp. fast-acting yeast (Fleischmann’s Rapid Rise yeast – Quick-Rise in Canada)
  • 2 Tblsp. oil (canola)
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 2 Tblsp. granulated sugar
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour, divided

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F
Grease a 1-½ quart casserole dish

In the large bowl of a mixer, place 1 cup of flour, salt, sugar and yeast.  Mix for 20 seconds to blend.

Add water and oil, beat on medium speed with paddle beater for 3 minutes.  Remove beater and insert dough hook.  Add remaining 2 cups of flour gradually while beating at medium speed for 6-½ minutes.   Dough will be like a stiff batter.

Cover and let rise in the mixing bowl in a warm place for 15 minutes.

Punch down dough with a spoon and place in a greased 1-½ quart casserole dish.

Cover and let rise in a warm place for 20 minutes.

Bake in preheated 375 degree F oven for approximately 45 minutes until golden brown.

Place casserole dish on wire rack.  With a knife, loosen around the sides of the bread and leave in the dish for another 10 minutes.

Then, remove the bread to a rack to continue cooling.

While still warm, cut into wedges.  Servings:  6 to 10, depending on size of slices.

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Lillian Applegate Westfelt was a mother of 4, grandmother of 6, and great-grandmother of 3. She was an 86-year-old widow living in a nice little bungalow with her oldest daughter and a beagle-dachsund named Addie. She passed away in November, 2018.

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