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March Mania

Great Depression recipes are trending, like this peanut butter bread

ST. PAUL — Baking bread is trending in this pandemic. So are recipes from the Great Depression.

I decided to combine those trends after noticing a recipe for peanut butter bread in an Old Recipes forum on Reddit.

“I made Peanut Butter Bread from the 1932 Five Roses Flour cookbook via Glen & Friends,” the post was titled. “It’s delicious and tastes like a peanut butter cookie!”

As a fan of both peanut butter cookies and vintage cookbooks, I followed the link to “Glen & Friends Cooking,” a YouTube channel by a Canadian team promising “easy to follow video instructions about food, cooking, recipes, beer and cocktails.”

The peanut butter bread video began with an explanation of the flour company’s cookbook.

“If you are Canadian,” Glen said, “chances are you have one of these cookbooks in your cupboard. They first printed this in 1913 and it was essentially a community cookbook. They got Canadian housewives to send in their favorite recipes. and Five Roses flour — or the Lake of the Woods Milling Company, which made Five Roses flour — put it together into a cookbook. and it’s been in print form from then until 1967 …

“What I really like about these cookbooks,” he said, “is that they, as you go through the years and you look at the recipes, you see little snapshots about what it was like to be in Canada at that particular time. And so this one, from 1932, shows a lot of recipes from that Depression era that are sort of ‘How to get by’ recipes — but it also shows a lot of recipes that are those celebratory, ‘Let’s get together and economy be damned, let’s have a good time.'”

These days, of course, both Canadians and Americans are finding ways of getting by while not getting together.

Which explains why I’m making peanut butter bread.

The good news is that I could make this quick bread without going to the store for any obscure or expensive ingredients: This bread is made up of staples like peanut butter, salt, baking powder and milk. All I had to do was mix everything together in one bowl and cook the bread for an hour and –voila! — it was ready to accompany my coffee break. The bad news? The loaf of homemade bread didn’t taste very peanut buttery, and it crumbled like our economy when I tried to cut a slice.

But here’s more good news: The 1932 cookbook also offers instructions for a richer, more cake-like version of this bread: Just add two eggs and adjust some of the other ingredients. Here are both versions — but I’d suggest really upping the peanut butter in both.

While I’m not sure I’ll make the peanut butter bread again, I am now in search of other Depression-era recipes. A friend told me about the “Great Depression cake” that is also making a comeback (it was recently featured on NBC’s “Today” show). Meanwhile, I just discovered “Stories and Recipes of the Great Depression of the 1930s,” by Janet Van Amber Paske, home economist, and updated by Rita Van Amber. And a former colleague suggested I read “A Square Meal: A Culinary History of the Great Depression” by Jane Ziegelman and Andrew Coe (Harper, 2017). If you know of some good, frugal recipes, send them my way at mguthrey@pioneerpress.com.

Peanut Butter Bread

Recipe from “A Guide to Good Cooking” compiled by the makers of Five Roses Flour (1932 edition), via Glen & Friends Cooking channel on YouTube.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1-1/3 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter (or more, to taste)

Prep:

  • Grease a loaf pan.
  • Preheat oven to 325 or 350 degrees (325 worked for my oven).
  • In a bowl, mix all other ingredients before adding in the peanut butter.
  • Bake for about 1 hour.

Alternative:

For a richer peanut butter bread, with a more cake-like texture, use two eggs. Reduce baking powder to 3 teaspoons and milk to 1 cup. Increase sugar to 1/2 cup. Raisins may be added if desired (or chocolate chips).

For more:

For more ideas, visit the new Reddit forum devoted to Peanut Butter Bread at https://www.reddit.com/r/peanutbutterbread/.

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