My love of all things historic can be traced to one, monumental television series-Little House on the Prairie. As a little girl, I savored each weekly episode featuring Melissa Gilbert’s iconic portrayal of “Half Pint” and her adventurous family on the American frontier. Michael Landon made the time period seem idyllic, even with all the tragedy of natural disasters, illness, and death.
It’s no surprise that my love of TV series led to me to read Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books and, consequently, to fall in love with those too, although for a different reason. The more in-depth descriptions of home life and food preparation always fascinated me!
I hadn’t really thought about Little House for a while but then this winter arrived. I live in Southern Ohio, and many natives are shocked by the snowfall and cold we’ve endured this year. I’m not really phased by it-I grew up in the northern Great Lakes region of the state. So when someone referred to this year’s snow and cold as “The Long Winter”, it made me think of Laura’s book of the same name, the unending blizzard she endured and… led me to decide on a Little House series of recipes!
I’m using The Little House Cookbook by Barbara Muhs Walker, published in 1979, as my source. Barbara does a fantastic job of pulling the description of food preparation from the books and translating them into practical recipes. She also reprinted the Garth Williams illustrations that I love from the book series.
My first recipe is from Laura’s description of Christmas in Little House on the Prairie, though I thought this would be appropriate considering the impending arrival of Valentine’s Day.
“The stockings weren’t empty yet. Mary and Laura pulled out two small packages. They unwrapped them, and each found a little heart-shaped cake. Over their delicate brown tops was sprinkled white sugar. The sparkling grains lay like tiny drifts of snow. The cakes were too pretty to eat. Mary and Laura just looked at them. But at last Laura turned her over, and she nibbled a tiny nibble from underneath, where it wouldn’t show. And the inside of that little cake was white!”
It’s a wonderful example of how Laura treasured things we take for granted now-white sugar and white flour, and a handmade cake in her stocking.
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch of ground nutmeg
1/4 cup butter or shortening, chilled
1/3 cup buttermilk
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. In a mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking soda and nutmeg. Cut in the shortening or butter until the mix resembles course crumbs.
Make a well in the center and add the buttermilk. Combine with flour. If the dough is too dry, add buttermilk by the tablespoonful until you have a consistency of dough that you can roll out.
Roll the dough into an eight inch circle on a surface dusted with flour. Cut with a heart-shaped biscuit cutter. Re-roll and cut, until all the dough is used.
Place on parchment-lined cookie sheet that’s been greased with cooking spray. Bake for about 15 minutes, until the cakes are puffy and slightly browned.
Remove to cooling rack and either sprinkle with sugar or allow to cool completely and frost. You can also eat them plain or with jam. They’re slightly sweet and light-a great tea biscuit!