A Sweet Taste of the Past

Rick Ellis shares two favorite desserts from his vintage Southern cookbook collection

Photo: Kate Sears

Apple Rosewater Pie

From the Virginia Housewife (Mrs. Mary Randolph, 1838) comes this exotic version of a classic American dessert. Serve with fresh whipped cream.


Prepare enough pastry dough for 2-crust pie. Preheat oven to 375°.

Peel, core and thinly slice 4–5 Golden Delicious apples.

Toss with 2/3 cup sugar mixed with 1/4 tsp. of ground cloves. Line pie plate with one round of rolled out pastry.  Fill with apples, and sprinkle with 2–3 tsp. of rosewater. Cover with other round of pastry, crimp edge and cut 4 slits in top. Brush top with water and sprinkle with 1–2 tsp. sugar.

Bake for 50 minutes, until pastry is golden brown.


Molasses Gingerbread

An interesting version of gingerbread from Cooking in Old Creole Days (Celestine Eustis, 1903). Cut this thin gingerbread into squares and layer with sliced peaches tossed in sugar and a little bourbon and whipped cream for a interesting take on peach shortcake.


Preheat oven to 375°. Butter and flour a half sheet pan (18”x13”). Line bottom with parchment.

Combine 1 cup melted butter, 1 cup molasses (she specifically calls for “unrefined black New Orleans molasses”), 1 cup brown sugar, 2 well beaten eggs, 2 cups flour, 1 tbsp. ground ginger, 1 tsp. cinnamon and 1/2 tsp. baking soda. Beat well with an electric mixer, until thickened.

Pour batter into prepared pan and spread evenly.

Bake for 25 minutes, until puffed and slightly resistant to the touch. Remove from oven and cool on rack for 10 minutes.  Turn out gingerbread onto rack and remove parchment. Cool completely.

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