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Back in Time Baking: Retro Recipes from Long-Forgotten Cookbooks

Updated on August 1, 2017

How did it get so late so soon? It's night before it's afternoon. December is here before it's June. My goodness how the time has flewn. How did it get so late so soon?

— Dr. Seuss

Traveling back to...

The year was 1955. Dwight Eisenhower was the President. Disneyland Theme Park opened in Anaheim. "Gunsmoke" debuted on CBS. The Brooklyn Dodgers won the World Series. The movie "Ben Hur" won 11 Academy Awards. Teens were dancing to "Rock Around the Clock" with Bill Haley and the Comets. The first McDonalds was built. Coca-Cola was sold in cans.

Pardon me, I've started in the middle of the story

First we need to talk about today.

Have you made your New Year's resolutions? Have you started on your plan to improve your life in 2015? (....or, have those resolutions already been broken?)

One of my goals for 2015 is to get better organized, especially my recipes. Ask my family--there is absolutely no order to the cookbooks (several hundred) in my pantry. Stacks of magazines (which contain recipes) are in almost every room of the house, and recipes printed out from the internet are in a jumble on top of my recipe file, right next to the toaster.


And then, I found myself back in time

I had every intention of starting today to get my life (or at least my recipes) organized. But then I picked up my mom’s recipe book from the 1955 Pillsbury Bakeoff. Bertha E. Jorgensen of Portland, Oregon was the Grand Prize Winner that year with her "Ring-a-Lings" yeast rolls. My mom used that recipe countless times.



  • 4 to 4 1/2 cups Pillsbury BEST® All Purpose or Unbleached Flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons grated orange peel
  • 2 pkg. active dry yeast
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup margarine or butter
  • 2 eggs


  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/3 cup margarine or butter, softened
  • 1 cup filberts, pecans or walnuts, ground


  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 cup orange juice


  1. Lightly spoon flour into measuring cup; level off. In large bowl, combine 2 cups of the flour, 1/3 cup sugar, salt, orange peel and yeast; mix well.
  2. In small saucepan, heat milk and 1/3 cup margarine until very warm (120 to 130°F.). Add warm liquid and eggs to flour mixture; blend at low speed until moistened. Beat 3 minutes at medium speed. By hand, stir in remaining 2 to 2 1/2 cups flour to form a stiff dough. Place dough in greased bowl; cover loosely with plastic wrap and cloth towel. Let rise in warm place (80 to 85°F.) until light and doubled in size, 35 to 50 minutes.
  3. In small bowl, blend powdered sugar and 1/3 cup margarine until smooth. Stir in filberts; set aside. In second small bowl, blend glaze ingredients; cover and set aside.
  4. Grease 2 large cookie sheets. Stir down dough to remove all air bubbles. On floured surface, roll dough to 22x12-inch rectangle. Spread filling mixture lengthwise over half of dough. Fold dough over filling. Cut crosswise into 1-inch strips; twist each strip 4 to 5 times. To shape rolls, hold folded end of strip down on greased cookie sheet to form center; coil strip around center. Tuck loose end under. Repeat with remaining twisted strips. Cover; let rise in warm place until light and doubled in size, 30 to 45 minutes.
  5. Heat oven to 375°F. Uncover dough. Bake 9 to 12 minutes or until light golden brown. Brush tops of rolls with glaze. Bake an additional 3 to 5 minutes or until golden brown. Immediately remove from cookie sheets; cool on wire racks. Serve warm.

But wait, there's more!

Next, I picked up mom's 1957 red plaid issue of the Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book....and soon found myself lost in the pages of my childhood. So many of the meals I enjoyed as a little one are contained within the cover of that book. And even the recipes not prepared by my mom or sister are still a part of my memories. I started leafing through cook books even before I could read--I loved looking at the color photos.

Of course, as the Carb Diva, today I began looking in the "Bread" section. This recipe sounds intriguing:

Crunch Sticks
1 tube refrigerated biscuits (10 biscuits)
1 cup crisp rice cereal, coarsely crushed
1 tablespoon caraway, celery, or dill weed

Cut biscuits in half. Roll each half into a 4-inch pencil-like stick. Brush with milk. Mix cereal crumbs, seed, and 1 tsp. salt in shallow pan (be sure salt is well distributed). Roll sticks in mixture. Bake on greased baking sheet at 450 degrees F. for 8 to 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Makes 20.


If I prepare this recipe in my kitchen I'll probably make a few changes. First, I won't cut the biscuits in half and roll into sticks. Why not let them look like biscuits? Next, instead of dried seeds, I'll use minced fresh herbs (oregano, dill, or rosemary perhaps). And maybe add a bit of grated Parmesan or a pinch of cayenne pepper.

Then I advanced one decade

In 1962 my brother and his wife gave me my first cook book, "Betty Crocker's New Good and Easy Cook Book". I loved that book--it was well illustrated, contained many beautiful color photographs, and relied on simple ingredients.

As I look at it today (yes, I still have it!), I recognize how the foods we eat, and even the way we think about food has changed over the years. Post-war baby boomers grew up with meat and potatoes as the primary focus of the meal. There are no recipes for fish or seafood (other than crispy fish sticks and tuna noodle bake), no whole grains, no fresh herbs, and low fat/low sodium is not in the lexicon.

On page 94 are hints for "how to be famous for your tossed salads". One suggestion is to "...occasionally try unusual additions such as artichoke hearts, sliced mushrooms, or ripe olives".

I don't rely on these old cookbooks for main dish ideas, but they do contain wonderful recipes for baked goods--such as this recipe for pineapple yeast rolls.

Hawaiian Yeast Rolls
3/4 cup drained crushed pineapple
1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup soft butter

1 pkg. active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water
1 egg
1 tbsp. granulated sugar
2 1/2 cups Bisquick
2 tbsp. butter
1/4 cup brown sugar (packed)

Mix pineapple, 1/2 cup brown sugar, and 1/4 cup butter. Divide among 12 large greased muffin cups.

Dissolve yeast in water. Mix in egg, granulated sugar, and Bisquick; beat vigorously. Turn dough onto surface well dusted with flour. Knead until smooth, about 20 times. Roll into a rectangle 16x9". Spread with the rest of ingredients.

Roll up tightly beginning at wide side. Seal well by pinching edge of dough into roll. Slice into 12. Place in prepared muffin cups. Place pan of rolls on wire rack over bowl of hot water and cover with towel; let rise 1 hour.

Heat oven to 400 degrees. F. Bake 15 minutes. Invert pan; serve.

Back to work

Well, I must get back to organizing my cookbooks. I have four more decades to go through. Happy New Year to all of you!

© 2015 Linda Lum


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    • Carb Diva profile image

      Linda Lum 3 years ago from Washington State, USA

      Good morning vespawoolf - I love the fragrance of yeast dough and the aroma of bread baking. Remind me of my mother. I hope you get a chance to try these. I'm sure you will like them. Thanks for your support.

    • vespawoolf profile image

      vespawoolf 3 years ago from Peru, South America

      I love retro recipes and these sound delicious--the orange sweet rolls, bread sticks and Hawaiian rolls! Oh my. Thank you for sharing.

    • Carb Diva profile image

      Linda Lum 3 years ago from Washington State, USA

      Oh Bill you have warmed this old gal's heart. You have no idea what your words of praise mean to me. Thank you and I hope you are having a wonderful day and start to a great new year.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      This may be my favorite recipe article over three years here at HP. Opening with a Seuss quote...then taking us back in time....then great recipes that I recognized because yes, I am that old...this was just a pleasure to read and Linda, I rarely say that about recipe articles. Nice job of writing.

      Happy New Year!