Our last holiday treat of 2019 is the pavlova, a signature dessert of my wife's homeland. Most people who have seen pictures of the "pavs" Jess has made for our family and friends ask if it's a cake, whipped cream, or some other strange concoction, maybe an unbaked Alaska? An ice cream cake? Something else entirely? And the answer is simple: it's a meringue topped with a lot of whipped cream and fruit. You can have big pavs, little pavs, in the medium pavs... doesn't matter. When done right, this is a really delicious, refreshing dessert, perfect for celebrating Christmas in Australia because - as many of you know - Australia (and the rest of the southern hemisphere) is actually experiencing summer right now. Australians still enjoy traditional Christmas treats like Christmas puddings and gingerbread, but the high temperatures make things like this an appealing alternative to "traditional" Christmas fare, which is often quite heavy or spiced. The pavlova can trace its history back to the 1920's, when Russian ballet superstar Anna Pavolva toured Australia and New Zealand. Both countries claim to be the first to create this dessert in her honor, but as I've married an Australian, I think you know which country I need to support in the debate. Australia also has the slightly stronger argument - in my opinion - because similar dishes spotlighting meringues and whipped cream date back to the early 1900's, meaning my Florrie Girl Florence might have enjoyed a treat similar to a pavlova in her childhood known by a different name. Other similar Australian recipes appear in the early 1920's, still under a different name, and the first known dish to bear the name Pavolva comes from an Australian cookbook published in 1926. Sorry, New Zealand.
In a sharp contrast to Maryellen's Christmas story, Molly's Surprise is all about how traditions have changed for the McIntires because of the war. With Dad overseas - and no letters from him in weeks! - things were always going to be different, but Mom doesn't have time to decorate, and Molly's grandparents can't come thanks to a flat tire. With a little help from her siblings - and a surprise from Dad - Molly manages to find a way to make the holidays special even with things so different.
A traditional holiday snack for the McIntires are sticky buns, a cinnamony treat usually smothered in caramel and pecans. As this Christmas was apparently the year I wanted to practice baking with yeast, and I wanted to revisit some of the American Girl books for baking inspiration, I thought these would be a fun thing to try.
A recipe straight from the mid 20th century with a long, long history.
Although American Girl has snipped Maryellen's Christmas story from the most recent edition of her books, they sure do seem to like giving her a lot of winter and holiday releases. For those not in the know, Maryellen's Christmas adventure focused on how Maryellen is growing frustrated with her non-traditional Christmas in Florida. Every movie and holiday card depicts Christmas as a day full of snow, with an evergreen tree, sledding, ice skating... you get the idea. She gets it in her head that she wants to have a "real" Christmas, and ends up going to visit her grandparents in slightly colder Georgia.
After enjoying some of her solo adventure, and getting an opportunity to ice skate, she realizes she misses her family's traditions and wants to go home. The whole story is meant to tie into one of the major themes of Maryellen's series: the 1950's was a period of conformity, but you should follow your heart instead of the crowd.
One of the traditions the Larkins enjoy is eating a coffee cake on Christmas morning, and I've been contemplating trying my hand at making my own pretty much since her books were released. The recipe I'm going to share with you might not be exactly what you're thinking a good coffee cake should be - and very well might not be the exact kind of coffee cake the Larkins cut into while opening presents - but it is an authentic recipe from the period that made a very tasty final product, and got me doing some research into the history of coffee cake. Read on to see what we discovered!
Blaire's time as Girl of the Year is coming to an end, and before she rides off, I wanted to try my hand at at least one more of the recipes American Girl released to celebrate her time in the sun. She might make the occasional appearance around these parts the same way Grace does, but the odds of American Girl producing any other Blaire content moving forward is pretty slim, and I have to admit, this recipe caught the interest of this cheese loving blogger from the moment I read her books. Read on to learn how to make Blaire's famous Hug in a Bowl yourself!
A cornbread that could have been served at the first Thanksgiving!
I swear I intended to have Jane represent the experience of settlers in Jamestown, but let's be honest: it's hard to ignore Plymouth as a source for early colonization and interactions between Europeans and Native communities, particularly when it comes to exchanging food. This corn bread is very different from the corn bread you've probably enjoyed alongside chili and fried chicken, but if you're looking for something that can pass as authentic for your Thanksgiving table, this really fits the bill. Read on to find out how to make this yourself!
A pie that's really more of a cake, but tasty either way!
Molasses is one of my favorite ingredients to use in dessert. I'm a big fan of chocolate and boring old vanilla (which really isn't that boring) as well, but anything with molasses and spice in it tends to win my heart pretty quickly. This unusual pie might not be entirely authentic to Caroline's time period - and actually has its roots in the 1870's, and you may know it as shoofly pie - but molasses would have been so much a part of her life that it just felt fitting to give this one to her. Besides, American Girl doesn't seem that inspired by the 19th century these days, so if you want something done at all, let alone right, I guess I'd better do it myself.