IT'S been such a wet weekend that all plans to spend time in the garden were simply washed away. What else is there to do then, but b...

IT'S been such a wet weekend that all plans to spend time in the garden were simply washed away. What else is there to do then, but bake?

I've been trialling loaf recipes in the Willow brand nut loaf tin I found at the op shop last month. So far I've trialled a basic nut loaf recipe from The Willow Housewife's Handbook on Cookery (Fifth Edition) found by chance on a trip to Gulgong a mere week after buying the tin.

The nut loaf was a tad plain so today I had another crack and baked a date loaf with more success. The recipe was much the same, with the addition of a cup of chopped dates, and came instead from The 1939 edition of The Common Sense Cookery Book I own. Both books are from the same era and it's interesting to note the small quantities of eggs, butter and milk in cake recipes used. It was, after all, the Great Depression and a time of thrift and conservation.

I am assuming, though can't be sure, that the nut loaf tin bakes and steams the cake. The resulting cakes are dense and pudding-like. They cut like a loaf of bread and are lovely with a scrape of butter, and, of course, a cup of tea. In a time of rations, perhaps the enclosed tin allowed home makers to bake a moist cake without the use of the usual things that make modern-day cakes so rich.

I guess the only thing to do is to keep trialling these well-worn recipes and see what I discover.

The Willow Housewife's Handbook on Cookery (Fifth Edition) was an amazing find. It illustrates the full range of Willow tin ware and many of the recipes, mostly sweet treats, come with notes, in brackets. 

For example, cheese paste comes with a note that reads: "Delicious for sandwiches". Savoury steak's note reads: "For sandwiches, good". The Christmas cake is a "good dark cake" while the orange cake is "very good". 

Who made these notes and how were they read by the housewife? The carraway seed cake note reads "delicious". Does that mean the apple sauce cake on the facing page, sans note, is to be steered clear of? 

Who was the woman this book of recipes was compiled for? Did she look longingly at the Willow vase filler - a small watering can with long spout - and calculate how many weeks it would be until she could order one in? Or was she tempted by the pie tins, "deep drawn from special tin plate"? Did she dog-ear the page with a recipe for Ritz Cream, planning to serve it up next time guests were due? 

It's another world, isn't it? So far removed from the newsagency titles that promise dinner will be on the table in 15mins, or only four ingredients will be required. 

Or is it? I wonder.

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  1. I used to have one of those tins and used it for date loaf...It was great for lunchboxes as it didn't fall apart. I wonder if I still have it? Thanks for the reminder.

  2. My grandmothers were both young farmer's wives shortly after the great depression. Their cookbooks are treasures, packed with comments, clippings from newspapers, and recipe cards from friends. I know life was hard, but there is something to be said for the richness of a life lived without. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Just got your note. What a wonderful idea to share with the girl guides. I know my daughter and her friends would love to make these too.

  4. I love this post. I think I am going to persuade my mum to give me her (not that old) Willow date loaf tin next time I am home.

  5. Ahhh, massively awesome to see a round date loaf again!! I love the round loaf tin and the vintage cook book, I love it when I go somewhere and see a home baked round little loaf like like that and I love that people are still baking them. I collect vintage cook books too and some of mine have the same sort of odd but sweet little comments in them too. Love the design on the front of your book. Carraway is my favourite so I'm sure is is "delicious".