My plans for tonight changed suddenly so I’ve quickly looked for a recipe which is quick but still interesting. I think this fits the bill — Soda Biscuit Pudding (p. 160). The recipe for this dessert was contributed to the 1906 Berlin Cook Book by Susan Schwartz. I haven’t been able to find out anything about Susan so far although there are many Schwartz names listed in the Waterloo North censuses. This page also has recipes from Miss Mary Schwartz and Miss Annie Schwartz so I assumed they might all be sisters.
Soda crackers would be sold in a general grocery store. At one time they were sold in barrels — cracker barrels. One of the Schwartz families ran a grocery store so they could be easily available. Soda biscuit pudding looks like it might be a package recipe. The kind of thing manufacturers create to show the various ways their product can be used in the kitchen. Sometimes they are printed on the package or included in a recipe booklet. Some of those recipes become popular while others quickly fade away for good reason.
I decided to use 24 soda crackers for a couple of reasons. Primarily 6 small crackers and 5 cups of liquid seemed very out of balance for something called “pudding”. Also I remember crackers being sold in boxes the same size as today but containing a single sleeve of crackers. A square of cracker consisted of four smaller square crackers that had to be broken apart. I decided to try using 24 of the modern smaller square soda crackers. It seemed to work. The recipe calls for salt so I decided to use unsalted crackers rather than the salt on the top variety.
I placed 24 crackers in a casserole dish and poured 1 quart (4 cups) of boiling water over them. I added the raisins and milk to the softened crackers and stirred. I broke three medium eggs into a cup and stirred them and then added it to the cracker mixture. I shook some salt in and added about a 1/4 cup of brown sugar. Those amounts were just guesses and since the recipe didn’t specify what sort of sweetener, I chose to use brown sugar to add a little more flavour to what looked like a bland and unappealing dessert. I put the dish in the oven at 350 degrees F. and baked for the indicated 30 minutes.
It came out a bit set around the edges but with lots of liquid in the centre. I tried a little and as expected it was not very appealing. It looked like it was trying to be a custard. I wondered if it would set up as it cooled but there was just so much liquid I couldn’t imagine it ever solidifying. I decided to put it back in the oven a little longer. It became a little firmer but still wasn’t nice to eat. I’m letting it cool now in hopes that it will improve.
I’m not sure a modern cook would ever want to make this recipe. It would need some flavouring like vanilla or cinnamon to have any appeal today. I’m not sure why anyone in 1906 would make it either unless they had run out of flour. I think flour would be cheaper than crackers. Maybe it is to be made with matzos for an unleavened dessert but it has dairy in it. Perhaps it is supposed to be like bread pudding and there are even more crackers needed, but I like bread pudding and I don’t like Soda Biscuit Pudding. There is a recipe for Mock Apple Pie which still appears on the Ritz cracker box every so often. I’ve made it and its good. In that case the crackers replace apples which could be out of season.
I wonder if I was supposed to drain away the water? Maybe I’ll try it again sometime … but not soon. There’s only so much blandness I can take.
SODA BISCUIT PUDDING
Pour 1 quart of boiling water over 6 crackers, let stand until soft, add 3 eggs, 1 cup raisins, 1 cup milk, a little salt and sweeten. Bake in oven 30 minutes.