Posted by: Erica Retrochef | January 30, 2012

Crusty Peach Cobbler with Emergency Flour

We took last week off in order to add a new member to our family, and I wasn’t really feeling up to standing around the kitchen cooking yet. But when I mentioned I wanted to try some peach cobbler (an interesting and retro peach cobbler, of course), my daughter cheerfully offered to take the lead in cooking and photographing. She did a pretty decent job, too!

Crusty Peach Cobbler

“Top is golden-brown, sugar-crusted shortcake”–

3 cups sliced fresh peaches
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 tablespoon lemon juice

1-1/2 cups enriched emergency flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 tablespoon sugar
1/3 cup shortening
1/2 cup milk
1 well-beaten egg

2 tablespoons sugar

Arrange peaches in greased, 8-inch-square baking pan. Sprinkle with mixture of 1/4 cup sugar, almond extract, lemon juice, and lemon peel. Heat in oven while preparing shortcake. Sift together flour, salt, baking powder, and 1 tablespoon sugar; cut in shortening until mixture is like coarse crumbs. Add milk and egg at once; stir just until flour is moistened. Spread dough over hot peaches. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons sugar. Bake in hot oven (400°) 40 minutes. Serves 6.–Mrs. H. E. Connell, Dallas, Texas.

That all looks reasonably tasty and straightforward — except I don’t know what enriched emergency flour was. Luckily, we have Google!

In February 1946, President Truman enacted a number of emergency measures to conserve wheat. The goal was to increase the availability of food exports to Europe, which was struggling to recover from World War II while simultaneously dealing with drought and famine. Among a variety of mandates, there was a change to the formula for all-purpose flour…

“The wheat flour extraction rate (the quantity of flour produced from each bushel of wheat) will be raised to 80 percent for the duration of the emergency. Also, steps will be taken to limit the distribution of flour to amounts essential for current civilian distribution. This will save about 25 million bushels of wheat during the first half of 1946.” — Statement by the President Announcing Emergency Measures To Relieve the World Food Shortage, February 6, 1946

Lela E. Booher, PhD, explained exactly what this meant in a May 1946 article from Life & Health: The National Health Journal. Regular white flour production is 72% extraction, achieved by removing almost all the wheat germ and bran, leaving just endosperm to be ground into flour. Emergency flour, or 80% extraction flour, requires that some of the germ and bran be left in. While you get more flour from the same amount of wheat, you also change the properties somewhat — the flour looks darker, it doesn’t keep as long, the nutritional properties change somewhat, and it doesn’t behave the quite same way in baking (at least in more delicate cake recipes). And enriched emergency flour was just emergency flour with iron and vitamins added.

With that in mind, I decided to make the shortcake topping with 1 cup regular all-purpose flour, and 1/2 cup whole wheat flour, to approximate the 1946 flour proportion. (1/2 cup whole wheat flour is probably too much; however, I like the flavor of whole wheat flour, so I’m not terribly worried about doing the math and figuring out an exact proportion.)

Oh, and since not even South Carolina winters are balmy enough to permit peaches to grow, we used canned fruit.

Buzz and the kids worked in the kitchen while I sat in the living room calling out measurements and directions.

She mixed the sugar, lemon peel, extract, and juice together.

“Big brother” dumped peaches into the baking dish.

This mix was sprinkled over the peaches, and then the dish was put in the oven to heat. (The recipe was rather vague about this, so they set it at 200°F and stuck it in.)

She then measured out the various dry ingredients and the milk. Buzz measured the shortening, since gooey things can be a little tricky, and also got out the egg (which is too high in the fridge for her to reach).

This is where things went somewhat wrong. At some point Buzz asked, “So this goes in?” He was intending to convey, “She’s mixed the egg and milk together, does they go into the flour before the shortening?” I understood something more like, “This will go in eventually?” and so I said yes.

And so the milk and egg went in before the shortening, and the next thing I heard was, “This doesn’t look like coarse crumbs, it’s really wet. Did we measure things right?” (UH OH.)

Yeah, the liquid went in too early, and so of course the shortening wasn’t really mixing in evenly. After a lot of mixing, it did eventually evenly distribute (more or less), but I was a little concerned that it had been fussed with too much and would be quite tough as a result.

Regardless, I spread it on top, Buzz sprinkled some demerara sugar (which I love to use for topping baked goods, it’s crunchy and has a nice flavor) on top…

… and the cobbler went into the oven.

After 40 minutes, it was a lovely golden brown.

I didn’t have any vanilla ice cream or whipped cream, which would have made this perfect. But even on its own, this was quite good. Almond extract is a very good partner with peaches, and the “shortcake” topping was delicious. It actually was sort of too thick — it tasted best right next to either the peach and juice, or on the very top with the sugar crystals. Having some ice cream to help moisten the middle section while you’re eating would help. The most interesting feature of this cobbler though, the “emergency flour,” was a nice feature and gave the topping a dimension of flavor that you don’t always get in desserts.

And for extra niceness, this was really a family production, and the kids did a great job. Thanks, guys! 🙂

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Responses

  1. First, yay, congratulations on adding family!
    Second, it should make me very sad that this is generally the way baking projects go in my house. “Oh, wait. Should that have been added right now? Oops! Crap.” It’s not even a case of too many cooks when it happens to me – ::sigh:: I daresay that the whole family pitching in will be able to make this one again, when the peaches are ripe, and it’ll be worth waiting for… can’t wait for peach season myself!

  2. It looks just like one would think a peach cobbler would look. Another good job, thanks for your group effort!

  3. Oh my goodness, congrats!! And the kids did an excellent job! Little mid-century recipe testers in training…


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