Saturday, April 16, 2016

Weekend Cooking #28: When a war ends...or how I discovered the best peach cobbler ever

Most of us probably like to think that when a war ends the survivors go home and pick up their lives where they left off.  But of course, deep down we know that isn't how it happens. Soldiers come home wounded and often suffering from PTSD, families are torn apart, children are displaced and everyone must still deal with all kinds of loss, and, as you saw in The Seagoing Cowboy, people living in ravaged countries are starving.

After World War II ended, Americans were asked to revive their Victory and Community Gardens in order to help meet the needs of a post-war Europe and Asia.  As Henry Wallace told the National Victory Garden Conference in 1946 "...probably more persons will go hungry during the next four months than in any like period in the world's history."  By then, most Victory Gardens were no longer being used so the 18,500,000 gardeners who has gardened for war were a little surprised when the call went to for them to now garden for peace.   Did Americans rise to the challenge?  You bet they did.

The Christian Science Monitor, March 29, 1946
Besides asking Americans to revive their Victory Gardens, President Truman also called for the production of Emergency Flour.  The idea was to conserve wheat making more of it available to Europe.  What that meant was that all-purpose flour would now contain more bran and wheat germ, both of which are normally not found in flour.  Because Emergency Flour didn't behave the same way all-purpose flour did when used for baking, companies began to put out recipes that were tailored to it:

I've tried these two recipes, though not with Emergency Flour, and they were OK, but my favorite, my absolute favorite is the 1946 Better Homes and Gardens recipe for Crusty Peach Cobbler.  I love Peach Cobbler so much, I started canning my own peaches so I could have it year round.  I found the recipe over at a blog I read called Retro Recipe Attempts and I have been using it ever since.  

As you can see, it has a nice thick biscuity or crusty top layer, which I really love.    

Crusty Peach Cobbler

6 cups fresh peaches (about 3 pounds), peeled, stoned, and thickly sliced
1/2 cup sugar
Grated zest of 2 lemons
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons pure almond extract

Biscuit Dough
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 tablespoon sugar
1/3 cup (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
1/2 cup milk, plus additional drops, if necessary
1 large egg
2 tablespoons sugar, for sprinkling (I don't do this, I don't like the biscuit to taste sweet)

Preheat the oven to 400ยบ.  Arrange the fruit in a greased shallow 9-by-13-inch rectangular baking dish or 10- to 12-inch oval ceramic gratin dish. Toss with the sugar, zest, lemon juice, and almond extract.
Place the fruit in the hot oven 10 minutes while preparing the shortcake.

Combine the flour, salt, baking powder, and sugar in a medium mixing bowl.  Cut in the cold butter with a fork or electric mixer until the mixture resembles coarse meal.  Make a well in the center and add the milk and egg, mixing until just evenly moistened; do not over mix (I use a Danish dough whisk, one of my favorite tools, for this).  Working quickly, drop the dough by large tablespoons over the hot peaches so that the edges do not touch the sides of the dish and sprinkle the top with the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar.

Immediately return to oven and bake 25 to 30 minutes, until the topping is golden brown and firm to the touch. Cool at least 15 minutes to serve hot, or cool to room temperature and reheat to warm. 

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. As always Weekend Cooking is hosted by Beth Fish Reads


  1. Your combination of information on history and food is extremely effective here. As you point out, war results in terrible suffering; this was it. Some of the reasoning before the American authorities decided to drop the bomb on Japan was about the need to free up resources for the purpose of supplying Europe with food. Without American aid, there would have been mass starvation the winter after the war, and ships could be moved from the Pacific to bring them food. The ethical challenges were obviously horrendous.

    I love to read about food history. I hope you continue to write about it, as I do often at my blog and as I read about quite a lot.

    best... mae at

  2. Peach cobbler? That looks so good. I'll be returning to this recipe in a few months when peaches show up at the farmers' market.

    How interesting about the flour. That's something I never knew before. I'll have to ask my mother if she remembers Emergency Flour.

  3. I was interested to read your food history, stuff I hadn't been aware of, and how they put a positive spin on that flour - i.e. "enriched". The cobbler sounds good, I'll probably try it with our fruit though - mangoes or guavas.

  4. I love learning new things and this post was very interesting! I love peaches, but don't like anything made with them (pie, candy etc.) but my husband loved it.

  5. So the flour made then was healthier than the all-purpose now. I love it that people continued their gardens for others. I have rarely eaten a peach. Maybe I'll try this in the summer. Thanks.

  6. Very interesting about the flour and the attempts to get people to use it by putting out special recipes. I love a good cobbler and peach cobbler is particularly delicious--perfect comfort food. ;-)
    Aloha, Deb--Kahakai Kitchen

  7. I so enjoy your history posts, you always have such interesting information.

  8. Thanks for all the background info: all the reading I've done and I wasn't aware of the call for Victory Gardens after the war. There's always something new to learn!

  9. I havne't made a cobbler for honks. Sounds great. Cheers from Carole's Chatter!

  10. I have never made peach cobbler- but I have eaten it and this recipe sounds delightful! Yum! I would love to try this. Thanks for sharing and for the fascinating history lesson. :)

  11. Emergency flour! How interesting! It's too war a day here to make peach cobbler but it's making me want a piece!

  12. That is an interesting post and I hope you keep sharing historical facts such as this. Love the peach cobbler. We get on a peach dessert kick now and then but most recently it was peach pie. Will have to try your version here.

  13. Great post. I love the idea of Weekend Cooking posts. I sometimes binge cook on weekends. I've got to try to do this.