Held within Historic Annapolis’s collection is a booklet, Maryland Recipes: in honor of the Bicentennial, printed by BGE (yes, the electrical company) in 1976. This booklet was among countless items and mementos published that year, celebrating America’s 200th birthday. The William Paca House opened its doors to the public that year and also contributed to this specific booklet, providing recipes from Miss Ann Chase’s book (1811) and from a descendent of William Paca.
But since it is the holiday season, let’s take a look at another entry from the booklet - Shrewsbury “Cookies,” adapted from Mrs. Charles Carroll’s 18th c. account book, held at the Maryland Center for History and Culture.
Cookies, as we call them today, were referred to as “small cakes” in the 18th century. According to Rosalie Stier Calvert, who lived at the William Paca House in the late 1790s, people who resided in established towns such as Washington or Annapolis had the good fortune to have easy access to confectioner’s shops.
Sweets could be purchased a shops like Stewart & Richardson, who advertised their shop on Church Street in a 1767 Maryland Gazette. While shops were available, many people still chose to cook at home, but refined white sugar was a luxury item.
Although 18th century refined sugar was as white as possible, it wasn’t as pure white as 21st century sugar. It came in a conical shape and wrapped in blue paper because the color blue would brighten and whiten the appearance of the sugar. Here's Nannetta Hall, HA's Education Coordinator and a living history interpreter, showing some students in our Annapolis Footprints program the sugar - that white cone thing - in our Paca House historic kitchen - they all agreed it was quite different from the sugar they're used to seeing!
If you’re in the baking spirit this holiday season, perhaps you'll give this 18th century recipe a try (and please share with us when you do)!
Shrewsbury Cakes (Cookies)
1 ½ pounds of flour
1 pound of sugar
4 tablespoons of cream
4 tablespoons of rose water
Shift together flour and sugar. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs and add the cream and rose water. Mix with flour and sugar until it makes a paste and chill. Roll very thin on a floured surface and cut to desired shape. Place on a cookie sheet and bake at 350 for about 6 minutes.
Curator of Collections
P.S. Don't exactly have rose water hanging out in your cupboard? Try subbing in 2 tablespoons of vanilla extract or 1 tablespoon of almond extract.
P.P.S. We highly recommend investing in a kitchen scale, but if you don't have one, 1 1/2 pounds of flour translates roughly to 3 2/3 cups of (all-purpose) flour. 1 pound of sugar is about 2 1/4 cups (granulated) sugar.