Thursday, October 6, 2011

Dessert From Out of the Air

My friend Louise is having a Cookbook Party this month, over at her wonderful blog, Months of Edible Celebrations - and to participate, you pick a cookbook and a recipe from it that celebrates say, National Apple Month, or National Caramel Month - she lists a whole menu of them. I have chosen National Dessert Month and the pie recipe I'm featuring is from a vintage 1930s cookbook that is one of my favorites.

I've been saving this cookbook for a special occasion for a long time - and this Cookbook Party is it! So may I introduce to you a once-famous, now little-known singer called Vaughn De Leath, "the Original Radio Girl," and one of her favorite desserts - Lemon Cheese Tart.

I found Vaughn and her dessert recipe in a 1932 gem called Good Things To Eat From Out of the Air. Don't you just love that title? I keep imagining that if I use this booklet, I will be able to snap my fingers and have a delicious meal float down Out of the Air and onto the table. But of course, alas, no. It features radio celebrities who were on the air in 1932, and their favorite Good Things to Eat. All of which, by the way, contain Crisco, because the book was published by Proctor & Gamble. Who made you-know-what.

Vaughn De Leath (1894-1943) - real name Leonore Vonderlieth (her stage name was derived from her surname) - was a radio singer of the 1920s and 1930s. She specialized in 'crooning' songs (this was Bing Crosby's specialty, too). Crooning was a style used by (usually) male singers backed by a big band; and the term was not meant to be a compliment. Crooners were known for their overly sentimental, dramatic singing. She also played several instruments: ukelele, piano, banjo and guitar.

In the 1920s, De Leath was known as "The Original Radio Girl" and "The First Lady of Radio." You probably know one of her hit songs, by the way. It's called "Are You Lonesome Tonight?" - and Elvis Presley's remake was a huge hit for him in 1960, 33 years after Vaughn De Leath released the original (you can listen to her version at the end of this post). Her Lemon Cheese Tart is a sort of light cheesecake pie - just the sort of dessert to savor while playing poignant ballads:


1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 cup cottage cheese
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp nutmeg
2 Tb cream
1 tsp grated lemon peel
1/4 cup currants

Press cheese through fine sieve, add salt, cream and seasoning. Beat sugar with eggs. Combine the two mixtures. Add currants washed and dredged with flour. Pour into unbaked shells, filling each about 2/3 full. Put into hot oven (450 degrees F) for about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to 325 degrees F and bake 10 minutes more.

Note: I think you might want to put this into a prebaked pie shell if you only have to bake the filling for a total of 15 minutes. Most pies in unbaked shells need about 10 minutes at the higher temperature and then 20 minutes or more at a lower temp (this varies depending on the filling, of course, and the size/depth of the pie). Oh, and your pie crust had better be made with Crisco. Or else it will not be a Good Thing to Eat from Out of the Air.

More on Vaughn De Leath here at Dismuke's Hit of the Week and here at The Virtual Victrola.


BrSpiritus said...

Crisco smisco, just give me Spry... oh that's right, they don't make it anymore, well fiddlesticks! You mentioned the crooner style of singing but I wonder if you know the legend why this type of singing came about? Way I hear it is because early radios had fragile electronics (read vacuum tubes) you couldn't just belt out a song or the pre-amp tube would blow out. So crooning was invented as way to keep this from happening and became a song style in it's own right.

The Vintage Recipe Blog

Lidian said...

BrSpiritus - I hadn't heard that about crooning, that makes sense.

I like the Spry cookbooks with that cheerful meddler Aunt Jenny - I think Jane and Michael Stern wrote about her. James Lileks, too, I think. I believe her husband Calvin was always sitting at the kitchen table eating pie.

BrSpiritus said...

Lileks is hysterical with his spry section and how Calvin seems to disappear about mid 30's. The Butterscotch Cake recipe on my site is from the Spry "What Shall I Cook Today?" c1934. We can cook anything as long as includes or is deep fried in Spry lol.

Lidian said...

Poor Calvin. I guess there's such a thing as Too Much Spry.

~~louise~~ said...

Oh how lovely it will be to chat about Vaughn De Leath at the Cookbook Party. I've never "met" her before and I'm sure there's more you're not saying. I'll get all the gossip while I'm puckering over that Lemon Cheese Tart:)

Thanks for joining us, Lidian...

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Lidian said...

louise - Yes, she does sound like she'd be fun at a party! Maybe she will bring her ukelele too :)

Thanks for inviting us both!

Gone-ta-pott said...

I loved this post and the recipe too.