Bertha Haas in her upstairs office, date unknown.
Today we’d like to share a cookbook recipe from Bertha Greenbaum Haas, who with her husband William Haas commissioned the building of what is today known as the Haas-Lilienthal House (now SF Heritage’s home). Mrs. Haas’s collection of recipes dates from 1881, five years before the Haas family moved into their home. The cookbook is now in the collection of the Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life (at UC Berkeley) which provides this archival note:
The collection consists of a bound volume and sheets of loose paper containing the handwritten recipes of Bertha Greenebaum Haas (1861-1927) Bertha Haas compiled the recipes in the cookbook with her daughter Alice Haas Lilienthal (1885-1972). Showing that the family cooks took advantage of local ingredients that they could only find in the San Francisco Bay Area, one of their recipes for chocolate caramels included a pound of Ghirardelli chocolate. The cookbook also contains recipes for foods that were not kosher, including mussels, oysters, and shrimp.
Since the publication of Catharine Beecher’s 1841 book “A Treatise on Domestic Economy for the Use of Young Ladies at Home and at School,“ urging women to take control over the domestic sphere, middle class women learned to cook not only to nourish their families, but also to contribute economically to the household. Victorian housewives often kept journals of meals they prepared to avoid buying more than necessary and preventing food waste. Many of these journals or cookbooks recorded traditional ancestral dishes to pass on to the next generation. Mrs. Haas cookbook not only includes daily family recipes using ingredients available from her home town of San Francisco, but also dishes that were a strong part of her German-Jewish background. Please enjoy this recipe for Mrs Haas’s Black Bread Torte (transcription & modern version included).
Cover page for Bertha Haas’s cookbook. Reads “Cook Book, 1881, Mrs. Bertha Haas, San Francisco, Cal.
Bertha Haas’s handwritten recipe for Black Bread Torte
Black Bread Torte (Transcription of Mrs Haas’s original recipe)
The yolks of 8 eggs well beaten with 1 1/4 cups of sugar, then add grated about 2 bars of chocolate, 3/4 cup black bread soaked in wine, citron about one handful of almonds, powdered cloves, a little cinnamon lemon, and 1 1/2 tea spoon full of baking powder. beat whites to a froth and add it after all is finished.
Modern Version: Black Bread Torte
1/4 cup Rum
1 ts Vanilla
1 1/2 cup Heavy Cream: whipped
1 pinch salt
6 eggs: separated
3/4 cup grated semisweet chocolate
2 cups fresh pumpernickel crumbs
1 cup sugar
1/4 Walnuts: finely grated
Set oven at 350 degrees. Grease bottom, but not the sides, of a deep, 9-inch tube pan. Pour rum over bread crumbs. Set aside. Beat egg whites with salt until they hold soft peaks. Add sugar, a tablespoon at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat for at least 5 minutes, or until egg whites are very firm. Stir yolks with a fork to break them up. Add vanilla. Fold 1/4 of the whites into the yolks. Pour these over remaining egg whites. Add bread crumb mixture, nuts, and grated chocolate. Carefully fold all together. Pour into prepared pan. Bake 50-60 minutes or until top of cake is brown and springy to the touch. Let cool in pan before removing. It will shrink quite a bit. Serve with sweetened whipped cream flavored with rum.
*To make this appropriate for Passover, try substituting the bread crumbs for matzo crumbs!