“The Vintage Baker” by Jessie Sheehan, Chronicle Books, $24.95, 177-page hardcover

Baker and recipe developer Jessie Sheehan tweaks popular recipes from the first half of the 20th century in her clever, fun-to-read cookbook “The Vintage Baker.”

A former lawyer, she began collecting vintage recipe booklets more than 10 years ago shortly after starting work as a junior baker at Baked, a new bakery in the

Brooklyn borough of New York City.

Sheehan describes herself as “old-school-dessert-obsessed,” and the booklets’ period illustrations and recipes for frosted layer cakes, cream pies, fritters and caramel popcorn appealed to her.

She explains that brand-name ingredient and kitchen appliance companies distributed the recipe booklets to America’s housewives as advertising tools from the late 19th century to the mid-20th century. The booklets offered simple, almost foolproof recipes plus tips for using the ingredients or appliances.

In her book, Sheehan modernizes the recipes “to appeal to the more adventurous, accepting, and global palate of today’s home baker, while still remaining true to their old-school roots.”

For example, she substitutes Greek yogurt for buttermilk and adds vanilla (the original recipe had none) to update a simple coffee cake recipe and boosts the flavor of chocolate-molasses crinkles by adding white pepper and ground cinnamon.

Here's the origins of her Butterscotch-Potato Chip Balls recipe.

“I discovered a recipe for Chip Balls in Good Housekeeping’s Book of Cookies (1958) and realized that folks have been putting crazy add-ins like potato chips in their cookies since the mid-1950s," Sheehan writes. "I’m a huge fan of cookies like this, particularly if the ingredients combine the sweet and the salty in new ways. So I took the Chip Balls recipe and added butterscotch chips, which pair with salt so beautifully. Then I quadrupled the amount of potato chips called for, rolled the balls in crushed potato chips, and finished them with a sprinkle of flaky sea salt.”

Side Dish: Recipe for Butterscotch-Potato Chip Balls

Accompanying each of the cookbook’s more than 50 recipes is the cover of the vintage booklet that inspired the recipe, and the book is illustrated with retro-style patterns and full-color photographs by Alice Gao.

A charming surprise, a little vintage-style booklet of recipes from the original bakers, is tucked inside the cookbook.


Cheramie Sonnier is a food writer and columnist. Contact her at sonnierfood@gmail.com, and follow her on Twitter, @CheramieSonnier.