Give and Take Cook Book
From The Altrusa Club of Santa Monica
Santa Monica, 1963
I have cooked from this book!
Pictured is Vera V. Redfern’s recipe for Princess Gems that calls for the use of an unusual ingredient: ammonia bicarbonate. While it feels counterintuitive to use ammonia in food, “baker’s ammonia” was the primary leveling agent used in baked goods before the invention of baking soda and baking powder in the 19th century.
As the ammonia bakes off and evaporates is separate from the carbon dioxide, helping baked goods to rise. It can only be used in relatively dry recipes, like crackers and crisp cookies, to be sure the ammonia has had time to fully dissipate.
This recipe suggests getting the ammonium bicarbonate from your local druggist. I doubt that is possible today, but I easily found some online.
I was nervous baking these cookies as there was a smell of ammonia in the kitchen. However, they turned out lovely, light, and crisp and thankfully didn't make anyone sick. This is a tried and true baking method, but if you make this recipe, I still suggest you use the baker’s ammonia with caution.