An anti-miserabilist approach to historical cooking

Tag: Dessert (page 1 of 3)

Jane Dawson’s Jockelet (Chocolate) Cream

This week it’s time for the annual transcribathon hosted by the Early Modern Recipes Online Collective (EMROC) and for the first time Stanford is taking part. Each year, people around the world come together to transcribe a hand-written book of recipes from the early modern period. Manuscript receipt books are great to work with because they provide a really intimate look into early modern lives, especially women’s lives. Many households kept receipt books, which were handed down from generation to generation and each new owner would add their own favourite recipes for food, medicines for people and animals, and other household products like ink and soap.

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To celebrate the transcribathon, I wanted to make a recipe from the book we transcribed last year, Jane Dawson’s 17th century receipt book. I was intrigued by a recipe that I transcribed, called Jockelet Cream. One of the best bits of working with early modern cookbooks is figuring out the phonetic spelling that they used – jockelet becomes chocolate if you read it aloud.

Jockelet Cream Recipe

Recipe for chocolate cream from Jane Dawson’s receipt book, V.b. 14, p. 17. Licensed by Folger Shakespeare Library under CC BY-SA 4.0.

The Recipe

Jockelet Creame

boyle a pinte of Creame thicken it with an Egge yolke and mill into it two spoonfulls of the powder of Jockelet take it of as it rises to froth in to what you please[1]

 

At first I thought that this was a recipe for a hot chocolate drink, and having recently acquired a Mexican molinillo, I was excited to try my hand at it. A closer look at the recipe, however, suggested that this was more like a custard, thickened with egg even though it still retained the froth typical of early European drinking chocolate recipes.

Molinillo

My new molinillo!

A search for other chocolate cream recipes turned up plenty of similar ones from the seventeenth and eighteenth century: from an anonymous Scottish manuscript, Anna Western’s receipt book, a later addition to Elinor Fettiplace’s receipt book, an early eighteenth century receipt book, Elizabeth Moxon’s cookbook (1764) and Susanna Kellet’s coobook (1780). At the same time, there were lots of other flavoured creams too; lemon and orange were very popular but Susanna Kellet for example has recipes for cinnamon, raspberry, lemon, citron, barley, almond and apple creams.

 

Since receipt books were generally added to over time, sometimes over a number of generations, dating them is often challenging. One recipe in Jane Dawson’s book is dated to 1693, and a late seventeenth-century date is generally consistent with the other recipes. That makes this recipe for chocolate cream relatively early – only a handful of English chocolate recipes are known from before 1700. Lady Anne Fanshawe, the wife of the Spanish ambassador, collected a recipe for drinking chocolate in 1665 and in 1668 the Earl of Sandwich recorded a number of recipes for chocolate including some of the earliest frozen dessert recipes in English.[2] Another recipe attributed to Rhoda Fairfax is probably also from before 1700, and there are two recipes in published cookbooks, one for a beverage and one for ‘Chocolet-puffs’.[3]

In 1702, François Massialot’s The Court and Country Cook (originally published in 1691 as the Cuisinier Roial et Bourgeois) became available with the earliest known recipe for chocolate cream in English.[4]  

 Chocolate-cream.

Take a Quart of Milk with a quarter of a Pound of Sugar, and boil them together for a quarter of an Hour : Then put one beaten Yolk of an Egg into the Cream, and let it have three or four Walms: Take it off from the Fire, and mix it with some Chocolate, till the Cream has assum’d its colour. Afterwards you may give it three of four Walms more upon the Fire, and, having strain’d it thro’ a Sieve, dress it as pleasure.[5]

Taza chocolate tablet

The Jane Dawson recipe is different in a few key ways: first, it doesn’t use any sugar so ends up being quite bitter when made with dark chocolate. Dawson was probably using pre-prepared chocolate tablets which were available in England from the 1650s, and they may have been already sweetened with sugar and possibly spiced as well.[6] The other major difference is that Massialot focuses on boiling the chocolate (a walm is an unknown measurement of time boiling[7]) while Dawson emphasises milling and froth. Did the extra boiling make Massialot’s recipe thicker and more custardy? It’s hard to imagine that it thickened much with only one egg yolk and twice as much cream.

Mujer_vertiendo_chocolate_-_Codex_Tudela

Woman making foamy chocolate by pouring it from one vessel to another from a height. Codex Tudela, fol. 3r, c. 1553. [Public domain] via Wikimedia Commons.

Making frothy chocolate drinks was something that the Spanish colonizers learnt in Mesoamerica where a frothy head was produced by pouring the beverage from one vessel to another from a height.[8] The Spanish later developed a type of wooden whisk called a molinillo which was rotated briskly by rubbing the handle between the palms, and this technology was taken to Europe along with chocolate itself.[9] Sometimes called a chocolate mill, these wooden whisks could be inserted into elaborate metal or ceramic chocolate pots.

 

800px-Bodegón_con_servicio_de_chocolate_-_Museo_del_Prado

Chocolate tablets for making drinking chocolate in the pot with a molinillo, beside a chocolate cup for drinking it out of, bread and biscuits for dipping. Still Life with Chocolate Service, Luis Egidio Melendez, 1770 [Public Domain] via Wikimedia Commons.

For such a short, easy recipe, there are a lot of unknowns when it comes to Jane Dawson’s chocolate cream. There are all the usual problems of converting measurements, and figuring out how big an early modern egg was, but there is also the question of what the chocolate she used would have been like, and what consistency the final product was supposed to be.

 

Different recipes, or even different interpretations of very similar recipes produce wildly different results. Marissa Nicosia over at Rare Cooking made a chocolate cream that was thick and rich, like pudding. Kathleen Wall’s recipe calls for beaten egg whites producing a lighter chocolate mousse. Amy Tigner’s students made a kind of chocolate custard which is topped with whipped cream for a layered effect. Another possibility is that the recipe is supposed to be served as a hot drink, more like a historical hot chocolate. While I can’t rule that out, other similar but more detailed recipes for chocolate cream do seem to be served cold in glasses, kind of like a mousse.

Although I used the measurements from Dawson’s recipe, I used the instructions from an anonymous Scottish manuscript from 1722 for clarification.

Chocolate Cream

Boil your Cream, & put in as much Chocolate as will colour it of a good brown Colour, & thicken it as thick as good Cream with ye yolk of an Egg well beaten; then with a Mill mill it up that the Froth may be an Inch above your Glasses or above your Cream in the Glasses. Serve this wt your Orange and Lemon Creams, and they are very gentle Creams.[10]

 

The instructions are very similar, but a little more detailed. This recipe suggests that the cream does not thicken very much, just to the consistency of ‘good cream’. That fits with my experience, which was that one egg yolk did not provide a lot of thickening. Again, the recipe emphasises frothiness and while I didn’t get a full inch of froth above the cream, I was able to get the froth to kind of set by putting the foam on top of the cream and letting it cool.

 

Overall, it produced basically what you would expect – a slightly chocolate-flavoured, very bitter, slightly thickened cream which was edible, but not my favourite. I think a little sweetening would have gone a long way, and would be keen to try making it again with a spiced chocolate with cinnamon or chili just to add a bit more interest. I would also add more chocolate, since the flavour was very subtle. It is interesting to wonder whether that is a mismatch between the quantity of Dawson’s two spoonfulls and my own, or whether perhaps she was making the most of a small amount of an expensive ingredient.

Chocolate cream made from a late seventeenth-century recipe

[1] Jane Dawson, “Cookbook of Jane Dawson” (Manuscript, 17th Century), 17, V.b. 14, Folger Shakespeare Library.

[2] Kate Loveman, “The Introduction of Chocolate into England: Retailers, Researchers, and Consumers, 1640–1730,” Journal of Social History 47, no. 1 (September 1, 2013): 27–46, https://doi.org/10.1093/jsh/sht050; Sara Pennell, “Recipes and Reception: Tracking ‘New World’ Foodstuffs in Early Modern British Culinary Texts, c. 1650-1750,” Food & History 7, no. 1 (2009): 11–34, https://doi.org/10.1484/J.FOOD.1.100633.

[3] Pennell, “Recipes and Reception: Tracking ‘New World’ Foodstuffs in Early Modern British Culinary Texts, c. 1650-1750.”

[4] Pennell, 24.

[5] François Massialot and J. K, The Court and Country Cook: Giving New and Plain Directions How to Order All Manner of Entertainments … Together with New Instructions for Confecioners … And, How to Prepare Several Sort of Liquors [by F. Massialot] … Translated Out of French Into English by J. K. (London: Printed by W. Onlye, for A. & J. Churchill, at the Black Swan in Pater-noster-row, and M. Gillyflower in Westminster-hall, 1702), 97.

[6] Loveman, “The Introduction of Chocolate into England.”

[7] Oxford English Dictionary, “‘walm, n.1’.,” n.d., https://www.oed.com/view/Entry/225353?rskey=DBFOk1&result=1&isAdvanced=false.

[8] Marcy Norton, Sacred Gifts, Profane Pleasures: A History of Tobacco and Chocolate in the Atlantic World (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2008).

[9] Amanda Lange, “Chocolate Preparation and Serving Vessels in Early North America,” in Chocolate: History, Culture and Heritage, ed. Louis E Grivetti and Howard-Yana Shapiro (Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley and Sons, 2009), 129–42.

[10] “‘Large Collection of Choice Recipes for Cookrie, Pastries, Milks, Sauces, Candying, Confectionating, and Preserving of Fruits, Flowers, Etc’, Dated Dumfries, 1722.” (1764 1722), MS 10281, transcription and image available on https://www.nls.uk/year-of-food-and-drink/february.

 

The Redaction

 

Jane Dawson’s Chocolate Cream

473 ml (cream

1 egg yolk, beaten

2 tablespoons of dark chocolate, finely grated

 

  1. Place the cream in a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Add a little of the hot cream to the beaten egg yolk and whisk, then return the mixture to the saucepan and whisk into the rest of the hot cream. Heat gently until it thickens slightly.
  2. Dissolve the grated chocolate into the hot cream, and whisk well to form the froth. Pour the liquid into your glasses or moulds, and top with the froth. Carefully move to the refrigerator and allow to cool.

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Carolina Snowballs Re-do

Carolina Snowballs, recipe from 1858

Way back in 2015 I made a late nineteenth century recipe for Peach Snowballs from Mina Lawson’s The Antipodean Cookery Book. Even though the peaches tasted great, the rice didn’t form a homogeneous layer the way that it is supposed to (for good examples see Savoring the Past and World Turn’d Upside Down).

Peach Snowballs, recipe from 1895

Not very successful peach snowballs

These snowballs are sometimes called Carolina Snowballs, because they were made with Carolina gold rice, grown in Carolina and Georgia. This kind of rice is no longer widely available, but in recent years has been resurrected by the Carolina Gold Rice Foundation (and sold by Anson Mills) so I’ve been meaning to try this recipe again using the proper type of rice.

 

The story of Carolina Gold is well beyond the scope of this blog post (a good place to start is Karen Hess’ The Carolina Rice Kitchen: The African Connection) but it is impossible to write about this rice without acknowledging its deep entanglements with slavery (for which see Michael Twitty’s The Cooking Gene).

 

By at least 1690, rice was being raised in South Carolina and plantation owners made their fortunes by exploiting the experience that enslaved West African workers had of growing rice.[i] West African men brought expertise in constructing complex irrigation systems to control the level of water in the rice fields. The knowledge of how to grow the rice, as well as how to make and use the equipment necessary for processing came from the women who had traditionally cultivated and prepared the rice in West Africa.

 

Wet rice cultivation, as practiced in South Carolina and Georgia, was extremely profitable at the expense of enslaved workers’ health. Conducted knee-deep in murky water under an unrelenting sun, the work itself was exhausting, dangerous and never-ending. The water harbored a host of threats including snakes, alligators, parasites and biting insects which spread diseases like malaria.[ii] As Jennifer Morgan points out “Rice is among the most onerous and labor intensive food crops, and the duration of the growing season and the dangerous and repellent nature of the work placed it at the extreme end of any continuum of forced agricultural labor in the early Atlantic world.”[iii]

African style rice pounder

African style rice pounder at the Whitney Plantation in Louisiana

As in Western Africa, rice came to play a central role in the diet of the South, from the homes of the labourers themselves to the wealthiest tables where it was cooked, of course, by enslaved African cooks and African American domestic servants. The complex cuisine that resulted was a combination of West African and European traditions, creating a distinct style of rice cookery. As historian Michael Twitty enumerates, this includes:

“chicken pilau, breads, puddings, rice cakes, crab fried rice—rice as the necessary accompaniment to barbecue hash, okra soup, crawfish étoufée, and red beans, as they had in Saint-Domingue/Haiti—and sugar and rice for a quick breakfast; all come down to us through the centuries as legacies of this heritage. So also have soups made with peanuts or peanuts and oysters, benne (sesame seed) and hot-pepper sauces, crab gumbos, and a battery of food with which the only acceptable accompaniment is rice cooked perfectly, with every grain steamed, separate and distinct.”[iv]

 

One of the maybe surprising results of this cuisine in the Carolina snowball. Possibly descended from the French bourdelot , an apple wrapped in pastry and boiled or baked, the snowball is an apple (or more rarely another type of fruit) wrapped in rice and boiled in a pudding cloth.[v]

 

What is really surprising is the longevity of this recipe; Hess quotes a recipe from The Lucayos Cook Book which might date back to as early as 1690, although the provenance of this manuscript isn’t great and it is unclear where the original is.[vi] At the very least, a recipe for Carolina Snow Balls in the eighth edition of Hannah Glasse’s The Art of Cookery published in 1763, and similar recipes continued to be published well into the 1920s.[vii]

 

Probably the reason for this extraordinary perseverance is that this recipe is about as cheap and easy a dessert as you can make. While rice was an expensive and exotic product in the medieval period, it became considerably more available in the Early Modern period – exports from South Carolina alone increased from 10,407 pounds in 1698 to more than 72 million pounds in 1774.[viii]

 

As the price of rice dropped, this kind of dessert became much more achievable for middle class consumers (such as Glasse’s readers). The short list of ingredients, the simplicity of the method, limited equipment required, and the hot, filling result would all have appealed to housewives and cooks needing a sweet dish.

 

[i] Henry C. Dethloff, “The Colonial Rice Trade,” Agricultural History 56, no. 1 (1982): 232.

[ii] Michael W. Twitty, The Cooking Gene: A Journey Through African American Culinary History in the Old South (New York, NY: Amistad, 2017), 240.

[iii] Laboring Women: Reproduction and Gender in New World Slavery (Philadelphia: University of Philadelphia Press, 2004), 162.

[iv] Twitty, The Cooking Gene, 262.

[v] Karen Hess, The Carolina Rice Kitchen: The African Connection (Columbia, S.C.: University of South Carolina Press, 1998), 146.

[vi] Hess, 144–45.

[vii] Hannah Glasse, The Art of Cookery, Made Plain and Easy; Which Far Exceeds Any Thing of the Kind yet Published … To Which Are Added, by Way of Appendix, One Hundred and Fifty New and Useful Receipts, and a Copious Index, 8th ed. (London: Printed for A. Millar [and others], 1763), http://archive.org/details/b30502500.

[viii] Dethloff, “The Colonial Rice Trade,” 234.

 

The Recipe

Capture

The version I’m following is from The Housekeeper and Gardener (1858) by Rebecca Upton. This is one recipe were it does really make a difference to have the right type of rice. On his blog, Kevin Carter suggests that medium grain rice is best but the Carolina Gold, which is a long grain rice, worked well for me (but other long grain rice did not). Make sure, if buying Carolina Gold that you buy the variety called Carolina Gold and not the brand Carolina Rice produced by Riviana Foods.

 

The recipe calls for two spoonfuls of rice, but how much is that? Two tbsp didn’t feel like enough to me, but I think that the 100 g I put in was maybe a little too much (James Townsend suggests ½ cup or about 115 g). The trickier bit is getting the rice evenly distributed, and smaller apples might help here.

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The Redaction

Carolina Snowballs

 

Per Snowball

1 large apple

Orange and lemon (approx. ¼ peel of 1 orange and 1 lemon) finely chopped peel, or grated zest

80-100 g Carolina gold rice

 

 

For Sauce (for 1-2 apples)

55 g butter

30 ml white wine

1 ½ tbsp sugar

Pinch of ground cinnamon

Pinch of ground nutmeg

 

  1. Core the apple(s). Place a clean pudding cloth in a bowl, with the cloth hanging over the edges of the bowl.Put a spoonful of the rice in the bottom of the cloth, then place the apple on top. Put the citrus peel inside the hole left by coring the apple(s). 2. Add the rest of the rice around the apple, then gather the corners of the cloth and tie the pudding up. Leave a little room for the rice to expand, but not too much so it doesn’t get soggy. The actual knot should be tight. Massage the rice around the apple so that it is spread evenly.
  2. Place the pudding in a saucepan of cold water and bring to the boil. Simmer for 1 hour.
  3. Meanwhile, make the sauce by melting the butter in a small saucepan. Add the remaining ingredients and heat until the sugar is dissolved.
  4. When the pudding is done, carefully remove it from the saucepan and dip it in cold water for a few seconds. Place the pudding in a bowl, cut off the string and carefully unwrap it. It may help to place another bowl on top and flip it, since the base normally looks better than the tied end. Serve with warm sauce.

 

Plum Cake/Early Black Bun for Twelfth Night

Years ago on a trip to Scotland I picked up a copy of Maw Broon’s But an’ Ben Cookbook. Inspired by a weekly comic strip produced since the 1930s, the But an’ Ben Cookbook is a kind of imaginary scrapbook collated by the extended Broon family at their holiday house with recipes cut from newspapers and magazines, donated by friend and family members, or scribbled on the back of whatever paper was nearby. Interspersed with comics and helpful hints, the book is a fascinating window into mid-century Scottish cookery.

Plum cake recipe from 1740, but made in the style of Black Bun

I think that this book is probably the first place I encountered both Hogmanay and black bun. Hogmanay is the Scottish celebration of the New Year, and black bun one of the traditional foods exchanged and eaten at this time of the year.[i] It’s particularly popular as a gift for first-footing, brought by the first visitor (preferably male, tall and dark-haired) to cross the threshold it is believed to bring good luck to the household.

 

Many people writing about black bun, however, suggest that it was initially associated with Twelfth Night (celebrated on either the 5th or 6th of January depending on when the counting begins). It’s unclear what the historical basis for this claim is, but black bun does certainly have a strong association with the Christmas period. The name black bun is only attested in 1898, and earlier versions were known as ‘Scotch bun’ (which was advertised to bring Christmas cheer) or ‘Scotch Christmas bun’[ii],

scotch christmas bun 1

scotch christmas bun 2

Recipe for ‘A Scotch Christmas-Bun’ from The Cook and Housewife’s Manual, 1862 (512-513)

Basically identical to other early modern recipes for plumb cake, what distinguishes black bun is that the fruit cake is covered in a layer of dough or pastry. While modern recipes for black bun now call for a rich fruit cake to be wrapped in pastry, as you can see from this recipe (which was taken almost word for word from the recipe for ‘A rich half-peck Bun’ in Mrs Frazer’s The Practice of Cookery, Pastry etc.[iii]) older recipes use a yeasted dough for both the filling and the plain cover.

nsl plumb cake

Recipe for plumb-cake from the ‘Culinary and household receipes of the Fletcher of Saltoun family’. Licensed by the National Library of Scotland under CC-BY-NC-SA

Mrs Frazer’s recipe from 1791 is generally given as the oldest for black bun, but the National Library of Scotland has a recipe for a plumb cake in an 18th century receipt book from the Fletcher family of Saltoun which also leaves aside part of yeasted dough to make a cover.[iv] Helpfully, the recipe notes that it was taken from Mrs Johnston’s Receipts for Cookery and Pastry Worke 1741.[v] Indeed, the very first recipe in Mrs Johnston’s receipts for all sorts of pastry, creams, puddings, custards, preserves, marmalets, conserves, geillies, syrops, wines etc published in 1740 is the same recipe for plumb cake.[vi] Mrs Johnston, in turn, took the first 92 pages of her cookbook from Mrs McLintock’s receipts for cookery and pastry-work published in Glasgow in 1736, the first cookbook known to have been published in Scotland.[vii] This means we can push the date back nearly 60 years, and it seems plausible that even earlier versions exist in manuscript sources.

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The Recipe

 

The first challenge in redacting this recipe was working out what the measurements would mean in today’s values. Many recipes for plum-cakes from this time period are enormous, meant to feed a household that included a large extended family, their servants and retainers, and any visitors who happened to be in the area. I used a helpful table from the Scottish Archive Network to convert the measurements into metric, although it’s worth noting that in many cases there were multiple options (e.g. is it the Troy or the Tron pound?) so the measurements I came up with are by no means definitive. Turns out though, that my measurements were off by quite a bit. Although I initially only used one egg since modern eggs are probably larger than those in the past, I used two and then added quite a bit of warm water to make a stiff dough.

 

Then I had to figure out how much to reduce the recipe by. The original recipe asks for nine litres of flour and just shy of ten kilograms of dried fruit; much as I love fruitcake there was no way I was making the whole cake! I ended up dividing all the ingredients by seven, which still produces a large cake, so you may want to reduce it even more.

 

The National Library of Scotland website had noted that cordecidron was quince paste, but that didn’t seem very likely to me and a bit of research shows that it is an old Scottish word for citron peel which makes much more sense.[viii] For the both the orange peel and the citron peel I assumed that they meant candied peel, which is what is normally used in plum-cake recipes. Even after reducing the recipe massively, I didn’t have more than 700g of candied peel so I just put in what I had. Obviously that is less accurate, but given how much difficulty I had getting the fruit worked into the dough it was something that I was glad of later. It’s amazing to think that people did this for 7 times the amount of dough!

 

Finally, what shape should the dough take? Does it need time to rise? Does it need a tin or hoop to support it? And how long does it take to cook? I’m still not really sure about the answer to any of these. Modern buns tend to be circular or loaf-shaped and are cooked in tins. The rectangular loaf-shape is probably modern, since loaf-tins seem to be a 19th century invention. Mrs Frazer’s recipe suggests binding it in paper, which would presumably give a softer form than a metal tin, while a note in the Dods recipe says “They should be baked in a dome-shaped fluted mould or Turk’s cap, but look still more imposing at holiday-times, formed like large, respectable, old-fashioned household loaves.”[ix] The two moulds would probably give an effect like a bundt cake, while old-fashioned household loaves may refer to something like a cob loaf. What I can tell you is that my tin method didn’t work very well, because the bun didn’t have enough room to expand and split. Given how stiff the dough is, I would be tempted next time to just shape it into a cob loaf and bake it on a tray.

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Splitting from the tin – not ideal

The Redaction

Plum-Cake, or Early Black Bun

1.9 kg of flour (something went very wrong with the calculations here, and as treaclemine helpfully pointed out the actual amount should be less than a kilogram, say around 684g of flour)

142 g butter

2 eggs

71 g sugar

2 tsp yeast mixed with 2tbsp warm water

2 tbsp brandy

585g currants

113g candied peel

140g almonds

2g cinnamon

2g nutmeg

2g cloves

2g caraway seeds

 

  1. Mix together yeast and warm water in a small bowl and set aside.
  2. Put flour in large bowl and rub in butter until it looks like breadcrumbs.
  3. Beat the sugar and eggs then add to the flour with the yeast and the brandy. Add enough warm water to bring together to form a stiff dough. Take a quarter and put to one side, covered with a damp towel.
  4. In a large bowl mix together the fruit, almonds and spices, then mix into the 3/4 of the dough. This is quite difficult because of how stiff the dough is and how much dough there is. When you can no longer knead the entire dough, it helps to take small handfuls of dough and press them into the fruit to incorporate more of the mixture.
  5. Roll out the 1/4 of the dough into a very large, thin circle (approx. 12 inches round), thinner at the edges. Put the fruit dough in the middle and shape into a rough circle (if you are using a tin, make sure that the circle will fit the tin). Wrap the dough up around the filling, pinching at the top like a dumpling.
  6. Grease the tin or baking tray, and place the bun in, seam side down. Preheat the oven to 180°C/355°F, then bake for about 90 minutes or until knocking on the bun produces a hollow sound.

 

The Round-Up

The Recipe: Plumb-Cake (identical recipe available here)

The Date: 1740

How did you make it? See above.

Time to complete?: 2 hours

How successful was it?: It was very dry, a bit similar to bad pannetone but with more fruit. It wasn’t too sweet, which was great, and the occasional pop of a carraway seed was a nice addition to the usual fruitcake flavours.

How accurate?: There are so many things that were unclear here, and the texture just didn’t seem quite right so probably not very.

 

References

[i] Alan Davidson, The Oxford Companion to Food (OUP Oxford, 2014), 85.

[ii]

“Black, Adj. and N.,” OED Online (Oxford University Press), accessed January 6, 2019, http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/19670; Galignani’s Messenger: The Spirit of the English Journals. 1825,2 (Brière, 1825), 562; Christian Isobel Johnstone, The Cook and Housewife’s Manual, by Margaret Dods. [&c.]., 1862, 512, http://archive.org/details/cookandhousewif01johngoog.

[iii] Mrs Frazer, The Practice of Cookery, Pastry, Pickling, Preserving, &c: Containing Figures of Dinners, from Five to Nineteen Dishes, and a Full List of Supper Dishes; Also a List of Things in Season for Every Month in the Year, and Directions for Choosing Provisions: With Two Plates, Showing the Method of Placing Dishes Upon a Table, and the Manner of Trussing Poultry, &c (Peter Hill, Edinburgh, and T. Cadell, London, 1791).

[iv] “Culinary and Household Receipes of the Fletcher of Saltoun Family” (Receipt Book, 18th Century), MS 17853, National Library of Scotland, https://digital.nls.uk/recipes/browse/archive/105410479#?c=0&m=0&s=0&cv=0.

[v] “Culinary and Household Receipes of the Fletcher of Saltoun Family.”

[vi] Mrs Johnston, Mrs. Johnston’s Receipts for All Sorts of Pastry, Creams, Puddings, Custards, Preserves, Marmalets, Conserves, Geillies, Syrops, Wines, Wet and Dry Confections, Biskets, Sauces, Pickles, and Cookery, after the Newest and Most Approved Method (Edinburgh: [s.n.], 1740), 3, http://find.galegroup.com/ecco/infomark.do?&source=gale&docLevel=FASCIMILE&prodId=ECCO&userGroupName=stan90222&tabID=T001&docId=CB3326959443&type=multipage&contentSet=ECCOArticles&version=1.0.

[vii] Johnston, Mrs. Johnston’s Receipts for All Sorts of Pastry, Creams, Puddings, Custards, Preserves, Marmalets, Conserves, Geillies, Syrops, Wines, Wet and Dry Confections, Biskets, Sauces, Pickles, and Cookery, after the Newest and Most Approved Method note in Eighteenth Century Collections Online database.

[viii] “Cordecedron N.,” Dictionary of the Scots Language (Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd., 2004), http://www.dsl.ac.uk/entry/dost/cordecedron#.

[ix] Christian Isobel Johnstone, The Cook and Housewife’s Manual, by Margaret Dods. [&c.]., 513.

Two Vintage Passionfruit Recipes for Using Up a Glut

Passionfruit flummery, recipe from 1939

I spent August at home in Brisbane and our passionfruit vine was loaded down with fruit. There were so many little bulbs of deliciousness that I racked my brain trying to figure out what to do with them all. That means, of course, searching Trove for historical recipes to test.

I’m not sure it’s generally very well known that Australia has a proud baking tradition (although people overseas do comment on the Australian sweet tooth) but many of Australia’s most iconic treats are baked: lamingtons, ANZAC biscuits, gems cones, pumpkin scones, damper, even pavlova.

While many of the baked goods were variations on European traditions, such as gingerbread, sponge cakes or scones, Barbara Santich argues that what makes Australian baking unique was the proliferation of variations.[1] She suggests that sweet recipes took up a much larger proportion of 19th and early 20th century Australian cookbooks compared to contemporary English cookbooks, perhaps two or three times as many.[2]

The warm growing conditions facilitated this experimentation; sugar was cheaply available, especially as the Australian sugar business took off, and fruit was abundant. Two tropical flavours, in particular, came to the forefront: coconut and passionfruit. While passionfruit is now most commonly used as a topping for pavlova, it was also used as a filling or icing for cakes, and made into jams, jellies and butters, puddings, slices, pies, biscuits, creams and flummeries.

Passionfruit flummery, recipe from 1939

The Recipes

The first recipe I decided to make was a 1939 recipe for Passionfruit Custard Slices. The slice, a rectangular slab of baked goodness that’s cut into slices, is a highlight of Australian baking.  No country bakery is complete without vanilla slice – a thick layer of vanilla custard sandwiched between crisp, golden pastry. Passionfruit slice is a variation on this, with a passionfruit icing on top of the upper layer of pastry.

What makes this recipe different is that it doesn’t use a real custard for the filling. Instead, you make a white sauce which is then enriched with sugar and egg yolks. I was pretty wary of this, since it didn’t sound like it would be thick enough, or particularly tasty. However, because it’s not very sweet it does a really good job of balancing out the extremely sugary icing.

Passionfruit Custard Slices

INGREDIENTS: 1/2lb. Puff, rough puff or flaky pastry.

FOR CUSTARD: 1 tablespoon butter, 1 heaped tablespoon flour, 2 egg yolks, 1 cup milk, 1 or 2 passionfruit.

FOR ICING: 1/2lb. Icing sugar, 2 passionfruit.

Method: Roll prepared pastry square or oblong in shape, place on baking tray, brush surface with egg white, then cook in hot oven for 15 to 20 minutes, decreasing heat when well risen and lightly brown. Lift on wire cooler, and, when cold, split in two layers. Melt butter in saucepan, add flour and blend smoothly, cook for a minute, then add milk, and stir until mixture boils and thickens. Stir in sugar, egg yolks, and cook without reboiling the custard. Stir until cool, add passionfruit pulp or strained juice, then spread one layer of pastry with custard and cover with other layer. Mix sifted icing sugar with passionfruit pulp or strained juice, forming a smooth icing. Pour over pastry surface and when firmly set, cut into slices.[3]

Passionfruit flummery, recipe from 1939

Another staple of passionfruit desserts is the moulded jelly or pudding. A flummery is basically a jelly made with a substance such as cream or milk to make it opaque. They have a long history, dating back to at least the 17th century when it was made with oats or wheat, but have mostly disappeared now. Flummery still survives in some Australian households as ‘jelly whip’, a cheap, mousse-like dessert in which evaporated milk is whipped into nearly set jelly. This version from 1933 is even cheaper, and is dairy free, because it uses flour rather than a dairy product to make the jelly opaque.

Passionfruit Flummery

Soak 1 tablespoon gelatine in 1 cup cold water for 2 hours, then add 1 1/2 cups sugar. Mix 1 tablespoon plain flour with 1 cup cold water, the juice of 2 oranges and 1 lemon. Put all on fire together and bring to the boil, remove, and when nearly cold add the pulp of 6 passionfruit, and beat till thick and white.[4]

My flummery separated, I think maybe because the jelly wasn’t cold enough when I whipped it. It was still OK, with a layer of plain jelly on the bottom and then a layer of flummery with the texture more like marshmallow fluff or something like that. The main problem was just that the jelly was wayyyyy too sweet.

[1] Barbara Santich, Bold Palates (Kent Town: Wakefield Press, 2012), 193.

[2] Santich, 190.

[3] “PASSIONFRUIT,” The Sun, January 8, 1939.

[4] “Delicious Passionfruit Recipes,” The Northern Star, August 3, 1933.

Passionfruit custard slice, recipe from 1933

The Redactions

Passionfruit Custard Slice

225g puff, rough puff or flaky pastry

2 eggs, separated

1 tablespoon butter

1 heaped tablespoon flour

1 cup milk

2 passionfruit

For the icing:

225g icing sugar

2 passionfruit

 

  1. Heat the oven to 190°C. Roll the pastry into a square or oblong, place on baking tray and brush the surface with the beaten egg white.
  2. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, decreasing heat when well risen and lightly brown. Place on a wire rack to cool and, when cold, cut in half to make two layers.
  3. Melt the butter in a saucepan, add the flour and whisk to blend. Cook for a minute, then add the milk bit by bit, and stir until the mixture boils and thickens.
  4. Stir in the sugar and egg yolks, and cook without boiling the custard. Stir until it is cool then add the pulp of two passionfruit.
  5. Spread the custard on one layer of pastry, and add place the second layer of pastry on top.
  6. To make the icing, mix the sifted icing sugar with the pulp from the remaining two passionfruit to make a smooth icing. Pour over the pastry surface. Refrigerate until it sets then cut into slices.

 

Passionfruit Flummery

1 tbsp gelatine

2 cups cold water

1 ½ cups sugar

1 tbsp plain flour

2 oranges, juiced

1 lemon, juiced

6 passionfruit

 

  1. Dissolve the gelatine in 1 cup of the water, then add the sugar.
  2. Mix the flour with the remaining cup of cold water and the orange and lemon juice.
  3. Mix the gelatine and the juice mixture together in a saucepan, and bring to the boil. Remove the mixture and allow to cool.  When nearly cold add the passionfruit pulp and beat it until it is thick and white.

 

Passionfruit flummery, recipe from 1939

References

“Delicious Passionfruit Recipes.” The Northern Star. August 3, 1933.

“PASSIONFRUIT.” The Sun. January 8, 1939.

Santich, Barbara. Bold Palates. Kent Town: Wakefield Press, 2012.

 

To Candy Orring Pills

Candied Orange Peels, 17th century recipeI don’t quite know why, but I had kind of assumed that candied orange peel would date to the late 17th century, like jellied marmalades. I was quite surprised, then, to find that candied fruits, and candied peel, are actually quite a bit older.

 

Preserving in a sugary syrup – whether it’s made from honey, wine, grape must, or sugar – is a very effective way of preserving seasonal products. There is a long history of preserved or candied fruits in China and Korea, dating back to the 10th century, and the Romans preserved quinces and other fruits in honey, or in desfrutum (boiled down new wine) or must.[1]

 

Candied citrus in particular was an expensive gift, and an extravagant ingredient during the 14th and 15th centuries.[2] In Medieval Europe, both honey and sugar were used for preserving a range of fruits, herbs, nuts and spices. This late fourteenth century recipe from The Menagier de Paris uses honey:

 

To make orengat, cut the peel of an orange into five segments, and with a knife, scrape off the white pith that is inside. Then soak them in nice, fresh water for nine days, and change the water every day; then boil them in fresh water until it comes to the boil, then spread them on a cloth and let them dry thoroughly; then put them ina  pot with enough honey to cover the completely, and boil over a low fire, and skim it; and when you think that the honey is done (to see if it is done, put some water into a bowl and drop into that water a drop of the honey, and if it spreads it is not cooked; and if that drop of honey holds its shape in the water without spreading, it is done); then, remove your orange peel, and make a layer of it and sprinkle ginger powder on top, then another layer, and sprinkle etc., ad infinitum; leave for a month or longer before eating.[3]

 

In the fifteenth century, Platina suggests that sugar could be used for candying almonds, pine-nuts, hazelnuts, coriander, anise and cinnamon, while honey was better for apples, gourds, citrons and nuts.[4] The Catalan book on confectionary Libre de totes maneres de confits gives both options in most cases, whereas the Italian Libro per Cuoco only uses honey for candying orange peel.[5] Over time, as sugar become cheaper and more widely available, the use of honey became less common.

 

In England, by the sixteenth century, the primary distinction is between wet suckets (stored in syrup) and dry suckets (removed from the syrup and dried).[6] Nearly every published cookbook and private receipt book that survives contains recipes for these kinds of sweetmeats, which would be served in the banquet course at the end of the meal. Sugar was considered health promoting, especially when combined with spices and it was eaten at the end of the meal to promote digestion (for more on this see my post on gingerbread).[7]

 

The range of products which were candied is staggering. Fresh fruits, seeds, spices, green walnuts, marshmallow, angelica, lettuce stalks (sometimes called gorge d’ange or angel’s throat), and eringo (or sea-holly) roots were all fair game. Nor has the tradition completely died out. Many types of dry suckets still survive: in England, particularly around Christmas, baked goods often include candied citrus peel, candied ginger, glace cherries and candied angelica. In France, candied melon is an essential ingredient in calissons while marrons glaces (candied chestnuts) are a specialty of Northern Italy and the Piedmont region. Elvas, Portugal, is famous for its candied greengages. Wet suckets have been less enduring, but you can still buy ginger preserved in syrup.

E11640.jpg

Given how many 16th and 17th century still lives exist showing all kinds of sweetmeats, there are surprisingly few with candied fruits. This early 17th century painting shows a range of candied fruits, both whole and in sections. On the left at the back is what looks like a whole candied citron, slices of another type of citrus, and what might be candied greengages. On the plate in front are candied figs, or maybe small pears. The boxes on the right would hold fruit pastes, and the jars contain fruits preserved in syrup.  Juan van der Hamen, Still Life with Sweets and Pottery, 1627. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The Recipe

All of this leads us to today’s recipe, which comes from Martha Washington’s Booke of Sweetmeats (the second half of the Booke of Cookery). This receipt book is typical in that it provides a range of recipes for preserving and candying. The candying section alone has recipes for rose leaves, marigolds, violets, rosemary flowers, borage flowers, eringo roots, elecampane, ginger, orange peel, gooseberries, angelico stalks and roots, and apricots.[8]

 

To Candy Orring Pills

Take Civill orringes & pare them very thin. Then cut them in little pieces, & lay them in faire water a day & a night, & shift them evening and morning. Then boyle them, & shift them when the water is bitter into another water, & continew this till the water & boyling hath made them soft & yt theyr bitterness be gon. Then dreyne ye water from them, & make a thin sirrup, in which boyle them a pritty while. Then take them out & make another sirrup a little stronger, & boyle them a while in yt. Then dreyne ye sirrup from them, & boyle another sirrup to candy heigh, in wch put them. Then take them out & lay them on plats one by one. When they are dry, turne them & then they are done.[9]

 

This is a fairly straightforward recipe for candied orange peels, and indeed modern recipes aren’t dissimilar. The recipe explicitly calls for Seville oranges, which are very bitter (they are still preferred for marmalade) and this explains the soaking and boiling process.

 

What is more unusual, is the way that the peels are removed from each syrup. What is unclear is whether a completely new syrup is made each time, or whether the existing syrup is simply made stronger, either by reducing it, or perhaps by adding more sugar. In the end, I opted to simply use the same syrup, but to boil it down between each stage.

 

For the stages, there are a series of instructions at the beginning of the book which describe each stage. A thin syrup is “will look thin & pale cullered.”[10] A full syrup is a bit stronger, “it will change its culler and looke high cullered like strong beere.”[11] It is not as strong as manus christi height, at which point it will form a thread between the fingers. Hess notes that this is 215F (105C), but this stage would normally be considered a bit hotter at 230-234F or 110-112C.[12]

 

Candy height, which is the final stage required for this recipe is what is now called the large pearl stage. Again, Hess’ temperature of 232F seems a bit low, it’s normally given as 235-239F or 113-115C.[13] Having said that, I have tried it with the temperatures that Hess gives, and they do work. You will just have a more syrupy peel at the end.

 

[1] Vehling, De Re Coquinaria of Apicius, 52; Palladius, The Fourteen Books of Palladius Rutilius Taurus Æmilianus, on Agriculture, 148; Richardson, Sweets, 92; The Korea Foundation, Traditional Food.

[2] Tolkowsky, Hesperides A History of Culture and Use of Citrus Fruits, 150, 166, 269.

[3] Redon, Sabban, and Serventi, The Medieval Kitchen: Recipe from France and Italy, 218.

[4] Scully, The Art of Cookery in the Middle Ages, 57.

[5] Anonimo Veneziano, “Libro Di cucina/Libro per Cuoco”; Faraudo de Saint-Germain, “Libre de Totes Maneres de Confits. Un Tratado Manual Cuatrocentista de Arte de Dulceria.”

[6] Young, “Stages of Sugar Syrup,” 102.

[7] Scully, The Art of Cookery in the Middle Ages, 130–31.

[8] Hess, Martha Washington’s Booke of Cookery and Booke of Sweetmeats, 278–87.

[9] Ibid., 284.

[10] Ibid., 226.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid., 227; Young, “Stages of Sugar Syrup,” 651.

[13] Hess, Martha Washington’s Booke of Cookery and Booke of Sweetmeats, 227; Young, “Stages of Sugar Syrup,” 651.

Flegel_-_Stilleben_mit_Gebäck_und_Zuckerwerk

Here is another still life with candied fruit. At the back left, the fruit has clearly been stored in syrup and is still quite wet. It’s hard to make out what the fruit is, but some pears, a lemon, and maybe some melon or gourd. On the plate on the right, the fruit is very dry. This could simply be dried fruit, but it could also be candied fruit. In particular, look in the center, where there is citrus peel holding the dried grapes. Georg Flegel [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

What can I do with my Orange Peel and Syrup?

 

The easiest thing is to eat it straight, because it is delicious. The recipe doesn’t call for it, but some people might like to roll the peel in sugar, or for a modern option you can dip them in good-quality dark chocolate.

 

You can also keep your orange peel for baking. Lots of modern recipes contain candied peel, including fruitcake, Christmas pudding, panettone or this delicious spiced honey cake. If you want something historical, try one of these recipes:

 

Eccles Cakes via The Old Foodie

Orange Gingerbread via The Old Foodie

Scotch Short-bread via the Old Foodie

Hot Cross Buns via The Cook and the Curator

Mince Pies via Colonial Williamsburg Historic Foodways

This updated recipe of Martha Washington’s Excellent Cake via the Chicago Tribune

Skirret Pie via Historic Food Jottings

 

And the syrup? It’s got a lovely, gentle orange flavour which would be perfect for pouring over baklava or awamat (Lebanese doughnuts). You could also use it as a simple syrup in cocktails, or use it for an orange syrup cake.

 

My Redaction

Candied Orange Peels

4 oranges, Seville if possible

2 cups water

225g sugar

 

  1. Slice the top and bottom off the oranges with a very sharp knife. Steady the orange on the now flat bottom, and carefully cut the peel of the knife in vertical sections. Carefully remove as much pith as you want (more pith = more bitter) using either a teaspoon or a knife. Slice the peel into thin slices.
  2. Place the peel in a large bowl and cover with fresh water. Cover the bowl and leave for 24 hours, changing the water after 12 hours. The next day, drain the peels, place them in a medium saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring the water to the boil, then drain the peels, cover them in fresh water and bring to the boil again. Repeat this once more, for a total of three times, then drain the peels.
  3. In the saucepan, combine the water and the sugar. Heat over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved, then bring to a simmer. Add the peel, but try not to stir as this will lead to crystallisation. Simmer for 15 minutes, then remove the peel.
  4. Heat the syrup to 105C, then add the peel. Simmer for 15 minutes, then remove the peel.
  5. Heat the syrup to 113C,then add the peel. Simmer for 15 minutes, or until soft and translucent. Remove the peel from the hot syrup and lay them on racks to dry. Once dry, remove them and store them in an airtight container.

 

 

 

Note: you can collect orange peels over time, and keep them in a zip-lock bag in the freezer. Simply defrost them when you want to use them, and continue with the recipe. If they have been frozen, it is much easier to scoop out the pith with a spoon.

 

 

The Round-Up

 

The Recipe: To Candy Orring Pills from Martha Washington’s Booke of Cookery and Booke of Sweemeats

The Date: 17th century

How did you make it? See above.

Time to complete?: 2 days

How successful was it?: I was really happy with how they turned out. They’re very moreish wish a pleasant residual bitterness from the pith.

How accurate?: I didn’t use Seville oranges, which would have been more bitter, and might have needed more pith removed. I also am not sure whether using the same syrup and just making it stronger was the right approach or not.

Candied Orange Peels, 17th century recipe

References

The Korea Foundation. Traditional Food: A Taste of Korean Life. Seoul: Seoul Selection, 2010.

Anonimo Veneziano. “Libro Di cucina/Libro per Cuoco.” Translated by Thomas Gloning.

Corpus of Culinary & Dietetic Texts of Europe from the Middle Ages to 1800, 2000. http://www.staff.uni-giessen.de/gloning/tx/frati.htm.

Faraudo de Saint-Germain, Lluis. “Libre de Totes Maneres de Confits. Un Tratado Manual Cuatrocentista de Arte de Dulceria.” Boletin de La Real Academia de Buenas Letras de Barcelona 19 (1946): 97–134.

Hess, Karen. Martha Washington’s Booke of Cookery and Booke of Sweetmeats. Reprint edition. New York: Columbia University Press, 1996.

Palladius, Rutilius Taurus Aemilianus. The Fourteen Books of Palladius Rutilius Taurus Æmilianus, on Agriculture. Translated by Thomas Owen. J. White, 1807.

Redon, Odine, Francoise Sabban, and Silvano Serventi. The Medieval Kitchen: Recipe from France and Italy. Translated by Edward Schneider. Chicago & London: The University of Chicago Press, 1998.

Richardson, Tim. Sweets: The History of Temptation. Random House, 2004.

Young, Carolin C. “Stages of Sugar Syrup.” In The Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets, edited by Darra Goldstein, 650–53. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015.

Scully, Terence. The Art of Cookery in the Middle Ages. 5th ed. Suffolk and Rochester: Boydell Press, 2005.

Tolkowsky, S. Hesperides A History of Culture and Use of Citrus Fruits. London: John Bale Sons & Curnow LTD, 1938.

Vehling, Joseph Dommers, trans. De Re Coquinaria of Apicius. Chicago: Walter M. Hill, 1936. http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Apicius/1*.html.

 

 

 

 

 

A Plum Tart for Christmastide

 

img_5626It’s quite amazing, how regularly historical recipes will prove you wrong. So often I think that a recipe will just never work, and it’s so tempting to “fix” it by using modern techniques. Once again, however, this 17th century recipe for a Christmas plum tart shows what great results you can get by following the instructions as they are.

This recipe comes from Folger MS v.a.21, fol.146 and was posted on the Shakespeare’s World blog. If you aren’t aware of Shakespeare’s World, you should definitely check it out. It’s a crowd-sourced project which lets you help transcribe recipes and letters from the 16th and 17th centuries.  I think it’s a wonderful example of the digital humanities in action, and that they’ve had so much interest is really great news for future projects. My one beef is that the transcribed pages are not yet available to the public (although this is apparently in the works).

But back to the tart. Folger MS V.a.21 is an anonymous receipt book dated to about 1675, containing both medical and cooking recipes as was common in the 17th century.[1] Although the recipe is called ‘A receipte for damsons to bake at Christmastide or anie other plum’ it’s actually a recipe for preserving damsons or other types of plums, and then rough directions are appended for turning the preserves into a tart. The preserves would be lovely in any number of sweets. Don’t throw out the syrup either! It’s great for making mocktails with some soda water, or add some gin or vodka for a refreshing cocktail.

The Recipe

recipe

Plum Tart Recipe from Folger MS V.a.21, fol. 146. Licensed by Folger Shakespeare Library under CC BY-SA 4.0. 

Take 3 pound of damsons & a lof sugar a pint of water put that sugar & that water into a preserving skillett when it boyleth skimm it cleane Let it a cooling then slit the skin of the damsons put them into the Sirrop let them stand on the fire a stewing 2 howres together then take them vp & let them stand by till the next day then doe as before 2 howres till the last of [quarter of] an howre then let it boyle & when they are cold put them vp into gully pottes for that use this will keep till Christmastide masse when you use them to put them into the Tart made as thin as you can raise it because it must not be much baked put more Sugar into them when you bake them.[2]

I was quite surprised that the plums were put into the syrup whole and with their stones still in. It was tempting to remove the pits, but it’s actually much more efficient to just slit the skins and let them boil. After a while, the plums naturally break into halves and the pits can be cleanly lifted out. This method means that there is very little wastage of the fruit. If you were cooking with the smaller, more fiddly damsons then it would make even more sense.

low-quality

The instructions about how to make the tart are very brief, so I used the recipe for ‘Short and Crisp Crust for Tarts and Pyes’ from The Closet of Sir Kenelm Digby which is a basic hot water pastry.

SHORT AND CRISP CRUST FOR TARTS AND PYES

To half a peck of fine flower, take a pound and half of Butter, in this manner. Put your Butter with at least three quarts of cold water (it imports not how much or how little the water is) into a little kettle to melt, and boil gently: as soon as it is melted, scum off the Butter with a ladle, pouring it by ladlefuls (one a little after another, as you knead it with the flower) to some of the flower (which you take not all at once, that you may the better discern, how much Liquor is needful) and work it very well into Paste. When all your butter is kneaded, with as much of the flower, as serves to make paste of a fitting consistence, take of the water that the Butter was melted in, so much as to make the rest of the flower into Paste of due consistence; then joyn it to the Paste made with Butter, and work them both very well together, of this make your covers and coffins thin. If you are to make more paste for more Tarts or Pyes, the water that hath already served, will serve again better then fresh.[3]

It wasn’t clear to me if the tart was supposed to be self-supporting, or if it would have been in a tin. With hot water pastry you could probably make it self-supporting, but because I wanted the pastry to be as thin as possible that was going to be difficult. Robert May often refers to pies or tarts being cooked in patty-pans or dishes in The Accomplisht Cook (1671), so it seemed reasonable to use a pie tin.

pippin-tart

Design for the lid of a dish of pippins from The Accomplisht Cook by Robert May (1671) [Public Domain].

I used the same pastry for the lid of the tart, and used a selection of small cutters to make a decorative top. For the style of decoration, I drew inspiration from Robert May’s ‘Dish of Pippins’.[4] If you want to see some truly beautiful tarts in this style, have a look at Ivan Day’s cut-laid tarts. He often does them in puff pastry and cooks them separately, which would make a lovely addition to this tart. However you want to do it, this tart makes a lovely addition to any Christmas table!

[1] Anonymous, “Pharmaceutical and Cookery Recipes.”

[2] Tobey, “A Christmas Damson Plum Tart Recipe.”

[3] Macdonell, The Closet of Sir Kenelm Digby Knight Opened, 216.

[4] May, The Accomplisht Cook, Or, The Art and Mystery of Cookery., 243–244.

 unbaked-pie

The Redaction

Christmas Plum Tart

 

For the plums:

900g Plums

300g Sugar

315ml Water
For the Pastry:

70g butter

300ml cold water

290g plain flour

Eggwash or milk

To make the preserves

  1. Place the sugar and water into a large saucepan and heat bring to the boil.
  2. Use the tip of a sharp knife to slit the skin of each plum vertically around the circumference, following the dent in the plum. Place the plums in the syrup, reduce the heat and simmer for two hours. Allow the plums to cool, move them into a bowl with the syrup and place the bowl in the refrigerator overnight.
  3. The next day, return the plums to the saucepan and simmer for an hour and 45 minutes. Turn the heat up and boil for a final 15 minutes. Sterilise a jar and fill the warm jar with the hot plums.

 

To make the tart

  1. Preheat the oven to 170˚C. Place the butter and the water into a saucepan over medium heat, until the butter is melted.
  2. Place the flour into a bowl and spoon in the melted butter from the top of the saucepan. Add enough of the water from beneath the butter to make a pliable pastry.
  3. On a floured board, roll out the pastry while still warm. Lightly grease a 24cm tart tin, and line it with pastry. Roll out the excess again, and cut a circle for the lid. Decorate the lid as desired with a sharp knife or biscuit cutters.
  4. Fill the tart base with the preserved plums. Lay the lid on top and brush the pastry with eggwash or milk. Bake for 40 minutes or until lightly browned. Serve warm or cold.

baked-pie

The Round-Up

The Recipe: A reciept for damsons to bake at Christmastide or anie other type of plum from Folger MS.V.a 21 Pharmaceutical and Cookery Recipes (original images available on the Folger website, transcription available on the Shakespeare’s World blog)

The Date: c. 1675

How did you make it? See above.

Time to complete?: 4 hours boiling plums, plus an hour for the tart and overnight resting

How successful was it?:  The filling is very sweet, and I was glad that I didn’t add any extra sugar to the tart. I was worried that the filling was too liquid but it ended up being fine and was delicious, particularly when served warm.

How accurate?: I didn’t use damsons and I didn’t add any extra sugar, it was already very sweet. I didn’t keep the preserves for very long, and I would be interested to see how they would last given that they aren’t sterilised in a hot water bath, as most modern preserves are. I’m not sure how accurate the use of the pie tin is, but it certainly worked well. It might be more accurate to use a shortcrust or puff pastry lid, and certainly the decoration was only roughly inspired by the May’s cookbook.

References

Anonymous. “Pharmaceutical and Cookery Recipes.” Manuscript, c 1675. MS V.a.21. Folger Shakespeare Library.

Macdonell, Anne, ed. The Closet of Sir Kenelm Digby Knight Opened. London: Philip Lee Warner, 1910.

May, Robert. The Accomplisht Cook, Or, The Art and Mystery of Cookery. London: printed by R.W. for Nath: Brooke, 1671.

Tobey, Elizabeth. “A Christmas Damson Plum Tart Recipe.” Shakespeare’s World, December 24, 2015. https://blog.shakespearesworld.org/2015/12/24/a-christmas-damson-plum-tart-recipe/.

17th Century Polish Cuisine with Compendium Ferculorum

Pear.JPG

It has been such a long time since I have posted on here! But, my thesis is now complete and I actually have some time to cook and write. As a side note, I’ve been writing about some of the results of my research over at the Cook and the Curator blog. The first installment, about recreating the 19th century bread is up now, and the soup/meat recipes will be coming soon.

 

The recipe I made this week is also tangentially related to my studies. One of my lecturers heard about the blog and lent me a book that she had picked up in Poland. It’s a copy of Compendium Ferculorum by the chef Stanislav Czerniecki and originally published in 1682.[1]

 

In some ways the recipes are reminiscent of European medieval cuisines, with an emphasis on spices and sweet/savoury combinations. Pottages, sippets, blancmange and meat jellies feature heavily. There is also evidence for a complex network of international recipe exchange; the book includes dishes from Spain, France, England, Italy, Austria and Russia.

Pear Cake for Lent, Recipe from 1862

The Recipe

With more than 300 meat, fish and dairy recipes it was difficult to choose just one to start with. I’m suffering from an overabundance of pears at the moment though, so this seemed like a good excuse to make use of them. That led me to the recipe for Pear Cake for Lent. It’s an adaptation of the previous recipe, Apple Cake for Lent:

 

“Apple Cake for Lent: Prepare your dough as described above, cut peeled apples in three, coat them in your dough and fry in hot olive oil or oil. Being fried, serve forth sprinkled with sugar.

You will fry Lenten pear cake in a likewise fashion.”[2]

 

It’s not entirely clear which recipe for dough is being referred to here, but the previous recipe for Fig Cake says “Having kneaded the flour with water and yeast in a likewise fashion”,[3] and the Raisin Cakes for Lent before that says “Mix wheat flour with water and yeast and when it looks well risen, add saffron …”.[4]

 

Now, when recreating this there are two ways that I think you could interpret it. Some people online have claimed that modern Polish racuchy or racuszki are related to this recipe. Racuchy are a kind of apple fritter, with slices or chopped apple coated in a wet batter and fried.

 

However, the recipe seems to me to be a bit different (assuming of course that the translation is good). Firstly, the recipe clearly says to knead the dough, which is not something that you would do with a batter. Secondly, the instruction is to cut the apples or pears in three which would make very large fritters.

 

Instead, the recipe to me seems closer to Russian piroshki or pirojki which are a kind of doughnuts made with yeasted dough around a sweet or savoury filling. To that end I adapted a dough recipe from Natasha’s Kitchen, but used only flour, water and yeast as in the recipe. Salt is not mentioned in the recipe, but it really is required to stop your doughnuts tasting very bland. You could also add a pinch of saffron, dissolved in a little of the warm water, which would add a nice flavour and colour.

[1] Czerniecki, Compendium Ferculorum or Collection of Dishes.

[2] Ibid., 157.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid., 156.

hand.JPG

The Redaction

 

Pear Cake for Lent

 

4 1/2 cups flour

1 3/4 cups warm water

1 tbsp dried yeast

1 tsp Salt

4 pears

Oil, to fry

Sugar, to serve

 

  1. Make the dough by mixing half a cup of warm water with the yeast and leave for 15 minutes until frothy. In a large bowl, place the flour and salt.
  2. Make a well in the middle and add the yeast mixture. Add the remaining water and mix together. You may need to add a little extra water to make the dough come together.
  3. Once the dough has come together, knead for 5-10 minutes until smooth and pliable. Place in a greased bowl, cover with a clean tea towel and allow to rise for 25 minutes. Knock down the dough, form it into a nice ball and return to the bowl. Cover with a tea towel and allow to rise for another 30 minutes.
  4. Place about 1/2 an inch of oil in a frying pan and heat over a medium temperature. Peel the pears then cut each vertically into thirds and remove the cores.
  5. Take a small handful of dough and make it into a ball. Stretch and flatten the ball evenly until it is a bit larger than the palm of your hand. Place a third of a pear in the middle and ease the dough around it. Pinch the dough together to seal the pear inside, then flatten the seam. Repeat until all the dough is used.
  6. Carefully drop a little piece of dough into the oil. If the oil sizzles and bubbles around it then it is hot enough. Use a slotted spoon to carefully place the cakes in the hot oil in batches. The oil should come about halfway up the sides of the cakes.
  7. After about a minute, turn the cakes over (this prevents them from rising unevenly on one side) and allow to cook until golden. Then turn them over again and cook until the other side is golden.
  8. Remove the cakes using a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen towel. Serve hot, sprinkled with sugar.

With pear.JPG

The Round-Up

The Recipe: Pear Cake For Lent

The Date: 1682

How did you make it? See above.

Time to complete?: 1.5 hrs.

How successful was it?:  Tasty, and I was really glad that the dough was cooked all the way through. The pear was lovely and sweet without any added sugar, but the dough needed some salt. They would be particularly nice with a little spice in the dough, and if I was doing it again I would add the saffron.

How accurate?: I still think that this thicker, bread-like dough is the way to go, rather than a batter. The original recipe doesn’t include any salt and I did make it that way but it really needs it. Presumably it’s just assumed that you will add it. The other big question that I had was what type of oil to use. Normally I wouldn’t use olive oil for frying, but I gave it a go since that’s what the recipe said (again, assuming that the translation is accurate). The flavour of the oil wasn’t a problem on the day that they were made, but two days later there was a definite gasoline flavour coming through. Since they really should be eaten straight away it’s less of an issue, but it might be worth using a flavourless oil, particularly if you are planning on keeping them for a bit.

 

References

Czerniecki, Stanislaw. Compendium Ferculorum or Collection of Dishes. Edited by Jaroslaw Dumanowski. Translated by Angieszka Czuchra and Maciej Czuchra. Monumenta Poloniae Culinaria. Warszawa: Wilanow Palace Museum, 2010.

 

Mastabas, Pyramids and Gumdrops: Cocoa-nut Cakes from Gaskell’s North and South

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My blog has been sadly neglected over the past few months; my thesis, a family wedding, an unexpected trip overseas and just normal life craziness has been getting in the way. I’m afraid that it probably isn’t going to get much better this year, but as an apology here is my entry for the HFF Literary Foods challenge (which was only due a week ago).

 

One of my favourite books is North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell. I like to describe it as Jane Austen with a social conscience; although it is ultimately a romance, the novel is bound up in concerns about class, industrialisation and poverty. Like many other Victorian novels (and indeed earlier English novels), food often isn’t discussed explicitly because it is not in good taste to talk about food too much in public [1]. That being said, there is a lot of food in North and South and the food, or lack thereof is a major device within the novel[2].

 

Luckily for me, there is one scene in particular which mentions an actual dish and it just happens to be one of my favourite sections of the novel in which Mr Thornton, mill-owner and love interest, comes to the Hales’ for tea.

“Behind the door was another table decked out for tea, with a white table-cloth, on which flourished the cocoa-nut cakes, and a basket piled with oranges and ruddy American apples, heaped on leaves.”[3]

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The Recipe

The cocoa-nut cakes which Dixon, the cook and special confidante of Mrs Hale, has made were made from eggs, sugar and grated coconut. Koivuvaara believes that these were made from eggs, sugar and grated coconut[4]. This lines up with the recipe provided in Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management. It is also similar to that provided in Miss Leslie’s book, Seventy-five Receipts For Pastry, Cakes and Sweetmeats (1828) which also contains spices. However, other recipes call only for egg whites e.g. Jennie June’s American Cookery Book (1870), Creole Cuisine (c. 1885) and Eliza Acton’s recipe for ‘Very Fine Cocoa-nut Macaroons’ in Modern Cookery for Private Families (1868). Robert Wells provides quite a different recipe in The Bread and Biscuit Baker’s and Sugar-Boiler’s Assistant (1890) including flour, chemical leaveners, butter and milk. I chose Mrs Beeton’s recipe, but perhaps it would have been more successful if only the egg whites had been used.

 

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Mrs Beeton’s recipe is as follows:

 

COCOA-NUT BISCUITS OR CAKES.

  1. INGREDIENTS.—10 oz. of sifted sugar, 3 eggs, 6 oz. of grated cocoa-nut.

Mode.—Whisk the eggs until they are very light; add the sugar gradually; then stir in the cocoa-nut. Roll a tablespoonful of the paste at a time in your hands in the form of a pyramid; place the pyramids on paper, put the paper on tins, and bake the biscuits in rather a cool oven until they are just coloured a light brown.

Time.—About 1/4 hour. Seasonable at any time.[5]

However, I’m sure that Dixon did a much better job than the melted, collapsing pyramids that I managed. My only solace is that I don’t seem to be alone in having difficulty with this recipe. SJ Alexander over at The Queen’s Scullery had a go at the same recipe a few years ago, and said “Shaping the coconut was not even remotely possible, and the eggs migrated out of the coconut haystacks to form custardy pools around the macaroons’s ankles, which turned crispy in the oven. When they came out, they tasted delicious, but fell apart the minute I tried to move them off their tray. The funny thing was that the recipe did not differ greatly from modern coconut macaroon recipes–I’m not sure what went wrong, exactly. Shelling and preparing fresh coconut was a fun experience, and it was noticeably different from preshredded coconut from the store.”[6]

 

Mine seemed to hold up a bit better than hers, and I think that’s because I used store-bought desiccated coconut. Desiccated coconut was first produced in 1880 in Sri Lanka, before then it had to be produced at home.[7] Eliza Acton describes how it’s done:

“Rasp a fresh cocoa-nut, spread it on a dish or tin and let it dry gradually for a couple of days, if it can be done conveniently …”[8] Whilst making your own desiccated coconut would certainly be an interesting thing to try, it wasn’t something I had time to do, and other than perhaps giving some insight into the coarseness of the coconut required, I’m not sure that it would make all that much difference.

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The first batch which melted into one big mass

Using the quantities given, I could roughly shape the mixture, but they were more mastaba than pyramid. What I found was that with a bit of extra coconut, I could shape the mixture into pyramids, but when my first batch went into the oven (at 150ºC), they slumped joined together. I had better luck with the last couple, to which I added even more coconut and cooked at a higher temperature (180ºC). This batch also had far fewer on the tray, and so they had room to spread out without touching each other. I’m still not sure though that they are quite the shape that Mrs Beeton was suggesting. They went into the oven as pyramids, and came out as large gumdrops.

 

[1] McWilliams, “‘A Vulgar Care’: Talking about Food in Eighteenth-Century Anglo-American Novels”; Moss, Spilling the Beans.

[2] see Koivuvaara, “Hunger, Consumption, and Identity in Elizabeth Gaskell’s Novels.”

[3] Gaskell, North and South, 90.

[4] Koivuvaara, “Hunger, Consumption, and Identity in Elizabeth Gaskell’s Novels,” 136.

[5] Recipe 1740 Beeton, Beeton’s Book of Household Management.

[6] Alexander, “Doing Bad Things to Innocent Cucumbers.”

[7] Santich, Bold Palates: Australia’s Gastronomic Heritage, 201.

[8] Acton, Modern Cookery, for Private Families, 545.

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The second batch, they held together but I’m still not sure they could really be called pyramids. 

The Redaction

Cocoa-nut Cakes

290g sugar

2 large eggs

170g desiccated coconut, plus enough to make into a mouldable paste (about 5 tbsp more)

 

  1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC. Line a baking tray with baking paper.
  2. Whisk the eggs until pale and frothy. Gradually whisk in the sugar to make a thick, silky batter. Stir in the coconut. Try to shape a dessert-spoonful into a pyramid. If the mixture is too soft, add more coconut, until they will hold the shape nicely.
  3. Place the pyramids on the baking tray, leaving lots of room between them. Bake for 10 minutes or until lightly golden.

The Round-Up

The Recipe: Cocoa-nut Biscuits or Cakes from Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management  (available at http://www.gutenberg.org/cache/epub/10136/pg10136-images.html).

The Date: 1861

How did you make it? See above.

Time to complete?: 30 mins.

How successful was it?: The first batch melted into one shapeless mass, and while they tasted great (like coconut ice but crunchier) the fell apart when you lifted them. The second batch held their shape much better, thanks to extra coconut and you could even lift them up.

How accurate?: I wonder if including the egg yolk was a mistake, because a lot of the other recipes just use the egg white beaten to stiff peaks. I think that would help hold the shape better. I didn’t grate and dry my own coconut, but I do think that the coconut should be dried and not used fresh. At the same time, I don’t know exactly what texture of coconut should be used, mine was quite fine and maybe it should have been coarser.

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Bibliography

Acton, Eliza. Modern Cookery, for Private Families: Reduced to a System of Easy Practice, in a Series of Carefully Tested Receipts, in Which the Principles of Baron Liebig and Other Eminent Writers Have Been as Much as Possible Applied and Explained. London: Longman, Green, Reader, and Dyer, 1868.

Alexander, SJ. “Doing Bad Things to Innocent Cucumbers.” The Queen’s Scullery, January 28, 2010. http://thequeenscullery.com/2010/01/28/doing-bad-things-to-innocent-cucumbers/.

Beeton, Isabella, ed. Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management. London: S.O Beeton, 1861.

Cunningham Croly, Jane. Jennie June’s American Cookery Book. New York: The American News Co., 1870.

Gaskell, Elizabeth. North and South. London: Penguin Books, 1994.

Hearn, Lafcadio. La Cuisine Creole: A Collection of Culinary Recipes, from Leading Chefs and Noted Creole Housewives, Who Have Made New Orleans Famous for Its Cuisine. New Orleans: F.F. Hansell & Bro. Ltd., 1885.

Koivuvaara, Pirjo. “Hunger, Consumption, and Identity in Elizabeth Gaskell’s Novels.” University of Tampere, 2012. http://tampub.uta.fi/bitstream/handle/10024/66893/978-951-44-8780-4.pdf.

Leslie, Eliza. Seventy-Five Receipts for Pastry, Cakes, and Sweetmeats. Boston: Munroe and Francis, 1828.

McWilliams, Mark. “‘A Vulgar Care’: Talking about Food in Eighteenth-Century Anglo-American Novels.” In Food and Language: Proceedings of the Oxford Symposium on Food and Cooking 2009, edited by Richard Hosking, 227–36. Great Britain: Prospect Books, 2010.

Moss, Sarah. Spilling the Beans: Eating, Cooking, Reading and Writing in British Women’s Fiction. Oxford University Press, 2013.

Santich, Barbara. Bold Palates: Australia’s Gastronomic Heritage. South Australia: Wakefield Press, 2012.

Wells, Richard. The Bread and Biscuit Baker’s and Sugar-Boiler’s Assistant. London: Crosby Lockwood and Son, 1890.

 

 

 

 

Emeles

This fortnight’s challenge for the Historical Food Fortnightly is ‘Sweets for the Sweet’. For the last little while I’ve been meeting up with a group of fourteenth century reenactors to sew/whittle/cook/relax. One of the questions that has come up is why there aren’t many recipes for cake or biscuits in fourteenth century cookbooks, so when I stumbled across a recipe for ‘emeles’ or almond cakes on the St Thomas Guild blog I knew that I was going to have to try them out.

MS 32085

A page from ADD MS 32085 with a puzzle initial, [Public Domain] via  the British Library  Illuminated Manuscripts Catalogue

This recipe comes from the manuscript B.L. Add. 32085, dating from the late 13th Century. The original version says:

“Emeles. E une friture k’ad a noun emeles. Pernez sucre e sel e alemaundes e payn demeyne, e braez les ensemble; e pus metez des oefs; e pus gresse ou oile ou bure, e pernez une quilere e oingnez les; e pus pernez sus e rose les de sucre sec, &cetera.”[1]

Constance Hieatt and Robin Jones translate this as:

“Emeles [almond cakes]. Here is a fritter which is called emeles. Take sugar, salt, almonds, and white bread, and grind them together; then add eggs; then grease or oil or butter, and take a spoon and brush them [i.e., the emeles, while they are frying] and then remove them and sprinkle them with dry sugar, etc.”[2]

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What I think is particularly interesting about this recipe is the way in which it highlights the difficulties of dealing with recipes in Middle English. There are no standardised spellings and the copying of recipes could, and did lead to even more corruptions, especially of foreign words.

Initially Hieatt saw a connection between this recipe, and the recipe for ‘alumelle frite au sucre’ (omelette fried in sugar) in the Menagier de Paris.  Later she realised that that the word ‘emeles’ actually comes from the Catalan ‘ametlles’, meaning almonds.[3]

 

A nearly identical recipe appears in the 14th century Diuersa Cibaria:

A fritur þat hatte emeles

Nym sucre, salt, & alemauns & bred, & grind am togedre; & soþþen do of ayren. & soþþen nim grece oþur botere oþur oyle, and soþþen nim a dihs, & smeore heom; & soþþen nym bliue, & cose wiþ sucre drue: & þis beoþ þin cyueles in leynten ase in oþur time.”[4]

And again, in the 15th Century Laud MS. 553, although by then the word had been corrupted to ‘cyuele’:

“Nym almandes, Sugur & salt, & payn de mayn, & bray hem in a morter / do therto eyren, frie hit in oylle or in grese, cast theron sugur, & ȝif hit forth.”[5]

Of course, none of these recipes include any idea of the proportions involved. This means that there have been a whole range of different products, all made from the same ingredients. Some are like pancakes and some are like doughnuts while others are more like fritters.

My version are closer to doughnut holes than anything else, and they would be very good with some cinnamon! That being said, they were a bit on the dense side and I didn’t love them. If I was doing them again I might try a higher proportion of almonds to breadcrumbs, a wetter batter, and maybe a different fat to cook them in (I used butter this time).

[1] Hieatt and Jones, “Two Anglo-Norman Culinary Collections Edited from British Library Manuscripts Additional 32085 and Royal 12.C.xii,” 866.

[2] Ibid., 877.

[3] Hieatt, “Making Sense of Medieval Culinary Records: Much Done, But Much More To Do,” 105.

[4] Hieatt and Butler, Curye on Inglysch, 185.

[5] Austin, Two Fifteenth-Century Cookery-Books, 113.

IMG_3676

The Redaction

Emeles

150g fresh breadcrumbs (I used sourdough bread with the crusts cut off)

150g almond meal

50g sugar

1/4 tsp salt

2 eggs

Oil/butter/grease to fry

Caster sugar to sprinkle

 

  1. Combine the breadcrumbs, almond meal, sugar and salt. Add the eggs and mix well. The batter should be slightly sticky, but thick enough to roll into balls.
  2. Put the oil, butter or grease in a pan and heat over medium. Roll the batter into balls about the size of a ping-pong ball. Shallow fry the balls in batches, using a spoon or a brush to scoop the cooking fat over the balls. Turn as necessary until golden on all sides. Remove the balls and drain on paper towel.
  3. Place some caster sugar in a bowl and roll the still warm balls in the sugar until coated. These can be served hot, warm or cold.

 

The Round-Up

 

The Recipe: Emeles from Two Anglo-Norman Culinary Collections Edited from British Library Manuscripts Additional 32085 and Royal 12.C.xii by Constance B Hieatt and Robin F Jones (available through JSTOR).

The Date: 1275-1300

How did you make it? See above.

Time to complete?: 30 mins.

How successful was it?: As I said, I didn’t love them because I thought they had a kind of funny taste. That being said, my sewing group enjoyed them and happily ate the rest. The main comment was that they were very dense, and only lightly sweetened (some people thought this was a good thing, others would have liked them to be sweeter).

How accurate?: It’s really impossible to tell, given the myriad ways that the recipe has and can be interpreted. The proportions of the ingredients is one of the big questions, and how to shape and cook them is another. Some people have deep-fried theirs, but I think that shallow frying sounds more likely given the instruction to use a spoon to moisten/brush/anoint them.

Read more

Playing History Detective, Early Modern Style

 

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If you have ever looked at historical food boards on Pinterest (and since you are reading this I would guess that you probably have) then you’ve probably seen Chelsea Monroe-Cassel’s Medieval Peach Crostata. Published on her Game of Thrones food blog Inn at the Crossroads, this dessert looks like a cross between a sweet pizza and a strudel. How could I resist making that?

That being said, I went back to Bartolomeo Scappi’s instructions and my interpretation of the final product is quite different. Scappi was a papal chef, writing in the 1560s, and his cookbook was published in 1570. Although Scappi is better than many of hist contemporaries at providing quantities and instructions, the recipes are still very hard to follow.

Scappi

Frontispiece from The Opera of Bartolomeo Scappi, [public domain], via Wikimedia Commons. 

You’re not only dealing with a translation, but you have to keep swapping between recipes to find the other instructions that you need (which is of course why this is my entry for the HFF History Detective challenge). I used four recipes in total, but there were a number of options to choose from for how to make the mostaccioli and how to do the twists. Basically, there’s no one right way to make this.

Please note that, like the Metternich cake, this recipe is not for the faint of heart. The crostata is made of up three sheets of pastry as the base, a pastry twist filled with dried fruit cooked in wine and spices which makes the side of the tart, then there are several layers of filling and then three more layers of pastry for the top. It contains copious amounts of butter and sugar, and took more than three hours of continuous work. You have been warned!

“63. To prepare a peach, apricot or plum crostata

Get a peach that is not too ripe; if it is hard it will do quite a bit better than if not. Peel it and cut it into slices. Have a tourte pan ready, lined with its three sheets of dough and its twist around it, greased with butter or rendered fat, and sprinkled with pepper, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg and sugar, and with raisins and crumbled Neapolitan mostaccioli. On all that set out the peach slices and on top of them put the same ingredients as are under them. Cover the pan over with three thin sheets of dough, with rendered fat or butter brushed between each; sprinkle that with sugar and cinnamon. Bake it in an oven or braise it; it does not take too much cooking because it would disintegrate into a broth. Serve it hot, dressed with sugar and rosewater.

With those ingredients you can also add in provatura or grated cheese.”[1]

 

The first step is to make the mostaccioli, which are a kind of biscotti. The recipe that I chose was made from bread which is toasted and then ground into flour. The breadcrumb flour is mixed with flour, sugar, eggs, yeast, rosewater and anise to make a thick batter and left to rest. You then add more eggs and some salt and allow it to rest again. The mixture is then poured into a pan, baked, sliced into rectangles and baked again. Next time I would leave the biscuits to cook longer both times, and I would probably slice them more thinly too because they were a bit too gummy to really crumble.

Mostaccioli

 

“237. To prepare dainty biscuit morsels. (Morseletti or mostaccioli)

Get two pounds of white breadcrumb and bake it a second time. Grind it in a mortar and put it through a sieve so it becomes like flour. For every pound of that sieved substance, add as much again of fine flour, two and a half pounds of finely sieved sugar and four ounces of leaven ground in a mortar and moistened with fifteen fresh eggs; then everything should be mixed together with three-quarters of an ounce of raw anise ground into powder and four ounces of rosewater. When everything is thoroughly mixed and beaten together so that it looks like fritter batter, let it sit for two hours in a warm place. Beat it again, adding in four more eggs and an ounce of salt; then let it sit for another hour. Then have a buttered tourte pan and put the filling into it so it is a finger’s width in depth. Put that into an oven that is not too hot. Leave it there until it is dry. Remove it and with a sharp knife cut it into little long rectangles, as wide or narrow as you like. Just as soon as they have been cut up, put them immediately into marzipan tourte pans, set out apart with paper under them, and put them back into the oven with a very moderate heat. Leave them there for half an hour, turning them several times until they have firmed up. In order to keep them white, keep them covered with rag paper.”[2]

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So far so good, but this is where it gets a bit complicated. The recipe tells us that we need a tourte pan lined with three sheets of dough and a twist, but not how to do this. For detailed instructions we need to go to an earlier recipe for a crostata of cow’s udder.

 

“49. To prepare various sorts of crostate which Neapolitans call coppi and Lumbards napoleons, beginning with a cow’s udder.

When the udder has been boiled in salted water, so that it is thoroughly cooked, take it out and let it cool. Cut it into very thin slices. With that put the same amount of boiled, desalted sowbelly and slices of fresh provatura. Have a tourte pan ready, greased with rendered fat or butter, with a rather thick sheet of dough made with fine flour, rosewater, egg yolks, butter and salt. On that sheet of dough put two other thin ones greased with rendered fat or butter, and sprinkle them with sugar. Make the twist of flaky pastry all around and not very big. On the last sheet of dough set a layer of slices of provatura sprinkled with sugar, cinnamon and raisins, and beaten mint and marjoram; on that layer put little lumps of butter and some of the udder slices and of the sowbelly; continue doing the same up to three layers, covering the last with another sheet of somewhat thinner dough. On that sheet put some strips of flaky pastry, slitting the twist all around with the tip of a hot knife. Carefully, with a greased hand, put waves into the flaky pastry or else cut it into lacework with a knife. Put it into an oven and bake it, making sure to grease the flaky pastry with rendered fat or melted butter so it will puff up better. When it is done serve it hot…”[3]

 

This explains that the dough is made from flour, rosewater, egg yolks, butter and salt but gives no quantities. For that, we need to turn to another recipe again. The instructions for making a filled twist give the quantities: two pounds of flour, six egg yolks, two ounces of rosewater, an ounce of leaven moistened with warm water, four ounces butter and enough salt. Even though I didn’t knead the dough for the full half an hour I was amazed at how well this dough worked. It was smooth, silky and could be rolled out very thinly.

 

“122. To prepare a filled twist.

Make a dough of two pounds of fine flour with six fresh egg yolks, two ounces of rosewater, an ounce of leaven moistened with warm water, four ounces of either fresh butter or rendered fat that does not smell bad, and enough salt. That dough should be kneaded well for half an hour. Make a thin sheet of it, greasing it with either melted butter that is not too hot or with rendered fat. With the pastry wheel cut the edges one after the other, which are always thicker than the rest. Sprinkle the dough with four ounces of sugar and an ounce of cinnamon. Then get a pound of currants that have been brought to a boil in wine, a pound of dates cooked in that wine and cut up small, and a pound of seeded muscatel raisins that have been brought to a boil in wine; combine all those ingredients and mix them with sugar, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. Spread that mixture out over the sheet of dough along with a few little gobs of butter. Beginning at the long edge of the dough, roll it up like a wafer cornet, being careful not to break the dough. A twist like that only needs three rolls so it can cook well; it should not be too tight. Grease its surface with melted butter that is not too hot. Begin at one end to roll it up, not too tightly, so it becomes like a snail shell or a maze. Have a tourte pan on hand lined with a rather thick sheet of the same dough greased with melted butter and gently put the twist on it without pushing it down. Bake it in an oven or braise it with a moderate heat, not forgetting to grease it occasionally with melted butter. When it is almost done, sprinkle sugar and rosewater over it. Serve it hot. The tourte pan in which the twists are baked has to be ample and with low sides.”[4]

 

To line the tourte pan (I used a shallow, Victoria sponge cake tin) you place three circles of dough (the bottom one should be slightly thicker) in the base, brushing each with melted butter. The way that I read the recipe, these circles are the same size as the base of the pan, they do not come up the sides of the pan as in a modern pie recipe. The sides are formed with a twist. The twist is made by rolling out a long, thin sheet of the same dough and rolling this up around a filling of dried fruit cooked in wine and spices. This twist is laid around the edge of the tin and forms the sides of the crostata.

 

With the base now in place, the filling comes next. The base is sprinkled with spices, dried fruit, sugar and the crumbled mostaccioli from earlier. This is followed by a layer of sliced peaches and topped with more spices, sugar, fruit and biscuits. This is then topped with another three layers of pastry and then cooked in a moderate oven.

 

Crostata

The Redactions

Mostaccioli

 

180g bread, cut into slices and with the crusts removed

100g flour

250g sugar

5 eggs

7g of dried yeast (fresh yeast, ale barm or sourdough starter would be even better)

25ml rosewater

(anise if desired)

Salt

 

  1. Heat the oven to 150˚C. Place the bread slices on baking trays and toast lightly in the oven until golden and very dry, but be careful not to burn them.
  2. Crumble the toasted bread with your fingers, then take small amounts and grind it to a powder in a mortar and pestle. Sieve this powder to remove any bigger pieces and weigh the amount that you have. The quantities given in this recipe are for 100g of breadcrumb flour.
  3. Take the flour and mix it with 250g of sugar, 4 eggs and the yeast. Beat to combine, then add the anise and the rosewater. Leave to rest for two hours in a warm place.
  4. Beat the last egg and some salt into the mixture. Let rest for another hour.
  5. Pre-heat the oven to 150˚C and grease a square cake tin or a slice tin. Pour the mixture into the tin, it should be about 1 cm deep, and bake in the oven for about 30 mins, or until a skewer comes out clean.
  6. Allow the cake to cool slightly, then remove from the tin. Slice the cake into rectangles and lay them on their sides on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Return the biscuits to the oven for another 40 minutes or until hard and dry. When done, allow to cool completely.

 

 

 

Peach Crostata

Dough:

450g flour

Pinch of salt

56g cold butter, cut into cubes

3 egg yolks

30ml rosewater

7g dried yeast, dissolved in 15 ml of warm water

 

Filling:

Sugar

A handful of raisins

Ground pepper, cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg

4 mostaccioli, crumbled

1 hard peach, sliced

 

Filling for the twist:

55g sugar

225g currants, raisins and/or chopped dates

1/4 cup red wine

Ground cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg to taste

 

Melted butter, to grease

 

  1. To make the dough place the flour and some salt in a large mixing bowl. Rub in the butter with your fingertips until it is the consistency of breadcrumbs. Add the egg yolks, rosewater and the yeast. If it seems to dry add a little more water. Bring together and knead for at least 10 mins (or you can go for the full 30 mins if you are using a stand mixer with a dough hook).
  2. To make the filling for the twist, place the dried fruit, red wine, 1 tsp of sugar and spices to taste in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer. Allow to cook for 5-10 mins or until plump and slightly softened. Drain the fruit from the juice and allow to cool.
  3. For the base of the crostata take 1/3 of the dough. Break this into three parts, with one slightly larger than the other two. Begin with the larger piece and roll it out to the size of the base of your tourte pan. Use the base of the pan to cut out the circle of dough. Place the circle in the base of the greased pan, and brush the dough with melted butter. Repeat this twice more with the other two pieces of dough (they should be slighlty thinner than the first layer).
  4. For the twist, measure the circumference of your tourte pan. Take half the remaining dough and roll it out very thinly into a rectangle that is the same length as the circumference of your pan, and about 6 cm wide. Brush the dough with melted butter and sprinkle with the remaining sugar and some ground cinnamon.
  5. Spread the fruit mixture over the rectangle of dough, leaving 1 cm of space at the edges. Starting at one of the long sides, gently roll up the dough. It should not be too tight, and be careful that the dough doesn’t tear. Place the rolled up twist around the outside edge of your tourte pan, pinching the short ends together to form one continuous ring.
  1. Brush the twist and the base with melted butter. Sprinkle on some sugar, raisins, spices and 2 mostaccioli. On top of this layer place the sliced peach, then top with more sugar, raisins, spices and the remaining crumbled biscuits.
  2. Preheat the oven to 180˚C. Take the last 1/3 of the dough and break it into three equal pieces. Roll the first one out thinly until it will cover the crostata. Place over the top of the filling and run a knife around the edge of the pan to remove the scraps. Brush with butter and repeat twice more with the other two balls of dough. Brush the final layer with butter and sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon.
  3. Place the crostata in the oven and cook until the pastry is golden. Do not leave it too long of the juice from the peaches will dissolve the pastry. Serve hot.

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The Round-Up

The Recipe: To prepare a peach, apricot or plum crostata, from The Opera of Bartolomeo Scappi

The Date: 1570

How did you make it? See above.

Time to complete?: 3 hours + time for making the mostaccioli

How successful was it?: It had a nice combination of flavours, but was a bit on the heavy side. I think that is to be expected with so many layers of a yeasted pastry, but overall I was quite happy with the way that the pastry performed. I didn’t really expect it to work! The peaches have a tendency to make the bottom rather soggy, so it’s best to use fruit that isn’t too ripe.

How accurate?: I think that it is probably closer to the original recipe than some other versions, but the recipes are so ambiguous about the way in which the twist is formed in particular that it’s hard to know what they mean.

 

[1] Scappi, The Opera of Bartolomeo Scappi (1570), 466.

[2] Ibid., 533–534.

[3] Ibid., 459–460.

[4] Ibid., 488–489.

 

Bibliography

Scappi, Bartolomeo. The Opera of Bartolomeo Scappi (1570). Edited by Luigi Ballerini and Massimo Ciavolella. Translated by Terence Scully. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2008.

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