17th Century Polish Cuisine with Compendium Ferculorum


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.


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.



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.


Tarte Owt of Lente


Tarte Owt of Lente, 15th century pie recipe from Turnspit & Table

I know that a lot of the HFF bloggers are doing the Future Learn course ‘A History of Royal Food and Feasting’ and seem to be really enjoying it. The basic premise is that each week covers a different monarch and a different Historic Royal Palace, with a loose focus on a particular event; last week that event was Edward VI’s christening at Hampton Court Palace. They then offer a few redacted recipes which you are invited to try out.


I thought it was a bit disappointing that they chose to focus on an event for which there is very little evidence of the food served, and that they then chose three recipes which were totally unrelated. Why not give a recipe for the spiced wafers that they know were served on the day?


The three recipes that they did give were Tarte Owt of Lente, Fylettys en Galentyne and Ryschewys Close and Fryez. You can watch videos of these recipes being made in the Hampton Court Kitchens, and get redacted recipes on the website.


Since its Pie week for the HFF I decided to kill two birds with one stone by making Tarte Owt of Lente. The name tells us that it is a recipe for a pie which is inappropriate for Lent; it’s full of cream and eggs and cheese and so can only be eaten ‘out of Lent’. The original recipe comes from Gentyllmanly Cookere c. 1500:

“Take neshe chese and pare hit and grynd hit yn A morter and breke egges and do ther to and then put yn buttur and creme and mell all well to gethur put not to moche butter ther yn if the chese be fatte make A coffyn of dowe and close hit a bove with dowe and collor hit a bove with the yolkes of eggs and bake hit well and serue hit furth.”[1]

Tarte Owt of Lente, 15th century pie recipe from Turnspit & Table 

The first thing to decide in this recipe is what type of cheese to use. In the Hampton Court video and redaction they suggest Cheshire cheese, but the first step is to ‘take neshe chese’ or ‘take soft cheese’ which to me suggests a fresh cheese. In the comments to the recipe they actually mention this, saying that it is probably referring to a curd cheese like ricotta or cottage cheese. And yet, the next instruction is to ‘pare hit’ or ‘pare it’. That suggests removing a rind, or at least cutting the cheese up small. So, is it a soft, fresh cheese or a harder cheese with a rind? The jury is out, but either seems to work well.


I decided to go with ricotta, and that meant that I had to change the proportions of other ingredients quite a bit so that the mixture wasn’t too liquid. The first tart I made, I kept quite close to the suggested redaction with 100g ricotta, 1 egg, 60 ml cream, 30g butter and seasoning, but when I put it in the oven I found that it burst it’s base. I’m still giving the amounts though, because it tasted very good and was my housemate’s favourite version. The trick, I think, would be to use a hot water pastry instead of a shortcrust pastry. There’s a recipe for hot water pastry in my post about chewets.


My second try worked a lot better because I increased the proportion of ricotta and reduced the liquids. I was a bit worried that the mixture would be too bland so I also added some grated parmesan to this version. That was very tasty, but is totally optional.

Tarte Owt of Lente, 15th century pie recipe from Turnspit & Table

The Recipe

A Tarte Owt of Lente

For the pastry:

110g flour

Pinch of salt

50g butter, cold and cut into 1cm cubes

Cold water


For the filling:

140g ricotta

15g butter

1 egg

1 tbsp cream

30g grated parmesan (optional)

Salt and pepper


1 beaten egg


  1. To make the pastry place the flour in a mixing bowl and stir in the salt. Add the butter and rub it into the flour with your fingertips until it resembles breadcrumbs. Add cold water, a tablespoon at a time, until the mixture comes together as a firm dough. Be careful not to overwork it. Cover in clingfilm and refrigerate while you make your filling.
  2. Cream together the butter and the ricotta in a bowl. Add remaining ingredients and mix well. Preheat the oven to 220°C.
  3. You can see a video of this method of shaping the pastry here. Remove the pastry from the fridge and separate about 2/3 of the pastry to make the base. Roll it out until about 3/4cm thick and use a plate or bowl as a template to cut out a circle. Working about 1.5cm from the edge, place your left thumb on the pastry and use your thumb and index finger on your right hand to push the pastry up against your thumb, and to pinch it into a ridge. Work your way around the pastry to make a self-supporting pastry base. Roll out the other 1/3 of the pastry to make a lid. Place the base on the pastry and cut around it to get the right size.
  4. Place your pastry base on a baking tray and pour in the filling. Brush a little beaten egg around the rim of the pastry and put the lid on top, pinching the edges to seal. Make a little hole in the top of the pie, and brush the top with beaten egg.
  5. Bake the pie for 40 minutes, or until golden brown.


The Round-Up

The Recipe: A Tarte Owt of Lente (available here).

The Date: late 15th century

How did you make it? See above.

Time to complete?: 1.5 hrs.

How successful was it?: It was good hot or cold, although as I said the first filling didn’t quite manage to stay in its pastry case. I was kind of surprised that it set so well, but I did like the addition of a bit of parmesan just to add some extra saltiness.

How accurate?: The big question is what type of cheese to use, and I still don’t have a strong feeling either way. I suppose the other option would be to use something like a brie or camembert which is both soft and can be pared. That might be worth a try.


[1] James L. Matterer, “Gentyll Manly Cokere. Culinary Recipes from MS Pepys 1047.,” Gode Cookery, 2009, http://www.godecookery.com/pepys/pepys.htm.

Tarte Owt of Lente, 15th century pie recipe from Turnspit & Table

A Happy Idea for a Picnic Dish


Two men carrying a box or picnic hamper to the delight of children, Sam Hood, State Library NSW

Two men carrying a box or picnic hamper to the delight of children, Sam Hood c. 1934, courtesy of the State Library of NSW.


“How we all love a picnic! Wrapped up in that one delightful word is the call of the bush, the call of the surf, fresh air and sunshine, happiness and lots of nice things to eat!”[1] Australia doesn’t have a monopoly on picnics by any means, but the great weather and natural beauty makes picnicking a popular pastime, and that’s nothing new.


Barbara Santich dedicates a whole chapter to picnics in her history of Australian food Bold Palates, and she makes the point that while early picnics were utilitarian (quick meals to break up journeys or roadside stops where there was no inn to be found), they were also a way to celebrate special occasions and even official functions. One of their great attractions was surely that they cut across social and class lines, helped along by guild picnics and cheap public transport. Santich also notes the popularity of ‘mystery hikes’ in the 1930s where bushwalkers took a train to an undisclosed location for a hike and a picnic; one of these in 1932 catered to 8000 people![2]


The recipe that I chose for this HFF challenge is from December 1933 and it’s nice to think that these picnic patties might have been taken along on a mystery hike or two. We’ve talked before about the advantages of pies, they’re easily stored, portable and great for eating on the go. These mini pies have exactly the same benefits, and can be eaten hot or cold.


The recipe was submitted as part of a competition to find recipes for picnic foods. Although the contributor, Mrs E.E. Wain of Campsie, only got a consolation prize of 2/6 the patties are probably easier to eat than the jellied rabbit which took out first prize!

[1] “Happy Ideas for Picnic Dishes.”

[2] Santich, Bold Palates: Australia’s Gastronomic Heritage, 88.


The Redaction

Picnic Patties


For the Pastry:

230g flour

3 tsp baking powder

Pinch of salt

1/2 tsp lemon juice

120g cold butter, diced

Cold water, as needed


For the filling:


1 tbsp butter

1 tbsp flour

1/2 cup stock (I used the water that I cooked the chicken in)

1/2 cup cream

Salt (and pepper)

1 cup chopped, cooked chicken (about 1 large chicken breast)

1/2 stick of celery, finely sliced


A little milk or egg wash.


  1. Place the flour, baking powder and salt in a medium mixing bowl. Add the lemon juice and the butter. Rub in the butter with your fingertips until it is the consistency of breadcrumbs. Add cold water a tablespoon at a time and mix gently until the pastry comes together. Be careful not to knead the pastry. Wrap the pastry in clingfilm and refrigerate until needed.
  2. To make the filling, melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the flour. Cook for a minute and stir to remove any lumps. Add half of the stock and stir to combine, then add the other half of the stock. The mixture should be quite thick. Stir in the cream, seasonings, celery and chicken and turn off the heat.
  3. Preheat the oven to 190°C. Grease a cupcake pan. Roll out 2/3 of the pastry on a floured board. Cut circles from the pastry to fit the cupcake pan. Fill with the chicken mixture, then roll out the remaining pastry to cut lids. Place the lids onto the pies and press down around the edges to seal. Brush with a little milk or egg wash and use the tip of a sharp knife to make a small slit in the top of each pie.
  4. Bake the pies in the oven for about 20 minutes, or until golden on top.


IMG_4369The Round-Up

The Recipe: Picnic Patties (available here)

The Date: 30 December 1933

How did you make it? See above.

Time to complete?: An hour.

How successful was it?: These were very nice, if a little bland. I would have liked them with some carrots and/or peas and a bit more aggressive seasoning. I also found the pastry a bit too thick, so that the proportion of pastry to filling wasn’t quite right, but that is easily fixed.

How accurate?: The recipe doesn’t specify how to make the pastry, so I used this recipe from 1934 for Creamed Chicken Turnovers. Overall I think that these were very accurate, the only major change that I made was to use butter in the pastry instead of lard or dripping, either of which would also make a very good pastry.



“Happy Ideas for Picnic Dishes.” The Australian Women’s Weekly, December 30, 1933. Trove.

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


Roasted Milk


So catching up on missed challenges, here is my HFF entry for ‘Roasts’. Of course, I couldn’t just do a normal roast could I? and so I present to you a recipe for Roasted Milk.


Yes, you read that right, I said Roasted Milk. You may be wondering, as did I, exactly how one roasts milk. Well, it turns out it’s not really roasted at all, but you make a kind of set custard, slice it up and fry it. The trick of course was to get the right proportion of milk to eggs to make custard when there are no amounts given in the original recipe.


The recipe comes from the 15th Century MS Harley 5401 which I’ve used before when I made chewets. This manuscript contains two very similar recipes for roasted milk. The first says:


“To rost Mylk. Recipe swete mylk & do it in a pan, & swyng egges Perwith, & colour it with saferon & put certo flour; han set it on he fyre & let it boyle, & strene all Pise to gydyr & cast it agayn into pe pan. Pen take hard 3olkes of egges & breke ham small, & do Pam in De mylk tyll it be right thyk. Pen set it down & let it kele, & lech it & roste it on a gyrdyren, & cast berto sugur, & serof it forth. go Frutowr for Lentyn. Recipe flour & almondes mylk, & temper ham togyder; han take fyges & rasyns of corance & fry ham with he batour with oyle & tyrne [Pis] & sero”[1]


“To roast Milk. Gather sweet milk and put it in a pan, and stir eggs therewith, and color it with saffron and put thereto flour, then set it on the fire and let it boil, and strain all this together and cast it again into the pan. Then take hard yolks of eggs and break them small, and put them in the milk until it is quite thick. Then set it down and let it cool, and slice it and roast it on a gridiron, and cast thereto sugar, and serve it forth.”[2]


While the second omits the flour and the sugar, and uses the whole raw egg:


“Mylk Rostede. Recipe swete mylk & do it in a pan, than take pe egges with be whyte & bete bam togyder, & do it to he mylk, & colour it with saferon; & boyle it tyll it be thyk, and strene it & do kerin; take bat pat levis in Pe strenerour: presse it on a borde with a lever, & when it is cold lard it & sheve it on shyves, & rost it on a gyrdyryn, & serof it forth.”[3]


“Roasted Milk. Gather sweet milk and put it in a pan, then take eggs with the white and beat them together, and put it in the milk, and color it with saffron, and boil it until it is thick, and strain it and put it in; take the leaves (what remains?) in the strainer: press it on a board with a lever, and when it is cold lard it and shave it in slices, and roast it on a gridiron, and serve it forth.”[4]


I primarily used the second recipe, but I did end up sprinkling my milk with some sugar, as recommended in the first.


This file comes from Wellcome Images, a website operated by Wellcome Trust, a global charitable foundation based in the United Kingdom. Refer to Wellcome blog post (archive).

As is often the way with these things, recipes for roasted milk appear in many other manuscripts. The Medieval Cookery website has five alternative versions from: The Noble Boke of Cookry (England, c. 1468), Liber Cure Cocorum (England, 1420-1440), Ein Buch Von Guter Spise (Germany, c. 1345), Two-Fifteenth Century Cookery Books (England, 15th C) and the Forme of Cury (England, c. 1390).


The English recipes are all very similar. You cook together eggs, sweet milk (as in, not sour), and a little saffron. Once the mixture has thickened you strain it and leave it to cool and set, often with a weight upon it. Once the mixture has set it is cut into slices and then grilled (except in the case of the Noble Boke of Cookry which is served cold without grilling). It can be sprinkled with some sugar at the end.


The German recipe is different, and worth consideration because of that. It is made without eggs, just with curdled milk. The milk is strained and pressed overnight before being sliced and roasted on a spit. Rather than being sprinkled with sugar it is sprinkled with salt, pepper and butter or fat (on meat days). It would be interesting to see how this recipe compares to the English versions.

[1] Hieatt, “The Middle English Culinary Recipes in MS Harley 5401: An Edition and Commentary,” 65.

[2] Wallace, “MS Harley 5401.”

[3] Hieatt, “The Middle English Culinary Recipes in MS Harley 5401: An Edition and Commentary,” 58–59.

[4] Wallace, “MS Harley 5401.”


The Redaction

2 cups milk

4 eggs, beaten

Pinch of saffron

Oil to fry in


  1. Whisk the eggs and milk together over medium heat. Once it is warm add the saffron. Whisk constantly until it comes to the boil and thickens (the consistency is somewhere between scrambled eggs and cottage cheese).
  2. Line a colander with clean muslin and strain off the liquid. Place the mixture in a rectangular mould (I used a tupperware container lined with baking paper), place something heavy on top like a tin or a plate to weigh it down, and refrigerate overnight.
  3. Remove the mixture from the mould and slice it thinly. Heat a frying pan (or gridiron) with a little oil. Grill the slices until golden brown on each side, it should look like French toast. Sprinkle with sugar if desired and serve hot.


The Round-Up

The Recipe: Roasted Milk from MS Harley 5401 (available here).

The Date: 15th century

How did you make it? See above.

Time to complete?: 30 mins, plus setting overnight.

How successful was it?: I was really please that this actually set, because I wasn’t at all sure that it would. The flavour is somewhere between custard and the eggy part of French toast. It’s quite bland, and at first I didn’t like it but a little bit of sugar really improved it, and once you began eating it it was surprisingly moreish.

How accurate?: The hardest part to figure out was the proportions of egg to milk. I went with the proportions for a modern custard which seemed to work well enough but I don’t know how accurate that is. I also wasn’t sure how much saffron to add, so perhaps the colour was not as pronounced as it should have been.



Hieatt, Constance. “The Middle English Culinary Recipes in MS Harley 5401: An Edition and Commentary.” Medium Aevum 65, no. 1 (1996): 54–69.

Wallace, Sam. “MS Harley 5401.” Translated by Constance Hieatt. Corpus of Culinary & Dietetic Texts of Europe from the Middle Ages to 1800, April 9, 2011. http://www.staff.uni-giessen.de/gloning/harl5401/.


Mock Crab aka Cheesy Scrambled Eggs

IMG_4103This is just a quick post to get me back on track with the Historical Food Fortnightly. The next challenge is Mock Foods and this is such a cool challenge I would have loved to do something a little more difficult. Still, I think it’s hard to find an era which is more known for mock foods than the early 20th century, and in fact I still have my grandmother’s recipe for mock cream.


Between the Depression and two world wars, thrifty housewives everywhere swapped recipes for dishes that were either too expensive, or which used ingredients which simply couldn’t be found. A quick search of the digitised newspapers on Trove brings up hundreds of results from the 1930s to the 1950s, ranging from mock whitebait to mock brains, even mock potatoes!


1935 ‘Prize Recipe – Mock Crab’, Daily Standard, 14 September p.8 

Although I was tempted by a recipe for mock ham (made from a corned leg of lamb), I ended up going with a recipe for mock crab. Although it didn’t look like much, it was easy, fast and dare I say it, quite tasty on toast. It’s really an amazingly comforting dish, like a cross between scrambled eggs and a cheese toastie. The only thing is, I don’t think it really tastes or looks like crab!


The recipe is so simple that it’s not really worth writing a redaction. You cover the tomatoes (I used three) with boiling water and after a minute or so, scoop them out and peel them. Dice the tomatoes and cook over medium heat with some salt and pepper until soft. This produces a lot of juice, so you pour that off, then stir in an egg and a cup of grated cheese. Cook until it thickens to your liking (mine looked a bit like scrambled eggs in the end). Serve hot on toast, or cold on sandwiches.


The Recipe: Mock Crab (available here).

The Date: 14 September 1935

How did you make it? See above.

Time to complete?: 20 mins.

How successful was it?:  It looked pretty awful, but I ate it hot on toast for dinner and it was very good. Cheesy and very comforting.

How accurate?: I wasn’t sure whether to chop the tomatoes or not because there is no instruction, but that seems to be what is done in other recipes and I don’t see how else you could do it.


1935 ‘PRIZE RECIPE.’, Daily Standard (Brisbane, Qld. : 1912 – 1936), 14 September, p. 8., viewed 05 May 2016, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article186190462


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


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]


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.



Mrs Beeton’s recipe is as follows:



  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.


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.


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.



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.





To Stew Carrets


Purple carrots have been undergoing something of a renaissance in the last couple of years, and you may well have seen them at your local farmer’s market or even in the supermarket. If you have, then you’ve probably also heard that purple carrots are the original colour. It’s true that the earliest domesticated carrots were probably purple or yellow in colour, but purple was one of just several colours available until the 17th century[1]. The rise of the sweeter, orange carrot in the 17th century meant that the white, yellow, red and purple varieties fell out of favour until their hipster return in the 2000s.

With their deep and unusual colouring, these stewed purple carrots seemed like the perfect candidate for the HFF ‘Pretty as a Picture’ challenge! The recipe comes from a receipt book held by the Wellcome Library (I originally found the recipe on http://www.carrotmuseum.co.uk/history3.html). It is signed Elizabeth Jacob and has a date of 1654, but there are lots of different handwritings evident, so some of the recipes are later, probably up to about 1685[2].


The Recipe

Stewed Carrots

“To Stew Carrets” – recipe from Jacob, “Physicall and Chyrurgicall Receipts. Cookery and Preserves.,” 103.  Via the Wellcome Library, used under Creative Commons, Public Domain Mark 1.0 


To Stew Carrets

Take your carrets and cute them in long little pieces, and take a pretty many onions and cut them small. A bunch of sweet hearbes, a little whole peper and a little nutmegg, and put as much water as will cover your sauce pan. A good piece of butter cover them close and sett them on a slow fire Stire them some times, and when they are enough serve them.[3]


Given the date of this recipe, they may not have been using purple carrots, because they were already losing out to the more popular orange carrots. That being said, you do get depictions of purple carrots well into the 17th century (see Nicholaes Maes’ market scene below).


[1] Stolarczyk and Janick, “Carrot: History and Iconography.”

[2] Wellcome Library, “Jacob, Elizabeth (& Others).”

[3] Jacob, “Phyiscall and Chyrurgicall Receipts. Cookery and Preserves.,” 103.



Vegetable Market, Nicholaes Maes, 1655-1665. [Public Domain] via Rijksmuseum.

The Redaction

Stewed Carrots


1 small bunch of carrots, sliced into long pieces (julienned perhaps?)

1/2 onion, chopped small

A knob of butter, around 15g

Sprinkle of nutmeg

Black pepper

Thyme or other herbs to taste


  1. Place all the ingredients into a saucepan. Add enough water to just cover them, put a lid on the saucepan and cook over a medium heat for 10-15 minutes or until just soft. Serve hot.


The Round-Up

The Recipe: To Stew Carrets from Physicall and chyrurgicall receipts. Cookery and preserves.  (available at http://wellcomelibrary.org/item/b19263302#?c=0&m=0&s=0&cv=217&z=0.3438%2C0.3634%2C1.1627%2C0.7284&r=180 pg. 103).

The Date: 1654-1685

How did you make it? See above.

Time to complete?: 20 mins.

How successful was it?:  The carrots looked really pretty but I added too much thyme and they had a very savoury, meaty smell which put me off a bit although they actually tasted OK.

How accurate?: I think it’s maybe unlikely at this date that they would have been using purple carrots, although it’s hard to know because the exact process and timeline for the takeover by the orange carrot is unclear. That was something that only became clearer after I had actually made the dish. Other than that, it’s mostly a matter of which herbs they would have used and I imagine that depended very much on what was fresh and available whenever you were making them.



Jacob, Elizabeth and others. “Phyiscall and Chyrurgicall Receipts. Cookery and Preserves.,” c.1654-1685. Wellcome Library. http://wellcomelibrary.org/item/b19263302#?c=0&m=0&s=0&cv=217&z=-0.761%2C-0.0283%2C1.1111%2C0.9916&r=180.

Stolarczyk, John, and Jules Janick. “Carrot: History and Iconography.” Chronica Horticulturae 51, no. 2 (2011): 13–18.

Wellcome Library. “Jacob, Elizabeth (& Others).” Wellcome Library. Accessed April 5, 2016. http://wellcomelibrary.org/item/b19263302#?c=0&m=0&s=0&cv=0.



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]


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.


The Redaction


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.

Continue reading

Playing History Detective, Early Modern Style



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.


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.



“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]


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.



The Redactions



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)



  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


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




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.


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.



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.

Metternich Cake, or Gateau à la Metternich


The Culinary Vices challenge had me stumped for a while. How do I create something excessive and luxurious on a budget, without spending days laminating pastry or buying yet more cake moulds? Then, while watching the third episode of Victorian Bakers, an excellent show which everyone should watch, inspiration struck. In the show you see the bakers at the turn of the 20th century struggling to diversify in the face of factory made bread, and one of the things they begin to make is cake.


I turned to a recent acquisition, Mrs A.B. Marshall’s Cookery Book (c. 1890s), where I found the Metternich Cake. With alternating layers of two different types of cake on a biscuit base all sandwiched together with a rich, chocolate buttercream, covered in noyeau-flavoured glace icing and decorated with two types of buttercream, this cake seemed to tick all of the boxes. It was excessive, yes, but I already had all the ingredients and equipment that I would need.


Print of Agnes Marshall (1855-1905), author unknown, [Public Domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The Recipe

“Take four whole raw eggs, six ounces of castor sugar, a pinch of cinnamon, and the very finely chopped peel of a lemon; whip these all together in a stewpan over boiling water till the mixture is just warm; then remove and whip until cold and thick, and mix into it four ounces of fine warm flour that has been passed through a sieve, and one eighth ounce of Marshall’s baking power. Butter a square fleur mould, place it on a baking tin, and put a double layer of buttered paper on the bottom inside the mould; then pour in the mixture, and bake in a moderate oven for one hour. The cake should be a very pale fawn colour when cooked.
Prepare a similar quantity of the above mixture, but in addition add about a saltspoonful of Marshall’s cherry red or carmine and a few drops of essence of vanilla, and finish as for the first mixture.
When both mixtures are cold cut them in slices and arrange them together in alternate layers, placing between each slice a layer of Vienna chocolate icing that is mixed with a wineglass of Silver Rays (white) rum; when they have reached the required height mask over with maraschino glace and then dish on a cake bottom. Garnish the cake as in the engraving with Vienna chocolate icing and rose Vienna icing, and serve. This would be nice to serve for a dinner sweet when ice cream or fruits may be served with it.”[1]


Little did I know the anxiety which this cake would lead to. The first step is to make the two types of Genoise sponge; I would probably cook them slightly less next time because they were a little dry, and I would chill the cakes before icing. Next up is the cake bottom.

“Cake Bottom – Rub two ounces of butter into half a pound of flour till smooth, then add two ounces of castor sugar and one egg, and mix with cold water into a very stiff paste; roll out, cut in a square shape, and bake in a moderate oven for about half an hour, then put to press, trim and use. When these are used for savoury turbans the sugar should be left out.”[2]

Once the cakes are cooled I cut them into quarters and stacked the layers alternately. However, on re-reading the recipe I’m wondering if the instruction was actually to slice the cakes in layers vertically and to alternate those layers. You use the Vienna chocolate icing, a delicious chocolate and rum buttercream, to sandwich the layers together, and to attach the cake to the biscuit base.

“Vienna Chocolate Icing – To three quarters of a pound of icing sugar add half a pound of fresh butter, a quarter of a pound of finely powdered chocolate, a little of Marshall’s coffee brown, and about half a wineglass of brandy or liqueur. Mix all together with a wooden spoon for about fifteen minutes, when it will present a creamy appearance, and is ready for use.”[3]

Once the cakes are assembled, making absolutely certain that they are straight, it’s time to ‘mask’ the cake in glace icing. Before I begin, let me just say that there is a reason that glace icing is basically only used on cookies and cupcakes. It is a nightmare to work with! Following the recipe exactly created a thick paste that was impossible to use so I used more water and noyeau to get a smooth, spreadable icing.

“Maraschino Glace – Put into a stewpan three quarters of a pound of icing sugar, and one and a half tablespoonfuls of water, then mix in three tablespoonfuls of maraschino, stir over the fire till just warm, then use. Noyeau, or any other liqueur, can be used similarly.”[4]

Getting the cake iced was the worst part of the recipe, and not something I would be keen to do again. I actually iced the first cake and was so unhappy with it that I started again with the second cake. One of the problems was the texture of the cake, I kept getting crumbs in the icing even though I had brushed the sides with a simple syrup before beginning (this isn’t called for in the recipe, but I don’t know how you could get away without using jam or syrup first). The icing was also setting so quickly that I could hardly get it onto the cake, and once it was on it would break off in chunks.

“Vienna Icing – Ten ounces of icing sugar and a quarter of a pound of butter worked till smooth with a wooden spoon; mix with one small wineglass of mixed Silver Rays (white) rum and marashino, work it till like cream, then use. This may be flavoured and coloured according to taste.”[5]

Eventually I got the whole thing covered, although it was a far cry from smooth, let alone perfect. Luckily, some of the imperfections are covered by the piped Viennese icing, some in chocolate and some in rose (I took this to mean rose-coloured, but it could also be flavoured with a little rosewater).



The Redaction

Metternich Cake

Makes 2 cakes


For each cake:

4 eggs

175g caster sugar

A pinch of cinnamon

Peel of a lemon

120g flour, warmed for 5 minutes in a very cool oven

3.5 g baking powder

For the second cake:

4 drops vanilla essence

1/2 tsp red food colouring

For the cake bottom:

60 g butter

230 g flour

65 g caster sugar

1 egg

About 2 tsp ice water

For the Vienna chocolate icing:

170 g icing sugar, sieved

115 g butter, softened

60 g cocoa powder

2 tbsp white rum

A few drops of coffee brown food colouring (optional – listed in the recipe but the icing is already so brown that it doesn’t really seem necessary)

For the glace icing:

340 g icing sugar

3 tbsp maraschino or noyeau


For the Vienna rose icing:

140g icing sugar, plus extra

115g butter, softened

2 drops red food colouring

1 tsp rose-water (optional)

1 tbsp white rum

1 tbsp noyeau or maraschino

For assembly:

Simple syrup or warmed apricot jam


  1. Preheat the oven to 150˚C. Butter and line the base of two square, 8 inch cake tins. For each cake whisk the eggs, sugar and flavourings (and the food colouring for the second cake) in a heat proof bowl. Place this bowl over a small saucepan of simmering water and continue to whisk until the mixture is just warm to the touch. Remove from the saucepan and continue to whisk until the mixture thickens and is room temperature.


  1. Sift the flour and baking powder onto the egg mixture and carefully fold it in, trying not to lose too much of the volume that has been created by the whisking. Pour each mixture into a prepared tin. Place both tins in the oven and bake for 50-60 mins, or until dry and slightly springy to the touch.


  1. Remove the cakes from the oven when done, but leave the oven on, and allow to cool slightly before loosening the edges with a palette knife and turning them onto wire racks to cool.


  1. For the cake bottom, rub the butter into the flour. Mix in the sugar and the egg. Add the ice water a little at a time until the dough just comes together. Place a layer of baking paper on a baking sheet and dust with a little flour. Roll the dough out in a square shape directly onto the baking paper until it is about 1/2 cm thick. Bake in the oven for 30 mins.


  1. Once the cakes and the cake bottom have cooled, use a serrated knife to carefully cut each cake into quarters (or into layers, see comment above). Stack the cakes and trim to make sure that they are identical in size, otherwise you will have a lopsided cake. Use one of the squares to cut two cake bottoms of the same size.


  1. Make the Vienna chocolate icing by beating together the butter and the icing sugar until well combined. Add the cocoa powder and beat until it is all incorporated, then slowly mix in the rum.


  1. Use a palette knife to spread a small amount of Vienna chocolate icing on a cake bottom and then carefully press your first piece of cake onto the cake bottom. Continue to add 3 more pieces of cake, alternating between the plain and the pink cake, and using the Vienna chocolate icing to glue the layers together. At this point you should have two cakes, each with a cake bottom and 4 layers of cake, 2 pink and 2 white. Brush the cakes all over with simple syrup, or with slightly warmed apricot jam. Place the cakes in the fridge for 20 minutes or so, to firm up the cake.


  1. While the cakes are chilling make the glace icing. Place the icing sugar and maraschino or noyeau in a small saucepan over a low heat. Add water, a teaspoon at a time, until you have a smooth and thick but pourable icing. When the cakes are ready to ice, keep the icing on a low heat and bring one cake at a time to the icing. Spoon some icing over the top of the cake to make a smooth top, then use a palette knife to apply icing to the sides. Let the icing set.


  1. To make the rose icing, beat together the butter and icing sugar. Add the colouring, the rum and liqueur, and the rose-water if desired. Mix well. You may need to add more icing sugar to get the icing to a piping consistency. Fill one piping bag with a large star tube with the rose icing, and another with the remaining chocolate icing. Use the rose icing to pipe a shell border around the top and bottom of the cake. Use the two types of icing to pipe small stars and C-shapes onto the cake, following the engraving for inspiration.


The Round-Up

The Recipe: Metternich Cake from Mrs A.B. Marshall’s Cookery Book

The Date: There’s no date given in the book but this edition was definitely published after 1894, and the note on the flyleaf shows that it was owned by Margaret Woolley in August 1906.

How did you make it? See above.

Time to complete?: Hours.

How successful was it?: The cake was a little dry and every element was so sweet that the overall experience was a bit overwhelming. That being said, the Vienna chocolate icing was probably the best chocolate buttercream I’ve ever had and the noyeau added a lovely flavour and colour to the glace icing. I still wouldn’t really be recommending anyone try to recreate the cake though.

How accurate?: The food colourings were a bit difficult to deal with because who knows what colour or strength they were. I used a few drops of red to make the pink cake and icing, but skipped the brown on the basis that the icing was already so brown thanks to the cocoa that it wouldn’t make a difference. The cocoa was another thing I wasn’t sure about, is that what was meant by powdered chocolate?

[1] Agnes Bertha Marshall, Mrs A.B. Marshall’s Cookery Book (London: Simpkin, Marshall, Hamilton, Kent & Co Ltd, no date), 381–382.

[2] Ibid., 39.

[3] Ibid., 41.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.



Marshall, Agnes Bertha. Mrs A.B. Marshall’s Cookery Book. London: Simpkn, Marshall, Hamilton, Kent & Co Ltd, no date.