Pansies were intertwined with matters of the heart – both lovesickness and cardiac ailments – linguistically, in the herbal tradition, and in recipe manuscripts that were created and used by early modern households as repositories of culinary and medicinal knowledge. The etymologies of the various names for this flower – pansies, heartsease, and love-in-idleness – attest to the connection between the botanical and the medical.
Common understandings of the body in Shakespeare’s England were rooted in humoral theory in which bodily and emotional health were deeply intertwined with the natural world. Discussions of the names and uses of flowers for healing physical and emotional ailments in herbals, practical handbooks, and recipe collections derive, in turn, from humoral thinking.
The English translation of Rembert Dodoens’ A nievve herball, or historie of plantes (1578) explains that the pansy flower is called, “in English Pances, Loue in idlenes, and Hartes ease: in Frē[n]ch Penseé” from which pansy – here “Pances” – derives and conveys the sense of pensiveness or musing (p.148, sig. Aiiir). Heartsease is also a descriptive name that captures the flower’s capacity for promoting well-being by easing ailments of the heart such as grief. The name “loue in idlenes” carries the common connotations of frivolity, emptiness, or time-wasting, but also would have conveyed a sense of love-sick idleness characterized by folly, foolishness, or delirium.
In their herbals, Dodoens and John Gerrard largely concur in their description of the virtues – or medical applications – of cordials and tonics derived from pansies, recommending them to treat ailments of the chest and lungs as well as fever and inflammation. Gerrard suggests that heartsease might also be used in the treatment of the “French disease” or syphilis, which was known to be a sexually transmitted infection in the period. Mary Floyd-Wilson writes that “[i]ts purple color places it among the venereal plants—those herbs ruled by Venus” (187).
heartsease in Fuchs’s Herbal
Heartsease and pansy both appear in early modern recipes for healing waters that involve infusing herbs and flowers in alcohol and then distilling the liquid in an alembic and sweetening the concoction with sugar before giving it to a patient.
A list of medicinal “Cordialls” in a 1675 recipe manuscript compiled by Thomas Sheppey (and now Folger MS V.a.452) begins with a recipe for a preparation of pansies and sugar “To clear the heart.” Derived from the Latin word for the heart, cordis, cordials treat the heart in both the physical and emotional sense.
To clear the heart. Take a quantity of heartsease, and putt
therto 3 times the quantity of sugar. make a conserve, and
take therof when you are sad. MS.
While this cordial could “clear the heart” in the same sense that Dodoens and Gerrard used – to treat the chest and lungs or to reduce fever – it could also potentially heal heartache and other amorous ailments: The verb “clear” can mean to brighten, enlighten, and purify as well as to remove obstructions. The dosing instruction in the recipe “take therof when you are sad” suggests that the sad – in the sense of someone who is serious, somber, or weary, as well as someone who is melancholy, lovesick, or heartbroken – might find relief from this sweet, floral syrup.
The batch that I prepared using an updated version of this recipe was a lurid purple and had a distinct floral taste unlike the subtle orange-blossom and rosewater flavors that I usually encounter in my recipe testing.
Makes 1.5 cups syrup.
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 cup pansies, cleaned and tightly packed
Bring the water and sugar to a boil in a small saucepan. Stir so that all the sugar is dissolved and remove from the heat. Add the flowers. Set aside to infuse for 24 hours.
Strain the syrup through a fine strainer into a clean container. Press the flowers to capture every drop of syrup then discard the flowers.
Store in the refrigerator for up to one month.
Suggestions for using Heartsease Cordial:
Eat by the spoonful if you are lovesick.
Stir a tablespoon of the cordial into a glass of sparkling water or lemonade.
Sweeten cakes that call for a glaze or use in place of other simple syrups when making icing.
Add to any cocktail that calls for a flavorful simple syrup at your discretion.
Add to a glass of sparkling wine. (1 teaspoon or 1 tablespoon to taste.)
Make this cocktail, which is a twist on a classic Aviation cocktail:
2 oz gin
½ oz lemon juice
½ oz heartsease syrup
1 bar spoon maraschino liqueur
Measure the ingredients into a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake well. Strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with a pansy. Sip.
Note of thanks: I would like to thank Rebecca Bushnell for sharing her thoughts about heartsease and Midsummer over email, Sally and Dave Falck for their hospitality, Joseph Malcomson for assistance with the cocktail recipe, and Claire Falck, Carissa M. Harris, and Thomas Ward for reading an earlier draft of this piece and sampling an array of heartsease beverages.
Leach of Dates is a dish fit for a banquet table. (No, it’s not that kind of leech!) Naturally sweet from dates, elevated with sugar, scented with rosewater, and spiced with cinnamon and ginger, a tiny bite of this confection is immensely flavorful. In the early decades of the seventeenth century, Leach of Dates would have been served on a delightfully arranged banquet table alongside marchpane, jumbles, nuts, candied fruits, suckets, comfits, and gingerbread.
As Ken Albala writes in The Banquet, “The word [banquet] itself derives from a board or bank mounted by a street performer or mountebank, or set on trestles for dining. Thus banquets could be staged anywhere, because in Renaissance-era Europe, homes lacked a fixed room with stationary tables for dining. The term took an odd twist in England, where it denoted the final portable dessert course of sweetmeats and fruit. Elsewhere it meant an entire meal, the grandest that could be imagined at European courts” (vii). Banquets were feasts for all senses and even the smallest confections were beautifully designed and highly flavorful.
Leach is a thick preserve of fruits that can be molded or sliced. Some recipes include nuts and emulsifying agents to add structure to the confection. As Stephen Schmidt writes in an excellent blog post about banqueting, “There was also a specialized jelly called leach (from a French word meaning slice), which was creamy and rose-water-scented and was set with the new-fangled isinglass, made from sturgeon swim bladders.” The recipe for Leach of Dates relied on the natural viscosity of the dates and bread crumbs for structure, rather than isinglass.
To make a Leach of Dates.
Take and beate your Dates in a morter
with suger, synamon, ginger, sauders and
rosewater till they bee fine, then putt
in grated bread and beate them together
till it bee thikke and soe serve it forth
in moylde or loves.
After transcribing this recipe, I was left with some questions about “sauders.” On the one hand, this could be a misspelling of “saunders,” a common spelling for sandalwood in the period. Sandalwood was commonly added to sweet, savory, and medicinal recipes in the form of a powder. On the other hand, “sauders” could be connected to isinglass or other emulsifying agents that might help this leach set into a harder paste. Finally, I tested this recipe with Cinnamon Verum. If you’re using Cassia Cinnamon it will taste slightly different. Readers, I would love to hear what you think about “sauders” and if you happen to test this recipe using cassia.
Remove the pits and stems from the dates. Chop them finely.
Put the chopped dates in a mortar and pestle with the sugar, spices, and rosewater. Beat into a uniform paste. Add bread crumbs and combine until thick.
Shape the paste freeform or using molds.
Sweet and spicy, the Leach of Dates reminded me of panforte. Each tiny morsel was full of flavor and the scent of rosewater dominated.
I was immediately able to slice the confection into small wedges. I’m planning to check on the Leach in the coming days and see if the texture changes. I anticipate that it will set more as it sits in my kitchen cupboard.
Ultimately, Leach of Dates surprised and delighted me. In the concordia discors of the banquet table, this petite confection invites as much pleasure as an elaborate marchpane sculpture or a prettily arranged plate.
I’ve been thinking about banquets quite a bit in the past weeks as I collaborated on the creation of a performance at Penn State Abington calledExit: A Banquet Piece. I’d like to thank Jac Pryor, for collaborating on this experimental course and performance with me, and I’d like to thank Jonathan Bercovici, Madison Branch, Kyleigh Byers, Jaleel Hunter, Trim Walker, George Ye, and Aman Zabian for inspiration and conversation. As always, thank you to Joseph Malcomson for taste testing and brainstorming.
Lately I’ve been writing a piece about recipe manuscripts and William Shakespeare’s play The Winter’s Tale. I’m reading and transcribing a unique early seventeenth-century recipe book from the library of Prince Henry Frederick (1594-1612). The description of the manuscript in the Indiana University, Lilly Library catalog (where it is now held) and the Manuscript Cookbooks Survey description concur that the manuscript was likely created circa 1610 around the time of Prince Henry Frederick’s investiture as Prince of Wales. The young prince died of typhoid fever a few years later in 1612 when he was 18.
The majority of the recipe books that I’ve cooked from and written about on this site are from later in the seventeenth century or the eighteenth century. As I’ve been researching and writing, I’ve noted a number of recipes from the Prince Henry manuscript that I look forward to sharing with you. Today, I want to start with this recipe “ffor a cold.” Although this recipe appears in the “Chirurgery” section of the manuscript, I thought it also had culinary potential when I first read it. I was right.
ffor a Cold.
Take Garleeke and seeth it in
two or three waters and when
it is very softe then take it vpp
and mingle it with yealowe suger
Candy well together and eate of
this when you goe to bedd five
or six nighte together.
I was immediately intrigued by the combination of cooked garlic and sugar because I love roasting garlic to reveal its natural sweetness. As Sarah Lohman writes in the “Garlic” chapter of her wonderful book Eight Flavors, “A clove of garlic, the part of the plant we cook with most often, is actually a leaf: a storage vessel that packs away energy for the next growing season. The energy stored in the cloves is in the form of sugar — specifically fructose — which is why a clove tastes sweet when it is cooked slowly and caramelizes when roasted” (150).* Now I had never mixed garlic with sugar before and ground it into a paste, but memories of garlic ice cream recipes and sweet braises with garlic came to mind.
In the early decades of the seventeenth century, English cooks were more interested in garlic’s medicinal properties than its culinary potential. In Food in Early Modern Europe, Ken Albala explains that outside of Southern Europe, garlic eating was associated with the lower classes and with medicinal preparations. He writes, “The therapeutic virtues of garlic were also recognized from an early date, and as the ‘poor man’s theriac’ or medicine, it was recommended for those who could not afford more expensive spices. But it was also thought to be difficult to digest, which is why, they claimed, it causes bad breath” (34-35). It’s curious to me that a manuscript from the elite household of the Prince of Wales would take note of humble remedies like this one alongside heavily spiced preparations. A perfume recipe follows directly after this cold cure and would have been prepared and used to ward off miasma, or bad air, associated with diseases like plague.
Gerrard’s Herbal, however, persuasively claims that the warming humoral properties of garlic are especially well-suited to disperse a wet, sniffly, drippy cold symptoms as “Garlic is very sharp, hot, and dry, as Galen saith.” The Herbal also notes “But if it be boiled in water until such time as it hath lost his sharpeness, it is the less forcible, and retaineth no longer his evil juice, as Galen saith” and thus the boiling diminishes the abrasive properties of garlic. Boiled and sweetened with “yealowe suger” — similar to Demerara sugar — this garlic concoction is both a tasty medicine and a culinary treat.
3 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon sugar
Boil the garlic in water until tender, approximately 20 minutes. (I put three cloves of garlic in cold water in a small pot. I brought the water to a boil, reduced the temperature, and let is simmer for 5 minutes. I drained off the water, let the garlic rest for a bit and then repeated the process and simmered the garlic for 15 minutes. I did this to honor the “two or three waters” instruction in the recipe, but I doubt that the results would be different if I had simply simmered the cloves for 20 minutes.)
Mash the garlic with sugar.
Eat before bed for five or six days to treat a cold. Spread on a cracker or toasted bread to enjoy non-medicinally.
The resulting garlic paste tasted like extra-sweet caramelized garlic cloves that had been slowly roasted in an oven. If I did have a cold, the sugar would help this medicine go down. I enjoyed it spread on a cracker and I think it would be delicious on a piece of hearty, toasted bread. It is worth noting, however, that garlic breath is an inevitable side effect whether this recipe wards off a cold or simply delights the palate.
*For a preview of Lohman’s garlic chapter, see this post on The New York Academy of Medicine Blog, but for the longer story (near and dear to my heart) about garlic, Italian immigration, and the post-Julia-Child garlic boom as French cooking trends swept through America, you need to read her book.
I will be giving a public lecture and cooking demonstration about this project (and this recipe for Knotts) at 1:30 EST on Saturday February 12th as part of a Ohio State University’s Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies conference — Popular Culture and the Deep Past 2022 – The Experimental Archaeology of Medieval and Renaissance Food.
All are welcome (there are also many interesting sessions being held at the conference in Columbus, Ohio).
A collection of philosopher John Locke‘s papers at the Bodleian Library includes letters, accounts, poetry, notes on medicine and books, and recipes. When David Armitage posted this recipe for pancakes in the Bodleian collection on Twitter, I knew that I wanted to try it. These rich, nutmeg-scented pancakes are absolutely delicious. (Many thanks to Rhae Lynn Barnes and the other readers who immediately sent this recipe my way.)
Want to know “the right way” to make pancakes? John Locke’s got you covered (Bodleian MS Locke c. 25, f. 85). pic.twitter.com/f7FvCaDstg
In Philip Long’s catalog of the collection at the Bodleian, he notes that this recipe, and a few others, were written by Locke: “A collection of twelve recipes dated 1675-94, of which three (fols. 85, 89, 91) are in Locke’s hand” (2). The next time I visit Oxford for research, I will be excited to see this recipe as well as the eleven others in this set of miscellaneous papers.
Oxford, Bodleian Libraries MSS. Locke c. 25, fol. 85. (Photo from David Armitage)
Take sweet cream 3/4 + pint. Flower a
quarter of a pound. Eggs four 7 leave out two 4 of
the whites. Beat the Eggs very well. Then put in
the flower, beat it a quarter of an hower. Then
put in six spoonfulls of the Cream, beat it a litle
Take new sweet butter half a pound. Melt it to oyle, &
take off the skum, power in all the clear by degrees
beating it all the time. Then put in the rest of
your cream. beat it well. Half a grated nutmeg
& litle orangeflower water. Frie it without butter.
This is the right way
From the start, I was intrigued by the cross-outs and other notes in the recipe. It appears that it was first drafted (or prepared) using significantly fewer eggs. The modifier “new” was added before “sweet butter” at some point. Locke may have written the final note “This is the right way” as part of the initial draft or after the recipe was prepared. Locke was attentive to the details of separating and whisking eggs as well as adding just the right amount of orange blossom water (“litle”) and nutmeg (“Half a grated nutmeg”) – an exceptional, expensive amount.
Like the other seventeenth- and eighteenth-century pancakes that I’ve tried, these fall somewhere between crêpes and American pancakes: They’re a bit fluffier and fattier than a classic French crêpe and have far less rise than my favorite American breakfast version. My spouse, Joseph, described Locke’s pancakes as somewhere between a classic English pancake and a Scotch pancake (or Scottish pancake).
Many of the commenters on Twitter balked at the instruction to beat the eggs and flour for a “quarter of an hower.” These extended mixing times, however, are common in early modern recipes. While I did prepare my version using a hand-held mixer to ensure thorough beating, I did reduce the mixing time to avoid over-mixing which can lead to a chewy pancake. From what I know about historical and contemporary flour milling, this would not have been a concern for Locke or his cook.
Makes approximately 10 8-inch pancakes
1 cup butter (2 sticks, 1/2 lb, 226g)
3 whole eggs plus 4 additional egg yolks
1 cup flour (1/4 lb, 113g)
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 Tablespoon orange blossom water
half a nutmeg, grated
First, melt the butter. Set it aside.
Put the whole eggs and egg yolks in a large bowl. Beat with a whisk or hand-held mixer until well combined.
Add the flour and beat until smooth and completely combined. Add 6 Tablespoons of the cream to the egg flour mixture and mix until combined. While stirring or beating, pour in the melted butter. Add the remaining cream and orange blossom water and stir to combine. Grate 1/2 a nutmeg and stir into batter.
Heat a frying pan or skillet on a high heat until a drop of water skitters across the surface. Lower the heat to medium.
Pour approximately half a cup of batter into the center of the pan and spread by swirling the pan to create an 8-inch pancake. Cook for 1 minute or until the edges of the pancake lift and appear lacy and the middle looks mostly set. Flip the pancake and cook for an additional 30 seconds.
Repeat until your batter is gone. Serve the pancakes immediately.
Between the rich dairy and the fragrant nutmeg, these pancakes made for a decadent breakfast. When Locke wrote down, and perhaps prepared this recipe, the eggs, cream, butter, and flour would all have been ingredients ready to hand in many households. The addition of so much nutmeg and a dash of orange blossom water elevates this specific pancake recipe to a special treat.
I certainly enjoyed sitting down with a plate of pancakes drizzled with a little bit of honey, a cup of coffee, and an old, heavily annotated copy of Locke that I read for a class that I took more than a decade ago. If you make these pancakes on a future winter morning or as part of your holiday vacation, be sure to let me know.
Since I love cooking with quinces at this time of year, I was eager to prepare this recipe “To Make Quince Cream” as part of my ongoing exploration of Christian Barclay‘s recipe book. In this post about a recipe to preserve quinces that I tried a few years ago, I wax poetic about the floral, fragrant quince as well as early modern and contemporary preserving practices. Instead of focusing on the fruit here, I’m going to consider the “cream.”
This recipe instructs a cook to stir cooled, cinnamon-infused cream into cooked, mashed, and sweetened quinces. It clearly explains the cooking method, but the recipe is short on measurements. A cook could add as much or as little cream as they preferred depending on their taste and the number of quinces that they were working with. They could also use this recipe to make a cream flavored with pears or wardens (a pear cultivar). In any case, sixteenth-, seventeenth-, and eighteenth-century English and Scottish cooks would have had access to an ample supply of dairy products to prepare creams.
Stephen Schmidt argues that creams specifically united rural and elite celebratory traditions in his post “What, Exactly, Was the Tudor and Stuart Banquet?” He writes that “Fresh fruits, cream, and local iterations of butter-rich cakes were typical treats of outdoor country festivals like May Day, which Robert Herrick frames as an idyll of ‘Cakes and Creame’ in his famed poem ‘Corinna’s Gone a Maying.’ The elite, meanwhile, enjoyed sophisticated dishes called creams in the lighter, sweeter, generally more delicate second course of dinner, which intermixed savory morsels like roasted songbirds, sauced lobster meat, and prime seasonal vegetables with creams and other sweets like gelatin jellies and fruit tarts.” Due to widespread dairy production, creams might accompany humble or decadent celebrations – with or without spices, fruit, or accompanying cakes. As Ken Albala writes, in The Banquet, “by the mid sixteenth century, cheese and dairy products had become a major item on banquet menus” and English cookbooks regularly included recipes for “dairy-based desserts” such as “trifles, fools, creams, and flummeries” (49). Creams fit into the Concordia discors of the banqueting table by offering a soft, rich, cooling (and, in this case, fruity) contrast to an array of spiced, sweetened, and savory dishes laid out at the same time. (I explore this concept further in my post on “Portugal Eggs.”) There are a number of recipes for “creams” that I’ve tested for this site that encapsulate this trend. Quince cream is a fitting recipe for a celebratory seasonal gathering in late autumn or early winter when the fruit is at its best.
To Make Quince Cream
Take & boyll them in fair water
but first let the water boyll, then
[p]ut them in, & being tender boylled
[t]ake them up & peele them, strain
[t]hem & mingle it with fine sugar
[t]hen take some very good & sweet
[c]ream mix all together & make it
of a fit thicknes, or boyll the cream
with a stick of Cinamon, & Let it
stand till it be cold before you put
[i]t to the quince, thus you do wardens
2 small quinces (390g, 13.8oz)
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup cream
1 cinnamon stick
Put the whole quinces in a pot. Cover with water. Bring to a boil, then simmer for about 30 minutes or until the quinces are tender when poked with a fork.
While the quinces are cooking, put the cream and cinnamon stick in a pot. Bring to a simmer and then set aside and let cool.
Peel and core the cooked quinces. Mash them in a bowl. Stir in the sugar. Then stir in the cooled, cinnamon-infused cream.
The quince cream was sweet and floral with a hint of cinnamon. I found it quite rich, but pleasantly flavored. Although I ate it on its own, if I made it again I would serve it with a crunchy “cake” or cookie. My recipes for knotts, jumballs, or little cakes immediately come to mind. Let me know if you try this quince cream with an accompaniment or as part of a banqueting spread. (Let me know if you try it with pears (or wardens) instead of quinces, too!)
I would like to thank Clara Drummond, Heather Froehlich, Christina Riehman-Murphy, and my PSU Abington students for conversations about this manuscript that, in part, lead to me preparing this recipe.
Recently, I’ve been spending a lot of time (online) with Christian Barclay Jaffary’s manuscript recipe book. Now that the manuscript is fully digitized and available online from Penn State Libraries – Eberly Family Special Collections, I’m transcribing and researching the manuscript with undergraduate students and library colleagues. Naturally, I’ve started a running list of recipes that I’m excited to try. First up, a medicinal “Cinamon Watter” that serves as a delectable, autumnal cocktail ingredient.
Christian Barclay Jaffary was the daughter of Scottish Quaker leader Robert Barclay and Christian (née Millison). She started to compile this recipe book — as she sub-titled it “the fruits of a young wo- / man’s spare hours” — in 1697 and she married Alexander Jaffary in 1700. The recipe book is part of a larger collection of Barclay family papers at Penn State that includes letters between Robert Barclay and William Penn, information about land holdings in Pennsylvania, and genealogical studies of the Barclays of Ury.
Take of clooes Ginger Cardamus Galanga[l]
pulvirised of each half a dram of choise
cinamon bruised in pices three ounces stee[p]
these in a Scotts pint of the best Brandy and
a mutskin of fragrant reed Rose watter f[or]
[the] Space of 7 hours in a clos stoped glass
veshell then filtre them and ad one pound
ane half of refined sugar mor or less as
you wold hav the sweetnes the powdar will
serv the 2d or 3d time to new brandy which
will equall any of yower 8 pound cinamon watt[er]
The recipe nicely reflects its composition, and perhaps use, at the family estate in Ury, Scotland. It calls for “a Scotts pint of the best Brandy” which is a volume of 1696 ml (3 imperial pints or approximately 3 1/2 US pints). The recipe also uses the measurement of “a mutskin” or “mutchkin” (1/4 of a Scots pint) for rosewater.
Although the cover of the manuscript includes the inscription “Manuscript / to make Medicine,” Barclay’s receipt book features extensive sections on medicine, cookery, and fabric dying. “Cinamon Watter” is in the medicinal section of the manuscript and is likely intended to soothe the body with Brandy and warming spices – cloves, ginger, cardamom, and the ginger variety galangal. The instructions also include an element of thrift since the final lines note that the spices might be infused a second and a third time to prepare additional batches of the tonic.
This makes 1/3 the original recipe.
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamon 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger 4 large cinnamon sticks 2 1/2 cups brandy (565 ml) 1/2 cup rosewater (141 ml) 1 cup plus 2 Tablespoons sugar
Combine spices, rosewater, and brandy in a large jar or carafe. Cover and let infuse for 7 hours.
Strain out spices using a metal strainer. Stir in sugar until it dissolves.
The Results & Serving Suggestions
I tasted the infused brandy before I stirred in the sugar and it was certainly spicy, but harshly medicinal. The sugar smooths the whole blend out. In the final “Watter,” the cinnamon, cardamon, cloves, and ginger all come through with an after-note of rose. That said, I might add a bit less sugar next time as I found myself adding lots of mixers when I was testing drinks simply to cut down on the sweetness.
Sparkling “Cinamon Watter”: 1 shot of the mixture with a few ice cubes and a generous pour of sparkling water made for a refreshing spiced tall drink.
Spiced Cider with “Cinamon Watter”: 1 shot of the mixture to about a half a cup of apple cider for an instantly boozy and spiced cider drink.
This Halloween weekend, I might stir some into an old fashioned or use it to add spice to a sour. If you experiment with this drink, please let me know.
I would like to thank Clara Drummond, Heather Froehlich, Christina Riehman-Murphy, and my PSU Abington students for conversations about this manuscript and collective work on transcribing this particular recipe. I would also like to thank Rhae Lynn Barnes, Kate Ferraguto, and Joseph Malcomson for taste-testing and cocktail ideas.
I love doughnuts. When I crave one, however, I usually go to one of the excellent doughnut shops in my area, rather than make them myself. It was exciting to try this delicious recipe for spiced, sweet donuts fried in butter when friends were visiting earlier this summer. We were all delighted with how they turned out.
I hope this recipe for “How to make Donuts” will entice you into the kitchen. Today I’m also inviting you to a virtual baking competition: the second, annual The Great Rare Books Bake Off, a friendly contest between the sister libraries of Penn State University and Monash University. There are twelve intriguing recipes to try out; six from the collection of each library. An engraved pie pan trophy will be awarded to the library that receives the most social media posts featuring photos of your baked goods tagged with its hashtag: #BakePennState or #BakeMonash. The competition runs 5-11 September 2021 so you have lots of time to read the recipes, shop for ingredients, and get baking. All the details are on the site linked above.
As the Penn State lead baker, I encourage you, Cooking in the Archives readers, to give these donuts a try and cast your vote in #TheGreatRareBooksBakeOff If doughnuts are not for you, there other recipes to choose from. Last year, I updated a lemon tart recipe and I’ve also helped with some of the early twentieth-century recipes: Suffrage Angel Cake (new this year!), Cinnamon Buns, and Lamington Cake. I might give the Pavlova recipe a try next week, too.
Thanks to the hard-working digitization staff at Penn State Libraries, I’ve been able to spend time with images of Christian Barclay’s manuscript recipe book even though I haven’t been able to visit Eberly Family Special Collections to consult it in person recently. Her recipe with instructions “How to make Donuts” (61v) is one of the many culinary and medicinal recipes in the volume. Here is the information about the manuscript that my Penn State Libraries colleagues wrote up for our Bake Off site:
This donut recipe comes from a handwritten recipe book kept by Christian Barclay from 1697-1723, which includes cooking recipes, home remedies, instructions for dying cloth various colors, and two pages of marriage and birth records of her children with Alexander Jaffray. The recipe book is part of the Robert Barclay of Ury family papers and maps, 1685-1835 collection.
I have a few more recipes from Barclay’s manuscript on my to-cook list and I’m also hoping to transcribe it with future students as a part of my “What’s in a Recipe?” undergraduate research project.
How to make Donuts
Take one english pint of flour take 3 eggs
taking out 2 of the yolks, beat it with
suggar, till they be like a thin sirup
grate a little ginger, & 2 or 3 cloves &
nutmug among it, take as much butter
as eggs, & as much milk as eggs and
butter both, put the butter & milk to
the boyll together, then pour it in
among the flour, stirring it with
a spoon, then put in the eggs still
working it up like paste, roull it out
with a roulling pin, like a cake,
cut it in what form ye please, have
a pan boylling with a good deall of
butter, so putting them in the boylling
butter little & little, let them
boyll till they be crisp, then take
them out if ther be butter enough
to color them ye may put in
& take out till the butter be
Some modern doughnuts are leavened with yeast and have an open, light texture while others get their rise from bicarbonate of soda and have a denser, cake-like texture. Barclay’s donuts puff-up slightly from the eggs during frying, but are unlike either modern yeasted or cake doughnuts. The flavors, however, are spectacular. The blend of ginger, clove, and nutmeg spices with the rich, sweet dough, and butter frying medium makes for a truly delicious treat.
Makes 24+ 2-inch (50 mm) donut rounds.
3 eggs (one whole egg and two egg whites)
¼ cup (50g) sugar
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground or grated nutmeg
1 cup (250g) milk
17 tablespoons (238g) butter, divided – 9 tablespoons (125g) butter for the dough, 8 tablespoons (113g) for frying
2 cups flour (272g), plus additional flour for rolling out dough
Optional: powdered sugar for serving
Separate the whites from the yolks of two eggs. You will use one whole egg and two egg whites for the batter.
Whisk together the eggs, spices, and sugar. Set aside.
Melt butter and warm milk together in a saucepan or the microwave until the mixture begins to bubble.
Measure out the flour in a large bowl. Pour the hot butter and milk mixture and stir to combine. Then add the egg mixture and form into a soft dough.
Put the dough on a floured surface and flatten with your hands and/or a rolling pin to approximately ¼ inch (1/2 cm) thickness. Cut the dough into rounds or strips that will fit in your frying pan or skillet. (I used a 1 inch (50mm) pastry ring to cut small, circular donuts.)
Heat butter in a sturdy frying pan or skillet until sizzling. The butter-level should be high enough that the thin donuts are almost entirely submerged.
Fry the donuts in butter until golden brown and crispy. Flip the doughnuts so that both sides brown. Depending on your stove and pan, this should take approximately 1 minute for each side. Not all your donuts will fit in the pan at the same time. Do not crowd them and instead cook in approximately three batches.
Consume your donuts immediately. Sprinkle with powdered sugar before serving if desired.
Sweet, lightly-spiced, and buttery, these donuts were delicious straight from the frying pan. My guests and I devoured the first batch while I was still frying the others. There were no leftovers.
Last week I had the pleasure of attending the conference Intoxicating Spaces: Global and Comparative Perspectives and sharing my research on a recipe for “The Ice Cream” that I posted here two years ago. The ice cream recipe is from a manuscript that was compiled and used by Elisabeth Hawar around 1687, and it includes two London addresses. The recipe book is now held at the William Andrews Clark Memorial Library (fMS.1975.003). In my paper, I tried to locate Elisabeth Hawar’s recipe book in the mercantile communities of Shoreditch and Spitalfields in East London at the end of the seventeenth century.
Hawar’s book has another, intriguing London reference: a recipe for “How to make a London Possett.” I’m not sure, exactly, why this posset recipe is specific to London, but it’s certainly another link between Hawar’s manuscript and the city where she lived, cooked, and ate. I didn’t have time to speak about the posset at the conference — there’s always a lot to say about ice cream! — but I wanted to share some thoughts about testing Hawar’s posset recipe here.
How to make a London Possett 2x Take a pint of sack & 12 eggs, beat them very well both whites & yolkes, then strain them & put the sack & eggs togather, & sweeten it with sugar & Nutmegg as you please, & sett it ouer the fire keeping it stirring till it be scalding hot then take it of the fire & put in a quart of Creame boyling hott, holding your hand as high as you can in the pouring of it, then give it a stir & couer it close with a plate, & let it alone till it be like Cheese, & if it shoud not come set it on a gentle fire till it begins to Corn.
A word of warning: As curious as I was about this recipe, my recipe trial didn’t quite work. There were many clumps of eggs in the finished posset, but no pleasant “cheese.” I can think of a number of reasons for the failure of the recipe trial to produce what Hawar describes. I suspect the biggest culprits were my twenty-first century ingredients: modern sherry substituted for seventeenth-century sack, egg size and moisture differences, cream pasteurization and homogenization. I also wonder if a tall thin, cooking pot might have enabled the ingredients to separate differently. Finally, it was a hot day in Philadelphia which may have impacted the ingredients and the finished product.
This recipe is halved from theoriginal and did not produce the desired “cheese.” I invite you to use it as a starting point and share the results of your own recipe trials in the comments.
1/2 cup sherry
1 tablespoon sugar
1/8 tablespoon nutmeg, freshly grated
1 cup cream
Beat the eggs together. Add sack, sugar, and nutmeg to the eggs.
Pour this mixture into a medium size pot. Gently heat to body temperature. Do not allow the eggs to cook.
In a separate, smaller pot, boil the cream.
Pour the cream into the egg and sack mix from a high hight.
Cover the posset with a lid and let it cool. A cheesy layer of eggs and cream should form on the top.