A few weeks ago I prepared a dish of “Portugal Eggs,” a complicated banqueting dish with many elements, from MS Codex 785. Like the recipe for “Lemmon Cakes” I posted a while ago, this recipe was copied into the manuscript from Hannah Woolley‘s The Queen-like Closet or Rich Cabinet: Stored with all manner of Rare Receipts For Preserving, Candying and Cookery. Very Pleasant and Beneficial to all Ingenious Persons of the Female Sex (1670). Woolley was an all-around lifestyle guru who not only wrote cookbooks, but also provided guidance on etiquette, homemaking, and interior design. (More on all this coming soon.)
In any case, this complex recipe required many components and one was biskets, neutral, lady-finger-like cookies. These bland, sweet, and slightly floral biscuits compliment the flavors around them. Alyssa wrote about fixing a similar recipe, Hannah Glasse’s Naples biscuits, when she prepared “Artificial Potatoes.” I made a big batch of “the best bisket Cakes” from MS Codex 785 and I decided I would use them for a second recipe, Hannah Woolley’s “Bisket Pudding,” rather than let them go to waste.
Essentially, this is a bread pudding that starts with a rose-water scented cookie instead of stale bread. You can either make both recipes or use any bland cookie, old cake, or stale bread as the base of Woolley’s pudding.
To make the best bisket Cakes
Take four new laid Eggs, leave out two of the
whites, beat them very well, then put in two
Spoonfulls of Rosewater, and beat them very
well together, then put in a pound of double
refin’d sugar beaten and search’d and beat
them together one hour, then put to them
one pound of fine flour, and beat them
together a good while, then put them upon
plates rubb’d over with butter, and set
them into the Oven as fast as you can
but have a care you do not bake them
CCLXXII. To make Bisket Pudding.
Take Naples Biskets and cut them into Milk, and boil it, then put in Egg, Spice, Sugar, Marrow, and a little Salt, and so boil it and bake it.
This recipe was relatively straightforward to update. It makes about 24 cookies.
4 eggs (2 whole, 2 whites only)
2 t rosewater
1 lb sugar (2 2/3 c)
1 lb flour (3 2/3 c)
butter or baking spray to coat the baking sheets
Preheat your oven to 350F. Grease two baking sheets with butter or your preferred baking spray,
Beat the eggs in a large bowl. I used a hand mixer for this, but a standing mixer would also work well. Add the rosewater to the eggs and continue beating. Add the sugar and beat on a high setting until the mixture starts to look fluffy (about 1 minute). Add the flour in three batches, allowing each to mix in fully.
Shape the dough into rough ovals. I did this by picking up about 2T of the dough and rolling it roughly in my hand. Make sure that you leave about a half an inch between the cookies as they expand a lot as they cook.
Bake 15 minutes. The bottom of the biscuits should be nicely browned and the top still a little spongy.
Cool on a rack before storing.
Boil then bake this “bread” pudding. Instead of adding bone marrow to the mix, I substituted some butter in its place.
2 c. milk
6-10 biskets, broken into small pieces
2 T sugar
1/2 t cinnamon
1/4 t salt
Preheat oven to 350F. Butter a baking dish. I used an 8-inch oval ceramic dish, but a glass dish or a baking tin will work as well.
Pour the milk into a medium sauce pan. Add the broken biskets to the milk until you can no longer submerge the biskets in the liquid. Cook over a low heat for 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, whisk together eggs, sugar, butter, cinnamon, and salt. Add to the pan and stir to combine. Remove from heat.
Pour pudding mixture into your buttered baking dish. Bake for 45 min.
This pudding is delicious. It’s sweet, dense, and sticky like a good bread pudding should be. The rosewater that overpowered the biskets themselves is far mellower with the addition of dairy and cinnamon. The crispy edges are my favorite.
The photos don’t look like much, but I promise that this packs an impressive flavor.