Carrott Puff.

Carrot pudding was one our early experiments in this project, and it’s a recipe that we consistently mention when asked for our favorites. So when I found this recipe for “Carrott puff” in UPenn Ms. Codex 1038, it seemed like a good candidate for some more carrot experimentation. A go-to for us, this recipe book has also given us the caraway-studded Desart Cakes, the perplexing Artificial Potatoes, the satisfying Herb Soop, and the wonderful maccarony cheese.

Speaking of which: Marissa worked with Carley Storm Photography to make and photograph some of our favorite dishes. As we’ve joked about before, this project features a lot of beige food that can be hard to photograph, but Carley did so wonderfully. Here is the maccarony cheese’s glamor shot, and we’ll be featuring more of Carley’s photographs.

Photo by Carley Storm Photography http://www.carleystormphotography.com

Photo by Carley Storm Photography http://www.carleystormphotography.com

The Recipe

carrott-puff-ed

Carrott Puff.

Boyl some Carots very Tender, Scrape them, then Mash them, and
take good Cream, and Eggs, and the Whites of two–Beat them with a little
Salt and Grated Nutmeg, Mix all with a little Flower to thicken them,
then Fry them in Liquor.

Our Recipe

6 carrots
1/4 c. heavy cream
1 egg + 1 egg white
salt to taste
pinch nutmeg
5 tbsp. flour
oil, for frying

The Results

This was one of those choose-your-own-adventure recipes: with the exception of calling for two egg whites, it lacks specific measurements. I was thinking these would turn out something like fritters or like pancakes made with leftover mashed potatoes, which was … optimistic. But we write about our first attempts with these recipes, successful or less so, and here’s how my attempt at carrot puffs fell into the latter category.

I decided to mash the carrots by hand with a potato masher, which left them just a bit chunky. (Already sounds appealing, right?) I guessed at the cream, eggs, and flour based on general fritter-/pancake-making experience, though I played with flour along the way. The raw mixture was, shall we say, not entirely appetizing. But I maintained hope!

I fried the first few “puffs” and realized as soon as I went to flip them that they were way too soft – they slid and slumped and were generally uncooperative. I added more flour to the next batch and used more oil and a higher temperature for frying them, which helped, but they were still just not very solid. You might think, as I did, well, maybe these would taste better than they looked? Not particularly. I like carrots – carrot cake, carrot sticks, carrot salad – but these just didn’t taste like much. And they were just too fragile. As Marissa said when I told her my carrot puff woes, “I feel like the carrots have failed us this time.” The carrots, or my ingredient guesses, or a bit of both.

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I still think these sound good, and I’m reasonably sure that additional tinkering with the proportions might help. (I was running low on carrots, though, and didn’t want to waste additional supplies trying right away.) I did a little digging and found this recipe from Nigel Slater for carrot fritters, made with grated carrots and held together not only with egg and flour but with the help of parmesan. This recipe is actually similar to the proportions I used, except with less flour, so I think that additional tinkering might yield successful puffs. I was running low on carrots, though, and didn’t feel like taste-testing any more carrot puffs immediately. When and if I tackle these again, I’ll report back. In the meantime, I’ll be eating carrots as soup for a little while instead.

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To make Newport Ginger Bread

In search of something quick and festive, I made this recipe at my mom’s house, in between walks with the dogs. UPenn MS Codex 895 is signed “Ann M. Plowden, 1756” on the inside front cover; a page later in the book is dated 1844, and the whole thing is written in at least four hands. This is the first time we’ve cooked from this particular recipe book, and I look forward to returning to it.

We didn’t have candied peel or fresh ginger or mace, so I used orange zest and ground ginger and some cinnamon and cloves; I’m not sure that its texture was what it should have been, or whether this should have been baked as a large cake, or rolled out, or in small patted rounds as I made them. But I liked these very much regardless–gingerbread is forgiving! (*Note: thanks very much to our reader who pointed out that I misread/miscalculated and used only 2 tbsp. molasses rather than 3/4 c. Oops! I did in fact enjoy these very much despite that mistake. However, with the proper amount of molasses, these might work better as rolled out cookies. I will be making them again and will provide an update!)

The Recipe

newport-gb-pic

To make Newport Ginger Bread

Take a p[oun]d of flour a quarter of a p[oun]d of sugar 2 ounce
of candied orange peel or Lemon a little mace
the weight of a two shilling of grated white ginger
half a pint of melted butter 4 spoonful of brandy
a p[oun]d or something better of treacle mix it well
& bake it on wafer paper on tin pans in a quick oven

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Our Recipe

[halved from the original]

1 2/3 c. flour
1/2 c. sugar
1 oz. orange peel
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
pinch cloves
1 tsp. ground ginger
1 stick butter, melted
2 tbsp. brandy
3/4 c. molasses

Heat oven to 375F.

Mix all ingredients together in a bowl until fully incorporated. Form the gingerbread as you’d like. For small cookies, bake ~20 mins., until a deeper golden brown and dry to the touch. Cool on a wire rack. This made 20 small cookies.

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The Results

These are certainly ginger-y! The brandy is a tasty addition that I hadn’t encountered in gingerbread before. They’re dense and a little chewy, and have plenty of flavor. From the instruction to bake it on paper, I was expecting a cake that would bake on parchment in order to turn out more easily. This was more of a dough than a batter, though, and a crumbly one at that (because of my molasses mishap). I settled on patting them into flattened golf-ball-sized rounds, but I will try rolling it out next (with more molasses).

When I’m not distracted by a pug wearing a jinglebell collar and the need to finish wrapping gifts, I might look into why these are “Newport” gingerbread. For now, they taste of ginger and the kitchen smelled festive and warm while they baked. That’s a good Christmas Eve eve cookie.

Happy and peaceful holidays to you.

To make a seed cake

So, I chose to make this particular recipe because 1) I had all the ingredients on hand, and 2) it looked easy. I admit it – no loftier goals than that. But isn’t ease and convenience how we often choose recipes? And perhaps the same applied for this cake’s original cooks. After all, we don’t always have the inclination (or eggs) to make a “rich cake” that requires 24 eggs. But a simple cake that requires only four ingredients? No wonder Catherine Cotton included this recipe in her book.

This “seed cake” comes from one of our favorite volumes, Catherine Cotton’s UPenn Ms. Codex 214. We’ve seen seed cakes come up in other seventeenth- and eighteenth-century recipe books, so it seems safe to say that seed cake was probably fairly common at the time. Interestingly, this recipe would have yielded quite a large cake: halved, it more than filled an 8″ round, so this would have been cake for a crowd.

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The Recipe

seed cakes

To make a seed cake

Take the whites of 8 eggs beat them very well then
put the yolks to them & beat them very well together then
put to it a pound of sugar beat & sifted very fine & beat
it for half an hour then make it a little warm over the
fire & after that put in 3 quarters of a pound of flower
very well dryed a quarter of an ounce of carraway seeds
stirr it well together & put it into the pan it will take 3
quarters of a hour to bake it /

Our Recipe
(halved from the original)

4 eggs, separated
1 heaping c. (1/2 lb.) sugar
1 1/4 c. (6 oz. or 3/8 lb.) flour
1.5 tsp. (1/8 oz.) caraway seeds

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and flour a 9″ round pan or other baking dish.*

In a standing mixer or with a handheld mixer, beat eggs whites until stiff but not dry. Then add egg yolks and beat until mixture is uniformly yellow and still fluffy. Add sugar and beat at medium speed for about 10 mins., or until light and shiny.* Scrape down bowl and stir in flour and caraway seeds with a spatula.

Bake for 45-50 mins., until top is dry and firm to the touch. Cool in pan 10 mins., then run a knife around the edges to loosen it and turn cake out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

*Note: I used an 8″ round pan and, as you can see, barely escaped a cake batter overflow disaster. 9″ would be safer.

**Note: I actually forgot the next step, to “make it a little warm over the fire”! This didn’t seem to detract from the final outcome, but you might set the mixing bowl briefly over a double boiler if you’d like to be thorough!

The Results

I’m always curious to try a recipe that we see come up, with minor variations, across multiple recipe books. But I didn’t have extraordinarily high hopes for this cake – eggs + sugar + flour + caraway seeds? I expected something blandly palatable, mildly sweet, perhaps dense and a little dry.

Instead, I ended up with something between a pound cake and an angel food cake: sweet without being cloying, moist, nicely chewy, with a sweet crackly crust. Hello, seed cake! Welcome to the rotation – I’ll be making this one again. And while the simplicity of the recipe is part of its charm, it also means that there’s plenty of room for experimentation with extracts, zest, different seeds in different amounts, perhaps even finely chopped dried fruit or miniature chocolate chips. Wrapped well, it stayed moist for several days. And it’s a lovely cake to have with tea or coffee.

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Portland Cakes, Cooking in the Scripps Archives Part 4

This is the fourth and final post featuring a recipe from the Earl of Roden Commonplace Book held at the Scripps College, Denison Library. Read the first post here for information about this manuscript.

Flipping through the Earl of Roden Commonplace Book in the Denison Library at Scripps a few months ago, I paused when I saw a recipe for “Portland Cakes.” They looked so familiar! These buttery, sweet cakes are flavored with rosewater and brandy and dotted with currants, just like the “Potingall/Portugal Cakes” Alyssa wrote about a few months ago. The “Portland Cakes” in the Earl of Roden  fall into the broad category of “Portugal” cakes seasoned with fortified wines like brandy and sack that were imported to the British Isles from the Iberian peninsula.

The Recipe

portland cakes

To make Portland Cakes.

Six ounces of Butter well beaten, six ounces of Loaf Sugar,
the Yolks of two eggs, the white of one, 1/4 of a pound of
currants, two spoonfuls of Rose Water 3/4 of a Pound of
flour, you may add a small quantity of Brandy if
you please. Make them into little cakes and bake them
a quarter of an hour __ When you put them into the
Oven, strew over them some grated Sugar. ___

Our Recipe is basically the same.

6 oz butter, softened
6 oz sugar (additional sugar for sprinkling)
2 egg yolks
1 egg white
1/4 lb currants
2 t rosewater
3/4 lb flour
2 t brandy

Preheat oven to 350F.

Cream together butter and sugar. I used my stand mixer for this recipe, but it could work with a hand mixer or a large bowl and a sturdy spoon.  When the mixture is pale and fluffy, add rosewater and brandy. Separate and beat the eggs before adding them to the mix. Add the flour. When the flour is completely incorporated, add the currants.

Divide the mixture into 12 cakes and bake in a greased muffin tin for 40 minutes. If you’d like to make smaller cakes (I plan to next time) divide the mixture into 18 or 24 parts and bake in two greased muffin tins for approximately 25 minutes, until golden brown.

As you can see from the photos, I completely forgot to dust these with sugar before I put them in the oven, but they were toothsome all the same.

The Results

Portland Cakes are sweet, dense, and fragrant. I enjoyed one hot from the oven with a cup of tea. I brought the rest to a picnic and they were a big hit with adults and kids alike.

Next time I’ll make smaller cakes in a muffin  pan (or even try a Madeline pan like Alyssa) because the crunchy exterior was my favorite part. I might also add a pinch of salt and cut the sugar a bit.

But mostly I think a Potingall/Portugal/Portland Cake bake-off is in order. Alyssa and I are going to arrange a taste-test and let you know which recipe we like best!

Beer Cakes

CookingArchives-4173

Photo by Carley Storm Photography http://www.carleystormphotography.com

We’re sometimes asked how the early modern recipe books we cook from ended up in library collections. It varies: some were purchased directly by the library, others were gifts. However they made it into holdings like the Kislak Center’s, we feel fortunate that they did. As I looked over the provenance notes for UPenn Ms. Codex 205, I saw a familiar name. The book was a gift from Esther Bradford Aresty, part of the Esther B. Aresty Collection of Rare Books on the Culinary Arts. Aresty (1908-2000) was a culinary historian and cookbook collector who donated her collection of 576 printed volumes and 13 manuscripts, ranging from the fifteenth to twentieth century, to the University of Pennsylvania. (For more on Aresty’s remarkable life and collecting, see here and here. Penn also holds Aresty’s papers, which I’m looking forward to digging into soon.) Aresty’s collection has already informed this project: of the recipe books we’ve cooked from so far, UPenn Ms. Codices 252, 625, 627, and 631 were also her gifts.

In her first book, The Delectable Past: The Joys of the Table – from Rome to the Renaissance, from Queen Elizabeth I to Mrs. Beeton. The Menus, the Manners – and the most delectable Recipes of the past masterfully recreated for cooking and enjoying today (1964), Aresty transcribed and updated over 700 recipes from the volumes in her collection in order to make them widely accessible: “The more I wandered around in those precious volumes, the more I wanted to share them with others” (9). The chapters begin with “Antiquity to the Middle Ages – The Delicious Beginnings” and end with “Late 19th-Century America – Cooking Lessons Well Learned,” each detailing several recipes and images. Aresty didn’t include any recipes from Ms. Codex 205, but it’s listed in the index as part of her collection at the time. She describes The Delectable Past as “the result of my adventuring through their pages.” Adventuring through the pages: what a perfect way to describe the experience of reading old cookbooks, or encountering older texts more generally.

Aresty characterized her method as one of updating: “I’ve tried to adapt the recipes in the simple style that made them such a delight to read and follow. … With few exceptions, they are all easy to prepare, and rely on a subtle twist, or nuance, or combination, rather than laborious preparation. Though canned soups and other commercially prepared products have not been specified, they may be substituted wherever you deem proper.” And she encouraged experimentation: “You may arrive at some individual effects of your own while using the recipes in The Delectable Past. All have been tested in my kitchen, but your imagination can take over in many of them. After all, the same recipe will produce varying though equally good results in different hands. Yours may be better than mine” (12). As I read Aresty’s words, with Ms. Codex 205 sitting to one side, I felt like I’d found a kindred spirit. I’m looking forward to more adventuring in Aresty’s collection.

UPenn Ms. Codex 205 begins with a handy table of contents of its recipes. I looked no further as soon as I saw #66: Beer Cakes. Beer Cakes? I had to try these.

205 tofc

This recipe book was probably compiled from the last few decades of the eighteenth century into the first of the nineteenth. Recipe #130 is dated 1791; #162 is dated 1801. The last page of the book details the diet plan “Mr. Whilby of Wallington Norfolk” used to raise his calves in the winter of 1777. (Now, there’s a sentence I’ve never written before.) There is also a loose letter tucked into the volume, dated February 1808, from “AB” to Mrs. Edward Browne, copying the recipe for “A Sweet Jar” that’s also written into the book. The first 109 recipes (including the Beer Cakes) are written in one hand, then the rest of the book continues in at least six hands.

The Beer Cakes call for “old Beer” – a very efficient way to use beer that might be past optimal drinking stage. Interestingly, this is the first early modern baking recipe I’ve noticed that calls for beer. I’m now curious about how common this was, so I’ll be on the lookout for more. The beer used would probably have been purchased; by the late eighteenth century, the earlier prevalence of home brewing had been largely displaced by industrialized beer production. (For more background, see, e.g., The Oxford Companion to Beer, ed. Garret Oliver [2011], and I. S. Hornsey, A History of Beer and Brewing [2003].)

I wasn’t the only one who found these Beer Cakes delicious, apparently: note the bookworm holes in the upper right-hand corner of the recipe page.

The Recipe

beer cakes

66. Beer Cakes

a Pound of Flour, 1/2 Pd. Butter, 1/2 Pd. Sugar, a few
Seeds, mix all together into a very stiff Paste, with
old Beer, roll and bake them on Tin Sheets.

IMG_4548

Our Recipe

[halved from the original]

1/2 lb. flour (I used half white whole wheat and half all-purpose flour, about a scant 1 c. each)
1/4 lb. sugar (1/2 c.)
1/4 lb. butter (1 stick), room temp.
1 tsp. caraway seeds*
scant 1/2 c. beer, added in increments**

Heat oven to 350F. Line two baking sheets with parchment.

Combine all ingredients except the beer in a large bowl and mix with a spatula until relatively smooth. (You could easily do this in a stand mixer. I was feeling old school.) Add about half the beer and blend, gradually adding more as needed until you have a cohesive, stiff dough. It should be just wet enough to hold together but not so wet that it becomes soft and sticky. If it’s too wet, just add a bit more flour.

Lightly flour your surface and rolling pin, then roll out the dough to about 1/4″ thickness. (The day I made these was pretty humid – see: Philadelphia summertime – so I found that refrigerating the dough for about 10 mins. before rolling it out made the process of transferring cookies onto the baking sheets much easier.) Cut them out in shapes of your choice. My handy 2″ circle yielded 46 cookies. Transfer to lined baking sheets and bake for 12 mins., or until dry to the touch and golden brown on the bottom. (Your kitchen will smell like beer. Not at all unpleasant.) Remove to a wire rack and let cool.

*A note about “a few Seeds”: Other “seeded” recipes we’ve made have called for caraway seeds. I also looked at several print and manuscript recipes for Seed Cakes, all of which use caraway. So, I feel fairly certain that caraway seeds are accurate for the Beer Cakes. However, you could certainly experiment – poppy? Sesame?

**A note about the beer: I didn’t have any “old Beer” lurking at the back of my fridge – just as well, because I knew exactly which beer I wanted to use for this recipe. Philadelphia’s very own Yards Brewing Company produces three Ales of the Revolution, based on colonial brewing recipes. I was curious about how much the flavor of the beer would come out in the cookies, so I experimented by splitting the batch and making half with Thomas Jefferson’s Tavern Ale and half with Poor Richard’s Tavern Spruce. (I also made another batch with a lager, for additional experimentation. Same results.) I couldn’t really taste a difference, probably because the amount of beer in the recipe isn’t that large and the caraway seeds dominate; I definitely couldn’t taste the piney-ness that characterizes the Tavern Spruce. But I didn’t mind having the leftover beer with my cookies.

The Results

Favorite recipe since Maccarony Cheese! Of the other “cakes” recipes we’ve tried, they’re most similar to the Desart Cakes, which I also liked very much. But the addition of butter and especially of beer give these a depth and richness that can be unusual for early modern cookie-cakes. (They’re still beige, of course. Marissa and I have started thinking of this project as the realm of beige baked goods.) They don’t really taste like beer, but they have a richness and a nice crumb that’s less dense than the Desart Cakes. I’ll be making these again.

Esther Aresty, I raise a beer cake to you and your adventuring. Thank you.

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Soda Cake, Cooking in the Scripps Archives Part 2

This is the second post featuring a recipe from the Earl of Roden Commonplace Book held at the Scripps College, Denison Library. Read the first post here for information about this manuscript.

Reader, do you cook with baking soda or baking powder? I bet you do. Twenty-first-century recipes for cake, cookies, breakfast breads, and pancakes (I could go on) are predominantly leavened with sodium bicarbonate. Joy the Baker explains how, why, and when to use baking soda or baking powder in this excellent Baking 101 post.

That squat cylinder or cardboard box full of white powder in your kitchen cabinet is the product of a culinary revolution. In the last decades of the eighteenth century chemists produced the sodium bicarbonate compound for the first time. By the early nineteenth century, “soda” begins to appear with some frequency in culinary recipes. The breakfast chapter in Abigail Carroll’s Three Squares suggests that baking soda transformed American breakfast traditions in the nineteenth century. (Hear her talk about baking soda and more on this episode of the wonderful podcast Gastropod.)

Before the discovery and popularity of baking soda, vigorously whisking eggs or leaving a yeast-laden mix to rise were the primary methods for producing leavened baked goods. All this took a lot more effort than spooning something else into your dry ingredients mix. We’ve been working with pre-baking soda leavening methods from the very start of this project. For example, in the recipe for Potingall/Portugal Cakes whisked eggs add the fluff factor. The recipe for Oven Cakes calls for yeast and rising time. “Soda Cake” is the second recipe I prepared from the Earl of Roden Commonplace book and it’s the first recipe calling for baking soda, or “Soda (Carbonate),” I’ve come across during the course of this project. Many of the recipes in this manuscript were copied in the early nineteenth century and our compiler was decidedly on trend with this spicy, soda-leavened breakfast bread.

The Recipe

Soda Cake

1 Lb of Flour 3 Oz of butter 3 Oz of Lard 1/2 lb of moist sugar
2 Tea spoons full of Soda (Carbonate) 2 Eggs and a little
Milk make it about the thickness of Cream a few
carraway seeds 1/2 a teaspoonful of ground Alspice.

Our Recipe

The ingredients in the original recipe are relatively straightforward (at least now that we’ve discussed the origins and significance of baking soda), but the recipe does not provide any instructions for preparation. To develop a method, I took a look at my mother and grandmother’s Irish Soda Bread recipe in my own handwritten recipe notebook. Following the basic method from my family’s recipe, I began by combining the butter/lard with the dry ingredients and then added the eggs and milk to form a dough.

1 lb flour
1/2 lb sugar (or brown sugar)
2 t baking soda
1/2 t salt (I didn’t use any, but I think it needs some.)
1/2 t caraway seeds
1/2 t allspice
3 oz butter
3 oz lard (or substitute butter)
2 eggs
6 T milk

Preheat your oven to 325 F.

Mix flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and spices in a large bowl. Add the butter and lard to this dry mix. Cut the butter into small cubes and work into the dry ingredients by hand or using a pastry cutter. The mix should resemble a coarse meal. Add the eggs and milk. Stir until a sticky dough forms. Shape into a round loaf and place on a baking sheet. Cut across the top with a sharp knife.

Bake at 325 F for about 40 min.

The Results

Soda Cake is dense, sweet, and spicy. The baking soda certainly did its job and the texture is like a substantial muffin. The spices give this cake a unique flavor. Next time, I might put some seeds on the top for crunch and add some salt to the mix to deepen the flavors.

To make Little Cakes, Cooking in the Scripps Archives Part 1

I may have written about Southern California citrus and orange pudding few months ago, but so far all of the recipes Alyssa and I have posted here are from manuscripts held at the University of Pennsylvania’s Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books, and Manuscripts. There are a few good reasons for this! When we launched Cooking in the Archives last June, we were both PhD candidates and our start-up funding came from an interdisciplinary innovation grant at Penn. The Penn Libraries also have a wonderful collection of manuscript recipe books, comprehensive digital collections, and a number of open-access projects, like the recently launched OPenn site.

This academic year I’ve been teaching and conducting research at Scripps College in Claremont, CA amidst bountiful culinary and archival resources. This post is the first of a series on recipes I’ve prepared from the Earl of Roden Commonplace Book held at Scripps’s exquisite Ella Strong Denison Library. In one of my upper-level literature and book history courses called “What is a book?” my students and I used this commonplace book for paleography practice. (More on that course here.) As we were reading poems and recipes from the manuscript, I found a lot of things I wanted to cook.

The Earl of Roden Commonplace Book is one of two manuscript commonplace books in the Perkins Collection at Denison. John I. Perkins, a Los Angeles bookseller, donated this collection to Scripps in 1941 with the intention that the books would establish a teaching collection and be primarily used by students. The manuscript’s provenance is relatively easy to trace as a bookplate with the Earl of Roden‘s arms is pasted inside the front cover. The earldom was created in 1771 for Robert Jocelyn, 2nd Viscount Jocelyn (1731-1779) and was part of the Peerage of Ireland, or the English aristocracy in Ireland. The earls of Roden likely lived on estates in County Tipperary. Perkins may have acquired this manuscript because of its provenance, its mix of poems and recipes, or its distinctive green binding, built-in vellum-lined pockets, and partial clasps.

I think it’s most likely that this book began its life as a bound and ruled blank book, was initially used as a commonplace book for poetry, and was eventually repurposed as a household recipe book. The manuscript includes about eighty pages (40 folios) of poems followed by about ninety pages (45 folios) of recipes. Like many other commonplace books, the poems are listed for in an alphabetical index laid out at the beginning of the book. Although I haven’t checked to see if all the poems are accounted for, the compiler was very precise about noting the date and source of poems and songs. These dates helped Perkins date the manuscript’s compilation to the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Some poems from the early eighteenth century establish the start date (perhaps even before the Earl of Roden’s earldom was created) and a wine-making recipe that refers to wine produced in 1824 dates later use to the nineteenth century.

I’ve prepared a few recipes from this book so far. Today I’d like to talk about “little cakes,” or tasty shortbread cookies similar to “Jumballs.”

 The Recipe

little cakes

To make Little Cakes.

Half a pound of Flour, half a pound of Sugar, two Eggs, one
ounce and a half of Butter melted two ounces of Coriander
Seeds bruised. Cut it thin and bake it.

Since these instructions and measurements are relatively straightforward, our recipe is basically the same.

1/2 pound flour
1/2 pound sugar
Two eggs
1 1/2 oz. butter, melted
2 oz. coriander seeds

Preheat oven to 350 F. Prepare a baking sheet with butter, spray, or baking parchment.

Bruise the coriander seeds by gently crushing them in a mortar and pestle. To release more of their flavor, you can also lightly toast the seeds in a dry, hot pan beforehand.

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl and stir until a thick dough forms. Form it into a ball and transfer it onto a clean surface or cutting board. Shape the dough into a log. (I didn’t need to add flour in the rolling process, but you may find that you need some.) Slice thin cookies off the log. Mine ranged from 1/3-1/2 inch thick.

Bake 15-18 min until the edges brown.  Attempt to let cool before eating.

I halved this recipe because I was running low on coriander seeds and made 13 cookies, a full batch would yield around 24.

The Results

The little cakes are really shortbread cookies. The coriander sings through the sweet and buttery base. Hot from the oven, the herbal flavor dominated. When I ate another with my coffee the next day the flavor had pleasantly mellowed. If coriander isn’t your favorite spice or you don’t have any on hand, substitute caraway or fennel seeds.

I think this base recipe would work with a range of spices like cinnamon or nutmeg, chopped fresh thyme or rosemary, dried lavender, or even citrus zest. I also think a whole-grain flour like whole wheat, spelt, or buckwheat in some combination would add nuttiness and depth.

“Little Cakes” are a quick and easy dessert that require only five ingredients and minimal prep time. Stay tuned for more recipes from the Scripps archives.

Oven Cakes

Alyssa once called me a “yeast whisperer.” I love baking with yeast — no-knead bread and flatbreads make regular appearances in my kitchen and challah, herb-speckled dinner rolls, baguettes, and babka emerge from the oven on special occasions. A few weeks ago I was looking over the recipes I’ve made over the course of this project and I realized I hadn’t pulled out my yeast once. It was high time to correct this oversight.

This recipe for “Oven Cakes,” fluffy leavened rolls, comes from Ms Codex 644. I wrote about this manuscript a few weeks ago about in our “Cheape Soupe” post and these rolls would certainly pair with that soup.

The Recipe

oven cakes

Oven Cakes                            Mrs: Metcalfe

2 pound flour, dissolve a 1/4 pound of Butter
in as much warm milk as will wet the
flour. Beat 2 eggs, yolks, & whites very
light, in a spoonful of good yeast mix all
together. let it stand to rise when risen
make it into flat cakes, the size of a Muffin

Our Recipe

This recipe makes a delicious and versatile roll that could accompany soup, add to a dinner spread, provide a foundation for a fierce sandwich, or make a mean midnight snack. As a yeast baking aficionado, I need to do additional research on the status of yeast in the eighteenth century, before Pasteur identified it as a living organism. My normal sources had very little information on how one would add a “spoonful of good yeast” to this recipe in the 1700s. I assume wild yeast and something like a sourdough starter may have been involved. The dried yeast I rely on certainly would not have been available. In addition, what we now call “English muffins” are (still) simply called “muffins” in the UK. I flattened the cakes into round disks based on what I know about muffins and the recipe’s clear instructions.

The only thing I added to this recipe was salt. (And, honestly, I’ll likely add some more salt the next time I make them.) I halved the original here and it made eight rolls.

1lb flour (3 2/3 c)
1/8 lb unsalted butter (4 T)
1 egg
1 c milk
1 t yeast
1/2 t salt (I plan to try 1 t next time.)

Measure all ingredients. Melt the butter, heat the milk, and lightly beat the egg. In a large bowl, mix together flour, butter, and milk until combined. Add the egg, then the yeast. The mixture will be sticky, moist, and somewhat unmanageable. I didn’t knead this dough, but I did stir it vigorously. When everything is well-combined and the dough is smooth, if unwieldy, cover with a towel and leave to rise in a warm place for an hour and a half.

When the dough has risen and springs back to the touch, preheat oven to 400 F. My dough didn’t quite double in size, but it did plump up nicely. Divide the dough into eight rolls and pat into round disks. Butter two baking sheets. Leave ample room between rolls.

Bake for 10-15 min, until golden on the top and firm on the bottom. Try to let the rolls cool down before eating them. Serve warm.

The Results

I devoured these. I ate the first one hot out of the oven. It smelled vaguely yeasty, but it was buttery and delightful. After the first few bites, I brought out my current favorite spreads: Lydia Pyne‘s strawberry jam and “Three Citrus Marmalade” made by the local Fallen Fruit from Rising Women project. I ate some rolls with almond butter for breakfast: I ate some more with leftover chilli for dinner. This is a recipe that will make a return appearance in my kitchen. I look forward to making a batch with chopped fresh herbs, nuts and dried fruit, sprinkled with seeds, and/or brushed with an egg glaze.

Potingall/Portugal Cakes

This recipe has also been featured in the Washington Post, in Sarah Kaplan’s wonderful article on our project.

Check it out here.

Like the fantastic Desart Cakes, these Potingall Cakes caught my eye because of their intriguing name and relatively simple ingredient list. Unlike the Desart Cakes, which are what we would call cookies, these are little cakes. And pretty tasty ones at that.

This recipe comes from the first volume of UPenn Ms. Codex 631, dated 1730. (This two-volume collection has become one of our favorites.) “Potingall” is probably a stand-in for “Portugal,” since the recipe closely resembles the fairly common recipe for “Portugal cakes” found in many seventeenth- through nineteenth-century cookbooks. Getting “Potingall” from “Portugal” doesn’t seem unreasonable: the two words are visually similar, and the writer copying the recipe into Ms. Codex 631 could have been working from another recipe that was difficult to read or itself mistaken. (Like an eighteenth-century game of telephone!) “Portugal” named a type of orange in the period and might refer to the recipe’s use of orange flower water. However, Portugal cakes’ name more probably relates to one of their ingredients: sack, a sweet, fortified white wine originally produced in Portugal.

The Recipe

potingall cakes

To Make the Potingall Cakes

Take a pound of flower well dryed & a pound of Loafe sugar beat fine searce them
both & mingle them together, then take a pound of Butter & wash it well in rose water
or orange flower water, then work it well in your hand till it be all very soft & then strew
in your sugar & flower by degrees tell (i.e. till) it be half in, still working it with your hand, then put
in 6 yolks of eggs & 5 whites & beat them up with two spoonfulls of sack, then by degrees
worke in the half of the sugar & flower & when your oven is hott, then pick wash & dry a
pound of Currants over the fire, your pans must be ready Buttered, then fill them half full
& scrape double refine sugar on them, Let your oven be pritty hot & set up the Lead

Our Recipe

[Note: I halved the recipe because these cakes taste best within one to two days.]

1/2 lb. all-purpose flour

1/2 lb. granulated sugar

pinch of salt

1/2 lb. [2 sticks] unsalted butter

1 tsp. rosewater or orange flower water*

2 whole eggs + 1 egg yolk

1 tbsp. sherry**

scant 1/2 lb. currants

optional: sugar for sprinkling on top

Preheat oven to 350F. Butter, coat with cooking spray, or line your pans.***

Mix together flour, sugar, and salt; set aside.

In a stand mixer or with a hand mixer****, cream the butter and flower water until light and fluffy.

With the mixer running at low speed, blend half of the flour mixture into the butter mixture; scrape down the bowl. Add the eggs and sherry, then mix at low-medium speed until combined; scrape down the bowl again. With the mixer at low speed, add the rest of the flour mixture; mix until the batter looks uniform. Add the currants and mix at low speed until they are distributed evenly.

Spoon batter into your pans (a cookie scoop works nicely here) and even out slightly with a buttered spatula. The cakes won’t rise much during baking but bake best as smaller cakes, so fill madeleine pans to the top, mini-cupcake pans nearly full, and cupcake pans 1/2 to 3/4 full. Optional: lightly sprinkle granulated sugar on top. (This adds a slight sparkle to the cupcakes but isn’t essential to their taste.)

Bake until cakes are firm to the touch at the center and golden brown around the edges. (A toothpick inserted into a cake should come out clean.) This will take around 12-14 mins. for mini-cupcakes, 14-16 mins. for madeleines, and 18 mins. for cupcakes. Let cool in pans for 3-5 mins., then remove onto cooling racks.

NOTES:

*Note on flower water: I tried these with both rosewater and orange flower water; I preferred the rosewater version because the flavor was subtler, but both flavorings played nicely with the currants.

**Note on sherry: I replaced sack (a sweet, fortified white wine) with the similar and more readily-available sherry. If you prefer a non-alcoholic cake, orange juice or white grape juice (or water) would most likely be a fine substitute. Raisins could also substitute for currants in a pinch.

***Note on pans: This recipe works best as small cakes: cupcakes, mini-cupcakes, or madeleines, for example. Use whatever combination of pans you’d like. The recipe yields approx. 18-32 cakes: 12 large madeleines (filled with 3 tbsp. batter each) + 6 cupcakes / 12 small madeleines (filled with 2 tbsp. batter each) + 10 cupcakes / 24 mini-cupcakes + 8 cupcakes.

****Note on mixing: In the spirit of updating this recipe to modern kitchens, I used a stand mixer rather than blending the dough by hand. However, the original method would also work – and be satisfyingly messy.

The Results

These are not light and fluffy cakes. They’re moist and dense, like a weightier muffin, with a rich flavor from the flower water, sherry, and currants. I liked them best as madeleines because that shape provides the highest edge-per-bite ratio – the crisply browned edges are particularly tasty. They also made an excellent snack alongside our old favorite, carrot pudding.

IMG_4455

To make maccarons of valentia Almonds

Today’s Cooking in the Archives post is also published on ABO-Public: An Interactive Forum for Women in the Arts, 1640-1840. Check out a slightly longer version of this post here.

What do ladies bake? Ladies bake macaroons, tasty almond macaroons.

This recipe “To make maccarons of valentia Almonds” is from MS Codex 627 The delights for ladys: to adorne there persons beautyes stillyris banquits perfumes & wators. MS Codex 627 is designed to look like a printed book and includes a title page with the date 1655, a full table of contents, and a running header “The delights” on the verso and “for ladies” on the recto of on each opening. We’ve only worked with one other manuscript with these features in this project to date: MS Codex 625 where we found “Shrewsbury Cakes.”

Another important feature of this manuscript is obscured, rather than revealed, by our digital images: its size. It’s very small! It fits in the palm of your hand. It could be easily carried in a pocket. As such, it may have also been somewhat difficult to use in the kitchen. Many of the other manuscripts we’ve surveyed have been substantially larger and would be easier to prop open on a table for kitchen use.

Although this manuscript is specifically designed as a book for women, it was likely written by a man. After all, the volume is modeled on Hugh Plat’s Delightes for Ladies (1602) which you can read about in more detail here. The introductory letter, partially missing from the manuscript, is signed by a Jose: Lovett and the hand is consistent throughout. This led the Penn cataloger to suggest that this may be Lovett’s book and written in his hand. However, the back of this book contains a reverse recipe book in a few hands signed “Mabella Powell Her Booke.”

Regardless of who wrote the bulk of this book, Mabella Powell was an owner, composer, and reader of its recipes.

The Recipe

To make maccarons
of valentia Almonds

Take one pound of blanched al-
monds and beat them in a marble
mortor with a woden pestill and in
beating of them now and then
about 12 times drop into them
a sponfull of red Rose water and
and when thay are small beaten
put into them one li [pound] of fine suger
well beaten & searsed then take
one grane of muske and a little
amber greece or siuet and dissolue
it in a little Red rose water
and mingled well a mongst it
then take up your past into a faire
Silu[er] or pewter dish and spread
it with a spoone all ouer the
dish and set it in an ouen

when your bread is new drawne &
when it dryes and begines to looke
white upon the topp then stirr it
& spread it againe and soe use it halfe
a dozen times and within one halfe
quarter of an howre it will bee drye
enough then take the whits of halfe
a dozen new layd eggs and straine
them through a fine Cloth and beat
them alittle and then mingle them
with the almonds & suger & soe
with a little slice lay them upon
a sheete of pure whit papor & set
them in the ouen, the ouen being
then in the sme temper it was in
when bread was newly drawne out
of it, and lay under them for feare
of borning some plate or some such
thing and soe bake them and keepe
them for your use in some cobbord
or some box not farr from the
fire.

This is a fairly simple recipe and the method for cooking it is explained in great detail.  It’s rare to see such specific instructions for the oven heat or cookie storage. Beyond halving the quantity I made very few changes.

 Our Recipe

1 1/3 C ground almonds (1/2 lb)
rosewater (1-2 T total)
2 T butter
1/2 C sugar
3 egg whites, lightly beaten
Preheat oven to 350 F.

Mix ground almonds with 6 drops rosewater stirring the mix after each drop (approximately 1T total.) Melt butter with a drop of rosewater. Stir aromatic butter into the ground almonds mix. Stir in sugar.

Spread the mixture on a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes. Check at 5 minutes and stir to ensure the edges do not burn.

Return the fragrant, toasted almond mix to a mixing bowl. Stir in 3 lightly beaten egg whites. A sticky dough should form. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Use a 1 tsp spoon to scoop this sticky mix onto your baking sheet.

Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the bottom of a macaroon is brown and the top is beginning to brown slightly. Allow to cool for 5-10 minutes before eating. Although they will smell incredibly tempting.

Ladies (and gentlemen) these macaroons are delicious. They are fragrant and nutty. When I served them at a holiday party, my guests simply devoured them. But they are just as nice to eat in a more solitary manner with a nice cup of tea.

Since I used store-bought ground almonds, I imagine my mix was much less oily than it would be if ground from fresh almonds. I added 2T of butter to restore that oil and compensate for not using greasy ambergris, suet, or musk as suggested. The recipe talks about slicing, but there was no way I could slice my sticky cookie mix.

While I think that toasting the almond mix deepened the flavor, I think you could skip that step if you were in a hurry or concerned about burning the mix. However, I think either baking parchment or very well-greased pan is essential to getting these cookies onto a plate in one piece.

Try them with whole almonds or ground, with orange blossom water or other spices.