Christian Barclay’s Almond Jumballs

See the end of the post for information about the third annual Great Rare Books Bakeoff!

almond jumballs on a plate

There are so many recipes for jumballs in seventeenth-century recipe books. Even though I’ve been baking jumballs since I started this project in 2014, I’m still surprised by the major differences in flavor, texture, and method between recipes. As Stephen Schmidt explains in this helpful glossary entry, “When jumbles first came to England from Italy, in the sixteenth century, they were sugary, anise-flavored cookies formed by tying ropes of dough in elaborate two-sided knots, such as a figure-eight or a pretzel knot.” By the last decade of the seventeenth-century, when Christian Barclay wrote this recipe “To make Almond Jumballs” in her recipe book, they could either be sugary confections or buttery dough shaped in elaborate forms.

When I came across this recipe while looking at the manuscript with colleagues and undergraduate students working on my “What’s in a Recipe?”  project, I immediately knew I wanted to try it. Barclay’s jumballs are like macaroons. They only contain ground almonds, orange blossom water, sugar, water, and egg white. The method of preparation draws on confectionary practices as well as baking techniques. I spooned some of the thin jumball batter into rounds and piped the rest into letters and knot forms.

Original Recipe 

almond jumballs recipe

To make Almond Jumballs
Take half a pound of Almonds, blanch
them in cold water, & beat them very
fine, put in a spoonfull or 2 of
orange flower water to keep them
from oylling, when they are beaten
small, boyll half a pund of double
Refined sugar to a Candy not too high
when it is cold work into it 2 ounces
of fine searcht sugar, & a litle of the
froth of ane egg & squirt into a
paper, bake them in ane oven not too
hot.

The recipe uses a sugar syrup to bind the almonds and capture the fleeting scent of orange blossom water. A “frothed” egg white adds body and lift during baking. These almond jumballs are sweet, fragrant, and have a pleasing crunch on the outside and a slight chew in the center.

Updated Recipe

Makes approximately 24 jumballs.

This recipe requires a candy thermometer, a mixer, and baking parchment.

1 cup ground almonds (110 grams)
1 tablespoon orange blossom water
1 cup sugar (201 grams)
¼ cup water
1 egg white

Preheat your oven to 320F (160C).

Line two baking sheets with parchment.

Stir together the ground almonds and orange blossom water in a metal or ceramic mixing bowl.

Separate the egg and put the egg white in the bowl of a stand mixer. (You can also use a handheld mixer for this.) Whip the egg white until it is frothy, white, and full of small bubbles. It does not have to achieve stiff peaks to work in this recipe.

Put the sugar and water in a small saucepan. Affix a candy thermometer to the side. Bring the mixture to a boil and a syrup will form. Heat the syrup to 238F (114C). This is often called the “soft ball” stage.

Pour the sugar syrup into the ground almonds immediately. Stir until there are no almond clumps. Fold in the egg white. A thin batter will form.

Shape the jumballs on the prepared, parchment-lined baking sheets. (I used a tablespoon to measure out twelve even cookies. I pipped the rest of the batter into shapes, but they expanded substantially during baking and did not retain precise details.)

Bake for 10-12 minutes. (This will vary depending on the size and shape of your jumballs.) They are finished when they are golden at the edges and still pale in the center.

Allow the jumballs to cool completely on the baking sheet.

The Results

Crisp, floral, and sweet, Christian Barclay’s almond jumballs are a delicious treat. If I make them again, I may try to create more elaborate shapes now that I’ve seen how the batter expands when baked.

This recipe is naturally gluten free. I’d be curious to hear how an egg substitute would work if any of my readers prepare a vegan version.

Today I’m also inviting you to a virtual baking competition: the third annual The Great Rare Books Bake Off, a friendly contest between the sister libraries of Penn State University and Monash University. There are fourteen intriguing recipes to try from library collections. 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 1-9 October 2022 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.

If these jumballs are not inspiring you to get baking, there are a lot of other recipes to choose from. In past years I’ve updated recipes for a lemon tart and for doughnuts. I’ve also enjoyed baking Suffrage Angel Cake, Cinnamon Buns,  Lamington Cake, and Pavlova in past years.

How to make Donuts 

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.

The Recipe

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

quite broun.

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.

Updated Recipe

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. 

donut held in hand over plate

The Results

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.

To Make a Lemon Tart

 

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to share food experiences at a distance. When we can’t gather together to eat, how can we connect around food for nourishment and joy, to learn and to build sustainable communities? I’ve recently listened to the Gastropod podcast episode “Shared Plates” and eagerly followed posts from Samin Nosrat‘s Big Lasagna virtual dinner party. I’ve been thinking about who is, and is not, invited to the table and supported organizations in my community that are tackling issues of food insecurity and inequality in our food system. There are so many ways to connect, even if many of them are now online.

Today I’m inviting you to a virtual baking competition: The Great Rare Books Bake Off, a friendly contest between the sister libraries of Penn State University and Monash University. There are eight intriguing recipes to try out; four 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 July 20-24, 2020 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.

This recipe for Lemon Tart is the oldest one in the competition. As the Penn State lead baker, I encourage you, my Cooking in the Archives readers, to give this one a try and cast your vote in #TheGreatRareBooksBakeOff

2020-07-12 18.02.52

Description: slice of lemon tart and cup of tea

The Recipe

This is my first time working with the Browne manuscript: It’s a new acquisition at Penn State Libraries! I haven’t seen it in person yet, but my colleagues have generously sent me lots of reference photos. It’s in the queue to be digitized and I cannot wait to research it alongside my students.

Here is the information that my Penn State Libraries colleagues wrote up for our Bake Off site: 

The Lemon Tart recipe comes from a handwritten cookbook probably compiled in Camberwell, England, between 1770 and 1846. It consists of two sections: the first section is all written in the same hand between 1770 and 1772. These recipes include transcriptions from printed sources (including Hannah Glasse’s  The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy (1747)) and unpublished recipes, all from British cuisine. The second section appears to have been written in the early- or mid-nineteenth century and presents more British recipes in various hands. An inscription reads “Browne, 1827, Camberwell, Surr[e]y.”

I decided to update recipes for both “a crust for Tarts” and “To Make a Lemon Tart” from the Browne manuscript for the Rare Books Bake Off challenge. Neither recipe has been copied from Hannah Glasse’s magisterial cookbook.

A Crust for Tarts p. 37 fol. 19r copy

a Crust for Tarts (p. 37 fol. 19r)

Take a quart of the finest flower a quarter
of a pint of Cream – a quarter and half quarter
of butter – the yolks of two Eggs – a handfull
of sugar Make it into a past – and role it out thin

To Make A Lemon Tart p. 61 fol. 31r cropped

To Make a Lemon Tart (p. 61 fol. 31r)
Take three Clear Lemons andd grate of the
outside rind – take the yolks of 12 Eggs and
six whits beat them very well – squeese in
the Lemons – then put in three quarters of a pound
of fine suger powdered – and three quarters
of a pound of fresh butter melted stir all well
together – put a sheet of past a the Bottom
and sift suger on the top – put it in a brisk
oven three quarters of an hour will bake it

Updated Recipe

Makes one 10-inch tart that can be baked in a pie dish or a fluted tart pan.

Crust

*Feel free to substitute a store-bought pie crust here or your favorite pastry recipe. If you use a store-bought graham cracker crust (or other pre-baked crust), you can skip the blind baking step. 

2 cups/350g flour, additional flour for rolling out the pastry

1 Tablespoon sugar

6 Tablespoons/85g butter

1 egg yolk

1/4 cup – 1/2 cup heavy cream

Preheat oven to 425°F/218°C

Stir together flour and sugar in a large bowl.

Cut butter into small cubes.

Rub butter into the flour and sugar until the mixture is grainy.

Add the egg yolk and 1/4 cup of heavy cream and stir to form a soft pastry. Continue to add heavy cream a tablespoon at a time until all the flour is integrated into the pastry. (I ended up using a whole 1/2 cup in the end.)

Grease a pie or tart dish with butter or baking spray.

Roll out the pastry on a floured surface. Arrange pastry in baking dish.

To blind bake the crust, cover the pastry with foil and fill the dish with baking beans or another weight.

Bake at 425°F/218°C for 12 minutes. Reduce the temperature to 350°F/180°C for 10 minutes. The crust should be golden and set, but not as brown as when a pie is completely finished baking.

Filling

3 whole eggs

3 egg yolks

Zest and juice of 1 1/2 lemons

3/4 cup/175g sugar, plus 1 tablespoon to sprinkle on top of the pie

3/4 cup/175g butter, melted

While the crust is baking, prepare the filling.

Separate the egg yolks, melt the butter, zest and then juice the lemons.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Stir in the sugar and then the melted butter and mix well.

Reduce oven temperature to 325°F/163°C.

Place the pie dish containing the baked crust on a baking sheet. Pour the filling into the crust and scrape any sugar from the bottom of the mixing bowl into the dish.

Sprinkle the top of the lemon custard with sugar.

Bake for 45 minutes until the sugar on the top crisps and browns and the lemon custard is set, but still jiggly.

Cool on a rack for 20 minutes before serving.

The Results

This is a delightfully lemony pie with a flavorful crust. The sugar topping gives each bite a nice crunch, but the pie is only mildly sweet overall. Sharp lemon balances the rich custard and crust.

Warm from baking and cold from the fridge, this pie is going fast in my house. I wish I could share it with friends and I’m glad that I can share the recipe here with you. Let the bake off begin!