German Puffs

When I read this recipe for “German Puffs” in (perennially interestingUPenn MS Codex 644, I immediately thought of Dutch Baby pancakes. Custardy sharing pancake-popover hybrids are all over food media these days and the proportions of eggs to cream to flour in this recipe looked really familiar. I had to try it.

The German Puffs were fluffy, rich, custardy, and delicious. Their texture and taste was both familiar and unfamiliar.  I’ve become accustomed to that mixed feeling when testing recipes for this site.

Unsurprisingly, this recipe sent me down an internet rabbit hole investigating various Dutch and German puffs, babies, and pancakes. In Pancake: A Global History, Ken Albala excludes this whole group of eggy-battered preparations from the category of pancakes altogether.

Another distinction must be made with the variety of souffle known as Yorkshire pudding, or in the US, popovers, which is made with a batter very similar to that of the pancake, but usually with a greater proportion of eggs, This is always baked in a mould to achieve supreme puffiness rather than the flatness of a pancake. Yorkshire pudding anointed by drippings, and the perversely named ‘Dutch Baby’ or German pancakes (Dutch here meaning Deutsch) must be set aside. (Albala 10)

The fact that the Dutch Baby, the German pancake, and the Yorkshire pudding all need moulds to rise disqualifies them from Albala’s pancake taxonomy.

All this leads me to ask where did Grandmama Franklin find this recipe? (She is likely the compiler for MS Codex 644 and I wrote about her backstory  here) Did she write it down in England? In South Carolina? Learn of it through her global networks in the East and West Indies? Did she read about German Puffs in a printed source? The Oxford English Dictionary and the database of early print Early English Books Online didn’t offer any conclusive results.  The origin of the German Puffs remains elusive, but the dish is delicious.

The Recipe

German Puffs

4 Eggs, 4 spoonfuls of flour, a pint
of Cream, or good milk. 2 oz of butter
Melted in it: beat them well together
& a little salt & Gratd Nutmeg:
Put them in large Cups well
butterd – bake them a quarter of an hou[r]
in an E oven hot enough to brown them.

Our Recipe

I prepared half of this recipe in a greased six-inch cast-iron skillet and the other half in six greased “cups” of a muffin tin. I greatly preferred the result that I got in a skillet and refer to that in the instructions below, but you could also use this to make somewhere between 12 and 24 small puffs. The full amount would work nicely in a larger skillet. The recipe is also easy to halve.

4 eggs
1/4 c flour
1 pint cream
2 oz butter, melted (plus additional butter for greasing the skillet)
1/4 t freshly grated nutmeg (A subtle flavor. Increase to taste.)
1/4 t salt

Preheat oven to 425F. [edit: optional step. Preheat your skillet in the oven.]

When the oven is hot, grease your skillet with butter. Whisk together ingredients in a mixing bowl or large pitcher. When batter is combined, pour it into the skillet.

Bake 30-35 min, until the puff is puffy and golden brown around the edges.

Serve hot. Sprinkle with sugar or other toppings.

The Results

Somewhere between a Yorkshire pudding and a souffle, German puffs are a rich and satisfying dish. This is a quick and easy historical recipe that makes a tasty breakfast or brunch dish. I’m excited to try them again with fresh berries or a fruit compote on the side. They are even delicious a day later reheated in a toaster oven or oven.

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To stew Pease the French way

When I’m not cooking archival recipes, I eat a lot of greens. Kale, spinach, chard, green beans, peas, escarole, cabbage, broccoli, or lettuce feature in most of my meals. But many of the vegetable recipes in the manuscripts we’ve consulted are for preserving vegetables for future use. We baked peas into a tart and pickled tomatoes, but we’ve featured fewer fresh vegetable dishes, like herb soup and this recipe “To stew Pease the French Way.” Alyssa and I were both excited to find this recipe for peas and cabbage in MS. Codex 644, a manuscript connected to the Frankland family that we’ve turned to for “Cheap Soupe” and “Oven Cakes.” We were also inspired by the note, “Excellent,” under the title.

If you’re looking for a new way to eat your greens, a recipe to use up that partial head of cabbage lingering in your fridge,  or even searching for a last-minute Thanksgiving side, read on!

The Recipe

pease the french way

To stew Pease the French way – Lady Monson
Excellent.
1 quart of young pease. 2 Cabbage Lettuce. A small
square piece of Ham – with a Boquet (which consists of
Thyme – Parsley – & young onions tied up) and a small
piece of Butter – put them into a stew pan, & stew them
for 10 minutes – have ready some boiling water,
add a little at a time, till your pease are quite
tender, after which add a little ButterFlour,
with a little salt & sugar, to your taste – you
must judge the thickness so as you may Eat them
with a Fork. ~ Aug[u]st. 1816 RLS

The bundle of herbs and smoky meat pair beautifully with the sweet peas and the savory cabbage. The addition of a roux thickens the cooking liquid into a delicious sauce.

The source of the recipe, “Lady Monson” may be Lady Anne Monson (1726-1776). Monson traveled to India soon after marrying Colonel George Monson of Lincolnshire in 1757 and spent her last decades living in Calcutta and traveling South Asia collecting botanical specimens. It’s tempting to link the Monsons and the Franklands given their shared history in India and South Asia, but I have not been able to confirm the connection.

Our Recipe

1 quart (4 c.) peas, fresh or frozen
1 large green cabbage, sliced thinly
4 stalks thyme, 4 stalks parsley & 4 scallions, tied up with butcher’s twine
1 slice ham or 2 slices bacon, chopped into small pieces
3 T butter (1 first, 2 for roux)
1/2 c. boiling water
2 T flour
salt and pepper to taste

Brown ham or bacon in butter.
Add cabbage, peas, herb bouquet, water, salt, and pepper. Cook for 5 minutes.
Blend 2 T butter, softened and flour, add slowly to the vegetable mix. Cook for 5 more minutes until the vegetables are cooked, but haven’t lost all their crunch.

(You may need to adjust the cooking time if you are using frozen peas.)

The Results

This is a delicious way to eat your peas. We chopped up the scallion and parsley to garnish our servings and I liked the bites that included the herbs best. You could easily leave out the smoky meat to make a vegetarian version of this dish. Smoked salt or a sprinkle of paprika might add that savory note to a vegetarian version.

We also think this would taste delicious with roast turkey, potatoes, and stuffing, which is why we’re sharing this recipe with you today. Let us know how it turns out, whenever it happens to grace your table!

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.

An Excellent Cheap Soupe

It’s soup season. I live in southern California and I have absolutely no complaints about winter weather, but I did get a good dose of cold when I visited Alyssa in Philadelphia this month to work on project planning and to prepare for our forthcoming profile in frankie magazine (out April 2015). In any case, who doesn’t enjoy a good bowl of soup?

This recipe comes from Ms. Codex 644. Penn’s catalogers suggest that the manuscript was compiled between 1750 and 1825 and attribute this book primarily to a Lady Frankland with some additions in other hands. A note inside the front cover the manuscript entitles the volume “Grandmama Lady Frankland’s Receipt Book.”

grandmama lady frankland

This manuscript may be a product of the household of Sir Thomas Frankland, fifth baronet (1718–1784). This is a preliminary speculation, but one I hope to research in more detail. I’ve linked to wikipedia above because it’s freely accessible, but I’m also drawing on information from the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. 

Sir Thomas Frankland married Sarah Rhett of South Carolina (1724-1808) in 1743 and she may very well be the “Grandmama Frankland” who compiled and used this recipe book. The family likely lived at the Frankland estate in Mattersey, Nottinghamshire while Frankland traveled between England and the West Indies where he was involved in the Atlantic slave trade, among other commercial ventures. The couple had many children (somewhere between thirteen and nineteen according to various accounts), and nine lived long enough to be mentioned in Frankland’s will. This recipe for cheap soup would certainly feed a crowd.

If this volume truly is a product of the Frankland family, my preliminary biographical research leaves me with many questions about the volume: What kind of history can these recipes possibly reveal? Can the volume provide a window into the history of slavery? Does it have anything to tell us about southern foodways, transatlantic communication, and global recipe exchange? For example, Frankland was born in the East Indies, possibly in India, and that connection to South Asia may explain the presence of a recipe for Indian Curry in the volume.

Stay tuned for more on Ms. Codex 644 as we continue to research its provenance and try out its intriguing recipes!

The Recipe

cheap soup recipe

Lady Fagg
An Excellent Cheap Soupe
1 pound of Beef cut in small pieces
perl p[b?]arley
2 2 oz Rice. 1/2 pint split Peas
6 potatoes. 2 large Onions —
pepper & salt to the taste. put al[l]
these with one Gallon of water
into a deep Pot – Tie it down,
& Let it bake 6 hours –
NB – dont strain it but turn
it alltogether into the Dish – th[is]
will make a good meal for 6
or 8 people, & does not want
any bread to eat with it.

This is a straightforward recipe and it required minimal modification to work in my kitchen.

The soup recipe, like many others in the volume, is attributed to Lady Fagg in a small note at the top right corner of the page. Other sources noted in the manuscript include – Lady Monson, Lady Roche, Miss Colville, Miss Bedingfeld, Miss Bowles, Richard Jebb, Mrs. Cowslade, Baroness Philetsen, Dr. Addington, Dr. Bateman, Dr. Reynolds, and Dr. Darwell.

The final paragraph is a note that adds extra information to Lady Fagg’s recipe. “NB” stands for the Latin phrase nota bene, roughly translated as “take note.” This phrase that was used in books as a mnemonic aid to mark passages, thoughts, instructions for future use. It appears in many places throughout the manuscript.

Our Recipe

1 lb stewing beef, cut into 1-2 inch cubes
4 T butter, for browning beef
2 large yellow onions, chopped
2 oz pearl barley, rinsed and sorted
7 oz split peas, rinsed and sorted
6 potatoes, chopped into 1-2 inch cubes
cooking liquid: 1 cup chicken stock & 2 quarts water (This was the maximum amount of liquid my largest pot could hold. If you have a big stock pot, you should be able to accommodate a full gallon of cooking  liquid. I recommend using 1/3 vegetable or meat-based broth and 2/3 water.)
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat your oven to 325F. Measure, chop, and prepare all ingredients.

Heat 2 T butter in an oven-safe stock pot or dutch oven. Brown the beef cubes in butter to seal-in their flavor. Add the other 2 T of butter as needed. When the beef is mostly browned, add the onions and allow them to soften for 1-2 minutes. Add the barley, peas, potatoes, and cooking liquid (stock and water) and cover. When the soup has come to a rolling boil, add salt and pepper to taste. Then transfer the pot to the oven to cook for approximately 2 hours. Check every 45 minutes or so to make sure the grains have not absorbed all the liquid and add water as needed.

The Results

This soup is tasty, warm, and filling. It could easily feed a large group or provide delicious leftovers for future meals.

The leftovers fed me, and my spouse Joseph, for a few meals. He even thought it tastier leftover because the flavors deepened. Although the recipe note insists that the soup does not need to be served with bread on the side, bread did make it a more substantial meal. Our batch produced ten servings (with bread) and if we’d had a larger pot we could have made an even greater volume. This soup is economical even in 2015 with its smart use of cheap cuts of beef and filling, healthy grains and legumes.

A sprinkling of fresh herbs like sage or parsley would add extra flavor to each bowl. I would suggest serving this soup on a cold night with warm bread, a green salad with a kale or spinach base, and a nice bottle of  your favorite stout or porter.