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!

Advertisements

To Pickle Tomatas, Cooking in the Scripps Archives Part 3

This is the third 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.

It’s tomato season, dear readers. The farmer’s market stalls and supermarket shelves are laden with sweet, tangy, luscious tomatoes that I can’t resist eating out of the container on my walk home. Other bloggers are also fueling my tomato-craziness with tasty recipes like this one. Our recipe for pickled tomatas captures tomatoes in their prime. It doesn’t require any special canning equipment beyond a clean jar so have no fear! Read on!

We haven’t always celebrated the tomato or even considered it edible. The tomato is a new world fruit. At first, Europeans and American colonists didn’t eat them at all for fear of a poisonous, painful death. Later, English gardeners would grow especially garish varieties to display as beautiful objects, gorgeous examples of horticultural prowess and cosmopolitanism. These two books document our slow conversion from a tomato-fearing to a tomato-loving food culture : Andrew F. Smith’s The Tomato in America and David Gentilcore’s Pomodoro! A History of the Tomato in Italy. This Modern Farmer article offers a more condensed history.

This recipe for pickled tomatoes is from the late eighteenth or early nineteenth century based on the history of the manuscript . The compiler notes Count Puzzi as a source, but I haven’t been able to track down a count by this name. (I did find Giovanni Puzzi, a celebrated horn player who resided in London in the nineteenth century, but, alas, I see no way to connect him to our tomato recipe.)

Not only was I excited to see a tomato recipe from relatively early in this history of European consumption of nightshade vegetables, but it also reminded me of an appetizer I’ve ordered many times at a favorite restaurant. Union on Yale serves a mason jar overflowing with vinegary heirloom cherry tomatoes, burrata, and basil-infused olive oil with lovely pita bread toasts on the side. I’ve never said no to burrata and I’ve come to love the way the sharp tomatoes compliment the luscious cheese.

The Recipe

To pickle Tomatas

Wipe the Tomatas clean and dry, the put them
entire into an earthen Jar, sprinkle them with Salt
and Pepper at your discretion and with some bruised
Cloves; then fill up the Jar with a sufficient quantity of
Vinegar to cover the whole x
Count Puzzi

This recipe is perhaps equal parts pickled and fermented tomatoes. Like any lover of kimchi, sauerkraut, kombucha, or even sourdough bread knows, when you put a lot of tasty veggies in an earthenware crock you’re inviting natural yeasts and microbes to transform your food into something new. For our recipe, I turned to what I know about making fridge pickles as a compromise between proper canning and crock fermenting. I frequently make batches of string-bean, cauliflower, fennel, and beet fridge pickles to add to salads or compliment a cheese platter so this method is what felt natural to me. If you try this in an earthenware jar or properly can a batch and like what you taste, please let us know!

Our Recipe
1half lb tomatoes (whole, small tomatoes like cherry, grape, or sugar plum will work best)
3 twists black pepper
1 t cloves
1/2 t salt
1 c apple cider vinegar
a 2 cup mason jar, thoroughly washed

Put about a half pound of tomatoes in the mason jar. Fill to the top, but leave some space at the neck of the jar. Add seasonings. Fill with vinegar until the tomatoes are completely covered. Firmly affix the lid and label the jar. Leave in refrigerator for 1-2 weeks. I tried this batch after 10 days.
Consume pickled tomatoes within a month of opening the jar.

The Results

Pickled tomatoes are tart, juicy, and remarkably fresh. As I’d hoped, they tasted wonderful with cheese. The clove and vinegar seasoning combination reminded me of fancy homemade or artisanal ketchup. Next time,  I might consider flavoring them with coriander, fennel, or caraway seeds instead. I like cider vinegar, but I think red or white wine vinegar or even sherry vinegar would also work as a base.

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.