To make fine pippen Tarts

Today it feels like fall on the east coast. The Philadelphia weather on Wednesday reminded me of September heat-waves in California (when I made this lemonade), but today, apparently, fall is here. In September I braved the weekend heat to pick apples at Linvilla Orchard and, as usual, I bought lots.  So I went through my “to make” list in search of apple recipes and saw this recipe for “fine pippen Tarts” from UPenn MS Codex 785.  (I’ve cooked from this manuscript a lot: check out our new manuscript and library tags to see what archives we’ve been cooking.) It took me a little while to get into the kitchen to try this recipe (the heat, the big talk I gave, grading), but these pippin tarts are truly fine.

Recently, my “to make” list has been a decidedly mixed bag.  I started to make this Cordial Pepper Water and I had so much trouble with the poppy infusion that I’m not sure if a recipe will ever make it to this site. (I have a half bottle of very, very poppy-flavored  brandy sitting on my kitchen rack right now.) On the other hand, I started working on some holiday recipes. I’m excited to share these mince pies with you soon.

In the meantime, I think we should eat and talk about delicious apples. They’re sharp, crisp, floral, sweet, and sometimes even savory. My farmer’s market has a wide range on offer. So does Linvilla Orchard a half hour away. But yesterday I took a ride to the Brandywine valley and found some apples that are a bit closer to British pippins at North Star Orchard. These Rubinette apples are similar to the classic variety Cox’s Orange Pippin. Eaten raw, these are dense and fragrant. It seemed like a shame to cook them so I saved a few to snack on throughout the week. Luckily, cooking only enhanced these natural qualities.

The Recipe

To make fine pippen Tarts
Take a pound of flour and half a pound of butter a
little sugar rul it in very small, wet it with Cold
water, and two Eggs, make it into a Paste, roul it as
thin as you can, and Couer your pattyes, then take
henlish pippens and pare them and cut them in
round slices, then lay a lay and two Spoonfulls of
fine Sugar beaten and some Orange peel Chop’d
Small and a lay of pippins and a lay of Sugar and
lid them as thin as you can, and take care in breaking
them, when they are bak’d, take them out of your
pattyes and open the lids, and put into every one
of them a spoonfull or two of Orange or Lemmon
Juice strain’d then put down the lids & take a feather &
some burnt butter lick over the lids, and sift some fine
Sugar our them, you must not Couer your pippens, as
you cut them put them into fair water

This recipe delights me in a few ways:  pippins, the use of fresh orange peel and juice, a feather pastry brush, and a very tasty pastry recipe. I’m also curious about the moniker “henlish pippens” to describe this apple variety. Anyone out there have any ideas?

Our Recipe

*Halved from the original, this recipe makes 12+ small tarts.

Pastry
1 3/4 C flour (1/2 lb)
1T sugar
3/4 t salt
1 stick butter (8T, 1/4 lb)
1 egg
4 T water

Filling
2 apples
1T sugar (1/4t per tart)
zest of half an orange

Garnishes

1 T butter
1 T orange juice (1/4 t per tart)
Powdered sugar.

Preheat the oven to 425 F.

Make the pastry. Put the flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Stir to combine. Chop the butter into small pieces. Work the butter into the flour mix until a fine meal forms. Add the egg. Add the water one tablespoon at a time. Using your hands and/or a spoon, work the mix until it holds its shape as a ball. It will still feel dry to the touch.

While the pastry rests in the fridge or at a cool room temperature, peel, core, and slice the apples into rounds.

Roll out the pastry. Using a pastry cutter or drinking glass, cut circles. I used a 2 5/8 in (68 mm) pastry cutter to make nice little tarts. Make sure you have an even number of circles so that you have bottoms and lids.

Grease your pan. Lay out the bottom pieces. I used my handy mince pie pan to make a batch of 12. You can easily make these pies on a baking sheet by shaping the top piece of pastry over a mound of seasoned apple. (You can also make more pies from this amount of pastry and filling. I had both leftover.)

Fill each pie with apple rings. Given the proportions of my mince pie pans, I ended up breaking my rings a bit. Season each tart with 1/4 t sugar and grated orange zest.

Place a lid on each pie. Push down the edges of the pastry to seal. Poke a few air-holes in the lid with with a fork.

Bake tarts for 15 minutes until golden brown. (Check them at 10 minutes and see how they’re faring.)

While the pies are baking, let 1 T butter sizzle to a golden brown in a small sauce pan.

When the pies are out of the oven and on a cooling rack, open the lids with a butter knife and pour 1/4 t orange juice into each pie. Replace the tops and brush with brown butter.

Sprinkle  with powdered sugar before serving.

The Results

Delicious pure-apple flavor beautifully enhanced with citrus. Although I love my classic apple pie with cinnamon, nutmeg, lemon juice, and a handful of cranberries (my mother’s genius addition), this recipe is a beautiful combination of flavors. I think the orange brought out the floral notes and acidic sharpness of the pippins.

I tried the tarts with and without the additional orange juice and prefer them without. (My spouse Joseph liked the orange juice flavored tarts better.) Feel free to add the juice or leave it out. On the other hand, the brown butter glaze added a fabulous, nutty note so don’t skip it.

The pastry was also delicious on its own. I’ll definitely be making it again when I come across recipes that simply request pastry, but don’t provide specifics. This one is delicious and as easy to make as my modern go-to.

Finally, this would make a lovely large pie instead of individual tarts. This would save you a lot of prep time and allow you to really layer the rings (which my pan did not allow).

Whether you can find pippins or not, whether you’ve picked too many apples at an orchard or are excited to see them in your supermarket, let us know if you try this perfect fall recipe.

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to make a florintine

I’ve missed baking. The relentless heatwaves this summer have really cramped my style. To use my sourdough starter, I’ve made almost weekly batches of these waffles because I can’t bear to turn on my oven and bake bread.

Today is marginally cooler and I decided to seize the opportunity “to make a florintine” from a recipe in MS Codex 252. 

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florintine

Alyssa and I have seen many recipes for “florentine” in manuscript cookbooks. This specific recipe is a sweet almond filling baked in a pastry crust.  There are, however, other “florentines” out there. The Oxford English Dictionary defines a florentine as “A kind of pie or tart; esp. meat baked in a dish with a cover of paste” and notes the range of spinach dishes called “florentine” from the mid-eighteenth century to the present day.  (The OED cites a Hannah Glasse recipe which looks like the 252 recipe with added spinach and cheese. )

The Recipe

florintine

to make a florintine

take halfe a pound of the beast Almonds blanch them and beat them as
smalle as the  can with rosse watter ore oring flower watter put in a quater of
a pound of fine sugar beating them well together then take 4 eggs leveing
out the whites, then take a pound of butter and let it be uery good
melt it and then mingle it all together in the butter and soe put
it in to puffe paist

Our Recipe

Our recipe is quartered from the specific proportions in the original and starts with ground almonds. I decided to use rosewater instead of orange blossom water, but feel free to use either.  The original recipe suggests both as options.

1/2 C ground almonds
1t rosewater (or orange blossom water)
1/4 C sugar
1 egg yolk
8 T unsalted butter (1 stick), melted
1 batch pastry (Use your favorite pie crust recipe here. I used Mark Bittman’s recipe from How to Cook Everything)

Preheat your oven to 350F. Butter a pie dish. Roll out your crust and put it in your prepared pie dish.

In a large bowl stir the ground almonds, rosewater, and sugar together. Add an egg yolk and stir with a whisk to combine. Add the melted butter and stir with a whisk to combine. Pour the almond mixture into your prepared crust. Trim or roll excess pastry to make the edges neat.

Bake for 30 minutes until the almonds and crust are golden. Let rest for 10 minutes before serving.

The Results

My British spouse Joseph looked at finished product and asked if I had made Bakewell tart. This was a great guess. The “florintine” from MS Codex 252 is similar to a Bakewell tart but it lacks that iconic layer of fruit compote underneath the almond filling.

This is a sweet, buttery, nutty tart. The rosewater is a mild note amidst the other deep flavors. With Bakewell tart on my mind, I spread some raspberry jam on my second piece and liked it even better.  Serve this with fresh or cooked fruit or preserves.

A tarte of green pease

This is the recipe book that started it all: At a meeting of the Penn Paleography Group almost five years ago we transcribed a few recipes from MS Codex 1601. In the process of deciphering the handwriting of this recipe, and others from the volume, I became very curious about what on Earth “a tarte of green pease” would taste like. While peas, especially fresh spring peas, have a delightful sweetness, I was intrigued by the mix of sweet and savory ingredients in this tart.

The Recipe

green pease

To make a tarte of green pease

Take green peas & seeth them tender
then poure them out into a cullender, season
them with safron, salt & sweet butter
& sugar, then close him then bake itt
almost an houre, then draw itt forth
& ice itt, putt in a litle wergice; & shake
itt well, then scrape on sugar & serve itt.

This recipe is made from fairly common ingredients, but it includes no measurements. We approximated all our ingredients to make one small tart. The most surprising ingredient in the list is “wergice,” which we think is an alternative spelling for “verjuice,” a bitter liquid made from young grapes that was also called for in our Could Possett recipe. Like before, we used lemon juice instead to add an acidic sourness to the recipe.

Our Recipe

2 c. peas
1 sheet puff pastry (homemade or store-bought and defrosted)
juice of 1/2 a lemon
2 T unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
2 t sugar, plus some to sprinkle on the top
1/4 t salt
pinch saffron

Cook the peas. If you’re using fresh peas, remove them from their pods, blanch them in boiling water for about a minute, and refresh under cold water immediately. If you’re using frozen peas, cook them according to the instructions on the package. We used frozen peas and they worked well.

Season the peas with the lemon juice, butter, sugar, salt, and saffron. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.

Roll out the puff pastry. We folded the pastry into a rustic galette. You can also line a tart pan and reserve strips or a second sheet to cover the peas.

Add the pea filling to the puff pastry and fold or cover. Sprinkle sugar on top of your tarte. (An egg or milk wash on the top would be a nice touch as well.)

Bake at 350 F for 30 min or until the pastry is golden brown. Slice and serve.

Results

Perhaps not surprisingly, the “tarte of green pease” was somewhere between a dessert and a main course. The peas were both sweet and vegetal, the seasonings bright and savory. While I confess that it was not my favorite dish we’ve prepared over the course of this project, the taste was certainly unique. The starchiness of the peas made me feel like the dish was lacking an essential element and I wanted  to include other ingredients in the pie itself or on the side.

Since there are no measurements in the original recipe, we think this is a great opportunity for experimentation. With a few alterations, we think this recipe could be transformed in either a sweet or savory direction. To make it into a true dessert we would add more sugar and serve this tart with a side of vanilla ice cream. To turn it into a savory side-dish we would cut out the sugar altogether and instead add caramelized onions or shallots to the mix. The savory version might accompany roast squash, spicy baked tofu, or a roast chicken.