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transcriptions from printed sources (including Hannah Glasse’s  The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy (1747)) and unpublished recipes, all from British cuisine.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!

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.

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. 

img_5083

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.