Parbake & Prose is a project created by sibling bibliophile and chef team, Daniella Rossi and Eric Upper.
The concept is pretty simple: Parbake & Prose takes a look at great works of literature, from Greek epic poems to modern classics, and creates recipes based on the dishes in them. Daniella lives in London and is a committed bibliophile, having studied languages and literature at New York University and receiving a doctorate from the University of Cambridge. After graduation, she spent years working at one of the world’s oldest rare book specialists in London. So books are her thing. Eric lives in New York. He studied at the French Culinary Institute there, and has chefed at Michelin-star restaurants including Charlie Palmer’s Aureole and Joël Robuchon in Las Vegas. He is currently working on a restaurant startup in NYC. Eric creates the recipes.
The blog explores intriguing books with important food references that help to either progress the storyline, showcase character development or reveal history. Then it provides a step-by-step recipe and cooking guide so you can recreate each dish. Eric and Daniella spend hours conceiving and testing the recipes and balance staying as true as possible to the literary reference with the tastiness of the end product.
In Jane Austen’s day, weddings were often held first thing in the morning, after which the bridal couple and their guests returned home to celebrate with a wedding breakfast like that served to Anna Austen and Benjamin Lefroy in 1814: “The breakfast was such as best breakfasts then were. Some variety of bread, hot rolls, buttered toast, tongue, ham and eggs. The addition of chocolate at one end of the table and the wedding-cake in the middle marked the speciality of the day.”
Though rich fruit and nut cakes had been used for centuries, in 1786 Elizabeth Raffald was the first to publish a recipe for a cake specifically for weddings. The cake was served not only at the wedding breakfast, but also shared with the household servants and sent in pieces to friends and relatives who had not attended the ceremony. These wedding cakes were single tiered, double frosted confections, though by no means small. Queen Victoria’s 1840 wedding cake measured 9 feet around and weighed 300 pounds, although it was only 14 inches high.
This recipe makes an enormous cake. I have quartered the ingredients and it fit nicely into my 12 ½cm/ 5in deep, 25cm /10in springform pan.
To Make a Bride Cake
Take four pounds of fine flour well dried, four pounds of fresh butter, two pounds of loaf sugar, pound and sift fine a quarter of an ounce of mace the same of nutmegs, to every pound of flour put eight eggs, wash four pounds of currants, pick them well, and dry them before the fire. Blanch a pound of sweet almonds, and cut them lengthways very thin, a pound of citron, one pound of candied orange, the same of candied lemon, half a pint of brandy; first work the butter with your hand to cream, then beat in your sugar a quarter of an hour, beat the whites of your eggs to a very strong froth, mix them with your sugar and butter, beat your yolks half an hour at least, and mix them with your cake, then put in your flour, mace and nutmeg, keep beating it well till your oven is ready, put in your brandy, and beat your currants and almonds lightly in, tie three sheet s of paper round the bottom of your hoop to keep it from running out, rub it well with butter, put in your cake, and lay your sweetmeats in three lays, with cake betwixt every lay, after it is risen and coloured, cover it with paper before your oven is stopped up; it will take three hours baking. – Elizabeth Raffald, The Experienced English Housekeeper, 1794
454 g / 16 oz / 4 cups Flour
454 g / 16 oz / 2 cups Butter
454 g / 16 oz / 2 cups Sugar
1/2 tsp Mace
1/2 tsp Nutmeg
8 Eggs, divided
454 g / 1 lb / 3 cups Currants
142 g / 5 oz / 1 cup Slivered Almonds
113 g / 4 oz / ½ cup Citron
113 g / 4 oz / ½ cup Candied Lemon peel
113 g / 4 oz / ½ cup Candied Orange peel
120 ml / ½ Cup Brandy or 1 oz Brandy extract plus Apple Juice to equal a ½ cup.
Whip the whites of 8 eggs to stiff peaks and set aside. With an electric mixer, cream together the butter, sugar and egg yolks. Once they are combined, fold in the egg whites, brandy or juice and spices. Add the flour a little at a time until it is incorporated. Stir in the almonds and currants.
Preheat the oven to 149° C / 300° F. Generously grease a tall 25cm / 10in springform pan. Spoon ¼ of the batter into the pan and top with 1/3 of the citron, orange peel and lemon peel. Repeat twice more and top with remaining batter.
Bake for 2 ½ hours, top with Almond and Sugar Icings (See Below)
Icings for the Bride-Cake
To make Almond-Icing for the Bride Cake
Beat the whites of three eggs to a strong froth, beat a pound of Jordan almonds very fine with rose water, mix your almonds with the eggs lightly together, a pound of common loaf sugar beat fine, and put in by degrees; When your cake is enough, take it out, and lay your icing on, then put it in to brown. ER
3 Egg whites* or Meringue Powder equivalent
283 g / 10 oz / 2 cups blanched almonds, ground to powder.
1 tbsp Rose Water
454 g / 16 oz / 2 cups powdered sugar
In a food processor, combine the almonds, rose water and sugar and set this aside. Whip the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Slowly add the almond mixture to the egg whites until incorporated. Spread this on the top of your cake as soon as you take it from the oven, and then return the cake to the oven until the top is lightly browned. Cool the cake slightly on a rack. Once the cake is cool enough to touch, slide a knife around the inside edge of the pan to loosen the cake. Remove the edge of the pan and ice the cake with Sugar Icing.
To Make Sugar Icing for the Bride Cake
Beat two pounds of double refined sugar, with two ounces of fine starch, sift it through a gauze sieve, then beat the whites of five eggs with a knife upon a pewter dish half an hour; beat in your sugar a little a t a time, or it will make the eggs fall, and will not be so good a colour, when you have put in all your sugar, beat it half an hour longer, then lay it on your almond iceing, and spread it even with a knife; if it be put on as soon as the cake comes out of the oven it will be hard by the time the cake is cold. ER
907 g /
32 oz/ 4 cups Powdered Sugar
4 tbsp Corn Starch
5 Egg whites* or Meringue Powder equivalent
Sift together the starch and powdered sugar and set aside. Whip the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Slowly add in the sugar mixture, while the mixer continues to whip the egg whites. If you add the sugar too fast the whites will fall and you will end up with a glaze instead of icing. Continue to whip the icing for a few more minutes until it is the consistency of marshmallow cream. Ice the cake using a large, flat spatula, creating whorls and swirls in the pattern. Allow to stand at room temperature for several hours so that the icing hardens. Decorate with fresh flowers, if desired.
*The consumption of raw egg whites can lead to food poisoning. Use meringue powder as a safe alternative.
Excerpted from Cooking with Jane Austen and Friends, by Laura Boyle. Laura is fascinated by all aspects of Jane Austen’s life. She is the proprietor of Austenation: Regency Accessories, creating custom hats, bonnets, reticules and more for customers around the globe. Cooking with Jane Austen and Friendsis her first book. Her greatest joy is the time she is able to spend in her home with her family (1 amazing husband, 4 adorable children and a very strange dog.)
I still remember my piano lessons, which began at age three (and ended soon after!) The first song I learned was “Hot Cross Buns”. I recently taught it to my six year old son, when he became aware of these treats, which appeared (ironically) in stores as soon as Lent began.
Hot cross buns!
Hot cross buns!
One a penny, two a penny,
Hot cross buns!
If you have no daughters,
Give them to your sons.
One a penny two a penny,
Hot cross buns!
The commonly known (and now heard throughout my house) cry actually appeared in print no earlier than 1798, published in London in that year’s Christmas Box. An earlier version, however, appeared in 1733 in in Poor Robin’s Almanack, and ran as follows,
“Good Friday comes this month, the old woman runs
With one or two a penny hot cross buns.”
The price is stated quite clearly in this verse and remarkably, remained constant for over 200 years—a fact pointed out by Charles Dickens’s son in his 1889 edition of All the Year Round.
Buns marked with a cross on top had been known since the time of the ancient Greeks and the spiced, fruited buns now associated with the name, were once sold throughout England, where the cry of street hawkers could be heard all down the streets. They were, however, by Elizabeth’s newly puritan era considered “too popish” (i.e. Catholic) to be sold on any day except Good Friday (owing to the cross on the top), Christmas, and at burials. Anyone found violating this law forfeited their entire stock of buns for the nourishment of the poor.
On Good Friday, however, Christians who had been observing Lent by self-denial of dairy and egg products, found good reason to rejoice. Christ was raised from the dead and that was cause enough for celebration. The spices used in the buns were reminiscent of those brought by the women to the garden tomb. Somewhat surprising to me was the fact that early crosses in the buns were made of simple cuts, or pastry dough, rather than the frosting which now decorates bakery buns.
To those who had endured 40 days of fasting from such delights, the anticipation of Hot Cross Buns could not be put off past breakfast. In The Life Of Samuel Johnson (1791), which Jane Austen is known to have been familiar with, Boswell writes: “On the 9th of April , being Good Friday, I breakfasted with him on tea and cross-buns …” Later, he notes, “April 18 , (being Good-Friday) I found him at breakfast, in his usual manner upon that day, drinking tea without milk, and eating a cross bun to prevent faintness”.
To quote one slightly post Regency source,
This is the season at which all good Christians devour hot cross buns for breakfast, under the comfortable impression that a religious duty is being performed; and in this instance we are happy to find a spirit of faith and religion in the rising generation, for the little boys devour hot cross buns with a most sacred Gusto, which shows that if there is any virtue in the act, the youth of the present day are the very best performers of the religious duty. It is a most comfortable thing, when any kind of eatable commanded by religion happens to be Nice, and we must say even we feel a holy and comfortable glow come over us, when we feel that we Ought to substitute for the plain baker’s bread, the more savoury, and more sacred substance, called Hot Cross Buns.
‘Figaro In London’, Published 1836
Surprisingly, recipes for Hot Cross Buns are scarce before the 18th Century. The following one is from an 1825 source. A more modern, open source version can be found below it.
TO MAKE CROSS BUNS
Put two pounds and a half of fine flour into a wooden bowl, and set it before the fire to warm; then add half a pound of sifted sugar, some coriander seed, cinnamon and mace powdered fine; melt half a pound of butter in half a pint of milk; when it is as warm as it can bear the finger, mix with it three table spoonsful of very thick yeast, and a little salt; put it to the flour, mix it to a paste, and make the buns as directed in the above receipt … [for common buns … make it into buns, put them on a tin, set them before the fire for a quarter of an hour, cover over with flannel, then brush them with very warm milk, and bake them of a nice brown in a moderate oven] put a cross on the top, not very deep.
‘Five Thousand Receipts’, By Colin MacKenzie, Published 1825
1 cup (240 mL) milk
4 teaspoons (20 mL) water
1 cakes fresh yeast
3 cups (720 mL) all-purpose flour
1/3 cup (80 mL) sugar
1 teaspoon (5 mL) salt
1/4 teaspoon (1.25 mL) cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon (1.25 mL) nutmeg, grated
1 egg beaten
1/4 cup (60 mL) melted butter
1 cup (240 mL) currants
Heat milk and water to lukewarm.
Crumble yeast. Mix with 1/2 cup (120 mL) flour. Stir in tepid milk/water and mix well.
Cover and set aside in warm place until yeast is active and frothing, about 10 – 15 minutes.
Mix remaining flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg.
Stir egg and butter into the yeast mix, add the flour mixture and fruit. Mix well.
Put dough onto a floured surface and knead. Return to bowl, and let rise until double in bulk, about 1 hour.
Turn onto a floured surface and knead again.
Preheat oven to 375° F (190° C).
Divide dough into twelve pieces and shape into buns. Mark a deep cross on the top of each bun.
Arrange on a baking tray, cover with tea towel, and let rise for 30 minutes. Cook in preheated 375° F (190° C) oven for 15 minutes or until golden brown.
Laura Boyle is fascinated by all aspects of Jane Austen’s life. She is the proprietor of Austentation: Regency Accessories, creating custom hats, bonnets, reticules and more for customers around the globe. Cooking with Jane Austen and Friends is her first book. Her greatest joy is the time she is able to spend in her home with her family (1 amazing husband, 4 adorable children and a very strange dog.)
Boiled eggs have been a mealtime staple probably since boiling anything was invented. In fact, egg cups (you know what these are: those adorable little cups perfect for holding hard or soft boiled eggs) have been found during archaeological explorations of Crete dating to as early as the 18th century BC. An early silver version from 74 BC was even found in the ruins at Pompeii.
Soft boiled eggs were, by Jane Austen’s time, not only served at breakfast, as the broken egg shells on the table at Mansfield Park suggest, but also served throughout the day, as a healthy, plain food for children and invalids. In Emma, they are one of the few foods that even invalid Mr. Woodhouse can recommend with grace:
“Mrs Bates, let me propose your venturing on one of these eggs. An egg boiled very soft is not unwholesome. Serle understands boiling an egg better than any body. I would not recommend an egg boiled by any body else; but you need not be afraid, they are very small, you see — one of our small eggs will not hurt you.”
Soft boiled eggs in adorable cups, with, perhaps, little hats or “cosies” on top are a favorite childhood memory for many. Paired with hot, buttered toast “soldiers” (narrow strips of toast for dunking in the runny yolk) they can make the most important meal of the day a comfort food feast.
To make soft boiled eggs, bring 3 inches of water to a boil in a small sauce pan. Once the water is rolling, turn down the heat to a simmer and add your eggs, allowing them to cook for six minutes (you may wish to set a timer) Remove the eggs to an ice water bath (a bowl of ice water will do) to halt the cooking process while you make and butter your toast. It couldn’t be simpler.
Laura Boyle is fascinated by all aspects of Jane Austen’s life. She is the proprietor of Austenation: Regency Accessories, creating custom hats, bonnets, reticules and more for customers around the globe. Cooking with Jane Austen and Friends is her first book. Her greatest joy is the time she is able to spend in her home with her family (1 amazing husband, 4 adorable children and a very strange dog.)
Potatoes were grown at Steventon as early as 1773. In this, Mrs. Austen was decades ahead of her time, and the wonder of her neighbours who supposed them to be a dish fit only for gentry. Puddings had served as the main source of starch in English diets, but a wheat shortage in 1794 led the Board of Agriculture to advise all clergy “to encourage, as much as they can, the farmers and cottagers to plant potatoes this spring, in order that the kingdom may experience no scarcity…”
Though nearly seventy when the family moved to Chawton Cottage, Mrs. Austen “found plenty of occupation for herself, in gardening and needlework. The former was, with her, no idle pastime, no mere cutting of roses and tying up of flowers. She dug up her own potatoes, and I have no doubt she planted them, for the kitchen garden was as much her delight as the flower borders, and I have heard my mother say that when at work, she wore a green round frock like a day-labourer’s.” (Fanny Caroline Lefroy, great-granddaughter of Mrs. Austen)
There was, at the time, some difference of opinion about the preparation of potatoes, as voiced by Susannah Carter: “Some pare potatoes before they are put into the pot; others think it the best way, both for saving time and preventing waste, to peel off the skin as soon as they are boiled.” I chose the former manner for this roast potatoes recipe as an easier alternative to handling boiling hot potatoes.
To Dress Potatoes
You must boil them in as little water as you can, without burning the sauce-pan. Cover the sauce-pan close, and when the skin begins to crack, they are enough. Drain the water out, and let them stand covered for a minute or two; then peel them, lay them in your plate, and pour some melted butter over them. The best way to do them is, when they are peeled to lay them on a gridiron till they are of a fine brown, and send them to table. Hannah Glasse, The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy, 1747
900 g / 32 oz / 2 lbs All Purpose potatoes, peeled and cut in quarters
3 Tablespoons Melted Butter
1-2 teaspoons Flour (see recipe)
In a large sauce pan, place the potatoes in enough water to cover them and bring them to a boil. Allow them to boil furiously over a medium to high heat for 20 minutes or until they are fork tender.
Melted butter was perhaps the most common sauce to be served with any number of dishes. To make your own, melt 3 tablespoons of butter over a medium heat. Quickly whisk in 2-3 tsp of flour and remove the butter from the heat. Do not allow the mixture to boil or the sauce will separate, thus becoming “oiled”.
Preheat your oven to 218° C / 425° F. Drain the potatoes and place them on a foil lined baking sheet. Pour the melted butter over them and bake them until they are brown and crispy, about 10-15 minutes.
This roast potatoes recipe is an excerpt from Cooking with Jane Austen and Friends by Laura Boyle.