Posted on

Mrs. Weston’s Wedding Cake

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. A period depiction of Queen Victoria’s wedding cake. 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 (more…)
Posted on

Banbury cakes

Many food items are named according to their birthplace, such as Bath Buns or Yorkshire Pudding. Banbury was a market town which also gave it’s name to the phrase, “A Banbury story of a cock and a bull”. Made famous in Regency circles by Georgette Heyer, it dates to at least the 1600’s and is mentioned in the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue by Francis Gros. Its most common meaning is “A far-fetched and fanciful story or tale of highly dubious validity“. It is also sometimes shortened to “a Banbury tale” or simply “a Banbury” and most often “a cock and bull story”. A Banbury cake is a spiced, currant-filled, flat pastry cake similar to an Eccles cake, although it is more oval in shape. Once made and sold exclusively in Banbury, England, Banbury cakes have been made in the region to secret recipes since 1586 or earlier and are still made there today, although not in such quantity. The cakes were once sent as far afield as Australia, India and America. Banbury cakes were first made by Edward Welchman, whose shop was on Parsons Street. Documented recipes were published by Gervase Markham and others during the 17th century. These recipes generally differ largely to the modern idea of a Banbury cake, in terms of their size, the nature of the pastry, and how the cake is made. In the late 19th century, the notorious refreshment rooms at Swindon railway station sold “Banbury cakes and pork pies (obviously stale)”. (more…)
Posted on

A Recipe for Apricot Ice Cream

A Recipe for Apricot Ice Cream Ice Cream, as we know it, was a relatively new invention in Jane Austen’s day. Enjoyed in Italy and France in the 17th c, the first recorded English recipe was published in 1718. Recipes featuring fruit which was not available until early summer were, no doubt, a treat reserved for the wealthy, who could afford to buy their ice and keep it cool in ice houses, until wanted. If you did not have access to ice in the summer, you could always visit the local Pastry Cook for a variety of sweets, including apricot ice cream. Molland’s, in Bath, was one such establishment. In Jane Austen’s, The Beautiful Cassandra, her heroine “…then proceeded to a Pastry-cook’s, where she devoured six ices, refused to pay for them, knocked down the Pastry Cook & walked away.” Slapstick comedy does seem to have been the name of the game in Austen’s early work. Mr. Punch would be proud. The following recipe for Apricot Ice Cream is taken from Cooking with Jane Austen and Friends, and is based on one first printed by Hannah Glasse in her book, Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy, 1755. To Make Ice-Cream Pare and stone twelve ripe apricots, and scald them, beat them fine in a mortar, add to them six ounces of double refined sugar, and a pint of scalding cream, and work it through a sieve; put it in a tin with a close cover, and set it in (more…)
Posted on

Blanc-Manger: A dainty dish, fit for Kings

Blancmange , from French blanc-manger, is a sweet dessert commonly made with milk or cream and sugar thickened with gelatin, cornstarch or Irish moss (a source of carrageenan), and often flavored with almonds. It is usually set in a mould and served cold. Although traditionally white, blancmanges are frequently given alternative colours. Some similar desserts are Bavarian cream, vanilla pudding (in US usage), panna cotta, the Turkish muhallebi, and haupia. Image from freeimages.com, Photo by Nathalie Dulex. The historical blancmange originated some time in the Middle Ages and usually consisted of capon or chicken, milk or almond milk, rice and sugar and was considered to be an ideal food for the sick. Tavuk göğsü is a sweet contemporary Turkish pudding made with shredded chicken, similar to the medieval European dish. The true origin of the blancmange is obscure, but it is believed by some that it was a result of the Arab introduction of rice and almonds in early medieval Europe. However, there is no evidence of the existence of any similar Arab dishes from that period; though the Arabic mahallabīyah is similar, its origins are uncertain. Several other names for related or similar dishes existed in Europe, such as the 13th-century Danish hwit moos (“white mush”), and the Anglo-Norman blanc desirree (“white Syrian dish”); Dutch calijs (from Latin colare, “to strain”) was known in English as cullis and in French as coulis, and was based on cooked and then strained poultry. The oldest recipe found so far is from (more…)
Posted on

Mrs. Bates’ Baked Apples

The bake house at Chawton cottage shows the types of ovens used by the Austen family. The bake house was quite often a detached building as an added measure of safety against fire and to preserve the house from the heat of year round baking.

Inside the bakehouse at Jane Austen's Chawton home.
Inside the bakehouse at Jane Austen’s Chawton home.

“There is nothing she likes so well as these baked apples, and they are extremely wholesome, for I took the opportunity the other day of asking Mr Perry…” Miss Bates rattles on to Emma about Jane Fairfax’s enjoyment the apples sent by Mr. Knightley. As the Bates’ had no bake house, they were obliged to rely on Mrs. Wallis to bake their apples, though in reality, they are a simple dish to prepare. You may wish to pair this dish with sweetened whipped cream or vanilla ice cream and cookies.

baked apples copy

 

To Bake Apples Whole
Put your apples into an earthen pan, with a few cloves, a little lemon-peel, some coarse sugar, a glass of red wine: put them into a quick oven, and they will take an hour baking.
Hannah Glasse, The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy, 1747

  • 4 Medium sized Apples
  • 12 Cloves
  • 1 ½ tsp Lemon Peel
  • 57 g / 2 oz / ¼ cup Brown Sugar
  • 240 ml / 8 fl oz/ 1cup Red Wine or Apple Juice, divided

Preheat your oven to 177° C / 350° F.
Continue reading Mrs. Bates’ Baked Apples

Posted on

Shrewsbury Cakes

Maria rundellMaria Eliza Ketelby Rundell is famed for her New System of Domestic Cookery. As the forward to her work claims, her purported goal was to offer assistance to the middle class housekeeper and wife, as many of Jane Austen’s heroines would wind up being:

“As the following directions were intended for the conduct of the families of the authoress’s own daughters, and for the arrangement of their table, so as to unite a good figure with proper economy, she has avoided all excessive luxury, such as essence of ham, and that wasteful expenditure of large quantities of meat for gravy, which so greatly contributes to keep up the price, and is no less injurious to those who eat than to those whose penury obliges them to abstain. Many receipts are given for things, which being in daily toe, the mode of preparing them may be supposed too well known to require a place in a cookery-book; yet how rarefy .do we meet with fine melted butter, good toast and water, or well-made coffee! She makes no apology for minuteness in some articles, or for leaving others unnoticed, because she does not write for professed cooks. This little work would have been a treasure to herself when she first set out in life, and she therefore hopes it may prove useful to others. In that expectation it is given to the Public; and as she will receive from it no emolument, so she trusts it will escape without censure.”

A Shrewsbury cake or Shrewsbury biscuit is a classic English dessert, named for Shrewsbury, the county town of Shropshire. They are made from dough that contains sugar, flour, egg, butter, and lemon zest. Shrewsbury cakes can be small in size for serving several at a time, or large for serving as a dessert in themselves.

The playwright William Congreve mentioned Shrewsbury cakes in his play The Way of the World in 1700 as a simile  (Witwoud – “Why, brother Wilfull of Salop, you may be as short as a Shrewsbury cake, if you please. But I tell you ’tis not modish to know relations in town”). The recipe is also included in several early cookbooks including The Compleat Cook of 1658. First Lady Louisa Catherine Adams brought this recipe to The White House, when her husband, John Quincy Adams, son of American President, John Adams, became President of the United States in 1825.

Continue reading Shrewsbury Cakes

Posted on

Visions of Sugar Plums

1907 Cover of A Visit from Saint Nicholas.With Clement C. Moore’s 1823 poem, A Visit from Saint Nicholas, we all now associate “Sugar Plums” with Christmas. In this early American depiction of Christmas Eve, we find the trappings of modern Christmas, from stockings to Jolly old Saint Nick, himself, round, red and fur trimmed, slipping up the chimney after leaving piles of presents for the children, “asleep in their beds, while visions of Sugar Plums dance in their heads.”

So what did a Regency Sugar Plum look like? The 1914  OED describes it thus,  “Sugar-plum – A small round or oval sweetmeat, made of boiled sugar and variously flavoured and coloured; a comfit”.

“Plum” in the name of this confection does not mean plum in the sense of the fruit of the same name. At one time, “plum” was used to denote any dried fruit.  Modern “Sugar plums” may be made from any combination of dried plums (aka prunes), dried figs, dried apricots, dried dates, and dried cherries, but traditional sugar plums contain none of these.

The word came in general usage in 1600s, when adding layers of sweet which give sugar plums and comfits their hard shell was done through a slow and labour intensive process called panning. Until the mechanization of the process, it often took several days, thus the sugar plum was largely a luxury product. In fact in the 18th century the word plum became a British slang for a big pile of money or a bribe.

 

A confectioner creating 'sugar plums' .
A confectioner creating ‘sugar plums’ .

Georgian Sugar Plums, then, looked much more like today’s Jordan Almonds, than anything else. Theodore Garrett, author of The Encyclopaedia of Practical Cookery (1890) notes that “These are described under CARAWAY COMFITS, a more elaborate variety of them being known as DRAGÉES OR FRENCH SUGAR PLUMS…small strips of cinnamon [can also be] made to start off French Sugar Plums.

“Hero’s recruiting at Kelsey’s; – or – Guard-Day at St. James’s” by James Gillray (1797). Notice his cone of sugarplums.
“Hero’s recruiting at Kelsey’s; – or – Guard-Day at St. James’s” by James Gillray (1797). Notice the cone of sugarplums.

William Alexis Jarrin, author of The Italian Confectioner; Or, Complete Economy of Desserts, According to the Most Modern and Approved Practice, 1829, details the process, thus:

Continue reading Visions of Sugar Plums

Posted on

A Recipe for Lemon Cream

lemon creamA Recipe for Lemon Cream The origin of the lemon is a mystery, though it is thought that lemons first grew in Southern India, northern Burma, and China. A study of the genetic origin of the lemon reported that it is a hybrid between sour orange and citron. The first substantial cultivation of lemons in Europe began in Genoa in the middle of the 15th century. The lemon was later introduced to the Americas in 1493 when Christopher Columbus brought lemon seeds to Hispaniola on his voyages. Spanish conquest throughout the New World helped spread lemon seeds. It was mainly used as an ornamental plant and for medicine. In 1747, James Lind’s experiments on seamen suffering from scurvy involved adding lemon juice to their diets, though vitamin C was not yet known. By Jane Austen’s lifetime, lemons were not an uncommon household item and many recipes in both commercially published cookery books and private collections, such as Martha Lloyd’s Household book, call for the fruit. The following recipe for lemon cream is fairly easy to replicate and offers a light and refreshing custard like dessert. Lemon Cream Take a pint of thick cream, and put it to the yolks of two eggs well beaten, four ounces of fine sugar and the thin rind of a lemon; boil it up, then stir it till almost cold: put the juice of a lemon in a dish or bowl, and pour the cream upon it, stirring it till quite cold. Maria Eliza Ketelby (more…)