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The Perfect Jane Austen Teacup Cupcakes!

Our new re-usable Jane Austen Teacup Cupcake Cases have proved a huge hit, and a number of you have asked us if we had any cup cake recipes that would be perfect for use with the little cups… … and indeed we do!   Ingredients: 50g caster sugar 50g butter/margarine  50g self-raising flour 1 egg A few drops of vanilla essence   Preheat the oven to 190 degrees. Cream together the sugar and the butter until smooth. Beat the egg and then add it to the sugar/butter mixture a little at a time. Stir in the sifted flour and vanilla essence. Grease the teacup insides and place onto a baking tray. Divide the mixture evenly between the four teacups. Bake for between 15-20 minutes or until the cakes look golden brown. Wait until cool and then decorate!   For coffee cake:  Add 5ml (one teaspoon) of instant coffee, dissolved in hot water, to the cake mixture along with the flour and instead of the vanilla essence.   We’d love to see how you get on! Feel free to email photographs of your creations to us at austensocialmedia@gmail.com, or message us on Facebook or Twitter!   Save Save Save Save Save (more…)
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Hot Cross Buns

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 at Fortnum & Mason, Piccadilly, April 2010, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. 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.” A vintage illustration of a Hot Cross Bun seller. 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 (more…)
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Serle’s Soft Boiled Eggs

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. This silver egg service for 6 dates to 1820 and was recently sold (more…)
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Steventon Roast Potatoes Recipe

roast potatoes recipePotatoes 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…” A silhouette of Mrs. Austen. 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 (more…)
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The 17th Century Origins of the Candy Cane

For some people, Christmas is all about the foods, for others, a single piece of candy cane or the scent of pine can bring them back to their childhood holidays. It is no stretch to suggest that the Candy Cane is one of the most Christmasized of all candies– probably because it was created for the season and is fraught with meaning for those who choose to look for it. According to legend, they have a German history, but given the German origins of the British monarchy during Jane Austen’s life, it’s not a stretch to think that the treat might have been brought over to England, along with the Christmas tree and other, older traditions, like the Yule Log. Did Jane enjoy stick candy or candy canes? We may never know.   “According to folklore, in 1670, in Cologne, Germany, the choirmaster at Cologne Cathedral, wishing to remedy the noise caused by children in his church during the Living Crèche tradition of Christmas Eve, asked a local candy maker for some sweet sticks for them. In order to justify the practice of giving candy to children during worship services, he asked the candy maker to add a crook to the top of each stick, which would help children remember the shepherds who paid visit to infant Jesus. In addition, he used the white colour of the converted sticks to teach children about the Christian belief in the sinless life of Jesus. From Germany, the candy canes spread to other (more…)
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Preserved Ginger

When Jane Austen wrote to her sister Cassandra of the holiday visits they enjoyed (endured?) in 1808, she included a delightful word picture of one of their guests. As the letter is dated Tuesday, December 27, we can assume that Christmas was the previous Sunday and the visit occurred on December 22. It gives a glimpse into the Austen’s dining and entertaining menu while they lived in the Castle Square neighborhood of Southampton, before moving to Chawton Cottage in Hampshire, the following July.

Our evening party on Thursday produced nothing more remarkable than Miss Murden’s coming too, though she had declined it absolutely in the morning, and sitting very ungracious and very silent with us from seven o’clock till half after eleven, for so late was it, owing to the chairmen, before we got rid of them.

The last hour, spent in yawning and shivering in a wide circle round the fire, was dull enough, but the tray had admirable success. The widgeon and the preserved ginger were as delicious as one could wish. But as to our black butter, do not decoy anybody to Southampton by such a lure, for it is all gone. The first pot was opened when Frank and Mary were here, and proved not at all what it ought to be; it was neither solid nor entirely sweet, and on seeing it Eliza remembered that Miss Austen had said she did not think it had been boiled enough. It was made, you know, when we were absent. Such being the event of the first pot, I would not save the second, and we therefore ate it in unpretending privacy; and though not what it ought to be, part of it was very good.
Jane Austen to Cassandra
Castle Square, December 27, 1808

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Sally Lunn Buns or Solilemmes

A Sally Lunn is a large bun or teacake made with a yeast dough including cream, eggs, and spice, similar to the sweet brioche breads of France. Served warm and sliced, with butter, it was first recorded in 1780 in the spa town of Bath in southwest England, though it is not the same as Dr. Oliver’s Bath Bun. A selection of Sally Lunn buns on display. The origins of the Sally Lunn are shrouded in myth – one theory is that it is an anglicisation of “Sol et lune” (French for “sun and moon”), representing the golden crust and white base/interior. The Sally Lunn Eating House claims that the recipe was brought to Bath in the 1680s by a Huguenot refugee called Solange Luyon, who became known as Sally Lunn, but there is no evidence to support this theory. There is a passing mention of “Sally Lunn and saffron cake” in a 1776 poem about Dublin by the Irish poet William Preston. The first recorded mention of the bun in Somerset is as part of a detox regime in Philip Thicknesse’ 1780 guidebook to taking the waters at Bath. Thicknesse describes how he would daily see visitors drinking 2-3 pints of Bath water and then “sit down to a meal of Sally Lunns or hot spungy rolls, made high by burnt butter!”. He recommends against the practice as his brother died after this kind of breakfast- “Such a meal, few young men in full health can get over without feeling (more…)
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A Tansey for Lent

As a plant, Tansy has a distinguished history of medical use dating back to ancient Greece. Used in the 8th century by Swiss Benedictine Monks to treat everything from fevers, digestive issues, worms and rheumatism, it is still listed in the United States Pharmacopeia as an acceptable treatment for fevers and jaundice. According to some sources, “In the 15th century, Christians began serving tansy with Lenten meals to commemorate the bitter herbs eaten by the Israelites. Tansy was thought to have the added Lenten benefits of controlling flatulence brought on by days of eating fish and pulses and of preventing the intestinal worms believed to be caused by eating fish during Lent.”* Lent is, of course, the period of fasting (either wholesale or from certain foods and activities) observed by many branches of Christianity during the forty days prior to Easter, allowing the participant an opportunity to focus more deeply on pious thoughts and deeds. As the daughter of an Anglican clergyman, Jane Austen would have participated in this ritual in some way. In her book, Food and Cooking in Victorian England: A History, Andrea Broomfield reiterates this line of thinking and relates how “tansy cake”, which was more commonly called simply “a tansy” served health and medicinal purposes, with deep ties to England’s Catholic heritage. She writes, “Tansy was a bitter herb whose stalks were juiced and then mixed…with a pint or less of the juice of green wheat, spinach or anything else that is green and not strong (more…)