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The Regency Wedding Breakfast

During the Regency, weddings were often held first thing in the morning with the bridal couple and their guests returning home to celebrate with a wedding breakfast, a precursor to the modern wedding reception, before departing to their new home, or perhaps on their honeymoon.

A noisy family breakfast...
A noisy family breakfast…

Jane Austen’s niece Caroline (daughter of James) gave a wonderful description of her sister Anna’s wedding to family friend Benjamin Lefroy on November 8, 1814:

“My sister’s wedding was certainly in the extreme of quietness… The season of the year, the unfrequented road to the church, the grey light within… no stove to give warmth, no flowers to give colour and brightness, no friends, high or low, to offer their good wishes, and so to claim some interest in the great event of the day – all these circumstances and deficiencies must, I think, have given a gloomy air to the wedding…Weddings were then usually very quiet. The old fashion of festivity and publicity had quite gone by, and was universally condemned as showing the bad taste of all former generations…. This was the order of the day. The bridegroom came from Ashe, where he had hitherto lived with his brother (the Rector), and with him came Mr. and Mrs. Lefroy, and his other brother, Mr. Edward Lefroy…. My brother came from Winchester that morning, but was to stay only a few hours. We in the house had a slight early breakfast upstairs, and between nine and ten the bride, my mother, Mrs. Lefroy, Anne, and myself were taken to church in our carriage. All the gentlemen walked.”

She continues: “Mr. Lefroy read the service, and my father gave his daughter away. No one was in the church but ourselves, and no one was asked to the breakfast, to which we sat down as soon as we got back…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...soon after the breakfast the bride and bridegroom departed. They had a long day’s journey before them to Hendon…. In the evening the servants had cake and wine.”

Edmund Blair Leighton, Signing the Register, 1920.
Edmund Blair Leighton, Signing the Register, 1920.

It should be noted, however, that Caroline was writing in later years. There is some disagreement in how early the term actually came to be applied to what was, in earlier times, thought of as a “wedding feast”. Although it is not specifically mentioned in Jane Austen’s novels, based on Caroline’s descriptions, I personally think it was an accepted term in her day. The first recorded mention of a wedding breakfast in print is in the London Times on January 15, 1838, when a book reviewer quotes from The Veteran, by John Harley, ‘C— and his bride returned to the coffee house, where they were received with great kindness the master and mistress who, notwithstanding the short notice, had a comfortable wedding-breakfast prepared for them’. The implication here is, of course, that by 1838, it was a recognized habit of weddings. In Party-giving on Every Scale (London, 1880) the term is given the respect of tradition,

The orthodox “Wedding Breakfast” might more properly be termed a “Wedding Luncheon,” as it assumes the character of that meal to a great extent; in any case it bears little relation to the breakfast of that day, although the title of breakfast is still applied to it, out of compliment to tradition. As recently as fifty years ago luncheon was not a recognized meal, even in the wealthiest families, and the marriage feast was modernized into the wedding breakfast, which appellation this entertainment still bears.

The important pieces, a gathering of family to celebrate the bridal couple, and cake, remain to this day. In addition to sharing this cake with members of the wedding party, families often sent pieces to friends as a gesture of good will and celebration. Jane mentions this sending about of cake in her letters to Cassandra. In the following note, Jane is referring to Catherine Bigg, sister to Harris Bigg-Wither, who was once an accepted suitor of Jane’s. Catherine, at 33, had just married Rev. Herbert Hill, aged nearly 60, a match Jane seems not to have favored (calling her “poor Catherine” in her letters). The mentioned Martha is, no doubt, Jane’s dear friend Martha Lloyd.

“Do you recollect whether the Manydown family sent about their wedding cake? Mrs. Dundas has set her heart upon having a piece from her friend Catherine, and Martha, who knows what importance she attaches to this sort of thing, is anxious for the sake of both that there should not be a disappointment.”
Jane Austen to Cassandra
October 13, 1808

Elizabeth Raffald's recipe and a modern interpretation can be found in Cooking with Jane Austen and Friends, by Laura Boyle.
Elizabeth Raffald’s recipe and a modern interpretation can be found in Cooking with Jane Austen and Friends, by Laura Boyle.

Early wedding cakes were similar to Christmas fruit cakes– heavy, dense with dried fruit, and able to be stored for months and even years to come.

The modern practice of saving the top tier of the wedding cake to be eaten on the couple’s first anniversary is taken from the historic practice of saving some cake to be served at the christening of the couple’s first child (an event which often followed in the first year of marriage). Elizabeth Raffald’s 1794 Experienced English Housekeeper was the first cookery book to publish a recipe for cakes specifically for weddings.

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.)

 

 

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Apricot Marmalade and Apricot “Cakes”

apricot marmalade

Apricot Marmalade – A Regency Recipe

The following recipe is shared, courtesy of Pen Vogler, from her recent book, Dinner with Mr. Darcy, via our online gift shop. Check out this amazing cookbook (with it’s mouthwatering photographs!) for many more Regency era recipes.

Apricot "Cakes"
Apricot “Cakes” from Pen Vogler’s Dinner with Mr. Darcy

 

recipe

 

Dinner with Mr. Darcy, from which this recipe for apricot marmalade is taken, is available in our online gift shop

Dinner with Mr. Darcy: Recipes Inspired by the Novels and Letters of Jane Austen, by Pen Vogler
Cico Books (2013)
Hardcover (160) pages
ISBN: 978-1782490562

Continue reading Apricot Marmalade and Apricot “Cakes”

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To Make Brown Onion Soup

 

…The soup was fifty times better than what we had at the Lucases’ last week; and even Mr. Darcy acknowledged, that the partridges were remarkably well done; …
Pride and Prejudice

Elizabeth Raffald, from the frontspiece of her 1789 edition of The Experienced English Housekeeper.

Onion soups have been popular at least as far back as Roman times. They were, throughout history, seen as food for poor people, as onions were plentiful and easy to grow.  The rich flavor of the base is not due just to the broth, but to the caramelized onions (typically, the pot is full of sliced onions, which will shrink down to less than half the volume on cooking). Caramelization, in this case, is the procedure in which the onions are cooked slowly until the melting sugars approach burning temperature, becoming brown. Some recipes suggest a half an hour of cooking time, but many chefs and cooks allow for hours of cooking to bring out the flavors of the onions’ sugars.

A penny bun or a penny loaf was a small bread bun or loaf which cost one old penny at the time when there were 240 pence to the pound. A penny loaf was a common size loaf of bread in England regulated by the Assize of Bread Act of 1266. The size of the loaf could vary depending on the prevailing cost of the flour used in the baking. The nursery rhyme London Bridge Is Falling Down has a version which includes the line “Build it up with penny loaves”.  John Earfield hypothesizes that a one penny loaf in Jane Austen’s day would have weighed about one pound.

The following recipe comes from Elizabeth Raffald’s cookery book, The Experienced English Housekeeper, which begins with a dedication to Lady Elizabeth Warburton after fifteen years of service as her housekeeper. One of the most popular cookbook writers of the eighteenth century,  she also owned and managed two taverns, a sweet shop, and cooking school. It is different from French Onion soup, which traditionally uses beef broth  and sherry or wine (in place of water) and finishes with toast and/or cheese under a broiler. French Onion soup, so the story goes, was created by Louis XIV, who returned to his hunting lodge, famished, only to find the cupboards bare apart from some stale bread, onions and champagne.

This recipe can be followed almost in it’s given form, and produces a lovely warming soup of caramelized onions. The key with this soup is found in the final line, “before you send it up beat the yolks of two eggs, with two spoonfuls of vinegar, and a little of the soup, pour it in by degrees, and keep stirring it all the time one way.” By mixing the egg yolks, vinegar and few spoonfuls of soup together on the side (called “tempering”) you allow the eggs to cook slowly in a  liquid form, before being poured into the soup. If you do not do this, the eggs will cook as soon as they are poured into the broth and providing a lumpy, poached egg soup, instead of a smooth thickened soup.

To Make Brown Onion Soup
Skin and cut round ways in slices six large Spanish Onions, fry them in butter till they are a nice brown, and very tender, then take them out and lay them on a hair sieve to drain out the butter, when drained put them in a pot with five quarts of boiling water, boil them one hour and stir them often, then add pepper and salt to your taste, rub the crumbs of a penny loaf through a cullender, put it to the soup, stir it well to keep it from being in lumps, and boil it two hours more; ten minutes before you send it up beat the yolks of two eggs, with two spoonfuls of vinegar, and a little of the soup, pour it in by degrees, and keep stirring it all the time one way, put in a few cloves if you choose it.
– N.B. It is a fine soup, and will keep three or four days.
Elizabeth Raffald, The Experienced English Housekeeper, 1769

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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. Historical information about Onion Soup and Penny Loaves and onion image from Wikipedia.com.

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Crawford’s Crumpets for Tea

 

We drank tea again yesterday with the Tilsons, and met the Smiths. I find all these little parties very pleasant.
-Jane Austen to Cassandra
April 18, 1811

If you are traveling to the Jane Austen Festival in Bath this year, you simply must stop by the Jane Austen Centre’s Award Winning Tea Room to sample their amazing selection of Regency delights. Just reading over the menu will have your mouth watering, but what selection will you choose? Will it be Tea with Mr. Darcy or the Austen’s? Perhaps you prefer Lady Catherine’s Proper Tea. Whatever you desire, be it sweet or savoury, you are sure to find it delicious and satisfying!

King Arthur Flour’s Crumpets with Apricot Jam

One delightfully English offering is “Crawford’s Crumpets” (served with butter, honey and your choice of tea) According to An A to Z of Food & Drink (2002) by John Ayto, “The origins of the crumpet are mysterious. As early as 1382, Johy Wycliffe, in his translation of the Bible, mentioned crompid cake, whose name may be the precursor of the modern term, but the actual ‘cake’ itself does not bear much resemblance to the present-day crumpet. It seems to have been a thin cake cooked on a hot griddle, so that the edges curled up (crompid goes back to Old English crump, crumb, ‘crooked’, and is related to the modern English crumple). The inspiration behind its naming thus seems to be very familiar to that of crepe, which literally means ‘curled’. Earliest recipes for crumpets, from the late seventeenth century, continue this theme, standardly using buckwheat flour, and it is not until nearly a hundred years later that crumpets as we know then today beging to emerge…During the 19th century the crumpet–toasted before the fire, its honeycomb of cavities filled with melting butter–established itself as an indispensible part of the English teatime scene.”

Alan Davidson (Oxford Companion to Food, 1999) adds, “The earliest published recipe for crumpets of the kind known now is from Elizabeth Raffald (1769).” Here for your enjoyment, is Elizabeth Raffald’s classic recipe– one which very well might have been served in the Austen home!

To make tea crumpets Beat two eggs very well, put them to a quart of warm milk and water, and a large spoonful of barm: beat in as much fine flour as will make them rather thicker than a common batter pudding, then make your bakestone very hot, and rub it with a little butter wrapped in a clean linen cloth, then pour a large spoonful of batter upon your stone, and let it run to the size of a tea-saucer; turn it, and when you want to use them roast them very crisp, and butter them.
The Experienced English Housekeeper, Elizabeth Raffald, 1769

If you are looking for a more modern take on this classic Tea Time staple, search no further than King Arthur Flour’s, Butter’s Best Friend: Crumpets.