Apple Tart (with raisins)

79 Ain dorten von epfflen
Schelt die epffel saúber vnnd thiet die bútzen heraús, hackts klain vnd rests jm schmaltz, thiet weinberlach, zúcker vnnd rerlach daran vnnd lasts bachen.
Das Kuchbuch der Sabina Welserin’

79 An apple tart
Peel the apples cleanly and take out the cores, chop them small and fry them in fat, put raisins, sugar and cinnamon therein and let it bake.

The text of the original recipe can be found here.

The translation is by Valoise Armstrong, and can be found here.

This is one of a number of recipes in Sabina Welserin’s cookbook for an apple tart; presumably they were a staple fruit of the area. This particular recipe is remarkably similar to some modern apple pie or tart recipes. Do a Google search for “Apple Pie raisin” and you’ll find recipes that differ from Sabina’s only in the detail. And there is a reason why this recipe has been around for at least 500 years, because it is delicious. This would be a good recipe to serve to people who are unfamiliar with medieval food, due to its comforting familiarity.

Although Sabina doesn’t specify including a lid to the tart (making it a pie) there are other tart recipes, such as 186 (a herb tart) and 188 (a prune tart) where the maker is instructed to make a cover for the tart. We did make the tart into a pie, as this are more familiar to our eaters (and I happened to have some thawed puff pastry available).

Ingredients

1 quantity shortcrust pastry 100g sugar
250g cooking apples 50g raisins
50g butter 1/2 tsp cinnamon

Method

  1. Roll out the pastry to approx. 4mm thickness and line a greased pie plate with it.
  2. Peel, core and grate the apples.
  3. Melt the butter in a pan, then add the grated apple. Fry the apple until it is warmed through.
  4. Add the sugar, raisins and cinnamon to the apple, and stir through.
  5. Pour the apple mixture into the tart shell, and smooth off.
  6. If you want to make a pie, roll out a pastry lid and place on top of the pie. Trim the edges and press the lid into the tart rim. Cut a small incision into the lid of the pie.
  7. Bake the tart or pie in a 180°C oven for around 30 minutes for a tart, or 45 minutes for a pie, until the pastry is golden.
  8. Serve hot or cold.
  9. Apple and raisin pie

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Tarte of Strawberries (Strawberry Tart)

To make a tarte of Strawberries.
Wash your strawberries, and put them into your Tarte, and season them with suger, cynamon and Ginger, and put in a little red wine into them.
Thomas Dawson, The Good Huswife’s Jewell, 1596.

To make a Tart of Strawberries.
Wash your strawberries, and put them into your tart, and season them with sugar, cinnamon and ginger, and put in a little red wine into them.

THE GERMAN RECIPE
89 Ain erbertorten zú machen
Mach das bedellin vnnd laß erstarcken jn der tortenpfanen/darnach nim die erber vnnd legs daraúf vmber aúfs allernechst zúsamen, darnach zúckeres woll aúfs allerbast, laß darnach ain klain weil bachen, geúß ain malúasier daraúf vmber vnnd laß ain weil bachen, so jst er gemacht.
Das Kuchbuch der Sabrina Welserin, c1553.

89 To make a strawberry tart
Make a pastry shell and let it become firm in the tart pan. Afterwards take strawberries and lay them around on top as close together as possible, after that sweeten them especially well. Next let it bake a short while, pour Malavosia over it and let it bake a while, then it is ready.

The text of the original German recipe can be found here.

The translation of the German recipe is by Valoise Armstrong, and can be found here.

I tried cooking the Dawson recipe several times. The first time, I pureed the strawberries, sugar, wine and spices (despite there being no instructions to do so). And I used far too much wine, so the puree was extremely wet. This caused the pastry shell to completely collapse because it was far too wet. The next two times I used less wine each time, but the tart still collapsed when the pastry got soggy.

And then I found Sabrina Welserin’s recipe. I found it interesting that she specified to bake the strawberries and sugar for a time, then add the wine and continue baking. And trying this, it worked. Even though the pastry still absorbed some liquid from the strawberries and sugar, adding the wine after they had baked a while ensured the strawberries absorbed the wine, not the pastry.

I would recommend eating the strawberries from the pastry shell with a spoon, then eating the pastry separately. It’s still very tasty.

Ingredients

1 quantity shortcrust pastry 50g sugar Optional: 1/2 tsp cinnamon
300g strawberries 30mL madeira wine (see notes) Optional: 1 tsp ginger

Method

  1. Roll out the pastry to approx. 4mm thickness and line a greased pie plate with it.
  2. Prick the bottom of the tart shell. Line the tart shell with baking paper and fill with weights. Blind bake the tart shell for approx. 12 minutes in a 200°C oven. Remove the paper and weights when finished.
  3. Return the tart shell to the oven and bake for a further 8 minutes, to firm the base. If necessary, line the rim of the pie with foil to stop it browning too much.
  4. Wash the strawberries and remove the stalks. Cut any large strawberries into smaller pieces.
  5. Arrange the strawberries in the pastry shell, and sprinkle with sugar and spices, if using.
  6. Bake the tart in a 160°C oven for around 10 minutes, until the strawberries have softened.
  7. Drizzle the wine over the strawberries, and return to the oven for a further 5 minutes.
  8. Leave the tart to cool, and serve cold. You will probably want to spoon the strawberries out of the tart, and eat the pastry separately.

Notes

  • Modern strawberries are typically hybrids of the indigenous European variety, Fragaria vesca. These would have been used in the medieval and early modern period. They are extremely sweet, but tiny. If you want to use them, you will probably have to grow them yourself. You will need more than one plant to provide the fruit to make a single tart. The plants and seeds are frequently sold was “wild strawberries” or “alpine strawberries.” You may also be able to forage them in Britain and Europe.
  • Malavosia is a sweet, fortified wine, originally from the Greek island of the same name. A similar wine is produced on the island of Madeira, which is why I have substituted it.

Strawberry Tart
The tart is garnished with dianthus flowers, also known in Elizabethan England as gillyflowers. They are edible (rather tasteless, but they are pretty!).

Further Reading

Click on the links below to buy direct from The Book Depository.
Black, Maggie (1996). The Good Housewife’s Jewel
Brears, Peter (2011) All the King’s Cooks

Hulwa a’Jamiyya (Honey and Poppyseed treats)

Hulwa a’Jamiyya: Take half a pound [ratl] of flour and fry it in four ounces of sesame oil. Take a pound [ratl] of honey and put it on the fire, and if the honey is strong, add water. When it boils, throw it hot on the toasted [flour] and stir it and beat it white. [Take] poppy seeds and pistachios for it and throw them on it. Let the honey be covered with a dirham of saffron. Stir it and put it up covered. Kitab Wasf al-Atima al-Mutada Chapter X (The Description of Familiar Foods, trans. Charles Perry). Features in Medieval Arab Cookery, ed. Maxime Rodinson.

When people think of halwa (also halva, halvas or hulva) today, they think of the yummy, slightly gritty sesame-based sweet with nuts. But this is only one type of halwa – halwa literally translates as “sweet,” and refers to a dense sweet based either on flour and honey or sugar syrup, or nut butters/pastes and syrup.

One of the great problems I’ve found with redacting historical recipes is the translation of measurements. For instance, a common measurement in these recipes is the ratl, which often gets translated to “pound.” However, a ratl is NOT the same as an imperial pound, which caused bad results until I found metric equivalents. Furthermore, the same term had different meanings at different times and places, and ratl is certainly indicative of this! If you are interested in checking weights and measures, this site is a great place to start. For reference’s sake, in this recipe I have used the C12 Egyptian measurements. This is why I stick to metric measurements when I write recipes. It’s less painful.

Ingredients

225 g flour 4 tbs poppy seeds
120 mL virgin sesame oil (see Notes) ½ cup pistachios
450g honey Generous pinch of saffron

Method

  1. Put the pistachios in a bowl of boiling water for about 20 minutes, then rub off the skins. Allow to dry.
  2. In a big, heavy based pan, heat the sesame oil over a low heat and then add the flour. Stir well so the flour is completely coated with the oil.  Keep stirring for around 10 minutes, until the flour has gone golden and smells toasted.  Be careful the flour doesn’t catch and burn.
  3. In another saucepan, heat the honey to the soft ball stage (112° – 116° C). Then remove it from the heat and skim off any scum.
  4. Steep the saffron threads in boiling water, then stir into the honey.
  5. Pour the honey into the toasted semolina, and fold in gently until well mixed and the mixture is pale.
  6. Add the poppy seeds and pistachios.
  7. Pour the mix into an oiled cake tin, and cover with cling film.
  8. Leave in the fridge for at least a day to allow the mix to set properly.
  9. When set, slice the mix with a knife dipped in warm water.

Notes

  • When you are dealing with sugar syrup in candy making, you’re transforming sugar from a solid to a liquid, and then back into a solid again, but in a more cohesive form.  You combine the sugar with water to dissolve it; but when sugar heats up, it keeps right on getting hotter (unlike water which reaches 100°C and doesn’t get hotter).  As the sugar transforms from solid to liquid, you are evaporating water out of the sugar syrup, and the amount of water evaporated will affect the final texture.  More liquid evaporated will result in a harder candy.
    As the sugar syrup reaches various temperature stages, it will start to behave in different ways, as described below:

    Temperature Description (Cold water method of testing) Stage name
    110° – 112° C The syrup drips from a spoon, forms thin threads in cold water Thread
    112° – 116° C The syrup easily forms a ball in cold water, but flattens once removed Soft Ball
    118° – 121° C The syrup is formed into a stable ball in cold water, but loses its round shape once pressed Medium Ball
    121° – 130° C The syrup holds its ball shape in cold water, but remains sticky Hard Ball
    132° – 143° C The syrup will form firm but pliable threads Soft Crack
    149° – 154° C The syrup will crack if you try to mold it Hard Crack
    160° – 176° C The sugar syrup will turn golden at this stage Caramel

    Prior to the invention of candy thermometers, candy making relied on spooning some of the syrup into cold water and watching how it behaved.  It’s known as the “cold water method” of checking the temperature, but the candy thermometer is much more precise.

    You can also treat honey as sugar syrup, but the results will have the distinctive honey flavour, and it needs to be watched more closely to ensure it doesn’t burn.  However, honey is less likely to crystallise badly when working with it. (LeBau, 2012, 21).

  • When working with sugar syrup, as I said, it can get a lot hotter than boiling water. And it’s sticky. SYRUP BURNS HURT. So be very careful when working with sugar syrup that you don’t splash yourself with it. The same goes for hot honey.
  • Because making candy from sugar syrup relies on evaporating the water from the sugar, it’s best to make candy on a cool, low-humidity day. Trying to make candy on a day of near 100% humidity, unless you are in an air-conditioned kitchen, is pretty darned impossible.
  • You don’t want to heat sugar syrup too rapidly; otherwise it can burn easily, or start to re-crystallise too quickly, and become grainy. Dissolve your sugar over a low heat, and once the sugar has completely dissolved, stop stirring. While the sugar syrup is cooking, regularly brush the sides of the pan with a soft, natural bristled brush. This will brush any syrup that has splashed onto the side of the pan back into the pan, and this will also stop crystallisation.
  • If you are used to Asian cooking you’ll assume sesame oil should only be used sparingly, as the type of sesame oil used in Asian cooking can be overpowering if used heavily. However, this type of sesame oil is produced from toasted sesame seeds, which heavily concentrates the sesame flavour and aroma. If you are familiar with modern Indian or Middle Eastern cooking, you might have come across virgin or cold-pressed sesame oil, which is much paler and more subtly flavoured. This is the sort you need to use for baking.

    If are going to be cooking for anyone with a sesame allergy, almond oil, rice bran oil or canola oil make good substitutes (the last two don’t have any flavour).

Hulwa a'Jamiyya

Further Reading

Click on the links below to buy direct from The Book Depository.
LeBau, Elizabeth (2012). The Sweet Book of Candy Making
Rodinson, Maxime (2006). Medieval Arab Cookery

Prince Bisket (Revisited)

20. To make prince bisket.
TAke one pounde of verie fine flowers, and one pounde of fine ſugar, and eight egges, and two ſpoonfuls of Roſewater, and one ounce of carroway ſeeds, and beat it all to batter one whole hour, for the ore you beat it, the better your bread is, then bake it in coffins of white plate, being baſted with a little butter before you put in your batter, and ſo keepe it.
Hugh Plat, Delightes for Ladies (1602)

20. To make prince biscuit.
Take one pound of very fine flour, and one pound of fine sugar, and eight eggs, and two spoonfuls of Rosewater, and one ounce of caraway seeds, and beat it all to batter one whole hour, for the more you beat it, the better your bread is; then bake it in coffins of white plate, being basted with a little butter before you put in your batter, and so keep it.

Bisket was originally a long lasting, but tasteless and hard to eat food, consisting of flour and water, used as food for soldiers, and there were many complaints about how inedible they were (Brears 2016, 568). They were twice cooked to make them hard enough for weevils to avoid (Spurling, 2011, 117). But then in the sixteenth century, in a form of cultural appropriation, sugar, eggs and spices were added to create a high end version that was often enjoyed at banquets. Some biskets were twice baked, similar to a modern Italian biscotti, while others were baked once, like this.

Some of you may remember my original post about Prince Bisket. This interpretation was highly influenced by the recipe for Bisket Bread; while the ingredients for Bisket Bread are similar to Prince Bisket, Bisket Bread is quite different. For one thing, it is twice baked, and more significantly, the ingredients are combined differently. Hugh Plat simply says to mix the all the ingredients together and beat for an hour. However in Bisket Bread, the eggs must be beaten first, then the sugar added, then the flour. This results in a light, crisp bisket. When I started making Prince Bisket, I was combining the ingredients in the same way, so I ended up with a light, crisp Prince Bisket.

When I put this first recipe for Prince Bisket up on Facebook, it was quite rightly pointed out that I wasn’t using the method described by Hugh Plat, which results in a very different texture – it is still light, but is soft rather than crisp. So I decided to re-do the Prince Bisket, by mixing everything at once rather than adding the ingredients in sequence.

The resulting bisket still tasted the same, but was indeed much softer. When I trialled the two varieties with testers, some preferred my original crisp bisket, while others preferred this softer version. I will continue to make this recipe both ways, but the crisp biskets will be called “Pretender Biskets.”

Ingredients

225 g flour 1.5 tbs rosewater
225g caster sugar 2 tsp caraway seeds, ground
4 eggs

Method

  1. Mix together all the ingredients. If doing this by hand, you will indeed need to beat the mixture constantly by hand for at least an hour in order to combine the batter to the right consistency. It needs to be quite stiff. If you are using a stand mixer (as I do), start slowly until the ingredients are roughly combined, then increase the speed until the mixture is stiff. This should take 20-30 minutes.
  2. Line the moulds of a mini muffin tray with mini patty cases, or grease well with butter, and carefully spoon the mix into patty cases. The mix is quite stiff, so it will help to use two spoons. Fill each mould about ¾ full.
  3. Bake in a 150ᵒC oven for 15-20 minutes, until a skewer inserted into one of the biskets comes out clean.

Notes

  • Normally, I will do things such as mixing, pureeing or grinding at least once manually, to get an appreciation for the process the medieval cooks had to go through (and then I break out the power tools because I don’t have an army of minions; I do have minions but not an army of them). But this is one where I will never do the mixing by hand, because it does indeed much constant beating to get the right consistency for the batter! When eggs are beaten, you are breaking down and re-combining the proteins in the yolk and white of the egg, and combining the water in the egg white, to create a foam that will give the biskets their rise. And the eggs need to be beaten a lot, in order to bring about the protein structures. However, the sugar and the flour both interfere with this re-combining of the proteins, resulting in a less stable egg foam and the softer bisket texture (McGee, 2004, 100-106). If you were to beat the eggs first, then add the sugar, then the flour, the egg foam would have a much stronger structure and the end result will be crisper.
  • Bisket recipes continued to feature in cookbooks well into the seventeenth century. The following recipe comes from The Accomplisht Cook by Robert May, and was published in 1660.

    To make Bisquite du Roy. Take a pound of fine searsed sugar, a pound of fine flour, and six eggs, beat them very well, then put them all into a stone mortar, and pound them for the space of an hour and a half, let it not stand still, for then it will be heavy, and when you have beaten it so long a time, put in halfe an ounce of anniseed; then butter over some pie plates, and drop the stuff on the plate as fast as two or three can with spoons, shape them round as near as you can, and set them into an oven as hot as for manchet, but the less they are coloured the better.(p273)
    To make Bisquite du Roy. Take a pound of fine sieved sugar, a pound of fine flour, and six eggs, beat them very well, then put them all into a stone mortar, and beat them for the space of an hour and a half. Beat it continuously or it will be heavy, and when you have beaten it for the length of time, put in half an ounce of aniseed. Then butter over some pie plates, and drop the stuff on the plate as fast as two or three can with spoons, shape them round as near as you can, and set them into an oven as hot as for manchet, but the less they are coloured the better.

    This will be stiffer than Prince Bisket as it doesn’t contain as many eggs, and closer to a modern biscuit or cookie. As Robert May notes, you will be able to shape them.

 

Prince bisket revisited
These were made in a mini muffin pan lined with paper cases, so they could be served easily at a food competition. You could also make them in a tea saucer or shallow bowl, as Hugh Plat suggests in his recipe. But I suggest using more than a “little butter,” because the final result will stick because of the high sugar content.

Further Reading

Click on the links below to buy direct from The Book Depository.
Black, Maggie (2002). The Good Housewife’s Jewel.
May, Robert (1660) The Accomplisht Cook
McGee, Harold (2004). On Food and Cooking.
Spurling, Hilary (2011). Elinor Fettiplace’s Receipt Book.
A.W. (1591). <a href=”https://www.bookdepository.com/Book-of-Cookrye-Very-Necessary-for-All-Such-as-Delight-Therin-Gathered-by-W-1591-W-W-W/9781171316305?a_aid=leobalecelade&#8221; target=”_blank”A Book of Cookrye Very Necessary for All Such as Delight Therin.

Bisket Bread

To make bisket bread.
Take one pound of flower, & one pound of sugar, one ounce of annisseeds, halfe an ounce of coriander seed, mingle these together, take viii eggs beat them verie well, then put in your stuff, then beat it alltogether very well, then take dishes &annoynt them with butter & put the stuf into them, Let the oven be as hot as it is for manchet, when it is brown at top turne it & set it in againe, if you would have it light put the yolks of viii eggs more to it, & beat the sugar with the eggs, before the flower bee put in.
Elinor Fettiplace’s Receipt Book, ed. Hilary Spurling, p 119.

To make bisket bread.
Take one pound of flour, one pound of sugar, one ounce of aniseeds, and half an ounce of coriander seed. Mingle these together, take 8 eggs and beat them very well. Then put in your stuff, then beat it all together very well, then take dishes and anoint them with butter, then put the stuff into them. Let the oven be as hot as it is for manchet. When it [the bisket] is brown at the top, turn it and set it in again. If you would have it light, put the yolks of 8 eggs more to it, and beat the sugar with the eggs, before the flour be put in.

Bisket was originally a long lasting, but tasteless and hard to eat food, consisting of flour and water, used as food for soldiers, and there were many complaints about how inedible they were (Brears 2016, 568). They were twice cooked to make them hard enough for weevils to avoid (Spurling, 2011, 117). But then in the sixteenth century, in a form of cultural appropriation, sugar, eggs and spices were added to create a high end version that was often enjoyed at banquets. Some biskets were twice baked, like this one, while others were baked once.

There are many other versions of bisket recipe (see, for example, The Good Housewife’s Jewel pp 79-80 and Elinor Fettiplace’s Receipt Book pp 117-121). They are all similar in that they are combinations of equal amounts of flour and sugar, with many well beaten eggs, with added flavourings such as spices and rosewater. Biskets were also probably commercially available; there are recipes that use biskets without actually having a recipe. See for example A.W’s A Book of Cookrye Very Necessary for All Such as Delight Therin, which specifies in several pie or tart recipes to sprinkle bisket on top, but does not have a recipe for them (a transcript of this cookbook is available online here).

I have seen other bisket redactions where people change the proportion of flour to sugar, possibly influenced by modern biscuits where the biscuit mix holds its form when uncooked. But Elizabethan biskets are more like a cake batter than a modern English biscuit, North American cookie or Italian biscotti.

Lady Fettiplace’s instructions for combining the ingredients are exact, if a little obscure in the writing. The eggs must be beaten “verie well,” then the “stuff” added. However, the final line of the recipe specifies the sugar must be added to the eggs and beaten in before the flour (and presumably the spices). Spurling, who produced the Receipt Book from Lady Fettiplace’s handwritten journal noted the final line is clearly a later addition to the text of the recipe. The order in which the ingredients are added does have an impact on the final texture of the bisket (see notes). Clearly, Lady Fettiplace made some bisket bread adding the sugar and the flour at once and got an unsatisfactory result. She then added an extra note to her working journal to remind herself of the better method. My own working recipe journal is full of similar additions and corrections.

Ingredients

(The recipe is quartered to make it easier to handle.)

115 g flour 2 tsp aniseed, ground
115g caster sugar 1 tsp coriander seed, ground
2 eggs

Method

  1. In a stand mixer, beat the eggs slowly until they are combined, then increase the speed of the blender.

    Lightly_Whipped
    The eggs at the start of the whipping. Note the colour and the volume.

  2. Beat the eggs until they are light and frothy, and increased in volume.

    Fully_Whipped
    The eggs fully whipped. The colour has changed and the foam has nearly doubled in size.

  3. Gradually add the sugar, and continue beating until the mix is shiny and is starting to resist the beaters.
  4. Add the flour, aniseed and coriander, and continue to beat until the mix is well combined and stiff.
  5. Take two flat, ovenproof plates with steep sides, and cover them well with butter. Carefully pour the bisket batter into one of the plates.
  6. Bake in a 180ᵒC oven for 12-15 minutes, until the edges of bisket have turned golden and have started to come away from the sides of the plate.
  7. Carefully remove the plate from the oven, then put the other plate on top of the plate containing the bisket. Flip the plates so the bisket falls into the second plate, and the top of the bisket is now at the base. Return the bisket to the oven and bake for a further 10-12 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the bisket comes out clean.
  8. If the business with the plates seems like too much work, you can spoon the mixture into mini muffin pans. Line the moulds of a mini muffin tray with mini patty cases, and carefully spoon the mix into patty cases. The mix is quite stiff, so it will help to use two spoons. Fill each mould about ¾ full, and bake in in a 180ᵒC oven for 10-12 minutes.

Notes

  • Normally, I will do things such as mixing, pureeing or grinding at least once manually, to get an appreciation for the process the medieval cooks had to go through (and then I break out the power tools because I don’t have an army of minions; I do have minions but not an army of them). But this is one where I will never do the mixing by hand, because it does indeed much constant beating to get the eggs to foam properly! When you beat the yolks and the whites together, you are breaking down and re-combining the proteins in the egg, and combining the water in the egg white, to create the foam that will give the biskets their rise. And the eggs need to be beaten a lot, in order to bring about the protein structures. You can beat the eggs less, but you won’t get a light, crisp bisket (McGee, 2004, 100-106).
  • The final bisket has a crisp, light texture. In order to achieve this, you need to follow Lady Fettiplace’s method of combining the ingredients. That is, beat the eggs to a foam first, then add the sugar, to stabilise the egg foam, before adding the flour, or your biskets will collapse when cooked (McGee, 2004, 104).

 

Bisket bread

Further Reading

Click on the links below to buy direct from The Book Depository.
Black, Maggie (2002). The Good Housewife’s Jewel.
McGee, Harold (2004). On Food and Cooking.
Spurling, Hilary (2011). Elinor Fettiplace’s Receipt Book.
A.W. (1591). A Book of Cookrye Very Necessary for All Such as Delight Therin.

Succade of Citrus Peel (Candied Citrus Peel)

To make Succade of Peels of Oranges and Lemons.
Chapter xxxii.
FYrste take, offe your Peeles by quarters and seet hthem in fair water from .iii. quartes to .iii. pynts, then take them out, and put to as much more water, and seethe them lykewyse, and so doe agayne, till the water wherin they are sodden haue no bitternesse at all of the Peeles, then are they ready. Now prepare a Syrop as ye doe for quin ces condict in syrop in ye .xiiii. chapter before written: seeth them in the Syrope a while, a keep them in a Glasse or Pot.

(For Syrup, chap.xiiii)
… & put into the liquor being .ii. or .iii. quartes .i. pynte of Rosewater, & for euery quart also of lyquor, one half pound of suger, seeth them againe together on a soft fire of coles tyl ye suger be incorporated with the liquor, then put in your Quinces, let them seeth softly tyll you perceaue that your Syrope is as thick as liue honuy, the set them to keel, and take them out, lat them in a tray or treene platter: tyl they be cold, then take one ounce of brused Cinamon, & some of the Cinimon in the Syrope, and when it is colde lai a larde of quinces in your glasse (called a gestelyn glasse) or an erthe pot well glased, then straw a little of your Cinimon vpon you Quinces, the power some Syrope, lay on an other larde of Quinces, and agayne of your spice, and Syrope, and so foorthe tyll you haue done:
John Partridge, The Treasurie of commodious Conceits (1573)

First take off your peels by quarters and boil them in 3 quarts to 3 pints of fair water, then take them out, and put to as much more water, and boil them likewise, and so do again, until the water wherein they are sodden have no bitterness at all of the peels, then are they ready. Now prepare a syrup as you do for quinces in syrop in xiiii. chapter before written: boil them in the Syrup a while, and keep them in a glass or pot.

(For Syrup)
… and put into a liquor composed of 2 or 3 quarts (of water plus).1. pint of rosewater, and for every quart of liquor, add one half pound of sugar. Simmer them again together on a soft fire of coals until the sugar be incorporated with the liquor, then put in your quinces, let them simmer until you perceive that your syrup is as thick as live honey, then set them to cool, and take them out, lay them in a tray or treene (?)  platter until they be cold, then take one ounce of bruised cinnamon, (and put) some of the cinnamon in the syrup, and when it is cold lay some of the quinces in your glass (called a gestelyn glass) or a well glazed ceramic pot, then strew a little of your cinnamon upon your quinces, the pour some syrup, lay on another lot of Quinces, and again of your spice, and Syrup, and so forth until you have done.

The text of this recipe is taken from the transcript by Johnna Holloway, available here.

I was first taught how to cook candied peel by my great aunt, and when I first read this recipe I realised it was describing her method. This influenced my redacting, especially in some of the timings.

Ingredients

Peels of 6 oranges or lemons 100mL rosewater (see notes)
1 L water (optional) 1-3 sticks cinnamon
225g sugar

Method

  1. Make sure as much as the flesh as possible is removed from the peel, and cut it into pretty strips.
  2. Put the peels into a large pan, with enough cold water to make sure they are well covered. Make sure you don’t put too many peels in the pan – they need to be able to “move around” in the water as it boils. It would not hurt to even nearly fill the pan with water.
  3. Bring the pan to the boil, and boil the pan for around half an hour.
  4. Drain the peels, and return to the pan with another lot of cold water. Return to the boil and boil for around half an hour.
  5. Drain the peels, return to the pan for another lot of cold water, and boil for another half hour, for a third time.
  6. Drain the peels and put aside.
  7. Put the litre of water, rosewater and sugar in a pan, and over a low heat, stir until the sugar is dissolved.
  8. Put the peels in the syrup, and bring to a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the syrup is reduced to the desired consistency.
  9. If not using immediately, store the peels in a sterilised jar layered with crushed cinnamon, with the remaining syrup poured over.
  10. When you want to serve the peels, drain them and put the peels on greaseproof paper on a rack to dry slightly. The reserved syrup is great spread on sweet cakes or biscuits.

Notes

  • Suckets were an important part of a banquet, whether served as an individual dish or as a garnish for other dishes, such as marchpane. They were sold ready made (Brears, 2016, 531); while it is possible to buy candied peel today, it’s less expensive to make your own, and is not particularly difficult.
  • If you look at modern recipes for candied peel, they are remarkably similar, however the times for the initial three boils varies considerably. Around half an hour was the time my great aunt used, so I went with that.
  • The most important thing to remember while candying citrus peel, is don’t put too many peels in the pan during the three boils. This triple-boiling removes the bitterness from the peels, and if there are too many peels in the pan and not enough water, not enough bitterness will be removed from the peels, and the final result will not be as pleasant to eat.
  • If going by the original recipe, I should be using twice as much rosewater in the final syrup. However, when I tried this, I found the rosewater flavour far too overpowering, and other people found the taste quite unpleasant. Especially seeing as rosewater is one of those love it or hate it flavourings. If you want to make it closer to what the original probably was, use at least 200mL of rosewater.
  • You can use other peels of other citrus, such as lime or grapefruit, in this recipe.

Candied peel

Further Reading

Click on the links below to buy direct from The Book Depository.
Brears, Peter (2016). Cooking and Dining in Tudor and Early Stuart England

Marchpane

How to make a good Marchpaine.
First take a pound of long smal almonds and blanch them in cold water, and dry them as drye as you can, then grinde them small, and put no licour to them but as you must needs to keepe them from oyling, and that licour that you put in must be rosewater, in manner as you shall think good, but wet your Pestel therin, when ye have beaten them fine, take halfe a pound of Sugar and more, and see that it be beaten small in pouder, it must be fine sugar, then put it to your Almonds and beate them altogither, when they be beaten, take your wafers and cut them compasse round, and of the bignes you will have your Marchpaine, and then as soone as you can after the tempering of your stuffe, let it be put in your paste, and strike it abroad with a flat stick as even as you can, and pinch the very stuffe as it were an edge set upon, and then put a paper under it, and set it upon a faire boord, and lay lattin Basin over it the bottome upwarde, and then lay burning coles upon the bottom of the basin. To see how it baketh, if it happen to bren too fast in some place, folde papers as broad as the place is & lay it upon that place, and thus with attending ye shal bake it a little more then a quarter of an houre, and when it is wel baked, put on your gold and biskets, and stick in Comfits, and so you shall make a good Marchpaine. Or ever that you bake it you must cast on it fine Sugar and Rosewater that will make it look like Ice.
A.W. A Book of Cookrye, Very Necessary for all such as delight therein. (1591)

How to make a good Marchpane.
First take a pound of long small almonds and blanch them in cold water, and dry them as dry as you can, then grind them small, and put no liquor to them but as you must needs to keep them from getting oily, and that liquor that you put in must be rosewater, in manner as you shall think good, but wet your pestle therein. When ye have beaten them fine, take half a pound of sugar and more, and see that it be beaten small in powder, it must be fine sugar. Then put it to your Almonds and beat them all together, when they be beaten, take your wafers and cut them round with a compass, the size of your marchpane. As soon as you can after the tempering of your (marchpane) stuff, let it be put in your paste, and strike it abroad with a flat stick as even as you can, and pinch the very stuff as it were an edge set upon, and then put a paper under it, and set it upon a fair board, and lay lattin Basin over it the bottom upwards. Lay burning coals over the basin. To see how it bakes, if it happen to brown too fast in some places, fold papers as broad as the place is & lay it upon that place. And thus with attending you shall bake it a little more than a quarter of an hour, and when it is well baked, put on your gold and biskets, and stick in comfits, and so you shall make a good marchpane. Or ever that you bake it you must cast on it fine sugar and rosewater that will make it look like Ice.

The text of the recipe is taken from Mark and Jane Wak’s transcription of A Book of Cookrye, available here.

Marchpane was a centrepiece of any Elizabethan banquet – a small, gathering after a feast, where expensive sugary confections were served. Marchpane features in most Elizabethan cookbooks; all recipes feature almond meal and fine sugar in differing proportions, held together with rosewater. This is my preferred recipe, featuring half the amount of sugar to almond meal. I have seen recipes which call for twice as much sugar as almond meal – incredibly sweet!  Far too sweet for many modern palates – though the Elizabethans probably loved it.

Ingredients

450g almond meal 225g icing sugar 20-50mL rosewater
Icing
80g icing sugar 20-40mL rosewater

Method

  1. Mix together the icing sugar and almond meal, and pass through a fine sieve at least twice to ensure there are no lumps.
  2. Mix the rosewater into the icing sugar and almond meal a spoonful at a time, and incorporate well. It should be stiff and hold together, but not be too wet.  It is easiest to use your hands to do this.
  3. Press the marchpane into a cake pan that is lined with baking paper, and smooth off the top. You can also set aside some to mould into decorations.
  4. Put the marchpane, and any decorations, into a 120⁰ oven for about 15-20 minutes. You are drying the marchpane out, more than cooking it. You don’t really want it to brown.
  5. If you wish to press any decorations such as comfits (see notes) or candied fruit peel into the top, do it as soon as the marchpane comes out of the oven. The marchpane will still be very soft and malleable, but will stiffen on cooling.
  6. To make the icing, wait until the marchpane is completely cool. Sieve the icing sugar, then gradually add the rosewater, mixing well to make a stiff icing. Spread over the surface of the marchpane, and decorate with flower petals, comfits or candied fruit peel.

Notes

  • Icing sugar can also be called confectioner’s sugar. A similar product is available in Australia called icing mixture, which contains a small amount of cornflour to stop it clumping. I prefer to use pure icing sugar.
  • Comfits are seeds, nuts or spices coated in many thin layers of hardened sugar syrup (Brears, 2016, 562). They are often mentioned as garnishes for other sweet dishes, but very few books contain recipes. This leads me to conclude most people purchased comfits ready made from confectioners. Modern equivalents would be sugar coated almonds, or mukhwas, sugar coated fennel seeds available from Indian grocers.
  • I have suggested the weights of almond meal and sugar based on the original recipe.  If you wish to make a smaller marchpane, it is fine to vary the amounts, so long as you keep the proportions roughly the same (that is, half the weight of sugar to almond meal).  However, if you wish to make a larger marchpane, I would do it in two batches, as the mix becomes difficult to work with if you have too much in the bowl.

Iced marchpane
Iced marchpane, decorated with cornflower and dianthus petals.

Marchpane with comfits
Marchpane decorated with sugar coated almonds, mukhwas and candied lemon and orange peel.

Further Reading

Click on the links below to buy direct from The Book Depository.
Brears, Peter (2016). Cooking and Dining in Tudor and Early Stuart England