On May 1, 2015, the Society for Creative Anachronism will turn 50 years old! In celebration of this, a good lady in the East Kingdom has developed the idea of the A&S 50 Challenge – to engage in 50 arts & sciences projects between May 1, 2007 and May 1, 2015. I jokingly have suggested that I already completed the challenge, since I made 50 cloth buttons in the car on the way to Pennsic in 2007 or 2008!
However, I’ve recently been inspired to undertake a real challenge in the spirit of The Dream – to make 50 different dessert recipes from the SCA period (approximately 600-1600A.D.). This idea came to me while I was making a period recipe for a pear tart to contribute to the buffet table for Master Philip White’s Pelican vigil at Val Day in 2011. So I’m coming to the challenge a little late, but I like baking!
Project 7 – February 2012 for Val Day in the Canton of Three Hills – Candied Ginger
106 To Make Green Ginger
Take ginger, pare it, & lay it in soack 2 days in white wine.
then take ye weight in sugar, with which let it
boyle leasurely halfe a day at least, & then pot it up.
This recipe from Martha Washington’s Booke of Cookery and Booke of Sweetmeats is essentially indistinguishable from most modern recipes for candying ginger. The original production of this manuscript is dated to between 1580 and 1625.
I followed the directions provided by Alton Brown in the episode of Good Eats titled “Ginger: Rise of the Rhizome”.
1 lb fresh ginger root
5 c water
Approximately 1 lb granulated sugar.
Peel the ginger root and slice into 1/8-inch thick slices. Place in a saucepan with water and set over medium-high heat. Cover and cook for 35 minutes or until ginger is tender.
Drain ginger in a colander, reserving ¼ c of the cooking liquid. Weigh ginger and measure out an equal amount of sugar. Return ginger and ¼ c ginger liquid to pan and add sugar. Set over medium-high heat and bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Reduce heat and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the sugar syrup looks dry, has almost evaporated and begins to recrystallize, approximately 20 minutes. Transfer immediately to a cooling rack or sheet of parchment paper and spread apart to separate the pieces. Once cooled completely, store in an airtight container.
The result of this method is a soft, sweet product that is tender to chew, unlike many commercially produced candied gingers that tend to stick to the teeth. One can soak the ginger a day or so ahead of time, changing to fresh water for boiling, if one desires a less “hot” result. I did not try the white wine soak this time, since I was a little short on time for preparation.
A mandolin is a DEFINITE help in cutting the ginger evenly! I don’t have one at this point, so my hand and wrist were VERY sore after I had done the job, and my slices weren’t exactly even. It’s also a good idea to search through the ginger at the store to make sure you’re getting the youngest possible pieces, which are crisper, less fibrous, and easier to cut than the older stuff.
Project 6 – February 2012 for Val Day in the Canton of Three Hills – Candied Orange Peel So I know it’s been almost a year since I posted last, but I got off track with making things over the summer.
I made candied orange and lemon peel as part of my display of items for the A&S Champion selection at Cynnabar’s Wassail back in December, and then again for the A&S Display at Val Day and both times turned out rather well. This is a late period (16th & 17th century) treat, but one that still appeals to the modern taste. See my posts on the main page for pictures and instruction!
Project 5 – April 16, 2011 for Duchess AnneMarie’s Half Century Holiday – Apple Pie!
To make Char de Crabb – To make Char de Crabb. Recipe crabbs & seth þam in watur tyll þai be softe, & take hony & strene þe crabbs þerwith throgh a cloth. Put to a iijd part of claryfyed hony & a quantyte of sawndyrs, & colour it with saforun; þen put þerto a quantyte of powdyr of peper & ij d worth of þe flour of anneys & a quantyte of powdyre of licorys. Þen take grated brede & mold it vp þerwith, & put it in cophyns & serof it forth, & bene facis. Quod Don Thomas Awkbarow.
– Hieatt, Constance B. “The Middle English Culinary Recipes in MS Harley 5401: An Edition and Commentary.” Medium Ævum vol. 65, no. 1 (1996): 54-71.
GODE COOKERY TRANSLATION (www.godecookery.com)
To make Crabapple Pie. Recipe: crabapples & boil them in water til they be soft, & take hony & strain the crabbs therewith through a cloth. Put to a 3rd part of clarified honey & a quantity of sandalwood, & colour it with saffron; then put thereto a quantity of powder of pepper & 2d worth of the flour of anise & a quantity of powder of licorice. Then take grated bread & mould it up therewith, & put it in pie shells & serve it forth, & you will go well. So says Don Thomas Awkbarow.
5 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and sliced finely
1 c honey
1/2 – 1 c plain breadcrumbs
1/2 t salt
1/2 t pepper
few drops red & yellow food coloring
drop anise oil
Boil apples until softened and drain well. Puree apples with honey to make a smooth blend. Add seasonings to taste and breadcrumbs to make the consistency of a thick cake batter or cookie dough. Spread into baked crust and bake at 325 for about 30 minutes or until filling bubbles.
When I made this, I may have added too many breadcrumbs (about 3/4 c), so the filling was fairly thick and didn’t bubble, but it was still tasty. Be careful when using anise oil! It’s much stronger than an extract, so I used just the tiniest drop on a spoon to mix in and there was just the lightest taste of it in the pie.
This pie is not as sweet as modern apple pie, and I had to resist the temptation to add cinnamon.
Project 4 – April 15, 2011 for Duchess AnneMarie’s Half Century Holiday – Gingerbread is documentably period. There are several different recipes, most resulting from a combination of honey, breadcrumbs and spices. This is a no-bake treat that is more of a confection than a cake or cookie the way the modern world thinks of it.
Recipe from Two Fifteenth-Century Cookery Books, a text based on several 15th century cookbooks, particularly Harleian MS 279 and Harleian MS 4016 – “Gyngerbrede.–Take a quart of hony, & sethe it, & skeme it clene; take Safroun, pouder Pepir, & throw ther-on; take grayted Bred, & make it so chargeaunt that it wol be y-lechyd; then take pouder Canelle, & straw ther-on y-now; then make yt square, lyke as thou wolt leche yt; take when thou lechyst hyt, an caste Box leves a-bouyn, y-stykyd ther-on, on clowys. And if thou wolt haue it Red, coloure it with Saunderys y-now.”
Translated in The English Medieval Feast – “Take a quart of honey and seethe it and skim it clean. Take saffroun, powdered pepper, and throw thereon. Take grated bread and make it so stiff that it will be leched (cut in slices). Then take cinnamon powder and strew thereon enough. Then make it square as though thou wouldst slice it. Take, when thou slicest it, and cast box leaves above, stuck thereon in cloves. And if thou will have it red, color it with saunders (sandalwood) enough.”
1 c honey
2 t cinnamon
1 t ginger
1/2 t black pepper
1/4 t cloves
1 1/2 c dry breadcrumbs
Bring the honey to a boil and add seasonings. Stir in breadcrumbs to make a thick mass. Cool slightly and turn out onto a slightly greased surface. Flatten into a smooth mass and allow to cool completely and cut into desired shapes. May be decorated with whole cloves or, as I did, edible gold!
Project 3 – April 13, 2011 for Duchess AnneMarie’s Half Century Holiday birthday event in May. We are doing a test cook for this coming weekend to check food amounts and costs. I’m making three sweets for dessert – a shortbread cookie, gingerbread and an apple tart – all from at least possibly period recipes.
Shortbread – Shortbread in modern terms is not really documentable to the SCA period, though there are recipes that date to the 17th century. However, it is a popular SCA dish and relatively cheap and easy to make! I used the recipe from the Joy of Cooking website:
1 c butter
1/2 c powdered sugar
2 c flour
1 t vanilla extract
Combine ingredients in mixer. Bring together in a ball with your hands, then press into a flat disk and wrap in plastic. Chill for about 1 hour before rolling out.
I shaped the cookies using a wooden cookie press/stamp I purchased from an SCA merchant (Wandering Wood). This dough is best rolled close to room temperature – it is very stiff and tends to crack otherwise. I also found that the stamp worked better with a slightly warmer, thinner dough. The design had better definition. After stamping and cutting out the cookies, chill on the cookie sheet for about 10 minutes before baking. Bake at 350 for about 10 minutes and remove to a wire rack to cool.
Project 2 – March 18, 2011 for the dessert buffet at Terpsichore at the Tower
Das Kochbuch der Sabina Welserin, 1553
#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.
3 medium sized Gala apples
2 T granulated sugar
1/2 t cinnamon
1/4 t ginger
1/2 c raisins
Phyllo dough cups
Peel apples and dice them small. Fry in butter. After apples have softened and turned slightly golden, remove from heat and add spices, sugar and raisins. Mound in phyllo cups and bake at 350 for 30 minutes.
This was a fairly straightforward recipe. I think next time, it would be good to either cut the apples even smaller or use an apple that cooks down a little more as the end mixture was a little chunky. Still, there were no leftovers at the end of the evening!
Project 1 – February 11, 2011 for the Elevation of Master Philip White to the Order of the Pelican
#131 To Make a Pear Tart – Take the pears and peel them, then fry them in fat, put them in to a mortar and pound them well, put rose sugar and rose water in it, put ginger, cloves, cinnamon and sugar therein. Taste it, make a pastry shell as for other tarts, make no cover for the top and bake until crisp.
I made these with some really ripe Anjou pears.
5 Anjou pears, diced
1 t cinnamon
1/2 t cloves
1/2 t ginger
1-2 T granulated sugar
1/2 t rosewater
Fry diced pears in butter. They will break down as they cook, so pounding them may not be necessary. I also added about a tablespoon of flour to the mixture because the pears were so juicy and ripe. Once the pears have cooked down somewhat, add the spices, sugar and rosewater. Put into a pie crust and bake at 350 for 45-50 minutes.
I left out the rose sugar from the original recipe and also minimized the amount of rosewater I added because I don’t care for the flavor. I also used pre-made phyllo dough cups for baking because the vigil was meant as a picnic-style table of finger foods, so a large pie wouldn’t have been appropriate. This amount made enough for 30 phyllo cups with a bit left over. I would recommend putting more of the pear mixture into the cups than you think is necessary – it tends to cook down a bit further while baking and the cups look nicer if they’re full. The response of the vigilant and guests was that they were delicious – no leftovers! My husband also loved the flavor.