Monday, June 6, 2011

Some old-fashioned baking.

I ordered "the Art of Cooking made Plain and Easy" by Hannah Glasse from the Book Depository a couple of weeks ago. It arrived last week, and today being the official Queen's Birthday holiday in New Zealand (no work), I did some baking from it.

Choosing something to bake from an 18th century cookbook is not easy. I was tempted by "wigs", but had no idea of what they were supposed to look like - the penultimate instruction is "shape into wigs" - so that was a washout. You also need to choose a recipe that gives more or less complete instructions, and that's not overly extravagant with butter and eggs.

I settled on Portugal Cakes and Gingerbread.

The recipes for both of these were rather massive, so I reduced them considerably. Portugal Cakes, for example, wanted 10 eggs, and the Gingerbread 3 quarts of flour!

I started with said Portugal cakes. I quartered the recipe, starting off with 4oz flour (fine white, sifted very fine) …

… and 4 oz sugar (beaten very fine) in a bowl …

… then I rubbed in 4 oz butter (best sweet) …

… until it looked like grated white bread:

Next I had to "beat well with a whisk" 2 1/2 eggs (I used 3 smallish ones) …

… and add these, along with some sack (sherry), …

… rose water (rose essence), …

  and currants to my mixture. This was an ideal time to use some of my home-grown currants, so I did.

Not having much idea of what size and shape of tins Portugal cakes required, I used what I had; some nice round-bottomed patty pans.

I buttered them and put the cake mix in, and forgot to take a photo before they went into the oven. This is what they looked like when they came out though:

They're very tasty, and not too dense (I really did beat hell out of those eggs).

I reduced the gingerbread recipe to a third of the original. I started off with 1 quart of flour (some mental arithmetic was required here, resulting in my using 1.2 litres of flour measured in a 500ml measuring jug) …

… and a goodly amount of ginger (I trusted Greggs to have beaten it well for me) although not the 3 oz the recipe wanted. I didn't have that much in the house.

Next came nutmeg, cloves, and mace, with extra nutmeg instead of the mace. I'd run out.

Like a good little 18th century kitchen maid I ground the cloves myself in a mortar and pestle:

1/4 lb of sugar went in next:


Then I melted together 1/4 lb butter and 2/3 lb mixed treacle and golden syrup. It was supposed to be all treacle, but I didn't have enough.

The treacle mixture then went ito the dry mixture, and I mixed it as well as I could. It didn't look right at all. It was crumbly, not doughy or battery. There was no way that it could ever turn into a loaf of anything!

I muttered away to myself, thinking my "quart of flour" must have been very off, and decided to throw in some yoghurt.

I put in enough to turn the crumbly mixture into a bread-like dough …

… turned that into a buttered and papered loaf tin, and put it into the oven to bake.

It took a lot longer than the recipe's "an hour in a quick oven will bake it", but eventually it was done.

I haven't tried it yet, I might even let it age a bit before I do.

I checked the quart of flour thing with Wolfram Alpha, and my measurement was pretty much spot on. Maybe Mrs Glasse left something out of her recipe.

1 comment:

  1. The Portugal cakes look interesting.... love those round bottom patty pans!