One great thing about being done the A&S 50 is that I don’t feel bad about doing a recipe where I didn’t do the redaction and the background research is shaky. So, with that said, here’s pretzels.
Ever since I made some modern soft pretzels I’ve been reading about the history of pretzels. Modernly we use boiling water with baking soda in it. Previously they used lye in the water to accomplish the same dark colour. However, I can’t find any use of lye or ash in boiling water in the production of bread products in the SCA period. Some people have suggested that they used malt in the water but again there’s no proof of it. That of course doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.
I realized I hadn’t shared a lot of what I’ve done with sugar cane over the last while. This actually predates the sugar paste experiments. So here’s a huge update heavy on the photos. (Also a shameless test of the new photo plugin I’m using for enlarging photos on click)
First, my failed sugar cane juice crystallization experiments:
I made him give an account of his responsibilities. He gave me a discourse on this science of supping with grave and magisterial countenance, as if he were speaking of some grand point of theology. He unravelled differences in appetite for me: the appetite one has at the outset, and that which one has after the second and third courses; the means of sometimes appealing to it in simple ways, sometimes reawakening and stimulating it; the rules regarding sauces, first in general and then particularising the qualities of ingredients and their effects; the different salads according to their season, what must be served hot and what cold, and the ways of decorating and embellishing them to make them even more pleasing in appearance. After that, he embarked on the order of courses, full of important and fine considerations…. And all this bloated with grand and magnificent words, such as one might use in describing the government of an empire.
A friend of mine is providing some treats for a meeting at an SCA event and asked me to contribute. Ever since I did the Sugar Paste work I’ve been wanting to try some of the more advanced versions. One of the ones I’ve thought was interesting was the “White Ginger Bread” recipe in A
Book of Cookrye, by A. W. in 1591. Of course this is the 16th century use of the word so it’s referring to confection, not necessarily something with bread in it.
I’ve never made marzipan before but I thought that combining marzipan, sugar paste, and ginger seemed like a great combination and a way to try something new.
This also marks the end of A&S 50 for me which I started in 2010. There was a fairly substantial break when I stopped playing in the SCA for two years but I’ve now completed it. As part of the completion I began linking all of my recipes on the new Recipes page. Also as part of this I won’t be using the category or tag A&S 50 any more; however, each new recipe will be added to my recipes page which should make them easier to find.
I made this for a recipe that I’ll be posting in the next two weeks, but I thought it should have it’s own post. I brought some of it for the Montengarde Culinary Group meeting yesterday.
Modern Marzipan uses a 5:3 ratio of blanched ground almonds to sugar then adding rosewater until the texture is right (between one and two parts). However An Anonymous Andalusian Cookbook (13th century Spanish), Das Kuchbuch der Sabina Welserin (16th century German), and Delights for Ladies (16th century English) use a 1:1 ratio of almonds to sugar so I’ll be using the same. You can make this in your mortar but this time I’m using my kitchen servant, aka food processor, to speed things up.
This month the theme of Montengarde Culinary Night is “Vegetables or German Food”. I’ve had this one sitting in my drafts for a bit, and since it’s a German cookie recipe it seems like a good time.
I came across references to St. Hildegard’s “Cookies of Joy” or “Happy Cookies” in a few places but no one had the original recipe. Instead it was a modern cookie with butter, sugar, egg, baking powder, and a lot of spices (nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon). I knew that was a far remove from what she must have been talking about in 12th century Rhineland so I looked into it a bit more.
By 1500, the sweet potato had become an established crop in western Europe. “Common,” or white potatoes, took a bit longer to catch on; they arrived in Europe as a cultivable vegetable between 1550-1570.
Britain was one of the last European countries to take to the potato; the first mention of potatoes (sweet or otherwise) in a printed British book was in 1596, when famed herbalist and botanist John Gerard included it in his Catalogue. This was apparently so well-received that a year later, Gerard devoted an entire chapter of his famous 1597 Herbal to this new and unfamiliar plant.
Which reminded me that the Herball often has brief explanations of how to eat the items listed. So off I went to the original.