The Cooking Up History Sessions – 7: Shrove Tuesday pancakes

‘Dutches of Cleaveland’ Pancakes versus Pancakes and Fritters 

Christina and David were once again the willing volunteers who joined Kim and Trish for our seventh cooking challenge. And what better way to celebrate Shrove Tuesday than with a cook-off with two unique takes on the classic pancake.

The Duchess of Cleveland’s pancakes

Beginning our pancake cook off with a recipe for the ‘Dutches of Cleaveland’ pancakes, we were struck by the quantity of eggs and butter involved – eight eggs in one batter? The quantities were overwhelming!  We decided to downsize the recipe, roughly halving each of the quantities. While we beat up the batter, David regaled us with tales of the Duchess of Cleveland, Barbara Villiers; a Catholic who maintained an infamous relationship with Charles II as his mistress from 1660 to 1668.

Getting busy with the batter for 'Dutches of Cleaveland' pancakes

Getting busy with the batter for ‘Dutches of Cleaveland’ pancakes

We mixed the batter thoroughly; David expertly folding the butter into our mixture. With this completed and our pan heated, Trish was given responsibility for flipping our pancake. Our first attempt stuck stubbornly to the pan, even though there was a good deal of butter in the mixture. We were dry frying the batter as the recipe suggested, but it seemed to be ruining our chances of getting the perfect pancake flip! Thankfully, things got better… the second and third batches were easier to cook now that the pan had been ‘seasoned’ by our first fritter.

As the pancake was cooking, Christina remarked that neither of our recipes made no mention of lemons or oranges – nowadays we are so used to having pancakes served up with a squeeze of lemon juice a little grate orange zest. We had a chat about our expectations, all agreeing that it was easiest to picture the end result when we could compare the Georgian dishes to a modern day equivalent. David, however, raised the point that the modern pancakes were were used to would inevitably colour our opinion of these historical recipes.

Our Duchess of Cleveland pancakes turned a lovely golden brown but proved difficult to flip!

Our Duchess of Cleveland pancakes turned a lovely golden brown but proved difficult to flip!

Chatting over, it was time for the tasting! The pancake looked appetising but, served up on its own, it was not sweet enough for us. David compared it to a ‘mini Yorkshire pudding’ in both taste and texture, and wondered whether this was now what we’d regard as a pudding pancake. We were glad that no additional butter had been added to the pan as the result was rather oily.

Furthermore, with no definite measure of nutmeg in the recipe we felt this flavour was a little muted in this first attempt. Were our palates missing the stronger flavours of perfumed rose water from other recipes?! We decided to add an additional sprinkle of nutmeg to each subsequent batch of batter we cooked, and with some success: it considerably enhanced the flavour.

Pancakes and Fritters

Our 19th century style pancake on the stove

Our 19th century style pancake on the stove

Our second batch of pancakes was inspired by a 19th century recipe with the title ‘Pancakes and Fritters’, sourced again from our Cookbook of Unknown Ladies. The recipe allowed a ‘walnut’ of butter to be used in the pan, but contained no butter in the actual mixture. Our pancake flipping was eased by this additional butter – Trish making many successful flips – but unfortunately the end result was a much drier affair and almost rubbery in texture. We added sugar and lemon to this round of pancakes to enliven the taste and bring our own traditional view of pancakes into the mix.

We turned our 19th century style pancake into something more familiar to our palates by adding a sprinkling of lemon juice and sugar

We turned our 19th century style pancake into something more familiar to our palates by adding a sprinkling of lemon juice and sugar

With pancakes such a well-loved treat in Britain today, our Unknown Ladies had a lot to live up to. Our Cooking Up History group enjoyed comparing our recipes with the pancakes we’ve re so used to today. Although both recipes had their pros and cons, we definitely felt the second batch of ‘Pancakes and Fritters’ was the more successful of the two. If you’re tempted to have a go at the Georgian pancake challenge, try out one of our recipes today!

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A delicious late addition: gnocchi di latte

This recipe for gnocchi di latte is the latest of all the recipes recorded in our Cookbook of Unknown Ladies. Properly speaking, it isn’t an integral part of the book: it was recorded on two separate sheets, which were then pasted onto the book’s endpapers. The handwriting and spellings are more modern in appearance than most examples in the book and the recipe itself, with its precise measurements and timings and helpful hints and tips, reads as if it could have been lifted straight out of a contemporary cookery magazine.

Our guess is that this recipe dates from the last couple of decades of the 19th century. We wonder whether its author was a descendant of the Cookbook’s Georgian contributors…

This recipe for gnocchi di latte is pasted onto the endpapers of our Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

This recipe for gnocchi di latte is pasted onto the endpapers of our Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

Gnocchi di Latte

Take a quart of new milk, the yolks of 8 eggs, ½ lb of sifted loaf sugar, 2 tablespoonsful of corn flour. Grate some rind of a lemon into a bason and mix well together the above ingredients (be sure the yolks of the eggs are well beaten). Put into a saucepan to boil for ten minutes, keeping well stirred all the time to prevent curdling. When done, pour out on a flat board well floured. Let it stay till cold. Then, cut into squares or diamond shapes to be laid on a flat dish in layers, each layer to be sprinkled with Parmesan cheese, fresh butter & a little ground cinnamon. Bake a delicate brown colour in the oven.

We found it best to make the night before and cut the next day.

Apple pudding, two ways…

If you’ve enjoyed a bumper crop of apples this year, you’re probably still trying to find good recipes for using them up. If you’ve already had your fill of apple pie and have stocked up your cupboards with apple jams and jellies, then here are another two ways with apples for you to try…

Recipe for Boston Apple Pudding, as transcribed from The Cook's Oracle in our Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

Regency recipe for Boston Apple Pudding, transcribed by our Unknown Ladies from Kitchiner’s  The Cook’s Oracle

Boston Apple Pudding

Peel one dozen and a half of good apples. Take out the cores, cut them small, put into a stewpan that will just hold them with a little water, a little cinnamon, two cloves and the peel of a lemon. Stir over a slow fire till quite soft. Then sweeten with moist sugar and pass it through a hair sieve. Add to it the yolks of four eggs and one white, a quarter of a pound of good butter, half a nutmeg, the peel of a lemon grated and the juice of one lemon. Beat all well together. Line the inside of a pie dish with puff paste and bake half an hour.

Georgian recipe for Baked Apple Pudding from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

Georgian recipe for Baked Apple Pudding from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

A Baked Apple Pudding

Take twelve […] large pippins. Coddle them over ye fire very slowly that they do not crack. When the are soft, peel, core them & pulp them through a cullander. Add to this three sponfuls of orange flower water, ten eggs well beat, all ye whites left out & strained, ½ a pound of butter melted. Make it very sweet. Grate the peel of two lemons & the juic of one. Half a hour will bake it.

And, if you’re still in need of inspiration, why not take a look back at another  apple pudding recipe we shared earlier in the year, which uses cream and crushed biscuits. One of our readers, Catherine, gave it a go – you can see the results by taking a look at her Georgian puddings, recreated

Sweet treats from the Georgian kitchen

Today we take a look at two sugary treats.

The first is for ‘clear cakes’, little jellies with a sugar crust which were generally made of fruit juice finely powdered sugar. They could be cut into any number of decorative shapes – lozenges, rounds, squares – and incorporate any number of flavourings.

Our recipe from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies is a twist on these traditional clear cakes. Instead of fruit juice, pounded almonds provide the main substance of these sweets. Rosewater is added for flavour:

18th century recipe for almond clear cakes from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

18th century recipe for almond clear cakes from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

To Make Almond Clear Caks

Boyle the sugar to a candy height as you do for Clear Caks. Blansh some Jordon almonds & pound them [with] rose water. Mix them in yr candy as you do jelly. Put it in pans or cards in yr stove to dry, or in a very cool oven.

Our second recipe is derived from Kitchiner’s Cook’s Oracle and presents something a familiar to us today: caramel.

Without sugar thermometers, cooks needed to gauge the temperature of the sugar by sight . A quick way to check it was to drop a little of the melted sugar in cold water. It it went hard and solid, it was said to be at ‘the degree called crack’.

This caramel was intended for use as a kind of ‘spun sugar’. Cast in thin threads over an oiled mould to form a decorative sugar cage, it could be placed over ‘small pastry of any description’ to give it a stylish finish.

This caramel is used to form spun sugar decorations. The original recipe was published in Kitchiner's Cook's Oracle

This caramel is used to form spun sugar decorations. The original recipe was published in Kitchiner’s Cook’s Oracle

To Boil Sugar to Caramel

Break into a small copper or brass pan one pound of refined sugar. Put in a gill of spring water. Set it on a fire and when it boils skim it quite clear and let it boil quick till it comes to the degree called crack which may be known by dipping a teaspoon or skewer into the sugar and let it drop to the bottom of a pan of cold water. If it remains hard, it has attained that degree. Squeeze in the juice of half a lemon and let it remain one minute longer on the fire, then set the pan in another of cold water. Have ready moulds of any shape. Rub them over with sweet oil. Dip a spoon or fork into the sugar and throw it over the mould, in fine threads, till it is quite covered. Make a small handle of caramel or stick on two or three small gum paste rings by way of ornament and place it over small pastry of any description.

If you do have a go at either of today’s recipe, do be careful when you boil the sugar as it will become extremely hot. To avoid burns, make sure you follow the caramel recipe’s advice: cool the sugar for a few moments before you handle it by placing it another pan of cold water.

Variations on a bread-and-butter pudding

These two variations on a bread-and-butter pudding are economical to prepare, comforting to eat, and could easily be jazzed up to make a eye-catching table piece when guests were around: perfect Regency fare.

Both of today’s recipes were borrowed by our ‘unknown ladies’ from Dr William Kitchiner’s Cook’s Oracle.

This recipe for Newmarket pudding was transcribed by the Cookbook’s compilers from Kitchiner’s Cook’s Oracle

This recipe for Newmarket pudding was transcribed by the Cookbook’s compilers from Kitchiner’s Cook’s Oracle

Newmarket Pudding

Put on to boil a pint of good milk with half a lemon peel, a little cinnamon and a bay leaf. Boil gently for five or ten minutes. Sweeten with loaf sugar. Break the yolks of five and the whites of three eggs into a basin. Beat them well and add the milk. Beat in well together and strain through a tammis. Have some bread & butter cut very thin. Lay a layer of it in a pie dish and then a layer of currants & so on till the dish is near full. Then pour the custard over and bake ½ hour.

Kitchiner's recipe for a cabinet pudding, as transcribed in The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

Kitchiner’s recipe for a cabinet pudding, as transcribed in The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

Newcastle or Cabinet Pudding

Butter a quart basin and stick all round with dried cherries or fine raisins and fill up with bread & butter &c as in the above and steam it an hour & a half.

Although bread puddings have been eaten by the British for many centuries, it was Dr William Kitchiner who popularised the particular variation known as ‘cabinet pudding’ when it appeared  in his popular cookery manual The Cook’s Oracle.

Several decades later Isabella Beeton’s Book of Household Management (1861) included an upmarket variation on the original ‘plain’ cabinet pudding, substituting the bread-and-butter for layers of sponge. In this new guise, the popularity of cabinet pudding extended long into the Victorian age. It was frequently presented at dinner parties with an elaborate decoration of jewel-like candied fruits, and the sponge was sometimes soaked in liqueur for that added touch of luxury.

But Dr Kitchiner’s bread-and-butter has never gone away. It was widely eaten 1930s as a wholesome and tasty dish that respected the financial constraints of the Depression-era home.

The cabinet pudding continues to fluctuate between these two identities : refined sponge versus simple but satisfying bread and butter. Both are delicious, so the choice is yours…

A teatime treat

This nineteenth-century recipe for shortcake biscuits translates well to the modern kitchen.

Rub together the flour and butter, sweeten with soft brown sugar and add currants for flavour. Combine with a beaten egg and milk and then bake in the oven for a simple but tasty teatime treat!

Nineteenth-century recipe for short cakes, from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

Nineteenth-century recipe for short cakes, from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

Short Cakes

Rub in with the hand one pound of butter into two pounds of sifted flour. Put one pound of currants, one pound of moist sugar and one egg. Mix all together with half a pint of milk, roll it out thin and cut into round cakes. Lay them on a clean baking plate and put them in a middling hot oven for about five minutes.

Barley sugar

The perfect traditional sweet treat: barley sugar twists. These candies were originally prepared by boiling sugar in barley-infused water, but here a little lemon essence is the only flavouring.

The sugar is boiled ‘to a crack’, the temperature at which it starts to become brittle. Our unknown ladies record a rather perilous method for checking this point: “dipping your fingers into the sugar and then into cold water, and if you find the sugar to crack in moving your finger, it has boiled enough”. We say, don’t risk burning your fingers – use a sugar thermometer instead to bring the temperature of the boiling sugar between 132ºC and 142ºC. At this, the ‘soft-crack’ stage, the sugar will form stiff but malleable threads, making it perfect for forming your sugar twists.

A nineteenth-century recipe for barley sugar from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

A nineteenth-century recipe for barley sugar from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

Barley Sugar

Clarify three pounds of refined sugar. Boil it to a crack. Squeeze in a teaspoonful of the juice and four drops of the essence of lemon. Let it boil up once or twice. Set it by for a few minutes. Have ready a marble slab rubbed over with sweet oil. Pour over the sugar. Cut it into long stripes, twist it a little, and keep in a canister from the air.