If you’ve been following the culinary adventures of our Cooking Up History team, you’ll have noticed we’ve taken a couple of short-cuts here and there when recreating our Regency recipes in the Archives kitchen. The Unknown Ladies of our Cookbook didn’t have access to kitchen luxuries such as the electric blender or the fan-assisted oven, and when it came to pastry-making there was only one way to go about it: by hand.
To a pound and quarter of sifted flour rub gently in with the hand half a pound of butter. Mix up with half a pint of spring water. Knead it well and set it by for a quarter of an hour. Then roll it out, then lay on it, in small pieces, ¾ of a pound more of butter. Throw on it a little flour, double it up in folds and roll it out thin three times. Set it by for an hour in a cold place.
Our ladies transcribed this puff pastry method from William Kitchiner’s The Cook’s Oracle. Kitchiner wasn’t content with the familiar range of puff, filo, flaky and shortcrust. His manual for the everyday cook includes pastry recipes for meat pies, ‘family pies’, boiled puddings, as well as decorative toppings for sweet pies and tarts:
Paste for Stringing Tartlets
Mix with your hands a quarter of a pound of flour, an ounce of fresh butter and a little cold water. Rub it well between the board & your hand till it begins to string. Cut it into small pieces. Roll it out and draw it into fine strings.
A Croquante of Paste
Roll out paste* about the eighth of an inch thick. Rub over a plain mould with a little fresh butter. Lay on the paste very even and equally thin on both sides. Pare it round the rim then, with a small penknife cut out small pieces as fancy may direct such as diamonds, stars &c. Let it lie to dry some time and bake it a few minutes in a slack oven. Remove it from the mould and place it on a tart or very small pasty.
* Paste for Croquants: To half a pound of fine flour put a quarter of a pound of sifted loaf sugar. Mix it well together with yolks of eggs till of a good stiffness