The Ladies' Tea Guild

Friday, April 6, 2018

Historic Cooking: Hannah Glasse's Rich Cake from 1774.

Hannah Glasse's Rich Cake from
The Art of Cookery, 1774.
Photo: Elizabeth Urbach
The Redone Challenge: #21: Party Foods (October 7 - October 20, 2016) If there’s a party, there has to be food! Pick a dish meant to be served to a crowd, or at a festive gathering, and show your work! 

At the school where I work, the 5th-grade classes spend a whole school day studying the Revolutionary War history of the United States, with a day of living history activities called Colonial Day.  The students rotate through a list of different activities ranging from candle dipping and writing with a quill and ink, to learning about the Boston Tea Party and enjoying a “party” at the “Governor’s Palace” in Williamsburg, VA.   The previous librarian used to assist with the Boston Tea Party activity, and I inherited that job when I took her place in the school library. My love for tea and history prepared me to coordinate the “party” part of the activity, as well as make the tea, and teach about tea and etiquette in the 18th century.
18th century Rich Cake/Great Cake, iced.
Photo: Elizabeth Urbach

While the students’ parents were supposed to sign up to bring the treats for the “tea party”, only a few promised to bring food (although several things turned up unannounced on the day of the event), so I decided to bake something so that there would be enough for every student to have at least one piece of cake or one cookie.  Although the parents had previously brought 20th-century treats like banana bread and scones with frosting on them, I wanted to increase the historical accuracy of the activity.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Historic Cooking: Californio-style Chocolate from ca. 1777.

A cup of Californio-style Chocolate.
Photo: Elizabeth Urbach.
The Redone Challenge(s): Sweet Sips and Potent Potables April 5 - April 18, 2015 and History Detective (January 29 - February 11, 2016) 

Foodways from the Spanish and Mexican colonization period of California’s history, is not a very widely-talked about subject.  The documents that contain the information about food during this period are largely still in 18th century/early 19th century Spanish, although some of them have begun to be translated into English and other languages in the past few years.  The available documents are also mostly from the very beginning of the Spanish colonial era (begun in mainland Mexico in the 16th century) or from the very end of the Mexican colonial era – or even afterwards, in the later memories of the people who lived in California during that time.  Therefore, a fair amount of extrapolation is necessary to re-create foods that would have been familiar to the Californios – people of Hispanic descent who lived in California before the Gold Rush. 

Chocolate began as a bitter, spicy beverage among the Aztec elite.  They drank it for ceremonial purposes as well as ordinary ones, and incorporated many local flowers and spices in its manufacture.  They used cacao beans and pods as a form of currency, and presented it as gifts to other rulers, including the Spanish conquistadors, when they first arrived. 

The Recipe: The recipe I ended up using is an amalgamation of multiple original recipes from the period.  The earliest Spanish recipe that I could find for chocolate was written by Antonio Colmenero, translated by Don Diego de Vades-forte in "A Curious Treatise of the Nature and Quality of Chocolate" which was published in London in 1640, in Spain before 1631.  It includes the original Aztec ingredients, as well as Spanish substitutions for some of the items that were unavailable in Spain, and instructions for preparing the cacao beans and spices so that they are ready to melt in hot water.  


“To every 100 Cacaos, you must put two cods of the long red Pepper, of which I have spoken before, and are called, in the Indian Tongue, Chilparlagua; and in stead of those of the Indies, you may take those of Spaine; which are broadest, and least hot. One handfull of Annis-seed Orejuelas, which are otherwise called Vinacaxlidos: and two of the flowers, called Mechasuehil, if the Belly be bound. But in stead of this, in Spaine, we put in sixe Roses of Alexandria beat to Powder: One Cod of Campeche, or Logwood: Two Drams of Cinamon, Almons, and Hasle-Nuts, of each one Dozen: Of white Sugar, halfe a pound: Of Achiote, enough to give it the colour. And if you cannot have those things, which come from the Indies, you may make it with the rest.”

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Historic Cooking: To make a brown Fricasey from 1777.

Hannah Glasse's Brown Fricasey.
Photo: Elizabeth Urbach.
The Redone Challenge: If They’d Had It… (November 2 - November 15, 2014)
Have you ever looked through a cookbook from another era and been surprised at the modern dishes you find? Have you ever been surprised at just how much they differ from their modern counterparts? Recreate a dish which is still around today, even if it may look a little - or a lot - different!

The Recipe: Although we don't generally see fricasees on menus today, in reading the recipes for them, I saw that they are essentially the same (at least, as some traditional recipes have it) as a very common menu item today: Chicken a la Marsala!  Having made Chicken Marsala at least once before, I was surprised to find that it is a fairly simple dish to make; when using this recipe, use flour or very fine breadcrumbs instead of the grated bread, substitute Marsala wine for the red wine, and use fresh mushrooms intead of the pickled mushrooms, and you have an almost identical dish!

To make a brown fricasey. You must take your rabbits or chickens and skin then, then cut them into small pieces, and rub them over with yolks of eggs.  Have ready some grated bread, a little beaten mace, and a little grated nutmeg mixt together, and then roll them in it; put a little butter into your stew-pan, and when it is melted put in your meat.  Fry it of a fine brown, and take care they don't stick to the bottom of the pan, then pour the butter from them, and pour in half a pint of gravy, a glass of red wine, a few mushrooms, or two spoonfuls of the pickle, a little salt (if wanted) and a piece of butter rolled in flour.  When it is of a fine thickness dish it up, and send it to table. -- from The Art of Cookery Made Plain & Easy, Hannah Glasse, 1774.

The Date/Year and Region: Eastern Coast of U.S., 1774. 

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Historic Cooking: Halloween Fruit Cake from 1920

Halloween Fruit Cakes.
Photo: Elizabeth Urbach
I realized, as I was going through my past food history posts, that while I have made various recipes from the 1920s (like cheese straws and Club sandwiches), I had never written them up or taken photos.  While I will have to re-create the cheese straws and Club sandwiches at another time, I recently discovered a cookbook on VintageRecipes.net: Mrs. Wilson's Cook Book published in 1920.  It has a lot of interesting recipes, but none, as far as I can discover, that contain alcohol any stronger than cider; this is a recipe book for the frugal, teatotal household, not one headed by a "flapper".  It does, however, contain recipes named after various holidays, and since Halloween just happened, I couldn't resist making the recipe called Halloween Fruit Cake.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Historic Cooking: Chicken Saltato con Fungi from 1916

Chicken Saltado con Fungi ingredients.
Photo: Elizabeth Urbach
 Since the Historical Food Fortnightly Challenge project officially ended, and no new challenges will be posted, those of us who have completed some of the challenges in the past decided that we would continue the project on an informal basis.  We choose a challenge from the whole list of previous themes, and either complete them (if we never got a chance to do so), or re-do them, on our own time, with no requirement (even such an informal one as we had) to complete the recipe and post about it within a certain time period! I've been reading Edwardian Farm by Ruth Goodman, Peter Ginn, and Alex Langlands, so I've been thinking about life in California during the Edwardian period, and the similarities and differences between Edwardian California and Edwardian England. 

Monday, June 12, 2017

Historic Cooking: Moss Rose Cake, ca. 1948.

Orange flower water.
Photo: Elizabeth Urbach.
I recently had a birthday, and as I have been doing for the past several years, I decided to make my own birthday dessert.  My family means well, but for most of my life they always got me those cakes from the grocery store bakery section, which always tasted stale and chemical-y, and I really dislike them; I would always be "forced" to take home the extra cake (usually about 3/4 of the cake, because my family doesn't love grocery store cake, either) because "It's *your* birthday cake", and it would sit in my fridge for over a week as I tried to get my housemates to eat some of it, but it would end up in the trash ... Despite the slight transgression of birthday protocol in making my own birthday cake, I would rather make my own; I like to bake, and when I bake, I get to decide what to make, plus, I know that it's freshly baked, rather than freshly taken from the freezer ...

Anyway, my niece is also a budding foodie and baker, and she bought me a vintage cookbook (ca. 1948) for my birthday a few years ago; the result of her purchase is that I try to have the cookbook with me when I go visit my parents' house, whenever my niece is also there, and we try to choose a recipe and bake it together.  She likes making cake (we made a Devil's Food Cake, before).  This time around, I decided I wanted something lemon for my birthday, and couldn't decide between a lemon pie -- like I made last year for my birthday -- or a sponge cake with lemon curd filling (but I haven't had good luck with sponge cake; last time the cake broke in half when I tried to get it out of the pan).  We thought this recipe sounded interesting, and as a bonus, you don't have to separate the eggs!  Here is the original recipe:

Moss Rose Cake
2 c. sifted cake flour 
½ tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking powder
4 eggs
2 c. sugar
½ tsp. almond extract 
1 c. hot milk

Sift flour, salt and baking powder together 3 times.  Beat eggs, add sugar gradually and beat until thick enough to hold a soft peak.  Add flavoring.  Fold in flour mixture in small amounts and add hot milk gradually, mixing quickly until batter is smooth.  Turn into lightly greased cake pans.  Bake in moderate (350°F) oven 30 minutes.  Makes 3 (8-inch) layers.  

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Historic Cooking: Capon with Oranges, 1596.

Orange slices.  Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.com
In the History of Royal Food and Feasting course last week, we took a look at the 16th century, and English aristocratic and royal food of Elizabeth I's court.  I was able to complete one of the suggested recipes: Capon with Oranges.  Here is the original recipe:

Take your capon and set him on the fire as before with marrow bones and mutton, and when you have skimmed the pot well, put thereto the value of a farthing loaf, and let it boil till it be half boiled. Then take two or three ladlesful of the same broth and put it into an earthen pot, with a pint of the same wine aforesaid. Peel six or eight oranges and slice them thin, and put them into the same broth with four pennyworth in sugar or more, and a handful of parsley, thyme and rosemary, together tied. Season it with whole mace, clove, and sticks of cinnamon, with two nutmegs beaten small. And so serve it.
-- Thomas Dawson, Good Housewife’s Jewel (1596).

Now stir the fire, and close the shutters fast,
Let fall the curtains, wheel the sofa round,
And, while the bubbling and loud-hissing urn
Throws up a steamy column, and the cups
That cheer but not inebriate, wait on each,
So let us welcome peaceful evening in.
-- William Cowper (1731-1800)
"The Winter Evening" (Book Four), _The Task_ (1784)