Friday, July 22, 2016

HFF 2.15: Smell, Sight, Sound, Touch

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The Challenge: Create a "feast for the senses."  I tried to make a dish that was pretty as well as tasty (sort of remixing Challenge #7).  The baking paste also smelled sort of nice?  I've not nothing on sound, however.

The Receipt: From Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management: 
1321. INGREDIENTS – Puff-paste No. 1205, the white of an egg, sifted loaf sugar. 
Mode.—Make some good puff-paste by recipe No. 1205; roll it out to the thickness of about 1/4 inch, and, with a round fluted paste-cutter, stamp out as many pieces as may be required; then work the paste up again, and roll it out to the same thickness, and with a smaller cutter, stamp out sufficient pieces to correspond with the larger ones. Again stamp out the centre of these smaller rings; brush over the others with the white of an egg, place a small ring on the top of every large circular piece of paste, egg over the tops, and bake from 15 to 20 minutes. Sift over sugar, put them back in the oven to colour them; then fill the rings with preserve of any bright colour. Dish them high on a napkin, and serve. So many pretty dishes of pastry may be made by stamping puff-paste out with fancy cutters, and filling the pieces, when baked, with jelly or preserve, that our space will not allow us to give a separate recipe for each of them; but, as they are all made from one paste, and only the shape and garnishing varied, perhaps it is not necessary, and by exercising a little ingenuity, variety may always be obtained. Half-moons, leaves, diamonds, stars, shamrocks, rings, etc., are the most appropriate shapes for fancy pastry. 
1205. INGREDIENTS – To every lb. of flour allow 1 lb. of butter, and not quite 1/2 pint of water. 
Mode.—Carefully weigh the flour and butter, and have the exact proportion; squeeze the butter well, to extract the water from it, and afterwards wring it in a clean cloth, that no moisture may remain. Sift the flour; see that it is perfectly dry, and proceed in the following manner to make the paste, using a very clean paste-board and rolling-pin:—Supposing the quantity to be 1 lb. of flour, work the whole into a smooth paste, with not quite 1/2 pint of water, using a knife to mix it with: the proportion of this latter ingredient must be regulated by the discretion of the cook; if too much be added, the paste, when baked, will be tough. Roll it out until it is of an equal thickness of about an inch; break 4 oz. of the butter into small pieces; place these on the paste, sift over it a little flour, fold it over, roll out again, and put another 4 oz. of butter. Repeat the rolling and buttering until the paste has been rolled out 4 times, or equal quantities of flour and butter have been used. Do not omit, every time the paste is rolled out, to dredge a little flour over that and the rolling-pin, to prevent both from sticking. Handle the paste as lightly as possible, and do not press heavily upon it with the rolling-pin. The next thing to be considered is the oven, as the baking of pastry requires particular attention. Do not put it into the oven until it is sufficiently hot to raise the paste; for the best-prepared paste, if not properly baked, will be good for nothing. Brushing the paste as often as rolled out, and the pieces of butter placed thereon, with the white of an egg, assists it to rise in leaves or flakes. As this is the great beauty of puff-paste, it is as well to try this method.

The Date/Year and Region: 1861, British

How Did You Make It: Made up puff paste using 1/4 lb each of butter and flour: used a scant 1/4 cup of water to make the flour into a paste, then rolled it out four times to incorporate the butter. Cut into rounds and stars, using an icing tip to cut out the center of the stars.  Brushed egg white over the rounds, layered on the stars, and applied more egg white. Baked 15 min at 400F, adding sugar 2 for the last 2 minutes.  Allowed to cool, then added

Time to Complete: 3/4-1 hour

Total Cost: All ingredients on hand.

How Successful Was It?: Fairly.  The pastry is nice and flaky.  The jam is jam.  Could possibly use a larger proportion of jam to pastry, but it's palatable as is--even if it didn't turn out a pretty as i could have hoped.

How Accurate Is It?: I used store-bought preserves, and the usual "electric oven instead of wood or coal-powered oven".

Thursday, July 21, 2016

White Waist

Here's my new white waist for early 1860s wear.  The inspiration piece is a basic gathered body with full bishop sleeves (from The Graceful Lady, first on the page).  I'm kicking myself over the fabric--I have a piece of barred cotton very similar to the original which I had just cut up for a fancy knitting apron before I decided to make a white body.  Alas.  Instead, I ended up using a piece of plain cotton batiste that was on hand.
Repro 1860s Victorian White Waist

I decided to make a detached half-high lining for this body: none of the originals I've found pictures of have attached linings, and my material is so sheer that an intermediate layer is needed to conceal unsightly corset and chemise lines.  I did not opt for a "corset cover" because I've still found little evidence that they were in use before 1865.  The lining is white pimatex; both it and the body are draped-to-fit, with dart and armscythe adjustments courtesy of Nancy.

The silk waist has an interior structure of crinoline, with 1/4" steel boning in the points.  It fastens with hooks and eyes on the side.  It is displayed (and worn) with the green wool skirt that also accompanies my 1850s velvet and lace basque.

Repro 1860s Victorian White & Silk Waists

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Book Review: How to be a Tudor

Cover of "How to Be a Tudor" by Ruth Goodman

Ruth Goodman's How To Be A Tudor is a highly accessible overview of daily life in 16th century England.  Like its predecessor, How To Be A Victorian, How To Be A Tudor uses the course of a day to examine how people slept, dressed, worked, ate, and amused themselves five centuries ago.

How To Be A Tudor has the same conversational tone, informative content, organizational structure, and geographical boundaries as its Victorian counterpart.  However, this book is kept fresh and interesting by the different time span and content: there's fewer cholera epidemics and considerably more ale brewing and religious turmoil.  The structure of this book also feels a bit tighter, as though the subtopics fit closer into the "daily routine" framework.  I'm not sure if that is my imagination, intentional editing, or the result of having fewer written records from the time (in spite of which, Ms. Goodman managed to assemble an extensive bibliography).   

There's little I'd think to change about this book, other than adding footnotes.  Even at 300 pages, it's an engaging read and doesn't feel overly long.  If another book in this style comes out, I'll make a point of reading it.

Score: 4.85 Stars (I'd still like some footnotes!)

Accuracy: Many primary sources were consulted and/or quoted, and a number of period illustrations are included; the book also details the author's personal experience with trying to live like a Tudor person.  There's an 11-page bibliography for those seeking more information.

Strongest Impression: Send your copy of How To Be A Victorian through a 300 year time vortex, and you get How to Be a Tudor.  A fun and informative read.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Thread Buttons

Thread-covered buttons: linen over wooden beads.

Still here, still working on a few large projects--one of which needs some special fasteners.  The thread is linen, the button forms are small wooden beads.

Monday, July 4, 2016

HFF 2.14: Waste Not, Want Not

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The Challenge: Make a dish which averts waste.

The Receipt: Baked Bread Pudding from Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management:

1250. INGREDIENTS – 1/2 lb. of grated bread, 1 pint of milk, 4 eggs, 4 oz. of butter, 4 oz. of moist sugar, 2 oz. of candied peel, 6 bitter almonds, 1 tablespoonful of brandy.

Mode.—Put the milk into a stewpan, with the bitter almonds; let it infuse for 1/4 hour; bring it to the boiling point; strain it on to the bread crumbs, and let these remain till cold; then add the eggs, which should be well whisked, the butter, sugar, and brandy, and beat the pudding well until all the ingredients are thoroughly mixed; line the bottom of a pie-dish with the candied peel sliced thin, put in the mixture, and bake for nearly 3/4 hour.

The Date/Year and Region: 1861, British

How Did You Make It: Brought 16 oz of milk to a boil, stirred in 1 tsp. almond extract (subsituted for the bitter almonds), and poured over 8 oz of shredded bread.  Beat 4 eggs, added 4 oz butter, 4 oz sugar, 1 Tbsp brandy and mixed well.  Sliced 2 oz of homemade candied peel, and arranged in a pie pan.  Mixed softened bread and other ingredient, then pressed into the prepared pan.  Baked approximately 45 minutes at 350F.

Time to Complete: Just over an hour

Total Cost: All ingredients on hand.

How Successful Was It?:  Well-received at the potluck.  I thought the taste worked great: the almond was distinct, but not overwhelming, and the candied peel provided a nice contrast.  It wasn't overly sweet, and might even stand to have a little more sugar next time; I didn't notice any taste of brandy in the finished pudding. The texture was mostly good, though I found it a tad damp along the pan edges, and next time I would be tempted plate it early and allow it to dry a little.  I'll likely make this receipt again, since it went over so well.

How Accurate Is It?:  I substituted 1 tsp almond extract for 6 bitter almonds; the amount is pure guesswork, but I'm satisfied with how it turned out.  Shredding rather than grating the bread was my other main substitution, but that also seemed to work fine--a bit chunky on the top edge, but well-incorporated elsewhere.  No bread type was not specified in this receipt, so I used what I had on hand (a sourdough baguette with a few bits of pumpernickel to make the weight).

Baked Bread Pudding from Mrs. Beeton's (1861)

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

HFF 2.13: Pie

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The Challenge: Make a pie.

The Recipe: Apple Pie from Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management (different receipt from last time).
1233. INGREDIENTS – Puff-paste No. 1205 or 1206, apples; to every lb. of unpared apples allow 2 oz. of moist sugar, 1/2 teaspoonful of finely-minced lemon-peel, 1 tablespoonful of lemon-juice. 
Mode.—Make 1/2 lb. of puff-paste by either of the above-named recipes, place a border of it round the edge of a pie-dish, and fill it with apples pared, cored, and cut into slices; sweeten with moist sugar, add the lemon-peel and juice, and 2 or 3 tablespoonfuls of water; cover with crust, cut it evenly round close to the edge of the pie-dish, and bake in a hot oven from 1/2 to 3/4 hour, or rather longer, should the pie be very large. When it is three-parts done, take it out of the oven, put the white of an egg on a plate, and, with the blade of a knife, whisk it to a froth; brush the pie over with this, then sprinkle upon it some sifted sugar, and then a few drops of water. Put the pie back into the oven, and finish baking, and be particularly careful that it does not catch or burn, which it is very liable to do after the crust is iced. If made with a plain crust, the icing may be omitted. 
Note.—Many things are suggested for the flavouring of apple pie; some say 2 or 3 tablespoonfuls of beer, others the same quantity of sherry, which very much improve the taste; whilst the old-fashioned addition of a few cloves is, by many persons, preferred to anything else, as also a few slices of quince.

The Date/Year and Region: British, 1861

How Did You Make It: I used the #1206 puff paste receipt (as in the turn-overs two challenge past): made a paste of 1/2 lb of flour and 1/2 cup water, and rolled it out 3 times with 2 oz lard and 4 oz butter.  For the filling, I sliced (but did not peel) 2 lbs of apples, then added 4 oz sugar, 1 tsp lemon peel, 2 tablespoons lemon-juice, and a dozen cloves.  I understood the instructions to not call for a bottom crust; instead I lined the sides of the pan with paste, added the filling, and then covered the top.  Baked 40 min at 350F, opted not to brush with egg white.

Time to Complete: Just over an hour.

Total Cost: Ingredients on hand.

How Successful Was It?:  Good, if unlovely.  It was spicier than the last apple pie I made for HFF, with the cloves and lemon peel adding a bit of excitement.  I'd be interested to experiment with the optional sherry as well.  I meant to bake it at 400F, but forgot to change the oven temperature. Nonetheless, I found it sufficiently cooked, and the soldiers seemed to like it.  

How Accurate Is It?: As before, I didn't use heirloom baking apples, and so likely got a sweeter pie; the egg-white-and-sugar finish would have been a nice touch, but the receipt suggests it is not mandatory. 

Monday, June 13, 2016

HFF 2.12: In a Jam

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The Challenge: Make jam, jelly, pickles, or other preserved food.

The Recipe: Cherry Bounce from The Cook's Own Book. Which is definitely about preserving cherries.
Take a peck of morella cherries and a peck of black hearts. Stone the morellas and crack the stones. Put all the cherries and the cracked stones into a demi-john wtth three pounds of loaf-sugar slightly pounded or beaten. Pour in two gallons of double-rectified whisky. Cork the demi-john and in six months the cherry bounce will be fit to pour off and bottle for use; but the older it is the better. 

The Date/Year and Region: 1854, American (Boston)

How Did You Make It:  I scaled down the recipe to approximately 1/8 it's original amount. One peck is two dry gallons, or approximately 6-7 lbs of cherries; so, the receipt requires approximately 3 pounds of cherries (1.5 lb of each type) for 1 liter of whiskey (1 liter ~ 1 fluid quart).  I also substituted local cherries for the named varieties: Washington sweet, dark cherries for the black hearts and Rainier for the morellas. The former seems to be a fair substitution (black hearts are sweet, dark, and hard to find today). Rainier cherries aren't as sweet as the dark ones, but they also aren't sour like the morella cherries called for in the receipt--unfortunately, they were the only other variety available just now.

To make it, I washed the cherries, and cut each in half to remove the pits.  Half of the pits were briefly chopped in the blender.  I then filled two quart-sized jars with the cherries, adding the cracked pits and  approximately 6 oz of sugar to each.  I poured whiskey into the jars until the fruit was covered, and then sealed them and set them aside.

Time to Complete: About 30 minutes to prepare (mostly pitting cherries); 6 months to mature.

Total Cost: Varies with price of cherries and quality of whiskey.

How Successful Was It?:  I won't know for some months yet.  

How Accurate Is It?: The cherry substitutions were noted above.  I have seen period references to using other cherry varieties (such as wild cherries, particularly Virginian ones), and to using rum or brandy as the liquor, so a certain amount of improvisation seems acceptable.  Another receipt only has the cherries infuse for 8-10 weeks, so I may be justified in sampling it before January (though, according to Mr. Irving, cherry bounce is a traditional New Year's refreshment).  Using the blender to crack the stones was not period, but I couldn't think of another way to do it without making a mess of my hammer and cutting board.  The receipts suggest that the cracked stones are optional and I've omitted them in the past--I will note, however, that the blender smelled very strongly of cherries, so I have hopes that this will result in an especially flavorful batch.
Rainier and Washington Dark Cherries

Cherries and stones for "Cherry Bounce" (1854 recipe)

Edit: I have since learned that cherry stones contain small quantities of cyanide/cyanogens; while my calculations indicate that the amount of pits present should not be dangerous, I decided to remove the pits from the liquor as a precaution, and will not include them in future batches.