Sunday, February 28, 2016

HFF 2.5: Roasts

"To roast is to cook anything by exposing it to heat before a fire; it is applied occasionally to articles cooked in an oven as apples, potatoes, onions, or in any other close vessel subjected to a dry heat, as coffee." --John Smith, The Principles and Practices of Vegetarian Cookery (1860)

The Challenge: Roasts.

The Receipt: Roast potatoes and onions from The Principles and Practices of Vegetarian Cookery (#230, pages 150-1) with brown sauce (#216, page 247). The sauce calls for ketchup; mushroom ketchup (#258, page 250) is the only ketchup receipt given in this book, though other types were also used in the period--Mrs. Beeton's has receipts for mushroom, walnut, or oyster ketchup.  The sauce also calls for "browning" (#217, browned flour or powdered sugar with butter), though Cookery and Domestic Economy uses a similar sauce receipt, but with the "browning" optional, if the sauce needs to be darker.  Since the receipt says a table-spoon is sufficient for a quart of sauce, and I'm not planning on making anywhere near that much, I think I'll follow the Cookery & Domestic Economy example, and not go to the trouble for less than a teaspoon of extra flour.
To Bake or Roast Roots, Tubers etc. 
230. See 63 and 64. Prepare them as for boiling[#215/40: scrub the potato clean, possibly peel it, cut only large ones], and divide such as are very large; place them in a moderately heated oven, or in a Dutch oven, or cheese toaster; turn them occasionally, and take care they are not charred or burnt before they are well heated through. A small piece of skin may be cut off potatoes, and the remaining skin rubbed over with butter to make them crisp.
Large potatoes require about two hours; large beet root from four to six hours, When in haste, half boil the tubers and take off the thin skin before roasting them. Potatoes are improved by being roasted in wood-ashes. They may also be pared, put on a tin or dish, with two or three sliced onions, a little butter and water, and then a little flour dredged over them, baked in an oven, and served with brown sauce (516). 
Brown Sauce.  
516. (a.) Butter two ounces; flour one ounce. Melt the butter in a frying-pan or saucepan, add the flour and stir the mixture till it is of a brown colour; add as much boiling water as will render it of the consistency of thin cream; season with pepper and salt. Add a little browning and ketchup. (b.) Or, boil the flour and water with a little salt, then add it to the hot butter in the frying-pan add also browning (517) and ketchup (258), and let it simmer for five minutes, stirring it all the time." 
Mushroom Ketchup. 
258. Take two gallons of large flap mushrooms, quite sound; break them into a deep earthen pan and strew amongst them three quarters of a pound of salt, putting a little more at the top than between the layers. Let them stand one or two days and stir them gently once each day; drain off the liquor without pressing the mushrooms; strain and measure; it put it into a stew-pan and boil it quickly, with the seasoning until reduced to about one half. For every quart allow half an ounce of whole black pepper and a drachm [1/4 oz] of mace, or instead of the pepper a quarter of a tea-spoonful of good cayenne; pour the ketchup into a clean jug or jar, lay a folded cloth over it and keep it in a cool place until the next day; pour it gently from the sediment, put it into small bottles, cork them well, cover the corks with cement and keep the bottles in a cool dry place.
Year/Region: 1860, British

How Did You Make It: I made the ketchup on approximately a 1:8 scale, and so took 8 oz of white mushrooms (I can find no references to clarify "large flap mushrooms"), layered them with 1.5 oz of salt, and let them sit for two days.  About 1/2 cup liquid was recovered I added a couple dozen peppercorns and a pinch of mace, then boiled the liquid until reduced to 2 oz.  I let it sit overnight, then poured off the liquid, straining it.
Sliced mushrooms and salt for mushroom ketchup.
Preparing the mushrooms.
Mushroom ketchup, from a 19th century recipe.
Ketchup, ie spiced mushoom-liquid.
I washed and sliced four potatoes and half a large onion, arranged them in a pan with 2 tsp of butter, 1/4 cup water, and a sprinkle of flour.  Baked at 350F for about 75 minutes, until the potatoes were soft.

Sliced onions and potatoes, ready for roasting.
Onions and potatoes spotted with butter.
For the sauce, I melted the two ounces of butter as directed, sprinkled over it 1 oz of flour, and stirred it on moderate heat until brown.  I then added a dash of pepper, and all of the ketchup.  I added no salt, as the ketchup salty enough on its own  (ie, the sediment strained off the ketchup was mostly salt crystals).
Brown sauce in progress.

Roast potatoes and onions with brown sauce.

How successful was it? Tasty.  The sauce is a bit salty, but it's flavorful.  The onions imparted a nice taste to the potatoes as well.

How accurate was it? The sauce is paler than "brown", as expected with the browning omitted.  The treatment of the potatoes was a bit vague in the instructions, but I think I followed it reasonably.  The substituted mushroom type has already been noted.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Corded Petticoat

Much like the last one, this corded petti has an extended hem facing, containing 53 rows of narrow cotton cording.

Reproduction corded petticoat.

Close-up of the cording set into the hem.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Tiered Dress, mid-1850s

This fun dress was made at the request of a friend, using a gorgeous lightweight floral print she found at Reproduction Fabrics. The design is copied from an original (unfortunately, the picture was in a book of Russian museum items, so I can't link to it).  The original dress has a three-tiered skirt in a 2:1:1 ratio (bottom/mid/top).  The bodice was cut very full and shirred at shoulder and waist.  There's a piped bodice edge, no waistband, with a narrow self-fabric bow or tie at the center front of the original. The sleeves are wide open from the elbow, where they are controlled with shirring, but are
smooth above.  The center front opening has no buttons, and presumably closes with hooks and eyes.

1850s style dress with three tier skirt, open sleeves, shirred bodice.
 We decided to use smooth sleeve caps over a full open sleeve with shirring to the elbow, to follow the observed sleeve effect--we also tried mocking up a capless sleeve that was tight above and loose below, but it looked like a colonial-era costume piece, so the cap version was selected.  The narrow (apparently tatted) lace on the original was replaced by silk ribbon for the reproduction.  It was present on the two upper tiers of the skirt, and along the edge of the open sleeves.

Bodice waist shirring and gauged skirt.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

HFF 2.4: Sweets for the Sweet

The Challenge: Sweets for the Sweet

The Recipe: Orange and Orange-Flower Cream Bonbons, page 96 of The Art of Confectionery

Date/Region: 1865, American (Boston)

How Did You Make It: This is from the same book as last session's Chocolate and Vanilla Bonbons. I hoped that the previous experience will lead to better-looking candies this time around.  If nothing else, real icing bag made it a little easier to form the centers.

The orange sugar instructions are given on page 44:
"Orange Sugar for Flavoring. Rub the rind of a dozen oranges on lumps of sugar, scrape this off, dry it in paper on a plate in the screen, and put it away in a stoppered bottle for use."
I can't help but feel that it would useful to know how much sugar should be rubbed over the dozen oranges, so that I can scale it down appropriately.  So, instead I just took the ounce of sugar I needed, and rubbed it over the peel of one orange, until the sugar got a strong orange flavor.  Fun fact: leaving the peel in sugar will apparently draw additional moisture out of it, making the sugar syrupy. I set it aside to dry out, which it did.
Orange sugar.

For the centers, I started by dissolving 2 oz of gum arabic in 1/2 cup hot water; to get it all dissolved, I rigged up a sort of double boiler on the stove.  Once the gum was in solution, I strained it through a piece of muslin [this step is explained in the first bon bon recipe, which goes into more detail than the others].  The gum solution was mixed with the ounce of orange-flower water, and then about 11 cups of powdered sugar are added--even though this is 1.5x the total amount of sugar called for (2 lb ~ 7 cups), it just wasn't getting thick.  In fact, it probably could have used some more, but the bowl was at capacity.  It ended up with a sticky, still-somewhat-runny mixture with the delicate taste of orange flower.
Dissolving gum arabic on a stove top.

I used an icing bag with 1/2" plain tip (the 1/8" was way too small, and I didn't have the recommended 1/4" size) to make the centers, and dried them in a warm oven about 10 minutes. They spread more than I would have liked (again). I left them to cool overnight, hoping that this time they'd get hard enough not to come apart when the next layer is added.
Candy centers.
I made up the royal icing by beating together 2 egg whites, 4 cups powdered sugar, and the 1 oz of orange sugar.  The orange flavor mostly got lost, so I added the juice of half an orange (and another 1/2 cup powdered sugar to make up the consistency). Iced the centers, drying the candies in a warm oven for 10 minutes after each side.
Orange and orange flower water bonbons from an 1865 recipe.

Time to Prepare: About three hours, plus waiting between steps.

Total Cost: Everything was on hand (even the gum arabic, which was left-over from last time).

How Successful Was It: Fairly.  They still aren't exactly pretty.  Even with the added orange juice the orange flavor didn't really come through--though the orange flower water did nicely.

How Accurate Was It: Pretty good.  Obvious modern adaptation include using the mixer/electric oven.  The deviation with the orange juice in the icing was noted.  As usual, there were ambiguities in the recipe, which are hard to account for.

Monday, February 8, 2016

HFF 2.3: Mysteries

I've avoided doing bread so far for HFF, on account of yeast (ie, historically appropriate versions thereof).

The Challenge: Historical Sleuth.  Research a vague recipe, or combine two or more recipes.

The Recipe: A very light Potato Bread.--Dry 2 pounds of fine flour, and rub into it a pound of warm mealy potatoes; add warm milk and water, with a sufficient quantity of yeast and salt, at the proper time; leave it 2 hours to rise in a warm corner, in winter; bake it in tin shapes, otherwise it will spread, as the dough will rise very light. It makes nice hot rolls for butter. An excellent tea or bun bread is made of it, by adding sugar, eggs, and currants.  

Page 423-4 of Mrs. Hale's New Cook Book (1857) by Sarah J. Hale.

Date/Region: 1857 (1860, 1848). American

How Did You Make It: I started with the receipt above, and set about trying to figure out the proper amounts of yeast and salt.  Also, what to do with the potatoes (boil, mince, mash?), as whole potatoes won't easily incorporate into a "light" bread.

So, I checked Mrs. Beeton's, and her take on potato bread is completely different: very little flour relative to the amount of potatoes, and no yeast at all.  Mrs. Bradley's doesn't include potato bread, though there is a "potato yeast" receipt (more on that shortly).  Fortunately, Catharine Beecher came to the rescue, with a more explicit version of Mrs. Hale's receipt:

Potato Bread--Rub a dozen peeled and boiled potatoes through a very coarse sieve, aim mix with them twice the quantity of flour, mixing very thoroughly. Put in a coffee-cup full of home-brewed, or of potato yeast, or half as much of distillery yeast, also a teaspoonful of salt. Add whatever water may be needed to make a dough as stiff as for common flour bread.--Miss Beecher's Domestic Receipt Book (1848) [Note, I also found this verbatim, three years earlier, in The Southern Cultivator, with options to add butter or eggs for a finer bread].

A System of Practical Medicine (1842) defines some common household measures, including that a coffee cup holds 4 oz when filled normally, or 5 oz when filled to the brim (a teacup is apparently 4 oz as well, but a "breakfast teacup" is 8 oz; tablespoons vary, but are defined as 1/2 oz).

So, that's 2 lbs of fine flour, 1 lb of warm, dry boiled potatoes which have been "riced"/"snowed" through a sieve (thanks comment-writers!), about 2 oz of potato yeast (could not find live baking yeast or any sort of brewer's/distillery yeast at the local stores), 1 tsp of salt, and an unspecified amount of water or milk.*  Seems more do-able.

*I realized while it was rising that the amount of yeast/salt was given for 1 dozen potatoes, while the flour/potato quantities I was using were from the other receipt, in pounds.  Since the 1 lb of potatoes was about 2 1/2 moderate russets, I'm hoping the second receipt assumed very small potatoes--else, there's going to be way too much yeast for the bread.

The potato yeast receipt in Mrs. Bradley's Housekeeper's Book (1860) calls for (an unspecified amount of) mashed potato, diluted with water to "the consistency of yeast"; to this is added 1/2 teacup (about 2 oz) molasses and 2 Tbsp (about 1 oz) of yeast, and it's all allowed to ferment near a warm fire until it stops.  Based on this conversion chart, I think I'll need about 1 1/2 quarter-ounce packets of dry yeast--it's a modern substitute, but it's the best I can do at this time.

So, I started by peeling and boiling about 1 1/2 lbs of potatoes.  When they were soft, I allowed them to drain (about 20 minutes), then took 8 oz of potato, mashed it with 1/4 cup milk, then added 1/4 cup of molasses and 3 3/8 tsp dry yeast.  Having no fire, I set the yeast mixture in the oven at the lowest "warm" setting (under 200F) for half an hour.
Home-made potato yeast from an 1860 cookbook.

Meanwhile, I started attempting to force the remaining potatoes through a colander.  It sort of worked, but was very slow, so I ended up switching to the smaller side of a cheese-grater, which gave the same result rather faster.  The potatoes were boiled very soft, and basically became a glutinous, sticky mass while being worked.  On the upside, no lumps.
Riced potatoes for an 1857 recipe.

With the potatoes done, I measured out 2 lbs of flour, and mixed them together by hand, adding 1 tsp salt, 1 cup of milk, 1/4 cup of the yeast mixture, and finally 1/2 cup water.  After kneading by hand for about ten minutes, the dough was fairly incorporated, so I covered it and set it to rise for 2 hours (once again using the ultra-low oven setting to make a "warm corner").

Victorian potato bread dough

Without explicit instructions from this point, I just kneaded the second time, put it into pans, let it rise another 60 minutes, then baked at 350F for about 40 minutes. I opted not to make rolls, as I lacked the recommended "tins" (muffin rounds, I assume).
Potato bread from an 1857 recipe.

Time to Complete: About 4.5 hours, including rising and baking time (and forty minutes of rubbing sticky potatoes over a cheese grater).

Total Cost: All ingredients were on hand.

How Accurate Was It: The main modern intrusion was using the active dry yeast for the "yeast" in the potato yeast, as previously noted.  I did some guessing on quantities (amount of potato in yeast, proportion of salt/yeast to flour/potato), but as those were historic ambiguities, I'm not counting them against the dish's accuracy.

How Successful Was It: Tastes like home-made bread. It's not particularly potato-y, though if I concentrate I can tell that there's *more* to it than my usual bread recipe.

As the receipt promised, it's nice and light, and tastes great with butter.