Monday, April 4, 2016

HFF 2.7: Pretty As a Picture

Historic Food Fortnightly Icon
The Challenge: Make a food as pretty as it is delicious. ... Um, right.  About that. Photogenic foods are not my forte (see every other post under the HFF tag). Nonetheless, let's see what happens

The Recipe: To Make Pancakes, from Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management.
1861 Mrs. Beeton pancake illustration.
Illustration from the 1861 edition.

Colored image, rolled pancakes.
Colored version, unknown edition.
I basically picked this receipt because there is depiction of how it's meant to be plated and it didn't involved elaborate molds.

Date/Region: 1861, English

How did you make it?
1467. INGREDIENTS – Eggs, flour, milk; to every egg allow 1 oz. of flour, about 1 gill of milk, 1/8 saltspoonful of salt. 
Mode.—Ascertain that the eggs are fresh; break each one separately in a cup; whisk them well, put them into a basin, with the flour, salt, and a few drops of milk, and beat the whole to a perfectly smooth batter; then add by degrees the remainder of the milk. The proportion of this latter ingredient must be regulated by the size of the eggs, &c. &c.; but the batter, when ready for frying, should be of the consistency of thick cream. Place a small frying-pan on the fire to get hot; let it be delicately clean, or the pancakes will stick, and, when quite hot, put into it a small piece of butter, allowing about 1/2 oz. to each pancake. When it is melted, pour in the batter, about 1/2 teacupful to a pan 5 inches in diameter, and fry it for about 4 minutes, or until it is nicely brown on one side. By only pouring in a small quantity of batter, and so making the pancakes thin, the necessity of turning them (an operation rather difficult to unskillful cooks) is obviated. When the pancake is done, sprinkle over it some pounded sugar, roll it up in the pan, and take it out with a large slice, and place it on a dish before the fire. Proceed in this manner until sufficient are cooked for a dish; then send them quickly to table, and continue to send in a further quantity, as pancakes are never good unless eaten almost immediately they come from the frying-pan. The batter may be flavoured with a little grated lemon-rind, or the pancakes may have preserve rolled in them instead of sugar. Send sifted sugar and a cut lemon to table with them. To render the pancakes very light, the yolks and whites of the eggs should be beaten separately, and the whites added the last thing to the batter before frying.
[A gill is 1/2 cup, and 1 oz of flour is around 1/4 cup; a saltspoonful is approximately 1/4 tsp, so 1/32 tsp of salt is needed per egg.]

Beat 1 egg by hand; stirred into 1/4 cup flour with a pinch of salt*, then added milk until a light batter was obtained (about 3/8 cup of milk used).  Melted 1 Tbsp butter in my smallest pan--it's about 7" across, or twice the surface area of a 5" pan, so I used 1 teacupful (c. 4 oz or 1/2 cup) of batter at a time to ensure the same pancake thickness as in the original receipt.  Cooked each pancake until solid, then sprinkled over with powdered sugar.  Rolled up the pancake and transferred it to a plate; sprinkled all with more sugar and served warm.

*About 1/4 of the 1/8 tsp measuring spoon, as that's the smallest size I have.  This would be easier if one were making a whole batch of pancakes

From a single-egg batch, I made two large pancakes; with the appropriate-sized pan, one could expect 3-4 per egg.

How successful was it? From a visual perspective, rather lacking. While the cookbook warned that flipping pancakes is difficult, I found the rolling of them to be much harder.  Then there was all the melted butter to deal with--the amount specified is at least four times more than I would ever use in that pan.

From a taste perspective, the pancakes were alright.  Mostly, butter and sugar flavors were coming through, with just a hint of egg.  If making this again, I'd try it with the optional lemon peel, and probably put preserves in half of the pancakes, just to compare.  They were a touch denser than the pancakes I'm used to, possible because this receipt has no leavening beyond the eggs.  I'm unlikely to make this receipt again for personal use, but would consider it for period use if a suitable occasion arose.

How accurate was it? The pancake was a bit larger than called for (as noted above), but otherwise in line with the instructions.
Pancakes from Mrs. Beetons's (1861) on purple transferware plate.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks for commenting!