Thursday, October 27, 2016

Still Here

I'm pretty busy with school just now, and my projects are moving at the pace of particularly slow snails.  So here's something I learned to do in class: make archival boxes.
Archival storage box with antique hair comb.
There will be acid-free tissue added.
Also, a lid.

Monday, October 10, 2016

HFF 2.21: Party Foods

This challenge lined up nicely with The Fort's event schedule, falling over Candlelight Tours.  So, what shall I have Mrs. Tolmie serve at her final reception in the Fort Nisqually Factor's House?

The Challenge: 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!
"This plan is to ornament the sideboard with a basket of fruit, instead of insignificant pieces of pastry. Place in their stead things that can be eaten--such as jelly, plates of mixed pastry, and sandwiches of a superior kind, but not in too great profusion. Affix a label to each plate, indicating its contents...This is what is called a stand up supper..." --John Timbs Hints for the Table (London, 1859)

Though indicated for a ball, this "stand up supper" will do well for the Fort's 1859 Candlelight Tour itinerary: Mr. & Mrs. Tolmie are hosting a final evening party for their American friends before they depart for Fort Victoria.  With fourteen people in two rooms, the buffet-like arrangement will allow guests to mingle, converse and move freely.  Having all the dishes set out will also make a pretty display for the audience, while not over-burdening the servants with errands.

The Receipt:  
A PYRAMID OF TARTS from Miss Leslie's Complete Cookery 
Roll out a sufficient quantity of the best puff paste, or sugar paste; and with oval or circular cutters cut it out into seven or eight pieces of different sizes stamping the middle of each with the cutter you intend using for the next. Bake them all separately and when they are cool place them on a dish in a pyramid gradually diminishing in size the largest piece at the bottom and the smallest at the top. Take various preserved fruits, and lay some of the largest on the lower piece of paste; on the next place fruit that is rather smaller; and so on till you finish at the top with the smallest sweetmeats you have. The upper one may be not so large as a half-dollar containing only a single raspberry or strawberry. 
Notch all the edges handsomely. You may ornament the top or pinnacle of the pyramid with a sprig of orange blossom or myrtle. 
The Date/Year and Region: 1858 (1st ed. 1837)/ Philadelphia PA, USA

How Did You Make It: I took some liberties with this one.  The main being I used jam instead of preserved fruits as a matter of logistics (and, in my defense, "sweetmeats" elsewhere in this book names jams, jellies, and preserved whole fruits).

First I prepared puff paste using my usual period receipt from Mrs. Beeton (1 cup of water to 1 pound of flour, make a paste, fold in butter and roll out 3-4 times until 1 lb of butter has been incorporated). I cut out seven rounds of decreasing size; the scraps of paste were stamped into star shapes. The paste baked about 10-12 minutes at 400F.  To assemble, I spread cherry jam over the largest past circle, set the next largest round on pastry on top of it, and repeated the process, alternating raspberry and blackberry jam.  The pyramid was then decorated with the paste stars and sprigs of lemon balm.

A pyramid of tarts,from Miss Leslie's "Complete Cookery" 1858
A pyramid of tarts. 

Time to Complete: About an hour to roll and bake.  Twenty minutes or so to assemble.

Total Cost: $10 for three jars of jam and 1 pound butter, other ingredients on hand.

How Successful Was It?/How Accurate Is It? I'm treating these together, because I realized half-way through that the preserved fruit would give a much more impressive dimensionality.  So, my major deviation from the instructions was also a major point against the dish's successful appearance. Next time, I either need to make this during the summer when a lot of fresh fruit is in season, or else plan far enough ahead to have whole-fruit preserves.  That being said, the tart was tasty and well-received by the group.  It also didn't look as bad as I feared: even with the relatively flat individual layers, taken all together the dish made a nice pyramid shape.  I would make this one again, hopefully with improved presentation.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

HFF 2.20: Foods Mentioned in Songs

The Challenge: Find a historic song that mentions a food - and then cook a historic recipe around that food and the time of the song. Whether it’s Yankee Doodle’s macaroni, mussels a la Molly Malone, or the Muffin Man’s muffins, make sure it’s documented!

Hot Cross Buns are traditionally eaten on Good Friday, and in the Victorian period were mostly purchased from street-sellers, whose calls supposedly gave rise to the song.

The Receipt:  Cross Buns from Five Thousand Receipts: In All The Useful And Domestic Arts, by Colin MacKenzie (page 179)
Cross buns 
Put 2 1/2 lbs. of fine flour into a wooden bowl, and set it before the fire to warm; then add 1/2 a lb. sifted sugar, some coriander seed, cinnamon and mace powdered fine; melt 1/2 lb of butter in half pint of milk; when it is as warm as it can bear the finger, mix with it three table spoonsful of thick yeast, and a little salt; put it to the flour, mix it to a paste, and make the buns as directed the last receipt. [...cover it over and set it before the fire an hour to rise, then make it into buns, put them on a tin, set them before the fire for a quarter of an hour, cover over with flannel, then brush them with very warm milk and bake them of a nice brown in a moderate oven.] Put a cross on the top not deep.
The Date/Year and Region: 1854, American (Philadelphia), adapted from a British source

How Did You Make It:  Using this helpful conversion chart, I decided to use 6 tsp of dry yeast for the amount of flour in the receipt*.

Measured out 2.5 lbs of all-purpose flour (about 9 cups) and 1/2 lb of granulated sugar, then added 4 tsp cinnamon, 2 tsp coriander, and 1 tsp mace. The spices are pure guesswork; I used all of them pre-ground, as that's what was on hand.  After mixing the dry ingredients, I melted 1/2 lb (2 sticks) of unsalted butter on the stove, added 1 cup of 1% milk to the butter, then stirred in 6 tsp of active dry yeast and 1 tsp salt.  The liquid ingredients were the incorporated with the dry, and the resulting dough was placed inside the oven (on the lowest warming setting) to rise for one hour.

After rising, the dough was kneaded and worked into rolls.  The rolls were incised with crosses per the instructions ("not deep" indicates the cross should be cut rather than drawn in sugar), and allowed to rise a further 15 minutes, with the second pan rising a bit more while the first baked.  Baked at 375 for just over 20 minutes.  I brushed the second pan with milk before baking.

*As it turns out, I probably should have used a bit more yeast.

Time to Complete: About 3 hours, include rising and baking time.

Total Cost: $2 worth of butter, other ingredients on hand.

How Successful Was It? Tasty, but a bit dense. The dough didn't rise as much during the first hour as I would have hoped.  It may be that I didn't use enough yeast, or that I didn't knead it enough initially, or that the temperature was too high, etc. Next time, I'd try a bit more yeast (at least 3 full packages or 6.75 tsp, maybe 4 packs), and ask one of my friends who is actually good at making bread for advice on kneading/shaping buns.  The flavor gave satisfaction--sweet and spicy, but not overly so.  I think I picked good starting values for the spices, though I'm tempted to experiment a bit, particularly with adding a little more mace and/or coriander (or using the specified coriander seeds rather than pre-ground).

How Accurate Is It? Deviations on yeast and estimated spices previously noted.  Of course, these are apparently an item that is normally purchased rather than made at home in the 19th century, so my amateurish attempts are already of questionable accuracy.

Hot Cross Buns from 1854 recipe, for Historical Food Fortnightly
The densest Cross Buns ever.