Thursday, August 25, 2016

HFF 2.17: Myths & Legends

The Challenge: It’s time to make some legendary food! Pick a story from folklore (a myth, fantasy, legend, or fairy tale) that features food, and use a historical recipe to recreate it. 

Unfortunately, I didn't have much luck with mythic food--most of the references I found were vague (King Arthur has "meat" and "wine" at his feasts; Valhalla serves wine, mead, and pork), don't require cooking (apples appear in everything from Snow White to The Illiad to Genesis), or aren't possible to make (the gods' ambrosia).  There are some German and Scandinavian fairy tales which have soft cheese as a plot point--always keep some around to impress giants/trolls with your strength--but I'm not quite up for unsupervised cheese-making at the moment.
So, I decided to work with a more modern legend: The Titanic.  Well-documented foods, and legendary status.

The Receipt: Apple Meringue from the Titanic First Class Luncheon Menu for April 14, 1912

Receipt from The Mendelssohn Club Cookbook (1909):
Apple Meringue
Eight tart apples stewed with 1 cup water and put through a sieve; add 1 cup sugar. 1 teaspoon lemon juice and the well beaten yolks of 4 eggs; bake in a buttered pudding dish 20 minutes in a quick oven. Make a meringue of the 4 whites of eggs and 2 tablespoons of fine sugar. Put on top and brown lightly. Serve very cold with cream and lady fingers.
Served with lady fingers (Naples biscuit) from Practical Cooking and Serving (1908):
6 eggs
1 cup of flour
1 1/4 cups of powdered sugar
A grating of lemon or orange rind
The juice of half a lemon  
Mix according to formula. Press the mixture through a tube on to a baking sheet covered with paper in portions an inch wide and five inches long. Dust with powdered sugar and bake from ten to fifteen minutes without browning. Remove from the paper brush over the flat surface of one biscuit with white of egg and press the underside of a second biscuit upon the first. 
The Date/Year and Region: 1909/1908, Illinois/New York

How Did You Make It: Followed the instructions above, on a half-scale.  I baked the meringue in two single-serving glass bowls (lacking appropriate pudding moulds), at 350F for about 20 minutes, and a further 5-10 to set the meringue.  After cooling to room temperature, I refrigerated the meringues so as to serve them cold.

The lady fingers were less successful: I halved the recipe, but produced such a thin batter that I ended up doubling the sugar and flour.  It was still incredibly runny, making it difficult to arrange and bake. No pictures were taken, as they really looked awful.

Time to Complete: Unknown

Total Cost: Ingredients on hand.

How Successful Was It? Mixed.  The apple portion tasted and felt like applesauce (the egg made it stay together a little, but otherwise didn't affect the texture).  The meringue topping went together like a dream.  I rather enjoyed it, but my dining companion did not--they found it none too sweet and don't care for applesauce in the first place.  Contrarily, they loved the lady fingers, which I found mediocre: like thin, not-quite-crisp strips of sponge cake.  The flavor was alright, and having a solid accompaniment suited the meringues. but the cakes weren't really anything special.

How Accurate Is It? I omitted the cream from the serving suggestion, as I did not know what to do with it (whipped cream or liquid? plain? sweetened?).  Similar apple meringue pie receipts from the period do not call for it, and omit the lady fingers in favor of a pastry crust beneath the apple.  I couldn't fine my sieve, so a few small chunks of apple found their way into the dish, but they weren't particularly noteworthy.

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