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.

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