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.

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