[Smashy the Hammer] [An Aspiring Luddite]
I carry no phone
An aspiring Luddite
In a wired world.
[Jeff Berry]
Jeff Berry is an early adopter of the Internet and the Web, a late adopter of Twitter, and declines to adopt Facebook. With the death of Google+, he's experimenting with federated platforms. He admins a medievalist Mastodon instance, and can found on the PlusPora diaspora pod. He hates cell-phones.

Georgian Meringues and Currant Cakes
3 June 2011

I'm still working through the recipes I put together for the Marc Meltonville talk on "Reconstructing Historic Royal Kitchens," that the Culinary Historians of New York put on a few weeks ago. Browse through the archives for May or June if you'd like to see some of the Medieval and Georgian recipes I've already done.

This week, it's all 18th century, though, and all sweeets. There's a meringue to use up all the egg whites left over from all the yolk-heavy custards of the previous recipes, and a lovely not-quite-pound-cake cookie, with currants.

[Cooked Meringues] First from the 1811 Edition of John Farley's "The London Art of Cookery" (which is early 19th C. but other editions were 18th C.)

Sugar Puffs
Beat the whites of ten eggs till they rise to a high froth. Then put them in a marble mortar or wooden bowl, and add as much double-refined sugar as will make it thick; then rub it round the mortar for half an hour, put in a few carraway seeds, and take a sheet of wafers, and lay it on as broad as a sixpence and as high as you can. Put them into a moderately-heated oven half a quarter of an hour, and they will look as white as snow.
(Other editions say "a quarter of an hour")

And my version ...

Georgian Meringues
[Uncooked Meringues] Take your egg whites and beat them until frothy. In batches, work in the sugar and the caraway seeds.

A Georgian sixpence piece was about the size of a penny. If you make your meringues that size, then 8-10 minutes in a 350F oven should be sufficient. If you make them larger, you will need to reduce the heat and let them cook longer. Modern meringue topping recipes suggest 300F for 30-40 minutes. Cooked this way, the meringues will still be a bit chewy. If you prefer them dry, you may have to use modern heats and timings: something like 225F for three hours.

The caraway gives these meringues a nice flavour, and one that is a bit unusual to the modern palate. I like them chewy myself.

The second recipes is from Hannah Glasse, 1747, who has already provided us with so much pleasure in the last few weeks with Asparagus Forced in French Role and A Pearl Barley Pudding.

[Currant Cakes] To make little Fine Cakes
One pound of butter beat to Cream, a Pound and quarter of Flour, a Pound of fine Sugar beat fine, a Pound of Currans clean wash's and pick'd, six Eggs, two Whites left out, beat them fine, mix the Flour and Sugar and Eggs by Degrees into the Butter, beat it all well with both Hands, either make it into little Cakes, or bake it in one.

This one needs hardly a gloss, really ...

Little Fine Currant Cakes
Cream the butter. Beat the egg and the yolks. Add the flour, sugar, eggs and currants to the butter in three or four stages, mixing well at each stage. You don't have to use your hands, a mixer is fine. Preheat the oven to 325. If you make small cakes, bake for 25 minutes, and then began checking for doneness, they should be firm, but springy and perhaps slightly brown. (The larger they are, the longer they will take to bake, of course.) If making a single large cake, pour the batter into a greased cake pan, bake for 45 minutes and then begin checking for doneness.

So, not quite a pound cake, what with the eggs and all. Still, pretty darn good. Crumbly and sweet, but not too sweet.

© 2011 Jeff Berry
The Aspiring Luddite