Today’s recipe comes from John Nott’s 1724 cookbook “The Cooks and Confectioners Dictionary.” On the surface these tarts seem rather normal, a standard lemon tart made with puff paste. But there is another ingredient that we’re sure will surprise you! It really sets this dish off!
In this episode we make an authentic 18th century pear tart out of Hannah Glasses 18th century cookbook on confectionary. Check out our website at Http://jas-townsend.com and our cooking blog at http://ift.tt/1iMiONd
In our 3rd series – 2nd episode we are going to make an 18th century puff paste that will work for many types of baked goods. Check out of website at http://Jas-townsend.com and our 18th century cooking blog at http://ift.tt/1iMiONd
As I began my quest to understand the 18th century pasty, I figured the first thing I needed to do was to leave behind all of my modern notions of what they were. I needed to travel light, leaving plenty of room for the period recipes and definitions and between-the-lines clues that I would gather as I combed through my resources. I visited many of the old cookbooks, dictionaries, journals, and magazines, looking for signs leading to a uniform definition, so that I could recommend the historically accurate method of making pasties. Whenever I hit a dead end, I’d consult the secondary sources for hints that I may have overlooked.
After studying all the souvenirs I collected along the way, I decided to return home, leaving the path for others to explore. I did so not with some sense of defeat, but rather with the somewhat enigmatic conclusion that there simply is no definitive answer…no single historically accurate method of making an 18th century pasty.
The Oxford English Dictionary claims pasties were pies made without a dish. This same definition can be traced back to 18th century dictionaries. Yet, the most commonly published recipes in 18th century cookbooks utilized baking dishes.
The Oxford Companion to Food attempts to delineate between pies and pasties by claiming either a multiplicity or singularity of ingredients used in each dish. Yet you look across the terrain of period recipes and you’ll find the two terms, pie and pasty, are often used interchangeably (The Country Housewife Family Companion, for example, by William Ellis).
Hannah Glasse recommended the use of a baking dish. William Rabisha, in his 1682 cookbook, “The Whole Body of Cookery Dissected” suggested crimping together two pieces of pastry. Other authors recommended a tin patty pan.
Some pasties were baked. Others were fried (e.g., Charles Carter’s recipe, below, from his 1749 cookbook “The London and Country Cook“).
Pasty crusts were often highly decorated — one of many showpieces that might adorn a multi-course meal. Pasties were also made in a free-form crust to be taken into the field or on a journey to be eaten cold, out of hand. Ellis copies the following pasty recipe from Rabisha:
Rabisha’s Way to bake Brawn to be eaten cold.–Take (says he) your raw lean brawn, that is not useful to collar, and as much fat bacon, mince them small together, and beat them in a mortar; beat a good handful of sage with them; season them with some pepper, salt, and beaten ginger; pour in a little vinegar, and break in a couple of eggs; you may make a cold butter paste in a sheet form, and lay this your prepared meat on it; put in butter, and a few bay-leaves on the top, and so close up your pasty for baking.
(Brawn is any meat suitable for roasting, but often is the breast and/or leg of fowl.)
So which style of pasty is most historically accurate? They all are. It seems the common denominator between all pasties is simply two things: a crust and a meat filling….oops, then again, there were fruit pasties. Ok, it seems there is ONE common denominator: crust. And that takes us back to the O.E.D. which explains that the word “pasty” can be traced back through the Old French language to words from the ancient Latin dialect meaning, “something made of paste.”
I feel as though I’m walking in circles.
Why all the variations? It could be due to possible regional differences; possibly socio-economic differences as well. I mentioned in my last post that the beloved modern pasties that exist in similar form in insular regions throughout the United States, Latin America, Australia, and South Africa, are culinary descendants of the Cornish pasty of the Cornwall region of England. While the folded-over meat pastry may be the most common form of the pasty today, it appears it was only one of many forms in the 18th century.
Here’s our take on a recipe for a delicious meat pasty from an earlier version of Mollard’s cookbook:
About 1 pound of veal, coarsely chopped (Beef will also do)
2 ounces Fat Bacon (modern-day salt pork or jowl bacon), coarsely chopped
1 cup each, green beans, asparagus, mushrooms, onion, parsley (all fresh), coarsely chopped
Salt and Pepper
1 cup Bread Crumbs
1 Egg Yolk
1/2 cup Cream
Puff Pastry Dough (see our previous blog post and video on making a puff paste)
Lard, a sufficient amount for deep frying.
Combine the veal and the vegetables in a large bowl, and season with salt and pepper.
Preheat a large skillet or spider and fry the fat bacon for 2 or 3 minutes until much of the fat is rendered. Add the meat and vegetable mix and fry for about 5 minutes. Return the mix to the bowl, add the bread crumbs, and allow to cool for 10 to 15 minutes.
In a separate bowl, mix the egg yolk and cream together. Add this mixture to the meat and vegetable mix, and stir it until it is well incorporated.
Roll out your puff pastry dough until it’s about 1/8″ thick, keeping it as square as possible. Then cut it into about 6″ squares. Once the meat and vegetable mix has cooled, spoon a portion of it onto the middle of each pastry square.
Brush two of the edges of each pastry square with egg wash, fold the square over the meat mixture so that it forms a triangle, and crimp the edges closed.
In a cooking pot or kettle, preheat the lard to about 350-degrees (F). carefully add the pasties, 3 or 4 at a time, and fry for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown. You’ll want to keep the lard around 350-degrees. Any lower, and the pasties will be greasy. Any higher, and the crust may become golden brown on the outside, but remain doughy on the inside. Drain on sheets of paper or on a cloth.
In a previous post, I presented three common types of pastry crust used in the 18th century: the standing crust, the puff paste, and the short paste. These are fairly broad categories of crusts, and recipes for numerous variations for each have been published across the spectrum of 18th century cookbooks.
In the video above, Jon uses one variation of the standing crust to make a pork pie. It uses rendered suet for it’s fat ingredient.
Rundel’s recipe is for a larger standing pie. She recommends baking it in a slow oven because of the amount and density of the meat filling.
The final addition of a lear or a gelatin gravy (omitted in Rundel’s recipe) is based on the very common 18th century practice of adding gravies, i.e., broths, caudles (thickened broths), or gelatin gravies, to pies after they are baked.
Also contrary to Rundel’s recipe, we made our pies individual-serving size. There are many period cookbooks that suggest such meat pies can be made large or small. We’ve down-sized the recipe below to make two of these smaller versions.
Rundel’s recipe may be an ancestral version of the modern traditional Melton-Mowbray pies that are still very popular in portions of the U.K. today. Regardless of whether the Melton-mowbray pie can be traced specifically to this recipe or not, it is easy to conclude that the famed pies have roots which date back to at least the late 18th century.
Meat Pies were not constrained to standing crusts. Puff pastes or even short crusts can be used as well. Richard Briggs in his 1788 cookbook, “The English Art of Cookery,” when speaking of a wide variety of meat pies, suggests this:
The most fascinating aspect of our experiments with standing crusts was the differences we noticed in the effects that various types of fat had on the crust. Butter, lard, and muscle fat (what is commonly referred to in period books as “drippings”) do not set up solid at room temperature as suet does. Consequently, standing crusts made with these fats or any combination of them can be worked even when cold. Crusts made with suet, however, must be work when the dough is hot. The moment the dough cools down, any attempt to work it will cause it to crack.
By the way, if you’re concerned about using suet and whether it may contribute a meaty flavor to your crust, it is my experience that properly rendered suet imparts the least amount of flavor to a crust than any of the other fats.
So here are the ingredients we used, proportioned for two generously-portioned individual-serving pork pies (two people can easily be filled with one of these pies, however, you may find yourself somewhat unwilling to share). The video at the beginning of this post will explain the directions.
For the Crust:
6T rendered suet
1/2c plus 2T water
1 egg plus 1t Water, beaten, for egg wash
Be sure to watch the video below on how to form a small standing crust. We used a drinking glass for our a mold, however, pie dollies are available on line. If you choose to use rendered suet instead of the lard/butter combination we used in the video, be sure to form your crusts while the dough is hot. If the dough grows too cold to work, microwave the dough for a few seconds or cover the dough and set it near the fire.
For the Filling:
1 Pound Pork Shoulder, trimmed of fat and silver skin, and coarsely chopped
1/2 t Salt
1 t Black Pepper, ground
For the Lear (Gelatin Gravy)
1 Pig’s foot (have it quartered by your butcher)
enough water to cover
2 packets of Unflavored Gelatin
1-1/2 c water
While perusing several 18th century cookbooks, I’ve identified and included below a selection of recipes using suet. I chose these recipes because they seem to be fairly typical representations of food categories which commonly use suet: puddings, dumplings, pastry crusts, potted meats, cakes, sausages, forcemeats (stuffings), as well as fried and broiled foods. There are countless other recipes I could have chosen: beef olives, for instance, or forced leg of lamb — recipes that, judging by the number of cookbooks including them, were apparently very popular. I encourage you to try these!
This recipe for dumplings is from Sarah Martin’s 1795 book, “The New Experienced English Housekeeper.” These dumplings are to accompany boiled beef. Don’t worry about how big “the bottom of a plate” should be. Make them however big you feel dumplings should be.
– Pastry Crust –
I have vowed to myself to one day make a Yorkshire pie. Yorkshire pies were commonly served around Christmas and Epiphany, and were intended to serve large crowds. Be sure to read our blog post on Christmas pies. This recipe makes an enormous pie. When was the last time you made a pie crust using 24 pounds of flour? This clip is from John Farley’s 1783 book, “The London Art of Cookery.”
– Potted Meat –
Here’s one method of of using suet to keep beef for longer periods in pots. This recipe is from Mrs. Frazer’s 1791 book, “The Practice of Cookery, Pastry, and Confectionary.” Rendered suet can be used in place of butter to seal the jars. By “Oiling the butter” Frazer means to clarify it, skimming all dairy solids from it. If you use butter to seal the pot, be absolutely sure it is well salted. Unsalted butter will quickly spoil and become moldy.
– Cake –
Here’s a recipe for cake using suet from John Perkin’s 1797 book, “Every Woman her own Housekeeper.” Dried orange blossoms are available online. Reading between the lines on this recipe, I suspect it is meant to be understood by the reader that the suet is first to be rendered, then allowed to solidify, and then grated before adding it to the other ingredients. There is very little instruction given here.
This recipe is an exception to my comments above regarding my choice of recipes based on their representation of their food category. Most period cake recipes depend on mechanical leavening for their light and airy texture. This is accomplished by beating egg whites into chiffon, which is then carefully folded into the cake batter. This recipe, however, omits eggs altogether. I suspect it uses suet instead to create a heavier, yet spongy texture. If this is indeed the case, the suet would need to be added in grated form as opposed to melted, as a cursory reading might suggest.
– Sausage –
Here’s a simple, but amazingly delicious recipe for sausage from Maria Rundell’s 1807 book, “A New System of Domestic Cookery.” Similar recipes suggest that these can be made up into “finger-like” shapes and browned in butter.
– Forcemeat (Dressing) –
Here’s a recipe that uses suet. It’s for forcemeat, or dressing. It’s from Mary Johnson’s 1753 book, “Madam Johnson’s Present.” If rabbit isn’t your thing, a fowl of your choice will work as well. A couple notes of clarification: obviously, you can substitute ground spices for those pounded in a mortar, or you can use one of our spice mixes that accurately follow original 18th century mixed-spice recipes. Also, the ‘catchup” mentioned here is likely either walnut or mushroom ketchup. (Be sure to check out my previous post on 18th century ketchups.) If you don’t have 18th century ketchup, I suggest a spoonful of Worcestershire sauce instead — a close substitute.
– Frying –
Come late spring, I love to head down the hill with fishing pole in hand, hoping to stink up a frying pan with a few bluegill or a nice bass. You can bet I’ll be trying this recipe from Francis Collingwood’s 1792 book, “The Universal Cook.”
– Grilling & Broiling –
And finally, here’s a technique for using suet when grilling or broiling. This is from T. Williams’ 1797 book, “The Accomplished Housekeeper.” Beef steaks can be grilled in the same fashion.
I’ve mentioned in an early post that there were, for the most part, three types of pastry crusts used in 18th century cooking. This is admittedly a simplification of the goings-on of the old English kitchen. There were other types of crusts, but the three most commonly used in recipes were the standing crust, the puff paste, and the short paste. Of these three, the short paste, also known as the common paste, was the most recent development in 18th century pastry.
The short paste is a light and flaky pastry — both the ancestor and equivalent to our modern pie crust. It consists of flour, fat, and just enough water to hold it together. Salt was sometimes tossed in, sometimes sugar. Contrary to the tough standing paste which relied on boiling water and butter to be study enough to be used as baking dish, serving dish, and storage dish alike, a short paste’s light and flaky (and very edible) success relies on the ingredients being cold.
Now I refuse to step here into the modern war of words pertaining to which is best to use in a pie crust: butter, lard, vegetable shortening, or some combination thereof. In every case that I am aware, 18th century recipes called for the use of butter. So that’s what we’re “sticking” with. [Sorry. I couldn’t resist.]
Here’s a typical recipe for short paste. You can see this recipe demonstrated in our video below. This recipe is perfect for a single crust for a 8″ to 9″ pan (and you can possibly squeeze a second crust out of it if you recycle your scraps), or it will be more than adequate to cover a 5″ tart tin, both top and bottom.
A Short Paste Recipe
2 cups Flour (All Purpose will do)
12 Tablespoons Butter, chilled
3 -5 Tablespoons Cold Water
Additional Butter for the Baking Tin
Cut your butter into pieces and combine it with the flour in a large bowl. If you’re working at home, you can use a pastry cutter or a food processor, otherwise use a large spoon to press the butter into the flour, or use your fingertips to squeeze it in. If you use your fingers, try to avoid being in contact with the butter any longer than is absolutely necessary. You want to work the flour and butter together without melting the butter, and even the temperature of your hands can melt it.
When you’re done, the mixture should look mealy like corn flour.
Next add just enough water to bring the dough together.
Gather your dough, and roll it out on a well-floured surface with a well-floured rolling pin, rotating the dough to keep it from sticking to the work surface. Roll it out until it’s about 1/8″ thick.
Cut out two circles, about 2″ to 3″ wider in diameter than the pan you intend to use.
Press the dough into a well-buttered tin, making sure it is pressed well into the corners. Trim off any excess dough.
And now for the filling…
Here’s a delicious recipe from Hannah Glasse in her 1760 cookbook, “The Compleat Confectioner.” Similar recipes are offered in numerous other period cookbooks.
Here is a bit more precise take on Glasse’s recipe, good for our 5″ tart tin:
2 Ripe Bosc Pears, pared, corred, and cut into pieces
4 Tablespoons Powdered Sugar, divided
1 strip of Lemon Rind, about 3″ long
1 teaspoon fresh Lemon Juice
You can bake your empty bottom crust in a medium oven, 400-degrees (F), for 5 to 10 minutes if you wish (but you don’t have to). Doing so will ensure the bottom crust is completely baked.
Sprinkle 2 Tablespoons of powdered sugar into your empty pastry crust (after baking it if you so choose to do so) and set it aside.
Place your chopped pears into a sauce pan and pour in just enough water to cover. Set this over a low fire and simmer until the pears are very soft.
Once the pears are soft, drain the pears, reserving the liquid. Allow the pears to cool slightly before filling your pie crust with pear pieces.
Sprinkle an additional 2 Tablespoons powdered sugar on top of the pears.
Drizzle a Tablespoon of the pear liquid on top of the pears, along with a squeeze of juice from half a lemon.
Cover the pie with a top crust, trim away any excess paste, and cut a few vents in the top. Bake in a 400-degree oven for about 20 to 30 minutes, or until golden.
Optional toppings for your tart:
There are a number of period-correct ways of topping your tart. The tart at the top of the page was brushed with a wash of beaten egg whites and then sprinkled with sugar. Maria Rundell suggests this general approach to tarts in her book, A New System of Domestic Cookery (1807, page 165).
Another approach is to bake the pie until it’s done, bring it out of the oven to cool slightly, then top with a meringue of egg whites and sugar. You will want to then pop it back into the oven (250 – 300-degrees) until the meringue sets, but preferably does not brown. Topping double-crusted tarts with meringue or chiffon was apparently a common practice, as that technique was mentioned in numerous period cookbooks. Here’s such a recipe from Mrs. Frazer’s book, “The Practice of Cookery,” (1791, page 205).
There is debate about the timing of the meringue’s application. Other cookbooks frown upon a meringue that is browned. In order to achieve a white meringue and an adequately baked pie, the pie must be baked first and then baked again with the meringue.
A Third way of topping your tart is with what Mrs. Frazer refers to as a “liaison” or a custard. Farley recommends this topping as well in his book “The London Art of Cookery,” (1783, page 209) The following recipe for “a Plain Custard” can be found in his book on page 317:
Our third video series, “18th Century Cooking with Jas. Townsend & Son,” is embarking on a closer look at the three more common types of pastry crusts used in 18th century cookery: the standing crust, the puff paste, and the short crust (also known as the common paste or cold paste). Pastry crusts were foundational to a great many 18th century dishes. Our second video installment (above) focuses on the puff paste. I am also including an 18th century recipe for beef pasties at the end of this post.
Puff pastry was a very popular form of pastry crust in the 18th century. It was commonly used for pies, pasties, and fried patties (what we would think of as a fried turnover). A number of period cookbooks suggest puff pastry is best for meat dishes, though others also recommend a thin puff paste for fruit tarts. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, recipes for puff pastry first began to appear in cookbooks in the early 1600’s.
The basic ingredients for puff paste are virtually the same as those used in standing and short crusts: flour, water, a little salt, and fat, but the key to making a good puff paste is found in how one goes about bringing the ingredients together. Rather than incorporating the fat (i.e., butter) into the flour by cutting or rubbing it in as with a short crust, or by melting it before mixing as with a standing crust, the butter used in a puff paste is for the most part sandwiched in between layers of dough. The butter/dough sandwich is then repeatedly rolled out thin and folded upon itself. During this whole procedure, the dough and butter are kept chilled to prevent the butter from melting and thus becoming completely integrated. The layering of butter between thin sheets of dough results in an exquisitely flaky crust unequaled by other construction methods.
For our recipe, we are using a 1:1 ratio of flour to fat: one pound of pastry flour and one pound of butter. We have chosen pastry flour because of its low protein content which makes it easier to roll out. We are also using egg whites instead of water. Egg whites result in a dough that is easier to roll out, but it will also result in a finished product that has a crisper, crackly texture.
A Puff Paste Recipe:
1 lb. (about 3-1/2 cups) Pastry or Cake Flour
about 1 teaspoon Salt
around 1 cup egg whites (or water)
1 lb. Unsalted Butter
To make a foundational dough, mix the first three ingredients. If the dough is too sticky, add additional flour, a little at a time. The dough should be soft and easy to work. Knead the dough on a well-floured surface for about 10 minutes. Cover your dough and set it aside while you work on the next step.
Next, lay out four sticks of butter side-by-side on a piece of cloth or plastic wrap. Cover the butter with the same and press it with a rolling pin into a single patty of butter about 1/2″ thick. Don’t be afraid to show your butter who’s the boss.
Once you’ve reached the desired thickness, set your butter aside, keeping it as cold as possible.
Next, roll out your dough into a large square, until it’s about 1/8″ thick — maybe just a bit more.
Place your pad of butter in the center of your square and fold the dough snugly around the butter like an envelope.
Roll the pastry into a long rectangle about 18″ long by 8″ wide by about 1/4″ thick.
Fold the dough onto itself in thirds.
Turn 90-degrees, and roll out to 1/4″ thick once more. Fold into thirds again, cover with a cloth, and allow your dough to rest for 5 to 10 minutes in a cool place (e.g., your refrigerator).
Repeat this process three more times, allowing your dough to rest each time.
Once you’ve done this folding and rolling process a total of four times, it’s time to roll the dough out one last time to the final thickness you wish to use it.
This dough can be quite stiff and stubborn to work with. It has a tendency when rolled out to shrink right back to a smaller thicker shape. This is the case even when using cake flour, but it is even more of a battle if you opt for all-purpose flour.
AH! But here’s a little secret technique that you won’t even see in the video!
During the filming of the above video, Jon and I took a break right at this point in the process. Jon left the set to tend to a few other business matters. I told him I would roll the dough out to the final thickness. I had done this a number of times before, struggling each time with the dough’s elasticity. I would work up a sweat rolling the dough out to the perfect thickness only to have it spring back out of protest to a smaller and thicker size.
I had read a number of period recipes that prescribed “beating the dough well.” Up to this point, I figured that was an 18th century euphemism for “rolling it out.” My assumption was based on other such unfamiliar terms used in the old recipes. Take, for instance, the phrase, “cast the eggs until they are light.” “Cast” means to whip. So “beat” probably means to roll out, right?
“Beat” means to beat. I discovered this through my frustration. A rolling pin is the weapon of choice. I normally don’t condone this type of behavior — especially in the kitchen, but if you stay focused on the dough, trust me, it will be o.k.
So as you roll out your dough to its final thickness, if it resists and shrinks back to a smaller size, whack it a few times with your rolling pin. Start with a few gentle whacks at first, until you get a feel for how much the dough can handle. Try it. I think you’ll be surprised at how persuasive this technique is. And you may ashamedly find it to be a little therapeutic.
Once you have rolled out your dough to its final thickness, you’re ready to cut it to size. It can be used to line pie pans or to top them. You can cut out a circle of the dough, pile on some seasoned meat, and seal the edges by brushing them with egg and crimping them over. Baked or fried, the possibilities are nearly endless.
A Recipe for Beef Pasties (pronounced “PAST-eez”)
At the risk of stepping into a very old culinary fray, the quintessential English beef pasty is probably better known as the Cornish pasty. the modern Cornish pasty is a heritage food protected by British law. By definition, it contains chopped beef, potatoes, onions, and “swede” (otherwise known as yellow turnips or rutabaga).
Our recipe, on the other hand, is an authentic 18th century version that uses only seasoned beef.
Pasties are thought by many to have originated as a food for the upper class, since the earliest recipes called exclusively for venison. By the end of the 18th century, however, other meats, e.g., beef and mutton, were used as a substitute to venison, and the convenient meal-on-the-go made its way into the grimy hands of field workers and miners.
1-1/2 lb. Beef, coarsely chopped
1/2 teaspoon each, Salt and Pepper
2 Tablespoons Butter, divided
1 Egg White, beaten, for the egg wash
Your puff pastry should be rolled out to less than 1/4″ thick. Cut out two circles approximately 9″ in diameter. Set aside.
Season the chopped beef with salt and pepper, and divide into two equal portions. Spoon the meat onto the middle of each puff pastry round and dab it with a little butter. brush the edges of each round with egg wash and fold the round in half. Seal the edges by folding them over, pinching them as you go.
Brush each pasty with egg wash. Cut a couple of vent holes through the pastry dough. Place each pasty on a paper-lined baking sheet, and bake at 350-degrees (F) for one hour, or until golden brown.