Greetings, my Faithful Readers!
It's that time of year when some of us begin furiously baking to meet the holiday needs. Between office parties, social club gatherings, caroling, open houses and historical gatherings, it's a wonder we have time breathe. And what should you bring to those gatherings? How can you reconcile your Boss' Open house with your shire's 12th night party? Never fear, Aoife is here to show you how--medievally!
There are a certain set of dishes that have been around for centuries--sweets, especially cookies and candy. There is never a situation where, when required to bring a gift or a dish to pass, when attractive, unusual, and decorative medieval cookies or candies won't be welcome. Who wouldn't want a beautiful basket of springerle cookies? And why wouldn't your hostess want to hang a few of these beautiful cookies on the tree, especially if you have painted with edible colors or gilded them? Or how about a few to much, complete with a history card and recipe (in the original language, of course :). And imagine that Christmas buffet with your molded gingerbread or marzipan centerpiece! Or your festive dish of "snow" and it's accompanying wafers! Or if fussing with intricate icings and shapes isn't you idea of a good time, how about a robust (but quick to make) batch of medieval gingerbread, certain to spice things up a bit?
Read on to find cookie, sweet dish, and candy recipes sure to make you the hero of the party hour, especially in this modern day of cookie-dough-in-a-tube. Here's your excuse to spend a day in the kitchen with the family, baking and decorating delicious cookies and sweets to enjoy or to share, in a fashion that declares your dedication to the history of holiday food.
Dame Aoife Finn of Ynos Mon
m/k/a Lisbeth Herr-Gelatt
Riverouge, Endless Hills, Aethelemarc
Gode Cookery: Medieval Gingerbread
(Site Excerpt) The gingerbread being discussed in this article comes from recipes originally used in the 14th & 15th centuries, and isn't anything at all like our modern cake-like variety. It is in fact more like a candy or a confection; however, it's very good and quite a treat, and I can recommend it to anyone with a bit of a sweet tooth. (Note: Many other good recipes on Gode Cookery, including a link to Master Huen's Gode Cookies)
(Site Excerpt) Put honey, spices, and pine nuts into a saucepan and bring to a boil. Keep boiling the mixture until it reaches 300°F (what's called "hard crack stage" in candy making). Pour onto a baking sheet or piece of aluminum foil. Allow to cool and then break it into pieces and serve.
Food Timeline History Notes: Candy
(Site Excerpt) "All of the peoples of antiquity made sweetmeats of honey before they had sugar: the Chinese, the Indians, the people of the Middle East, the Egyptians and then the Greeks and Romas used it coat fruits, flowers, and the seeds or stems of plants, to preserve them for use as an ingredient in the kind of confectionery still made in those countries today."
Stefan's Florilegium: Sweet or Decorated Foods
(Click "Sweet or Decorated Foods on the left hand menu, then browse the right hand menu. MANY collected messages and papers to choose from)
Confections and the Banquet
By Alys Katharine (mka Elise Fleming)
(Site Excerpt) Gervase Markham (The English Huswife, 1615) wrote ... "...I will now proceed to the ordering or setting forth of a banquet; wherein you shall observe that the marchpanes have the first place, the middle place, and the last place; your preserved fruits shall be dished up first, your pastes next, your wet suckets after them, then your dried suckets, then your marmalades and goodinyakes, then your comfits of all kinds...
Sweets and Treats of the 14thC
by Lady Hauviette D'Anjou
(Site Excerpt) Le Menagier makes mention of candied spices numerous times. These treats are discussed as "chamber spices" including candied orange peel, candied citron, red anise, rose sugar and white sugared almonds (red sugared almonds are also mentioned frequently). Le Menagier describes menus that include spices served along with "Tartlets and other things, hippocras and wafers, wine and spices".
Kateryne Develyn: Third Course
(See Payne Ragoun and Cryfpes recipes)
(Site Excerpt) Take hony and sugur cipre and clarifie it togydre, and boile it withesy fyre, and kepe it wel fro brennyng. And wha it hath yboiled a while, take up a drope perof wip py fyngur and do in a litel water, and loke it if hong togydre; and take it fro the fyre and do perto pynes the thriddendele & powdour gyngever, and stere it togyder til it bygynne to thik, and cast it on a wete table; lesh it and serve forth with fryed mete, on flessh dayes or on fyssshe dayes.
Cariadoc and Elizabeth's Miscellany: Desserts, Appetisers, Etc.
(Site Excerpt) Hais: "Take fine dry bread, or biscuit, and grind up well. Take a ratl of this, and three quarters of a ratl of fresh or preserved dates with the stones removed, together with three uqiya of ground almonds and pistachios. Knead all together very well with the hands. Refine two uqiya of sesame-oil, and pour over, working with the hand until it is mixed in. Make into cabobs, and dust with fine-ground sugar. If desired, instead of sesame-oil use butter. This is excellent for travellers."
Mistress Kiriel's "A Basket of Biskets"
(Site Excerpt) To make Iombils a hundred: Take twenty Egges and put them into a pot both the yolks & the white, beat them wel, then take a pound of beaten suger and put to them, and stirre them wel together, then put to it a quarter of a peck of flower, and make a hard paste thereof, and then with Anniseeds moulde it well, and make it in little rowles beeing long, and tye them in knots, and wet the ends in Rosewater, then put them in a pan of seething water...
Medieval/Renaissance Cookies and small sweets
(A past Links List on the subject)
19 links on the subject
Medieval wafers with "snow" (whipped cream)
(Site Excerpt) Wafres aren't baked in an oven, but in a waffle iron. This kitchen aid was "invented" in the thirteenth century. Those early wafers weren't always of the sweet variety, there are also many recipes for cheese wafers. (Aoife's Note: I like Wafers with whipped cream and chilled spiced strawberries in port-wine in the summer :)
Delights from the Garden of Eden:
A cookbook and a History of Iraqi cuisine (Cookies section)
(Site Excerpt) In the tenth-century Baghdadi cookbook, in measuring flour for making cookies al-Warraq used a dry measure called keilacha, a variant on keil, which was approximately 4 pounds (36). The keil or keilacha were also the names of the articles themselves used to measure. As to how this is connected to the naming of the cookies, here is my argument: The kleicha cookies were not made year round as we do today in our well-equipped modern kitchens. Up until the sixties or so, they were made twice a year to celebrate the two religious holidays, at the end of Ramadhan and the performance of the hajj.
House on the Hill
Recipes of old-fashioned cookies
(Site Excerpt) Perfection Springerle: These whisked-egg holiday cookies date back to at least the 1600's and are made in Bavaria, Switzerland and the Alsace area of France. For eating quality, ease and quality of prints this recipe is just perfection! (Note: See the rest of their site for replicas of historic cookie molds--many that date to the Medieval and Renaissance time period).