Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Selling My Baked Goods In A Colonial Marketplace

I have been asked to bring my baked goods to an Living History event in Newport, Rhode Island on Saturday morning of February 24th, 2018 .
 The event is a Colonial Career Fair at the Old Colonial House.

So here are my intended baked goods and research on preparation.

1) Wigs

To make little Cakes 1699
Take a pound of New Butter and a pound of Wheat flower, one halfe peniworth of Caraway seeds, and another of coriander seeds, 3 yolks of Eggs and one white, 2 spoonfulls and a halfe of New Ale yeast, mixe all these together to a Past, but knead it not, nor mould it but beat it with your hand till it be thin, and cut it in what formes you please and pricke them on the wrong side, strew some searced sugar on them before you sett them in the oven, and when you take them out you must strew some more searced sugar upon them.
From Elizabeth Brown's (Birkett) Receipt Book 1699 

 2) Corn Bread

      The earliest cornbread recipe that we have so far from Amelia Simmons in 1796.
  • 1 cup Milk
  • 3 tbsp. Butter
  • 1 tbsp. Molasses
  • 1 pinch Salt
  • 3 cups Cornmeal
  • ½ cup Wheat Flour
 Place your milk in a saucepan over low heat to scald.
To it, add the butter, molasses, and salt, and stir well.
 In a separate bowl, mix three cups of cornmeal and a half a cup of wheat flour.
 After the milk is heated, add it to the cornmeal and mix it well.
Now you can cook it in two different ways. You can pour it into an already greased pie pan and bake it. When it’s done in this method, it’s called a common loaf.
 Preheat your oven to about 375 degrees and cook for about a half an hour in this way.
You can also make up some journey cakes or Johnny cakes. Just form up some patties, about a half an inch thick or so and three or four inches around, and then fry them in a pan.
 If we’re going to use these as journey cakes, take them with you in a haversack, you would want to cook them dry without any oil or butter in the pan.
If you’re going to eat them right away, you can use butter or grease in your pan and they are really tasty.

3) 18th Century Breads

No-Knead “French” Bread
Most original recipes called for the use of fresh barm, which was the suds or “croisan” skimmed from the top of a brewing batch of ale. Unless you’re a homebrewer, it’s unlikely you have access to barm. You can make an imitation barm by mixing the following ingredients:
1/2 cup water (or you can use a good imported ale)
1 Tablespoon flour
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon INSTANT yeast
Set your barm aside.
In a large bowl, mix together 3 cups of all-purpose flour with 1-1/2 teaspoons salt.
In a separate bowl, whisk together 3/4 to 1 cup milk with 1 egg white. In yet another bowl, whisk together 2 Tablespoons butter (just melted and not too hot, lest you cook your yolks) with 2 egg yolks. Finally, stir together the milk mixture and yolk mixture. Stir in your “barm” as well.
Now it’s simply a matter of adding your wet ingredients to your dry ingredients.  (use our hands to mix the dough), You’ll want to mix it well, incorporating all the flour.
The dough is going to be very sticky. That’s good. Whatever you do, DON’T EVEN ATTEMPT TO KNEAD IT, otherwise it will not be No-knead bread!
Now, by using a damp cloth to cover it, set your dough aside in a warm spot to let it rise for 12 to 18 hours. 
If you’re baking this at home in a Dutch oven, go ahead at this point and place your Dutch oven in the oven and preheat it to 450 degrees (F). Once the Dutch oven is preheated, sprinkle a little corn meal or wheat bran into the bottom of it. This will help keep the dough from sticking to the pot at it bakes.

Back to the dough…
 Turn it out onto a floured surface and with floured hands gently press it out into an oval or rough rectangular shape about 1 – 2″ thick. Choose one of the short ends and fold it over about 1/3 of the distance to the far edge, slightly stretching the dough as you lift up and fold.Then fold over the opposite edge, again slightly stretching the dough as you go. Repeat this process on the each adjacent side, stretching and folding. .
Now place your folded loaf into your preheated Dutch oven and close the lid.
Bake your bread for 30 to 35 minutes.

4) Simple Ginger Breads

Gingerbread was a favorite treat in the 18th and 19th centuries. Many vendors sold it in the streets and markets. Many believe gingerbread possesses special medicinal properties, so it was even used to treat things like the sniffles. 

  • 2 cups Flour
  • ½ teaspoon Cinnamon
  • Pinch Allspice
  • Pinch of Salt
  • 2 tablespoons Freshly Grated Ginger
  • ½ teaspoon Pearl Ash or Baking Powder
  • 2 tablespoons Melted Butter
  • ½ cup Mild Molasses
3 tablespoons Water   Mix together flour, cinnamon, allspice, salt, ginger, and pearl ash or baking powder.  In a separate bowl, mix together the melted butter, molasses and water. Carefully add the wet ingredients into the dry and mix until completely absorbed then turn out and knead until well mixed. Roll out dough to about 1/8th inch thick and cut into desired shapes. Place on a well-greased cookie sheet and bake in oven at about 400 degrees for just a few minutes until golden brown.

5)Ship's Bisket

These 18th century biskets are not like today’s buttery flaky version that we serve along with sausage gravy for breakfast. These biskets were not made to be enjoyed; they were made out of necessity. It was a means of food preservation. If it was prepared and stored properly it would last for a year or more. In addition to preservation, the bisket form also helped in portability and in dividing the rations when it came time. Soldiers and sailors typically got one pound of bread a day and biskets were usually about four ounces so when it came time to distribute them, each sailor or soldier would get four biskets'

  • Flour (We used whole wheat for authenticity)
  • Salt
  • Water
 Preheat your oven to a medium low heat. If you are using a home oven it needs to be about 300-350 degrees. About two pounds of flour will be enough to make eight 4 ounce biskets. Add about a teaspoon of salt for each cup of flour added. Pour in the water slowly until you get a good stiff dough.
Knead your dough a bit and then break it up into individual portions about 4 ounces in size. Knead each individual bisket and then form them into a patty for your final bisket shape. Place your biskets on the baking tray right next to each other as they will not rise making sure that they are the final proper thickness of about a half an inch or thinner. Prick each bisket so that they don’t puff up too much.
These are going to bake for about 2-3 hours. Many times in the time period, these would be baked and then pulled out. They’d let them cool and then they would bake them again the next day, probably at a lower temperature to drive out any excess moisture and for very long term storage, they might bake these three or four times.
Hard biskets could be eaten just as they are, but it was never thought of as an enjoyable event. Many times they were soaked in wine, brandy, or sac to soften them up a little.
While this isn’t the most flavorful recipe that we’ve done so far, it’s certainly a very significant food source for people in the 18th century.


 How I got this assignment was from my wonderful living history interpretation of Duchess of Newport, a 1770's  baker of that time. Here I am with my famous Plum Cake.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Victorian New Year!

 New Year celebrations have changed over time, even from the beginning to the end of the Victorian era. Prince Albert may have introduced the tradition of the Christmas tree from Germany, but Queen Victoria was obsessed with everything Scottish. There was no bigger holiday during the year in Scotland than New Year’s Eve and Day where it is known as Hogmanay or Hegmena and the Queen passed her passion on to her subjects.

Traditions associated with Hogmanay include gift giving, which was already popular in England. In wealthier households, New Year was the time for gift giving and payments of rewards to loyal servants.
 ‘First Foot’ is the Hogmanay tradition of bearing gifts as the first person to cross a threshold after the stroke of midnight. During Victorian times, the guest brought symbolic gifts of black bun (a rich fruit cake), shortbread, coal, salt, and whiskey. The gifts foretold the family’s fortune for the year. It was considered lucky if the gift giver was male and dark haired. Blonde hair was an omen for trouble..
 Another foretelling of the future was associated with what you were doing at midnight. It was thought that whatever you were doing at midnight would be what you would do for the coming year. This might be why going out and socializing was a popular thing to do at the New Year. Staying home and going to bed might foretell illness or worse during the coming year. 
Other superstitious include throwing out ashes from the hearth. Throwing them out the night before allows for a clean slate to start the new year right.
 Every person, no matter how young, should also have money in their pocket on New Year’s Day. To not do this was to risk poverty during the coming year. 
Tradition holds that the pig or hog is a symbol of fatness and plenty. Tradition also teaches that because a pig roots forward for its food, having pork signifies progress and moving forward in life during the coming year.
New Year’s Eve was no extraordinary affair among Victorian high society. But New Year’s Day was marked by a marathon of social traditions. 

 Wealthy Victorians would hold open houses, inviting all the local eligible bachelors into their homes to meet their unmarried daughters. 
 A young man would  receive invitations from a number of households and would spend 15 minutes or so chatting with the resident young woman (or women) therein before moving on to his next engagement.

  Gentlemen visited many homes on New Year’s Day and eligible bachelors left their calling cards to show they’d visited. Sometimes, it was a competitive event to see how many homes could be visited before the end of the day.

 New Year’s celebrations moved from New Year’s Eve to New Year’s Day. During the latter part of the 19th century, the wealthy served guests a wide and varied buffet and egg nog laced with bourbon, rum, or brandy. Everyone donned in their holiday finery. 

 Raucous behavior saw the holiday evolve from being an open house to invitation only affair.
Well, with this knowledge, I wish all my Victorian friends a safe, healthy and prosperous 2018th.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Deck the Halls and Invite All To Christmas!

 We, as the lovers of all things Victorian, I am sure that Christmas is your favorite time of the year to decorate your home in grand style. It was for Queen Victoria. She took care in making the home glow with delight, to bring her large family together. She and Princess Albert wanted every room in the palace to sing with the holiday spirit.
When you visit some of your local historic homes and museums, you will see and feel what it was like in the Christmas past.

In these rooms, the warmth comes alike and you can feel the welcome of the families that lived here..

Families would come together, from all parts, to enjoy holiday meals, spirits and drinks, enjoy music and hear stories telling of Peace and Good Will.
 Originally Christmas was  Christ Mass, the Christian holy-day observed on December 25th to celebrate the birth of Christ. Later it also became an important secular holiday with the focus on the family..

Customs for celebration Christmas varied from country to country, but the message of good will to all remained the same .
The Victorian Ladies Society has been an inspiration to me for many years. I want to wish all of my kindred spirit sisters, Peace and Good Health, ( around the world) this glorious time of the year.

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Costume Contest USA Entry 29.) Dress: Historic Hearthside House Hostess Gown Victorian Costume Contest

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