Laurel’s Prize Tourney for Æthelmearc War Practice 5/15/98
Research and Redaction
by Lady Katja Davidova Orlova Khazarina
WARNING: This is a sticky taffy-like candy. Please chew it very carefully if you have fillings, and don’t try it if your fillings are loose!
This is a modern redaction and preparation of a 14th Century English sweet - a taffy-like ginger/honey candy shaped like a loaf of bread. A subtlety, I believe it would have been served at a feast on a "fish day" to bemuse diners who were bored with non-meat, non-dairy, non-egg dishes and wanted something interesting to eat; it would also have been served on "flesh days" an accompaniment to meat.
Take hony and sugur cipre and clarifie it togydre, and boile it with esy fyre, and kepe it wel fro brennyng. And whan it hath yboiled a while, take up a drope therof with thy fyngur and do it in a litel water, and loke if it hong togydre; and take it fro the fyre and do therto pyne the thriddendele & powdour gyngever, and stere it togyder til it bygynne to thik, and cast it on a wete table; lesh it and serve it forth with fryed mete, on flessh days or on fysshe dayes. (Forme of Cury, p. 68) ["th" used for thorns]
Take honey and sugar syrup and clarify it together and boil it with an easy fire, and keep it from burning. When it has boiled a while, take up a drop with your finger and put it in a little water, and look if it hangs together. Take it from the fire and add pine nuts and powdered ginger, and stir it until it begins to thicken, and spread it on a wet table. Slice it and serve it forth with fried meat on flesh days or on fish days.
3 cup sugar
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup ground pine nuts
3/4 tsp. ground ginger
Cook together honey, sugar, and water over low heat to make a sugar syrup, stirring in the beginning to dissolve all of the sugar crystals. When a candy thermometer registers the soft-ball stage, remove it from the heat and vigorously stir in the nuts and ginger. Spread it on a chilled marble slab or, if not available, waxed paper to cool. Knead it with a bench knife on the slab, and then stretch and knead it in your hands much like in taffy making. Roll and mold the mass into several balls to resemble round loaves of bread, cut a cross on the tops, and let cool.
I decided that this resembled a candying recipe, so I based the proportions on a modern taffy recipe.
"Payn" means bread, (An Ordinance of Pottage & Pleyn Delit, Constance Hieatt) so I shaped this to look like a loaf of bread to be eaten at a feast, as opposed to a flat trencher. To further the illusion, I sliced a cross on top of the "loaf." Initially, I molded the whole recipe into a single loaf, but when cooled it was impossible to slice. After several unsuccessful attempts at making an edible large loaf, I have decided to mold the mass into several small loaves, which can be chewed or sucked.
As stated in several sources, sugar was an expensive spice which was sold in loaves or cones. (To The Queen’s Taste, Lorna Sass, p. 26) I have found two sources for apparent cone sugar, the King Arthur Flour Company and Francesco Sirene, Spicer. However, I could not order any in time for this tourney. So, I used raw sugar for this recipe in an attempt to avoid modern processing and chemicals.
I found several references to cheap, available honey being used more often in recipes than expensive, imported sugar cones, (Fast and Feast, Bridget Ann Henisch, p. 124) but I haven’t been able to verify which modern honey would be the best approximation. So, I used raw wildflower honey, since I’m assuming that Medieval beekeepers couldn’t manufacture the equivalent of our modern clover or buckwheat honeys.
Although the recipe does not specify how the pinenuts should be used, I found it easier to mix in coarsely ground pinenuts than whole ones. Plus, I think that their appearance in the mixture furthers the illusion of a grainy loaf of bread, whereas whole nuts would be hard to knead evenly into the small loaves.
The recipe specified ground ginger, so I did not use fresh ginger root. I haven’t been able to verify whether the spice caravans would have brought whole roots or ground spice to England, so I don’t yet know which is more accurate to use. However, Lorna Sass says in To The King’s Taste that there were several types of ginger, and they appear to be whole roots... I used a rather large amount of ginger because I feel that, in period, the ginger would not have been very strong after it’s long caravan trip - and because I like the strong taste!
As stated above, I used a chilled marble slab rather than the "wet table" specified in the original, and worked the hot candy with a greased bench knife and greased spatula until it was cool enough for me to handle. I find that this improves the texture of the candy, rather than just stirring it until it thickens. By the time it thickens in the bowl, it is unworkable... and you will have a nightmare of a cleaning job. (Boiling water dissolves the remains off the cooking equipment.)
Since my experience is that this is a sticky candy, I brushed the loaves with powdered raw sugar so as to keep them from sticking together while in transport to this tourney. This is not specified in the original recipe, of course, and is purely a modern convenience.
Bridget Ann Henisch, Fast and Feast: Food in Medieval Society, Pennsylvania State university, 1976.
Constance B. Hieatt, An Ordinance of Pottage, An Edition of the 15th Century Culinary Recipes in Yale Universityís Beinecke Manuscript, Prospect Books, London, 1988.
Constance B. Hieatt, Pleyn Delit, Medieval Cookery for Modern Cooks, 2nd Edition, University of Toronto Press, Toronto, 1997.
Forme of Cury , originally pub. 1390. Reprinted by Constance B. Hieatt, 1989.
Lorna J. Sass, To The Kingís Taste, Richard IIís Book of Feasts and Recipes, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1975
Lorna J. Sass, To The Queenís Taste, Elizabethan Feasts and Recipes, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1976.
©1998 Chris P. Adler