Rock Cakes, Translating an old recipe

A recipe from the “Sure to Rise Cookbook.” About 1900. This is a typical Victorian cookie or biscuit, and something that would have dated back to the regency. Modern baking powders only date from 1843, but there were other approaches that would have been used before that.

From P.G. Wodehouse

This is one cook who thinks rock cakes aren’t rock cakes unless you break a tooth over them. (Clara Lippet in Sam the Sudden)

I’ve always been curious to see how they taste.

ROCK CAKES

1 breakfastcup flour

2 heaped dessertspoons sugar

2 ozs currants

2 ozs butter (or lard)

1 oz or 1 round candied peel

1 dessertspoonful Edmond’s Baking Powder

Milk to mix.

Rub the butter into the flour, then add the other dry ingredients, the egg beaten and sufficient milk to make stiff dough. Place in rocky shapes on cold greased oven shelf, and bake in hot oven 10 or 12 minutes.

The first thing to note is there is no egg in the list of ingredients. It’s basically a shortbread with fruit. So time for a little research. I found similar recipes on an Australian web site, and they use eggs. It looks like the idea is to make shortbread-like bits and then suspend them in a looser mix.

Using conventional ratios for flour and baking powder (1 teaspoon/cup) I get:

1 cup flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 tablespoons sugar.

Mix, then work in 2 oz butter.  It’s probably a good idea to chill this for a bit so it hardens.

Add 50 g raisins (can’t easily find currants in the US) and 50 g candied peel (I’ll weigh these, but it’s about a quarter cup of each). The Australian recipe uses 115 g of each and a 1 1/2 cups flour but 28 g is an ounce.

beat one egg and mix. Do not over work this. It took 5 teaspoons of milk to make it into a dough.

bake at 350 F (200 C) on a greased cookie sheet. (I use a silicon sheet, but grease will do.) Use lumps about the size of walnuts.

2015-10-19 18.00.55 Before mixing
2015-10-19 18.11.17 After the egg and 5 teaspoons of milk.
2015-10-19 18.13.52 Before baking
2015-10-19 18.32.50 After they’re done.

How’d it do?

  1. They’re not rocks. Very delicate texture.
  2. Not as sweet as modern cookies. Modern recipes have more sugar and vanilla which make them decidedly sweet.
  3. D*mned good.  I’d repeat this recipe.

Fall in Alabama

The leaves haven’t really started to change color, yet. Some of the hickory’s are yellow, the sweet gum purple, and the oaks a tad brown. but the fall flowers, butterfly’s and mushrooms are out. There was even a bee gather some last minute supplies for her hive.
DSC_0009 DSC_0995 DSC_0996 DSC_0022 DSC_0027

Frankenkitty #1 #wewriwar

Frankenkitty

Welcome to Weekend Writing Warriors.  This is a sample from my work in progress, “Frankenkitty”, and I hope you enjoy it.  It started out as a young-adult superhero book, and well, you’ll see. The heroine has just lost her precious cat, “Mr. Snuffles” due to an unfortunate interaction with a moving vehicle. Her elderly neighbor from across the street has a present for her. We begin there.


 

Jennifer opened the lid and looked at the contents. They were books; dusty old hand-written books.

“Mrs. Jones, what are these?”

“They were my great grand-vaters, from his laboratory.”

Jennifer opened the one she held and tried to read it, “It’s in German; I don’t know German.”

“Not German, Schwabish; bring it here and I’ll read the first few words.”

Jennifer took the first volume to Mrs. Jones. The old woman opened it and began to read, “Experiments in the reanimation of dead tissue.”

Jennifer asked, “What is this?”

“Didn’t you know, I am a descendent of the great Dr. Baron von Frankenstein; these are his journals.”


This is a work in progress. In other news, I’ve become a booktrope author, but more on that next week.

 

Persimmon Bread.

DSC_0323 The persimmons are just starting to ripen (they really need a hard freeze) and it’s a race between us and the deer for them.

American Persimmons are surprisingly flavorful, especially once they’re ripe. While they’re still green, they’re hard, bitter and unpalatable. Ripe means almost rotten looking, decidedly gooey and gross.

They’re also more than a bit of a pain to clean. So here are a few tricks to make persimmon bread or muffins. (By the way if you have a friend with a tree, don’t tell them about it. Just ask for the fruit.)

The easiest way to prepare pulp is to mash cleaned persimmons with about a cup of sugar. Then add about a cup of milk and stir. Filter the mix through a strainer and voila you have persimmon pulp already dissolved for baking.

I use it much the way I’d use banana’s to make banana bread.

Persimmon pulp as prepared above.

  1. 2 cups flour
  2. 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  3. dash of salt
  4. cinammon, ginger and possibly a tiny hint of allspice or nutmeg.
  5. 2 eggs.

Mix together. Add some flour if it’s too soupy and bake in a greased pan and a moderate (350 F 200C) oven until done. I usually make muffins.

Rather proud of this

It’s 30 years Oct 21.

In honor of that I made an assignment for my class:

You find an odd DeLorean parked around the corner. Realizing that Doc Brown has left the keys in the ignition, you decide that a quick trip back to England in 1815 for the purpose of buying the film rights to Pride and Prejudice, Persuasion, and Emma would be remunerative.

As usual, the car fails and you are stranded.

All is not lost, Miss Austen (or her brother Henry, a dashing naval captain) are good company and you decide to settle in for the long haul. She needs a business manager, and having few other practical skills, you volunteer. This means understanding English currency.

Fortunately, you have your laptop, with a python interpreter, and by the use of lemon juice, copper pennies and zinc you are able to rig up a battery to keep it running.

English money is denominated in pounds shillings and pence (L/s/d). There are 12 pence to the shilling and 20 shillings to the pound. Half-pence (hapennies) and quarter-pence (farthings) are used so you must handle sums like 10/4/5 3/4

  1. Write a python program that takes a list of money and sums them correctly.

1/2/3

2/18/9 should sum to 4/1/0

Leading 0’s are usually left off, so 2/6 is 2 shillings and 6 pence.

  1. Make it do subtraction.

2/18/9

– 1/2/3 1/2 should be 1/16/5 1/2

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A Meat Pie in the English Style

A Meat Pie in the English style.

This is something that would have been eaten during the Regency (although without the pyrex baking dish). Dashed good, if I say so myself.

Cut 2 lbs (1 kilo +-) of beef into 1 inch/ 2cm cubes.
Marinate overnight in:
1/2 bottle guiness stout
1 cup red wine
teaspoon dried thyme
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed.
2 bay leaves.

3-4 hours before eating:
cut up and saute:
2 onions
handful of mushrooms
2-3 carrots

when soft add the marinade, a teaspoon of bouillon paste (or about cup of stock) and reduce.

Meanwhile, flour the beef and brown it in a frying pan.

Once the marinade is reduced:
put the vegetables in the bottom of a baking dish, cover with the meat. Use the reduced marinade to deglaze the  pan the beef was browned in. (There will be flour that has stuck to the pan, this will dissolve it to thicken the gravy.) Add the deglazings to the baking dish. If the volume is correct, it will just cover the meat.

Bake in a cool oven (300F, 150C) for 3 hours. Use a covered baking dish. (important, you don’t want it to dry out.) The meat should be very tender by this time.

Remove from the oven, place a pie crust over the top (I used Type L biscuit mix here; my sister in law in the UK uses suet dumplings.)

Return to the oven and bake at 375F 180C for 45 minutes until the crust is done.

Sources for period slang.

Georg_Friedrich_Kersting_005
It’s sort of important to use the authentic language when writing historical fiction, or at least to try to be authentic. In reality, who knows what they really said. I’ve assembled a few resources that I use. 

http://www.regencyassemblypress.com/Regency_Lexicon.html
There are a couple of books of regency slang available on google books, and a number of sites that clone them. This site is one of my favorites. I have to watch the social class, because they mix thieve’s cant with upper class slang. Lady Dalrymple is too much of a “Gentry Mort” to attend a “Bowsing Ken” for her Ratafia. The company might give her the vapors and she’d need her vinegar. Rather unlikely that she’d even understand the words, much less use them.

http://www.etymonline.com this is one I use to make sure I’m not putting in modern slang. In combination with the google ngram viewer, you can catch most anachronisms.

https://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?content=biscuit+breaks&case_insensitive=on&year_start=1800&year_end=2008&corpus=15&smoothing=7&share=&direct_url=t1%3B%2Cbiscuit%20breaks%3B%2Cc0 This goes directly to the literature for usage counts. It can be surprising. I’ve occasionally found invented slang, such as the phrases Georgette Heyer put into her books to trap plagiarists and paraphrasers.