Monday, 18 January 2016

Culinary Vices Challenge - HFF

The second theme for the Historical Food Fortnightly is Culinary Vices, described as foods that are really, really naughty; full of butter, cream and all sorts of decadence.    This theme caused a few head scratches and a lot of research.  Since dairy is completely out of the question, I had to find a recipe that I could either substitute or just didn't use dairy.  Since butter and cream are the main components of many, many decadent foods, cakes and such, I was left wondering what to do.     I could use a cake recipe with 30 eggs, but they tend to make really large cakes and still need butter, plus the celiac thing and raisins - are they all plum cakes?  giggle

In the end I went with the 1850 edition of Mrs. Beecher's Domestic Receipt Book, published in New York and Miss Leslie's Complete Cookery.  Directions for Cookery, in it's Various Branches, written by Miss Leslie - thirty-eighth edition, 1851, Pennsylvania.

Boston Cream Cake is basically a Choux Pastry recipe, with slightly different proportions.   Looking at the quantities in the original recipes, it would make a lot of puffs, so I cut the recipe down to 1/3.   
Preheat oven to 425° F

Boston Creme Cake
 1/3 c butter (vegan margarine)
1 1/3 c flour (1/2 c brown rice flour, 1/2 c tapioca flour, 1/4 c millet flour, 1/4 c white rice flour)
for gluten free 3/4 tsp xanthan gum.  Don't use if you are using wheat flour.
1 1/3 c boiling water
4 eggs

The recipe states to rub the butter into the flour, then add all the flour into the boiling water.  You need to stir vigorously here because what you are doing is making a big ball of dough and you need to incorporate the flour thoroughly and have the mixture cook as well.   The mixture will come together in a ball and leave a film over the bottom and sides of the pot.  This is normal and if you soak the pot as soon as you get the dough cooling, it will clean up easily.

Once the dough is cool enough to not cook the eggs, break one egg in to the dough and beat it well until thoroughly blended.   The dough will look like it has separated into ribbons and if you just keep mixing it, all of a sudden it comes together.   Add each egg separately and stir until blended in.

Grease a baking sheet or cover it with baking parchment and drop large globs of the dough on the pan.   Leave a bit of space between blobs of dough.   Bake for 25-35 minutes until well puffed and nicely browned.   Slit each puff open or poke with a skewer to let the steam escape, and let cool.

Mock Cream or Blanc Mange or Custard

Miss Leslie's Blancmange
For filling, I checked out a number of different recipes from similar period books, give or take 10 years, and ended up with a bit of a combined recipe.   There were many recipes for Blanc Mange or a cornstarch thickened milk custard dessert and many recipes for custards which were similar, save for the cornstarch.  Mrs. Beecher's Mock Cream recipe is a flour thickened blanc mange, flavoured with rosewater or lemon essence.   To get the decadence theme in their and to avoid the little stringy white bits that I almost always need to strain out of my custards, I used just egg yolks and not whole eggs.   Because I have 11 laying hens right now, eggs are easy to come by and are a bit of my own nod to decadence   Most of the blancmange recipe say to serve with cream, so I used so whipped cream as well. 

Mock Creme/ Blancmange

2 c milk, 3 tbsn cornstarch, 4 egg yolks, 1/2 cup sugar, 1 tsp flavouring lemon or vanilla   (almond milk and vanilla bean used)

Mix the egg yolks with the sugar and cornstarch and stir until very well blended.   Heat up the milk over medium heat until bubbles are formed along the edges and it is quite hot.   Temper the egg yolk mixture by adding about 1/2 cup of hot milk and stirring in vigorously.    The add the warmed and diluted egg mixture to the hot milk, stirring constantly until the mixture just comes to a boil.  Keep stirring so it doesn't burn.  Take it off the heat and stir in the flavouring.   Stir once in a while as it is cooking to prevent a skin from forming on top.  or not

Recipe:  Boston Cream Cake - Mrs Beecher's Domestic Receipt Book, 1850 (NY)

Time:   It didn't take that long, maybe 30 minutes to prepare the dough.  While the oven was preheating, I made the cream puff dough.   I did use the stand blender to add in the eggs.  It didn't save any time compared with mixing in the eggs by hand, but it freed up my hands to wash dishes and start the filling.   I am guessing a bit on the bake time because I ran out to collect eggs and ended up feeding and watering the chooks, and didn't check the time before I headed out to the barn.  The blancmange took another 20 minutes or so, after I got back in.  

How Successful:   It was really good, despite being gluten and dairy free.  Despite not really having globs of butter and gallons of cream, it felt like a very rich and special.

How Accurate:   Well, it was dairy and gluten free, so not accurate at all in that case, but the process was accurate and I am pretty certain the end product was pretty close, all things considered.   I forgot that I was out of vanilla and only had not quite enough lemon extract and several vanilla beans, so I split open a vanilla bean and scraped out the seeds, adding the seeds and the pod to the milk and set it to soak before I headed out to the barn.  I removed the pod when I added the tempered eggs back into the pudding mixture.   I haven't seen any recipes using vanilla beans, so that was a total not period addition.  However, it was very, very tasty!


Stephanie Ann said...

Very cool! I thought I had it hard with the last challenge with being vegetarian! I love that there are other people making substitutions.

Dea-chan said...

The best vegan cream I ever made used coconut fat that was whipped. But if you overwhip it, that's it. :-\

These look great! Your choux pastry turned out gorgeous!