Sunday, February 28, 2010

Time to get rolling.

It’s that time of year. Time to get ready for the next reenacting season. Time to decide if I’m going to mend the shift with the shredded sleeves (when you buy $6/yard linen, you get what you pay for), or make a new one. Time to try on Sweet Daughter’s event clothes and heave a sigh of relief that the gowns will fit another year, but just sigh when I realize that she needs new shifts worse than I do. Pat myself on the back for picking up new “good enough” event shoes for her in a bigger size last month when I wasn’t under a time crunch. Time to start churning out the stuff I haven’t been working on for the past 6 months because I was tired of looking at all of it.

It’s also time to start working on the details to improve our impression for the year – like edible hornbooks! The mold is an 18th century reproduction from Trier, Germany. The receipt is from Hannah Glasse’s 1774 The Art of Cookery made Plain and Easy.

To make ginger-bread cakes.

TAKE three pounds of flour, one pound of sugar, one pound of butter rubbed in very fine, two ounces of ginger beat fine, a large nutmeg grated; then take a pound of treacle, a quarter of a pint of cream, make them warm together, and make up the bread stiff; roll it out, and make it up into thin cakes, cut them out with a tea-cup, or small glass, or roll them round like nuts, and bake them on tin plates in a slack oven.

First up, was to cut the recipe in half so it would fit in my mixing bowl. I decided to cut the amount of ginger in half so it wouldn’t be so hot, and substitute black-strap molasses for the treacle as it is more common on this side of the pond. That, and I couldn’t find treacle in the regional upscale grocery store, much less in the local Food Lion.

I threw two sticks of butter in mixing bowl, weighed the sugar, and creamed the two together. I added the spices and about half the flour. Then I weighed and added the molasses, some more flour, the cream, and the rest of the flour. The consistency was perfect. Not to stiff to roll out, but not so sticky that it clung to my cookie mold. I rolled the dough to a scant ¼” thick, pressed the mold into the dough, lifted it off, cut around the resulting design and put it on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. I baked them at about 325 degrees for about 20 minutes. I think I’ll cut the baking time back a little next time as these were a little dry. I don’t know why I was thinking they had to be baked to the consistency of hard-tack. Still, they were good – a very robust flavor, a little chewy, and not too sweet.

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