The many different kinds of pastry which are made in Britain today have evolved over the centuries from a crude flour and water dough mixture invented by the Romans. The paste was wrapped around meat and game before roasting and was not intended to be eaten. It served only to retain meat juices and aroma.
As time passed the pastry was enriched with fat and milk, and began vaguely to resemble today’s shortcrust. By Medieval times, pastry-making was well-established and rich-crust pastry covering known as coffers became as important as the fruit, meat, fish and game pies they covered.
This is another recipe I have been really keen to try for some time. I decided to make a meringue shell, as opposed to a pastry case, as I really need the meringue practise. I followed a basic meringue formula – 2oz castor sugar per 1 egg white plus a pinch of cream of tartar, using 3 egg whites and flavouring it with a pinch of cinnamon and a few drops of vanilla extract. The meringue shell was not quite as I had planned: I think I over- or under-whipped the whites, I may have mis-weighed the sugar and the oven was too hot. I’ll do a proper post on meringue in the future, paying more attention to meringue science, on which I have copious information, which on this occasion, I chose to skim-read and then ignore.
Last year for Pie Month, I made some mini pecan pies. I didn’t blog them because although I started with an Ann Seranne recipe, when it became apparent that they would be too sweet even for me, I deviated from the instructions. While they were well-received, I wasn’t completely happy with the pastry – it seemed to me to be a bit dry, bland and pale. So this year, when I decided to make chocolate-praline tartlets, I also thought I might experiment with an enriched short crust, using The Reader’s Digest Cookery Year, as the most reliable source I have for such things.
I have had a craving for these for a long time. Really, is there anything about them which doesn’t sound brilliant?
(from The Complete Book of Desserts by Ann Seranne, 1952, Faber and Faber)
½ cup semi-sweet chocolate pieces
2 tablespoons boiling water
1 tablespoon dark rum
2 egg yolks
3 tablespoons cream
¼ cup (½ stick) soft butter
¾ cup praline powder
12 baked 2 inch tart shells
This recipe is actually one of the very first vintage recipes I attempted, before even this blog existed. It’s from Florence White’s Good Things in England, which has been featured here many times before, and is probably one of my favourite books – not only did it spark my interest in vintage cookery but it also introduced me to the wonderful Persephone Books, who’ve republished it. Briefly, because I’m sure I’m repeating myself, Good Things in England was White’s attempt in the late 1920s to record traditional English recipes that she felt were in danger of being lost – the resulting book is a glorious compendium of regional and ancient recipes, and is a pleasure to read regardless of whether you plan to cook from it.
Here’s another from Good Housekeeping’s Cookery Book from 1955. These are also for Pie Month – though less obviously a pie, they do fit the basic criteria for pie, or pieteria as I like to call it (oh dear God, sorry), i.e. something encased in something else. I can’t find anything on Freaky Trigger that properly sums up the Great Pie Debate but those familiar will know that, in a sense, there is nothing that is not a pie. And, yes, that includes submarines.
So, to kick off my contributions to Pie Month here’s a classic. The recipe is from Good Housekeeping’s Cookery Book (1955):