Chapter 7: Teatime – Completed!

When I started this project, baking wasn’t the seemingly national pastime as it is now since the rise of the behemoth that is The Great British Bake Off, but it was something I liked to do and was okay at, but certainly had a very narrow baking repertoire. I certainly never baked bread or biscuits, my cake-making was average, but I did make a passable shortcrust pastry. After baking my way through the recipes in this chapter, my world was opened up to a vast array of sticky, spicy, sweet and sometimes stodgy treats, many of which are now standards in my own cooking.

Baking #429 Cumberland Currant Cake
People are sick of mass-produced cakes and biscuits devoid of real flavours, covered in single-use plastic wrapping. Many of the recipes were quite obscure then and I wouldn’t have bothered with them normally, they seem less so now as people all over the country are looking to tradition in their home baking. That said, some recipes in the book are still obscure and old fashioned: you still don’t see #227 Wigs, #62 Seed Cake, #274 Saffron Cake or #431 Murrumbidgee Cake. All these recipes can be found within the pages of English Food.

#113 Muffins
The Teatime chapter was a whopper; so big  I had to split it into four parts, otherwise it would have felt like a never-ending task as there were 72 recipes!
I split them into:
·       7.1: Bread (15 recipes)
·       7.2: Cakes & Tarts (35 recipes)
·       7.3: Pancakes & Griddle Cakes (13 recipes)
·       7.4: Biscuits (9 recipes)

Click on the hyper-links to see my reviews of the four sections.

The chapter scored an overall mean score of 7.0, which seems pretty average for the book so far. For those who care (and I know none of you do), here’s a little bar chart showing the mean scores for the chapter as a whole and then the separate subchapters. There are even error bars, don’t say I don’t treat you.

One important thing I learnt was that Teatime treats are not always sweet cakes and biscuits, but sandwiches made with a variety of breads, toast, muffins and crumpets.


There are blurred lines between my distinctions too; cakes used to be leavened with yeast before the advent of chemical raising agents so there is a continuum between bread and cake, cake and tart, tart and biscuit, biscuit and cake.

#186 Cheese and Oat Biscuits


But where does our obsession with teatime come from?

Well, tea had been drunk in Britain from around 1660; Charles II enjoyed a cuppa char every now and again, that’s for sure. However, it was extremely expensive and only the richest of folk could afford this exotic Chinese drink. It only really started to catch on when Assam tea plants were discovered to be growing in India in the 1820s. Prior to this, the Chinese had held the whole process of tea growing and drying under a shroud of secrecy. The British could buy their tea much more cheaply – it was also the catalyst for the British occupation of India, but that’s a story for another day. It was still expensive at this point, but the upper and middle-upper classes starting drinking it with gusto.

Anna, 7th Duchess of Bedford
The idea of teatime as we know it originates in the mid-19thcentury when the 7th Duchess of Bedford started asking for tea and bread and butter to be served to her in her room at 4 o’clock. The reason she did this was to quash her hunger pangs as she waited for dinner at 9 o’clock. Then, the only other meal of the day was breakfast. She started inviting her lady friends to enjoy her, and soon her lady friends began their own teatimes and invite other ladies to attend. The Duchess was very prominent in society and was good friends with Queen Victoria, so when her Royal Highness decided to start taking tea in afternoon too, the country went nuts.
The Queen had elaborate teas, and whatever she was doing, and wherever she might have been, she stopped for tea at around 4 o’clock. It would be very common for an en routequeen to stop her carriage and entourage, for a fire to be lit at the roadside, and for her to sup tea and eat the associated treats. She loved travelling and eating but found it much less exciting once her travel occurred mainly by train and there was no need to stop for tea anymore!

Making dough
Ladies had to be seen hosting teatimes and attending teatimes, one must have needed quite some stamina to trawl across the town or village several times so that one could be noticed.
Some disapproved of teatime, Sir Henry Thompson in 1891 said it was an undesirable habit as it was too generous and spoiled the coming dinner. He may well have been right, those poor ladies must have eaten and drank their fill when doing their rounds.
A truly traditional teatime is made up of sandwiches of cold meats and watercress. Cucumber was not originally popular as people regarded it with distain thinking raw cucumber was poisonous. It was also a rigmarole to prepare the sandwiches in advance; just using sliced cucumber made sandwiches soggy, so the slices had be salted overnight to draw out moisture, then rinsed and individually patted dry.

#270 Mereworth Biscuits
Joining the sandwiches were crumpets, muffins, wigs and seed cakes. Seed cakes were very popular because the caraway seeds that went into them were one of the very few spices that could be grown in Europe. There would be lashings of butter, honey and jam too of course.
Sweet sponge cakes like Victoria sponges were not generally eaten by the grown-ups, but instead made up the bulk of the nursery tea, though I’m sure there are many adults today who would prefer it!
I spotted a great reference to a Victorian book called Walsh’s Manual of Domestic Economy, which recommended, as part of a child’s teatime, a wineglass of homebrew to ‘restore health to the most delicate children’. Get that top tip on Mum’s Net!
Personally, I am very glad that home baking and teatime have regained popularity in Britain. I hope it’s not a fad and we all start buying Mr Kipling’s Fondant Fancies again in 18 months’ time or whatever.
Long may it continue!

7.2 Cakes & Tarts – Completed!

#431 Murrumbidgee Cake

The Cakes and Tarts section of the mammoth Teatimechapter is now complete. There have been some great recipes in this part of the book, many of which have become standards.
The Teatimechapter is so big that I had to split it, rather arbitrarily, into four parts; because of this there are some grey areas and some of the Breadrecipes should technically be part of this section. When we think of cakes, we tend think of light sponges made with flour containing a raising agent. These chemical aids to cookery, only appeared in late Georgian times, and only really caught on in the Victorian era; before then, cakes had to be raised with yeast. These days we would call these sorts of cakes ‘enriched breads’, so that’s why I have included them in the Breadsection. Likewise, there is a continuum between cake into tart with a cut-off point that was more difficult to separate and so for that reason, I kept them together.
#49 Orange Cake 


There were very few disasters in the book, with the only bad recipes being the extremely dry and boring (#160) Rice Cake, and the super-sweet (#248) Mazarines; avoid those ones for sure. However, everything else was pretty good, I think I got better at baking cakes and pastry as I worked though the book, so some earlier efforts got unfairly marked down. Like all baking, it takes a little practise to improve. I also cooked many of these recipes very early on and barely remember cooking some of them!

#135 Butterscotch Cake

Inside this section are some simple classics as well as some great discoveries. The two tea loaves really are excellent, and it turns out the parsnip beats the carrot hands down in a cake. (#429) Cumberland Currant Cake and (#431) Murrumbidgee Cake (though the former is not a cake, but a tart) were excellent latter day discoveries, and Jane’s (#226) Eccles Cake filling is delicious, especially when used with her recipe for (#384) Fool-Proof Puff Pastry.
The biggest successes of all must be the Christmas recipes. Jane’s (#15) Christmas Cake is simply excellent, it is the only recipe to achieve full-marks and it is the one I use professionally. Likewise, the two mincemeatrecipes are part of my Yuletide repertoire, though I inexplicably scored them quite low. Must have had a bad day.
#429 Cumberland Currant Cake

This recipe had 35 recipes in all, and I think pretty comprehensive; usually I have list of glaring omissions, but this time I can’t really think of any. I suppose there are cakes that didn’t exist, or were not yet popular at the time of writing English Food, like lemon drizzle cake or American muffins. If you spot any glaring omissions, please let me know and leave a comment!
#56 Stuffed Monkey

All the recipes from this section are listed below with links plus the scores they were awarded. It scored a mean mark of 7.3 (or if you’d prefer, both a median and mode of 7), making it a rather average chapter; the average mean score for a chapter at the time of writing is 7.28, so it couldn’t be much more average!
Finishing this section, means I have completed the behemoth that was the Teatimechapter, so I’ll be writing a little round up of that soon.
#206 Orange MincemeatPart 1 and Part 2 6.5/10

#429 Cumberland Currant Cake


Jane Grigson was brought up in the far north of England, and this currant cake was very popular there when she was a child. At the end of winter, when there was nothing fresh left in store aside from a few apples and jars of dried fruit, this cake – more a tart really – would be baked. Everywhere in the north has a similar sweetmeat: Eccles cakes, Chorley cakes and currant squares, and of course mince pies. Children usually called them squashed fly cakes or fly cemeteries. ‘We loved it’, she says, ‘and giggled in a corner, while the family talked. No one realised that they were eating a cake with a history, and medieval ancestors.’

In these days of seasonless, year-round fresh fruit and vegetables flown in from all four corners of the globe, many turn their noses up at these dried-fruit based treats. Well not me! I could eat them all year round, though they do taste most delicious when it’s cold and bracing outside.


To make the currant cake, first make a rich shortcrust pastry by rubbing in 5 ounces of butter and 5 ounces of lard into a pound of plain flour along with a pinch of salt. Form a dough with a little cold water, wrap in cling film and pop in the fridge to rest for around 30 minutes.

Use half the pastry to line a tin with approximate dimensions of 7” x 11” x 1”. My tin wasn’t quite the size as in Jane’s recipe, but it still worked very well.

Now it’s time to layer up the filling ingredients. Start with a good covering of raisins or currants (10 ounces) and then 4 ounces of candied mixed peel. Peel, core and grate a medium-sized cooking apple and scatter that over the mixed fruit. Next, melt 5 ounces ofbutter in a saucepan, remove from the heat and add 4 ounces of pale or dark soft brown sugar (when given the choice, I always go for the latter), 5 tablespoons of rum, a teaspoon of ground allspice and half a teaspoon each of ground cinnamon and mace. Beat them all together and pour evenly over the fruit.

Now roll out the remainder of the dough so that you can cover it – don’t forget to brush the edges with milk or beaten eggbefore you cover. Press down on the edges, then trim and crimp the pastry. Now brush the lid and scatter over some granulatedor Demerara sugar.

Bake at 200°C for 30-35 minutes until golden brown.

Jane suggests either eating hot as a dessert with cream, custard or #211 Cumberland Rum Butter, or cold cut into squares for teatime.

#429 Cumberland Currant Cake. Well I ate this oblong of deliciousness both hot and cold, and it was delicious. The pastry was very rich and the filling sweet yet still tart from the cooking apples; not unlike a giant, square mince pie; and seeing as I’m a mince pie fan, it’s getting a very good mark. When I return to trade at Levenshulme Market later this month, I shall be bringing some of this to sell. Delicious! 9.5/10.

#414 Oldbury Gooseberry Tarts

The summer fruit season is pretty much done and dusted now, with just autumn raspberries and wild blackberries hanging around, but back in June at the very beginning of the season, I made these little gooseberry ‘tarts’. I’m using ‘inverted commas’ there because they are not tarts, they are pies.
In their simplest form, Oldbury fruit tarts are  hand-raised pies made from a hot-water pastry, filled with fruit and sugar and then baked. The pies, according to two of Jane’s correspondents, had links with Oldbury in Gloucestershire, and would be made by families as soon as soft fruits began to appear. In the latter half of the 19th century (and I’m sure much earlier than that too) the pies were ‘sold at fairs at a penny each’.
Below is the recipe and my review of the tarts, but it’s worth pointing out that sometimes these Oldbury pies would be made just like normal raised pies, but instead for being filled with jellied stock as you would  a pork pie, it is filled with fruit jelly preserve instead. This sounds so delicious and I may have a go at these more complex ones. I like the idea of a slice of fruit pie with jelly and some good cheese (Gloucester, of course) to round off a meal.
The hot water pastry for these pies is different to Jane’s recipe for her savoury (#282) Raised Pies in that there is both lard and butter here but no egg or icing sugar (which give crispness and an appetising brown colour to the cooked pastry). However, the method is essentially the same:
First cube 4 ounces each of butter and lard and pour over them 5 tablespoons of boiling water. Stir around until the fats have melted.  Put a pound of plain flour in a bowl, make a well in the centre and tip in the warm liquid mixture. Using a wooden spoon, and then your hands, form a dough.


At this point, I kneaded the dough until smooth – Jane says it should have ‘a waxy look’ – then popped it back in the bowl, covered it with cling film and left it to rest for a bit until it felt like it could be rolled and moulded successfully.

I found that the dough made six tarts using Jane’s method of thinly rolling out batches into circles and, then using a saucer as a template to cut out perfect shapes. I kept the trimmings for the lids.
Here’s the tricky bit: now mould the edges of each pastry circle to a height of about an inch so that they form cases – or in old English coffyns. This was a bit of a nightmare; you need a good cool stiff dough to do this, and if possible, three hands.


Now you can tumble in your topped and tailed gooseberries (about 8 ounces altogether) and a good amount of Demerara sugar (at least an ounce per tart, I’d say, but use your discretion). Roll out the lids, make a hole in the centre, and glue them in place with a brush and water, making sure you crimp the edges. Now leave the pastry to harden, this is a matter of a couple of hours in the fridge, but if leaving them in a cool larder, it’ll require an overnight wait.


Bake the ‘tarts’ for around 25-30 minutes at 200⁰C. Because of a lack of either egg , icing sugar or glaze, the pastry doesn’t turn a nice golden brown, but if the filling is happily bubbling away within, you can be pretty sure they are ready.


I served them warm with some pouring cream.

#414 Oldbury Gooseberry Tarts. Well these were not really worth the effort as the pastry was pretty disappointing in both taste and texture. Gooseberries in any form are good of course, so I did eat them. I’m looking forward to trying to make a larger pie filled with fruit jelly – that hasto be delicious. 4/10.

#384 Quick, Foolproof Puff or Flaky Pastry

Fool-proof? I’ll be the judge of that, Ms Grigson.

This is a recipe I have been putting off for ages; I have become pretty good at shortcrust pastries as well as hot-water pastry, but the rigmarole and potential disaster of a flaky pastry has always filled me with an inner dread. However, now that I am a half a fully-fledged patissier, and chock-full of confidence, I thought now is the time to give it a go.

I really should have looked at the recipe a little closer, because it is actually a rough-puff pastry as opposed to the true pâte feuilletée that can be made up of up to 1500 layers of pastry and fat. I was a little disappointed that it wasn’t the proper stuff, but then one shouldn’t run before one can walk, so perhaps a rough puff would be a happy stepping stone that will one day lead to the dizzying heights of the full puff.

This recipe was devised by, and then given to Jane Grigson, pastry chef Nicholas Malgieri who then worked ‘at Peter Frump’s famous New York cookery school’, and has now created an empire of his own. Like all rough puff pastes, it is best used for tarts, feuilletées or patisserie such as the good-old custard slice. To avoid bitter disappointment, don’t go trying to use them for something that requires a high rise, like a vol-au-vent (does anyone actually eat those anymore…?).

My good friend Charlotte came over to give me a hand, should I need it, though really I think she came to eat the dessert it would be used to make, which is fair enough. She did take some great photos for me though, so cheers Char.

It is important to buy good quality butter when making puff pastes, so don’t go using Tesco Value, instead go for a nice French or Danish one. Jane prefers French, I’d just say go for the best you can afford. This method satisfyingly uses a whole 250g block of butter, which is 8 ½ ounces in old money, which explains the seemingly strange weights used:

Start by cutting up 8 ½ ounces of unsalted butter into cubes, then sieve 8 ½ ounces of strong flour into a bowl. Rub in one ounce of the butter into flour. Tip in the rest of the butter and ‘work lightly’. I took this to mean to make sure each cube is separate and squashed flat, ready for easier rolling later.

In a measuring jug, dissolve half a teaspoon of salt in 2 teaspoons of lemon juice, then top up to 4 fluid ounces with ice-cold water. Tip it in and quickly bring it all together; ‘it will look appalling, a raggy mess’, says Jane, and so it did.

Flour your work surface and manhandle your pastry lump into an approximate 4-by-8 inch rectangle. Flour the top generously and roll out to a 9-by-18 inch rectangle, using more flour to prevent sticking. Now do the first folds: fold the short ends into the centre, then fold the whole thing in half so that it looks like a book. Turn the ‘spine’ one quarter turn to the left, roll out again, and make the very same folds. Turn, roll and fold one more time. If at any point the butter gets too warm and soft, pop it in the fridge to firm up.

Chill for an hour (or freeze it) and it is ready to use. I used mine to make a couple of things. First was a nice crisp apple tart, glazed with brown sugar and apricot jam, and second was a nice pile of Eccles cakes. Lovely.
#384 Quick, Foolproof Puff or Flaky Pastry. Well, I have to say it was quick, and it wasfool-proof. In fact, aside for the rolling out that required some degree of precision, I would say it is easier than a shortcrust for a beginner: rubbing in is minimal, it won’t be too dry and it won’t be over-worked. Why did I put this off for so long? It has already become part of my regular repertoire and I shall be using it in the amuse bouchefor my next pop up restaurant in November. Great stuff, delicious, crisp and rich 9.5/10.

 

#329 John Evelyn’s Tart of Herbs


John Evelyn was a very influential diarist who left quite a legacy. He was from a well-to-do family in South-East London, but being the second son, had no rights to the estate (unless his brother died without having a son himself). So, to make up for this he decided to become a scholar and travelled France and Italy in search of knowledge during the tumultuous time of the English Civil War. He wrote several books, witnessed the Great Fire of London, and was friends with Christopher Wren and Samuel Pepys. He lived during the reigns of Charles II, James II and William III and Mary II. He was talented landscaper, designing the gardens at Sayes Court, London. He became quite chummy with Charles II and was a founding member of the Royal Society. One of his books, called Sylvia, or a discourse of Forest Trees declared the tragedy befalling the country’s trees that were being felled for fuel to the glass factories. The book was responsible for the planting of millions of trees – quite the modern conservationist!

During his later years, he planned to write an encyclopaedia of horticulture, but only got as far as the first chapter. This chapter was published as a book in its own right in 1699, titled Aceteria and it is from this book that this recipe comes:
An Herb-Tart is made thus: Boil fresh Cream or Milk, with a little grated Bread or Naples-Biscuit (which is better) to thicken it; a pretty Quantity of Chervile, Spinach, Beete (or what other Herb you please) being first par-boil’d and chop’d. Then add Macaron, or Almonds beaten to a Paste, a littlesweet Butter, the Yolk of five Eggs, three of the Whites rejected. To these some add Corinths plump’d in Milk, or boil’d therein, Sugar, Spice at Discretion, and stirring it all together over the Fire, bake it in the Tart-Pan.
These sorts of sweet vegetable-based tarts were commonly eaten as a pudding during wintertime when there was no fresh fruit to be had. I had heard of carrots being used in this way, but not spinach! So, with an air of dubiousness I followed the updated version that Jane Grigson provides which surprisingly only contains spinach…
Begin by cooking 2 pounds of spinach in a pan with a little water and salt. Cover the giant pile with a lid and simmer until it collapses – about 5 minutes.
From this…
…to this!
Let it cool before draining and squeezing out any liquid, and then chop it.
Mix an ounce of breadcrumbs with ½ pint of single cream in a pan and slowly bring it to the boil. Meanwhile soak 2 ounces of currants or raisins in some warm milk. Into the cream, stir the spinach along with 1 or 2 ounces of macaroon crumbs (for a recipe see here), 2 ounces of butter, 2 whole eggs and two egg yolks, 2 to 3 tablespoons of sugar and the raisins and milk. Stir the green slurry over a low heat until everything is well-incorporated. Add more sugar or macaroon crumbs and grate in some nutmeg to taste.
Line a 9 to 10 inch tart tin with some puff pastry and pour in the spinach mixture. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes at 220⁰C (425⁰F) until the pastry has begun the brown, and then turn the heat down to 180⁰C (350⁰F) bake until the filling is set, about 30 to 40 minutes.
This should be eaten hot or warm with some cream for pudding.
#329 John Evelyn’s Tart of Herbs. Well this was certainly a strange one and I haven’t made up my mind as to whether I liked it or not. There was no attempt at masking the flavor of the spinach, but it did marry surprisingly well with the fruit and other sweet things as well as the nutmeg. Even though everyone ate it quite happily we weren’t sure if it was a dessert, and after my fourth slice, I still wasn’t sure! I think it could be very successfully reproduced as an amuse-bouche or hors d’oeuvre though. An interesting winter-warmer, though maybe not for a pudding course. 7/10.

#326 John Farley’s Fine Cheesecake

My friends Ashley and Jason were throwing a bit of a party last weekend and it was a pot luck party, where everyone brings some food. We don’t have such things in England, but I shall try and introduce them as they are a great idea. I thought it would be a good opportunity to sneak in a couple of historical desserts from the eighteenth century, so I made the delicious sweetmeat cake and this cheesecake.

When one thinks of cheesecakes, one wouldn’t think of England – there’s plenty in mainland Europe and America of course – yet we have been making them for a quite a while, the Yorkshire curd tart being the most well-known. John Farley’s has some delicious, and very eighteenth century ingredients: sweet macaroons (the almond kind, not the coconut kind), fragrant yet earthy ground almonds and heady rose or orange-flower water. If you can’t find almond (‘French’) macaroons anywhere, here is a recipe. It is a little strange in that it should be served warm; all the cheesecakes I have ever eaten (baked or not) have always been served cold.
These sorts of puddings were very popular – there are no less than seven cheesecake recipes in Elizabeth Raffald’s 1769 book, The Experienced English Housekeeper.  John Farley’s book The London Art of Cookery was published in 1783 and included eight cheesecakes, with most of the recipes being copied word-for-word from Raffald’s book. The cheeky bleeder. I don’t think that he was trying to pass the recipes off as his own, he was just producing a compendium of recipes suitable for housewives and servants. He wrote it whilst he was head chef at The London Tavern. I think I will try some more of these cheesecake recipes.

To make the cheesecake, begin by lining a 9 inch flan tin with puff or shortcrust pastry. Griggers says that in the eighteenth century puff pastry would have been used, so I went with that so the cheesecake would be as authentic as possible.

Now beat the filling ingredients together: 8 ounces of full fat cream cheese, 2 big tablespoons of double cream, a tablespoon of orange flower or rose water, 4 large egg yolks, 2 ounces melted slightly salted butter, 3 ounces of crushed macaroon crumbs, 3 ounces of ground almonds, 3 ounces of caster sugar and up to half a freshly ground nutmeg. Whew!

Turn the mixture into the line tart tin and bake at 180C (350F) for 30-40 minutes until the top is nicely browned. Eat the cheesecake hot or warm, with cream.
#326 John Farley’s Fine Cheesecake. It may look a little pale and pasty, but this really was a fine cheesecake indeed! The filling was not of a typical baked cheesecake because of all the almonds and macaroons in there. The cheese flavour was definitely present though as was a hint of perfume from the rose water. It all certainly suited modern tastes. Eating it warm seemed like a strange idea, but it was very good, especially with some cool cream poured over. We need to bring back the English cheesecake! 9/10