The Old Cookbook Experiment, Part 1

The Old Cookbook Experiment, Part 1

So if you read my post last month, I was talking about checking out some old cookbooks and saying that I planned to give some of the less alarming recipes a try (no sheep’s heads or calves’ feet, thank you!). I started with this recipe from Margaret Dods’ The Cook and Housewife’s Manual (1826)  and immediately ran into a few problems… like, what exactly is ‘an ornamented paste border’?

Checking out a few modernised recipes for Welsh pudding, I quickly realised it meant a pastry crust… possibly pre-baked, at least, I assumed so as otherwise it could go soggy when the custard mixture was poured in. I could have bought one, or made one completely from scratch, but I’m a cheat at heart. I had some pre-rolled puff pastry sheets in the freezer. Lining the tart tin with one, I quickly blind-baked it and was ready to go.

I’m Australian and work in metric measurements, so a quick conversion told me half a pound of butter is equal to 225 grams. Since my tart tin is quite small, I made an executive decision to decrease this to 175 grams and reduce the number of eggs to 6. I set the butter to melt in my big glass bowl over a pan with hot water while I separated and beat the eggs (the other three egg whites went to make meringues!).

“Sweeten with fine pounded sugar” is another one of those yikes moments from this baker who likes to know EXACTLY what quantities to use. I went with ? of a cup of caster sugar, though I’d probably put it up to ½ cup if I’d been working with the larger quantities in the original recipe. Grated rind of a lemon and a half-teaspoon of nutmeg, and I was ready to pour into the pastry shell!

(I was definitely right to reduce those quantities. Any more and this would have been A Mess.)

With no idea what temperature to bake the pudding at, or for how long, I shrugged and went for 180 degrees Celsius/350 Fahrenheit (but note that my oven isn’t fan forced and I’d turn that down 20 degrees for a fan forced), and figured I’d take a look after 15 minutes. In the end it was more like 25 minutes when I decided it looked good – being nicely risen – and took it out to cool.

While the pudding was in the oven, I decided to make some candied orange slices to top it with. I used to make these with my mum as a child to top her legendary orange marmalade cake with, so I know they’re pretty easy, and a friend of mine has an orange tree which is producing very enthusiastically at the moment so I have plenty of them to play with!

Slice an orange into thin (3mm) slices with a sharp knife and remove the ends and any seeds. Combine 2 cups of water and 1 ½ cups of sugar in a large pan, bring to the boil, and gently slide in the orange slices. Move them around with a fork to make sure they don’t stick together and simmer for 30 minutes. Carefully remove with tongs and spread out in a single layer on baking paper to cool. You could put them on a wire rack but be prepared for A Mess as the orange water drips.

(Talking of that sweetened orange water, it makes an amazing base for marmalade, or you can add it to sodas and cocktails.)

Once the orange slices had cooled and stiffened, I cut them in half and trimmed away the pith and rind before putting them on top of the pudding.

Conclusions; I could probably have gotten away without blind-baking the pastry shell. It was over-crispy. I’ll try it again with the pastry uncooked next time. The filling was absolutely delicious, like a fluffy, airy version of a custard tart, the lemon zest and candied orange slices adding just a little tang, and really it was quite simple to make. I’ll definitely be making it again, might try some little individual tarts next time!

Next time on The Old Cookbook Experiment, I fancy trying this one, because I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve seen characters eating ‘seed-cake’ in novels, and I’ve always wondered what it would taste like!

Now I just need to figure out what a ‘hoop’ is…

4 Responses to The Old Cookbook Experiment, Part 1

  1. And another adventure in the kitchen!! Wow! As Linda A said, you are braver than I am. What fun. You know, that second recipe did look interesting. Thanks for sharing this with us. It was so interesting. I can just imagine Jane in the kitchen [hey, great title] with her mother and sister making this pudding or the seed cake either for their brothers or for themselves. They could then serve it with tea.

  2. That’s what I wonder too what a hoop is!lol The pudding doesn’t sound bad it just sounds like you have to do a little trial and error !

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