Historical (Hysterical) Baking

Normally I would bump my cooking stuff over onto the Food from the Finca Blog but as I have been doing quite a bit of baking of late I thought it should go on here as a record of what has been happening on the finca this week.

Firstly, we have a broody hen.

The white one.  She has forced the issue with the older cockerel and non laying hens and we are going to cull them next weekend to make room for the new chicks.  We are going to eat the cockerel and the old hens.  After acknowledging that they HAVE to go (they are not pets and they are no longer productive) we have decided to bite the bullet and make proper use of our only livestock (the chickens) which means eating them.  When I thought about it I didn't feel right about killing them to just discard them... No one in their right mind likes killing animals but we do like happy meat and ours couldn't have been happier.  It's not a pleasant job but must be done.

During our recent holiday in Andalucia where we went to celebrate our grand daughters birthday, we were given a very large basket of almonds from our daughter's inlaws.

Its a bit of a pallaver preparing them, bashing them open, blanching the nut to remove the skins, toasting the nuts in an oven to dry them and then whizzing them up in the processor to make ground almonds.  Macaroons it is then.  I used a recipe from Leiths Baking Bible, normally a fantastic resource for all baking.

The result was not good.   I made two batches over two days and even allowing for the fact that my egg whites are perhaps a little larger than standard, and adjusting the temperature and cooking times for the second batch, they still didn't turn out.

I finally decided that perhaps the nuts, being so fresh, were a bit oily.  So I headed off to my oldest cookery books to see what recipies I could find using almonds (these recipes are for freshly pounded almonds and so are more likely to take into account the oilyness of the fresh nut).  And well.... what did I find...

... the identical recipe for Macaroons only labelled as a cheesecake (which I think is an error since there is no cheese or curds in it as there are in the other recipes in that section).  The only change to the recipe is the addition of a spoonful of cream and instead of baking like biscuits the mixture is put into tart tins for baking.  This is the kind of historical research that I love....

This particular cookery book is entitled The Young Womans Companion or Female Instructor being a guide to all the accomplishments that adorn the female character.  It is not dated but the frontispiece shows a regency couple so we can assume around about 1815 give or take...

The end result... yes a bit chewy and definitely not Macaroons... still edible of course.  I fancy the steamed almond custard next.  But this very useful book gives instructions on cooking old hens and cockerels too, (very timely) there is no recipe for coq au vin however which is the tried and trusted 'old hen' recipe I usually use.  Given the age of the book its hardly surprising that there are no french recipes in it! There is also no recipe for Beef Wellington... perhaps this could be taken as indication that the book is pre 1815.  Oooh right up my street, a historical puzzle!


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