Monday, September 23, 2019

Starting Points: Spanish Pastries

This weekly feature shows the initial steps I go through for interpreting a medieval recipe. Today's randomly selected recipe is the following:

199 To make Spanish pastries. First prepare a firm dough with eggs and fat and roll it out very thin, as long as the table, and sprinkle ground almonds and sugar, butter or fat over it and roll it up over itself like a sausage. Afterwards cut it in pieces and close up both ends. In this manner make one after the other and turn the underside to the top. And bake it in a smooth pan, with fat in the pan. And let it bake in a weak heat, with a hot cover over the top, and serve it cold. [Das Kuchbuch der Sabina Welserin (Germany, 16th century - V. Armstrong, trans.)]

Huh. Ok, I'll start off by stating that I haven't done much cooking of pastries. Still, I will give it a shot.

A quick search for similar recipes yields ... nothing. Huh. This turns out to be a rather unique recipe. I don't have much access to Spanish sources though, so if it's really from Spain (and there's no guarantee of that just because of the name) then perhaps there are some variations there. Fortunately it's not a complicated recipe and the instructions seem pretty clear.

The first part calls for making dough with eggs and fat. There's a contemporary short crust recipe from England like that which I've used before:

To make short paest for tarte. Take fyne floure and a cursey of fayre water and a dysche of swete butter and a lyttel saffron, and the yolckes of two egges and make it thynne and as tender as ye maye.  [A Proper New Booke of Cookery (England, 1575)]

With that in mind I'd mix 1 1/2 cup flour and 1/2 tsp. salt, and then cut in 4 Tbsp. butter and the yolks of 2 eggs. Once that forms fine crumbs I'd add water a little at a time until it all sticks together.

I know that seems like a big jump. Sorry. I learned to make pie crusts from my grandmother and the method is pretty automatic for me. To get those proportions I would have started with the flour and fat ratios from the Better Homes cookbook for a single crust pie, added in the egg yolks, and then added more water or flour until the dough was right - still workable but not sticky.

As an aside for anyone who has never made a pie crust with butter instead of shortening, the butter makes for a delicate dough and you have to be more careful working with it. That said it really tastes wonderful.

With the dough made I would roll it out pretty thinly, spread it with softened butter ... or maybe melt butter and brush it on, and then sprinkle it with ground almonds and sugar. Then it would get rolled up, cut into pieces, crimp the ends, and then bake at 350°F until golden.  I'd probably try for half-inch diameter rolls cut into maybe two-inch pieces.

It would be very tempting to add a little cinnamon, almond-flavor, or rosewater to the filling, or maybe even use marzipan. As a possible time and labor saving measure on the second or third try with the recipe I'd see if it would work to mix up the filling separately and spread it on the sheets of dough.

As it turns out, Kristen Wright has an interpretation of this recipe and it looks like she ended up taking much the same route I did.

1 comment:

Tomas de Courcy said...

I made this recipe once upon a time. I ended up using a variation on one of my coffin recipes from years ago ( ).

I took the recipe from The Second part of the good Hus-wiues Jewell (1597)

"To make fine paste. Take faire flower and wheat, & the yolkes of egges with sweet Butter, melted, mixing all these together with your hands, til it be brought dowe paste"

My version was:
2 C Flour
12 Egg yolks
1/4 - 1/2 C Butter

Whisk butter into yolks
Mix in flour slowly until dough is heavy and accepts no more flour

It worked well, but it's quite pricey because you're using a dozen eggs for one pie.

The key thing to it is to not give in to the temptation to add water, it just toughens up the pastry.