Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Whistles: 19th Century American Filled Wafers

Whistles (Wafers) Filled with Strawberry Jam

About Wafers

Whistles are actually wafers. Wafers are essentially thin waffles that are usually made with a waffle-like iron in which each side of the wafer is imprinted with an image or with a textured decoration.  While warm, the wafers are rolled into a conical or tubular shape (similar to the tubular form of a whistle).  Wafers are therefore the ancestor to the waffle ice cream cone. 

The Recipe: Whistles

Ann Howe, The American Kitchen Directory and Housewife, 1863.

Half a pound of white sugar, quarter of a pound of butter, and six eggs, the whites and yelks beaten separately.  Stir the sugar and butter to a cream, then add the eggs previously beaten, and sifted flour to make a thick batter. flavor it with rosewater, if you like.  Drop the mixture by large spoonful on to buttered paper.  The mixture should be dropped several inches apart, and spread out thin.  Bake them till of a light brown, on a board, which will not take over five minutes.  Lay them on a moulding board  that has white sugar sprinkled on it; roll them on a stick while warm.  When cold, fill them with any kind of jelly that is thick.

Modern Recipe Adaptation

Yield: Ten 4.5" round wafers 


  • 1/2 Cup Granulated Sugar
  • 1/2 Stick of Butter, Softened
  • 2 Eggs, Separated
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Rosewater (or extract of vanilla, lemon, or almond)
  • 6 Tablespoons All-Purpose White Flour

  1. Preheat oven to 425º F.
  2. Prepare your baking sheets by lining a cookie sheet with parchment paper.  Then, draw circles on the parchment.  I used a 4/5" diameter cookie cutter and drew 6 circles on one sheet.  Prepare two sheets this way.
  3. Beat the egg whites until frothy.  Beat the egg yolks until well mixed.  
  4. Cream the butter and sugar.  Add the egg white, yolks, and rosewater.  Then add the flour.  The batter should be similar to a thick pancake batter.
  5. Spoon a measure of batter just shy of 2 Tbsp onto the center of each circle.  Use an off-set spatula to fill in the circles.
  6. Bake for 5 minutes.  While they are baking, spread some granulated sugar onto a large plate or cutting board (you can choose the amount based on your tastes.)
  7. Remove the wafer circles from the oven.
  8. Immediately roll each wafer off the paper using a conical roller made for this purpose (see picture) or a butter knife.  If using the wooden wafer roller, wet it first so that they wafers slide off easily.  Roll as pictured.
  9. Place the rolled wafers on the sugared surface and cool for 10 minutes.  Then, fill them with jam, Nutella, cream, ice cream, etc!  Enjoy.
Fill each circle with batter using an offset spatula to spread it.

Rolling the wafers
Wafer Roller

Note:  I like my wafers a little thick, but if you like them to be crispier, reduce the amount of batter you use and adjust cooking time accordingly.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Excellent Small Cakes, 1669

Iced Excellent Small Cakes or Barnet Sugar Cakes
These 17th century recipe for Excellent Small Cakes, also known as Barnet Sugar Cakes, are quite delicious and very easy to make.  A little history about them before the recipe:

One of the myths I read about in a 2001 article in the The Guardian is that these were the cakes that had been baking in an oven on Pudding Lane in London that caused the Great Fire of London on September 2, 1666.[1]  I really want to believe this story but there just isn't enough evidence to support it--try as I might to find it!

What I can tell you about these cakes is that were named for Barnet which is now a borough of London.  Back in the early days though it was part of Hertfordshire.  In 1199, Barnet was granted a market, and in 1588 it was allowed to hold a fair that over time became very famous.[2]  According to Sir Kenelm Digby who wrote a cookbook published in 1669 (among other accomplishments such as being a privateer, English courtier, diplomat, scientist, and philosopher [3]), iced shortbread-like cakes filled with currants were sold at Barnet.  Here is his recipe for these "Excellent Small Cakes":


The Closet of Sir Kenelm Digby Knight opened, 1669: Newly Edited, with Introduction, Notes, and Glossary by Anne MacDonald; London: Philip Lee Warner, 38 Albermarle Street, 1910.

Take three pound of very fine flower well dryed by the fire, and put to it a pound and half of loaf Sugar sifted in a very fine sieve and dryed; Three pounds of Currants well washed and dryed in a cloth and set by the fire; When your flower is well mixed with the Sugar and Currants, you must put in it a pound and half of unmelted butter, ten spoonfuls of Cream, with the yolks of three new-laid Eggs beat with it, one Nutmeg; and if you please, three spoonfuls of Sack. When you have wrought your paste well, you must put it in a cloth, and set it in a dish before the fire, till it be through warm. Then make them up in little Cakes, and prick them full of holes; you must bake them in a quick oven unclosed. Afterwards Ice them over with Sugar. The Cakes should be about the bigness of a hand-breadth and thin: of the cise [sic] of the Sugar Cakes sold at Barnet.

Transcription (quantity scaled down):


  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2-1 tsp grated nutmeg (depending on your taste)
  • 1 1/2 cups Zante currants (find in the raisin aisle)
  • 1 1/2 sticks softened salted butter
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 1/2 Tbsp heavy cream
  • 1egg yolk (of a large egg)
  • 1 tsp white wine
  • Royal Icing (your favorite recipe)
  1. Mix together the flour, nutmeg, and Zante currants. 
  2. Cream together the butter and sugar. Add the cream, egg yolks, and wine. 
  3. Add the flour/nutmeg mixture. 
  4. Using floured hands, gather the dough into 2-3 large balls. Wrap each ball in plastic and flatten into disks. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Heat the oven to 400º while the dough is in the fridge.
  5. Roll out the dough and cut in rectangles, circles, hearts, or diamonds. Prick them with a fork to make holes on top. 
  6. Bake until golden, about 12 minutes. 
  7. Remove from oven and sprinkle with granulated sugar immediately or you can drizzle the tops with royal icing after they have cooled.
Yield:  About 45 2.5" round cookies

1.  http://www.theguardian.com/education/2001/jan/09/schools.theguardian3
2.  http://www.florilegium.org/files/FOOD-SWEETS/Digby-Cakes-art.text
3.  http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/163148/Sir-Kenelm-Digby

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Martha Washington's Great Cake

Finished cake decorated with crystallized ginger.

The recipe below for a "Great Cake" was written down by Martha Washington's granddaughter, Martha Parke Custis. Great Cakes were quite large and tended to include an array of expensive ingredients such as candied fruits, rosewater, sherry, brandy, and spices. They were also quite large so the quantities of butter, sugar, eggs, and flour would have indeed been "great." When covered in marzipan and royal icing, this cake can weigh well above 12 pounds!

Usually, great cakes were more bread-like as they included yeast in the form of ale-barm. As a matter of fact, most of Martha Washington's recipes for Great Cakes do include the barm[1]. However, this recipe does not have any leavening agent other than eggs. The texture of this cake is therefore more cake-like than traditional Great Cakes but still very rich and filling--a small piece goes a long way.

Great Cakes were often made for the Christmas holidays which could last well into Twelfth Night in January, being served at a ball for the occasion. I have made several of these cakes over the years for events at Riversdale House Museum, including their Christmas open houses and Twelfth Night balls. The c. 1801 Riversdale House Museum is located in Riverdale Park, Maryland and was the home of George Calvert and his wife, Rosalie Stier Calvert. It is particularly fitting that this cake be served at Riversdale House Museum because George Calvert's sister, Eleanor, was married to John Parke Custis and was the mother to Martha Parke Custis!

Here is the recipes as it was written down by Martha Parke Custis:

Take 40 eggs and divide the whites from the yolks and beat them to a froth. Then work 4 pounds of butter to a cream and put the whites of eggs to it a Spoon full at a time till it is well work’d. Then put 4 pounds of sugar finely powdered to it in the same manner then put in the Yolks of eggs and 5 pounds of flour and 5 pounds of fruit. 2 hours will bake it. Add to it half an ounce of mace and nutmeg half a pint of wine and some fresh brandy.[2]

Martha Washington’s Great Cake Modern Recipe Adaptation
(This adaptation is one quarter the size of the original recipe.  It serves 12-15 people.)


  • 4 Cups All-Purpose Flour 
  • 2½ Teaspoons Ground Mace 
  • 2½ Teaspoons Ground Nutmeg 
  • 1 1/4 Pound Dried Fruit (Zante currants, golden raisins, lemon and orange peel are good choices)
  • 10 Large Eggs
  • 1 Pound Salted Butter (Softened)
  • 2 Pounds Confectioner's Sugar 
  • ¼ Cup White Sweet Wine 
  • 1/4 Cup French Brandy (or Madeira, or Sherry)
1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and line a 10" round cake pan with removable bottom or two 9" round cake pans. Place cake pan(s) on a parchment-lined baking tin.

2.  In a medium bowl, measure out all but 1/2 cups of the flour. 

3.  Add the spices to the 3 1/2 cups flour and whisk until well incorporated and fluffy.

4. Add the remaining 1/2 cup flour to the dried fruit. (This is important--the fruit will all sink to the bottom if you do not do this!)

5. Separate egg whites from yolks & set yolks aside in a small bowl. In another bowl, beat the egg whites to the foamy or  “soft peak” stage. 

6. In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter and sugar together using an electric mixer.

7. Slowly add the beaten egg whites, one spoonful at a time, to the creamed butter and sugar. Beat just until blended. 

8. Add the egg yolks and beat to incorporate.

9.  Measure out the wine & brandy and add them to the wet ingredients.

10.  Add the flour and spice mixture to the wet ingredients.  Beat until well mixed, but do not overbeat.  

11.  Then, add the flour-coated fruit to the batter.      

12.  Put batter into pan & place in oven. Bake for about 75 minutes if using one springform pan or 50-60 minutes if using two 9" cake rounds.  Make sure a toothpick inserted is clean before removing from oven.  Since oven temperatures can vary, you must monitor cooking time carefully. 

Optional:  You can wrap sherry-soaked cheesecloth around the cake and store it for several weeks in an air-tight container.
Optional:  Cover the entire cake with rolled-out marzipan, using warm apple jelly as an adhesive.  Then, coat the cake with Royal icing and allow to dry 10-12 hours.

1.  Karen Hess, ed. Martha Washington's Booke of Cookery. New York: Columbia University Press, 1995.
2.  www.mountvernon.org

Monday, September 22, 2014

Newport Lady Cakes: A 19th c. Baltimore Recipe Despite Its Name!

Mini cakes waiting to be iced.

This cake is a show-stopper for my 
Taking Tea:  Teatime Across the Centuries Program! 

This recipe is one in a collection of 19th c. recipes I found at the Maryland Historical Society.  It is a light and moist cake that is lightly scented with nutmeg.  

Perfect with your favorite cup of tea!

Newport Lady Cake

Sift a pound of flour, mix with it, a teaspoonful & a half of cream of tartar. Then take a light pound of powdered sugar, half a pound of butter creamed, six eggs beaten separately, a tea cup full of milk & cream, half a nutmeg, half a teaspoonful of soda.  Mix well together, & bake slowly for half an hour. 

Anna Maria Morris Manuscript, Special Collections, 
MD Historical Society Library, 1824

Transcription by Joyce White
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 Tbsp ground nutmeg
2 sticks butter, softened
1 pound of powdered sugar (3¾ cups)
6 eggs, no larger than large
½ cup whole milk

  1. Preheat oven to 375° F.
  2. Grease a tube or Bundt pan and set on a baking sheet.
  3. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and nutmeg.
  4. In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and powdered sugar.  Then, add the eggs, beating after each addition.
  5. Then, add the dry ingredients and the milk, alternately.  If the batter is excessively dense, add a bit more milk.
  6. Pour into the prepared baking pan.
  7. Bake 45-60 minutes, or until cake is golden and springs back to the touch.
  8. Dust with powdered sugar or glaze with a royal icing of your choice.  Also, you may top with fresh fruit, fruit sauce, and/or crystallized mint or flowers.
The cake is on the right, iced with mint.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Jewish Apple Cake: A Maryland Tradition

Why Jewish Apple Cake in Maryland?  
It is really not surprising to find numerous recipes for Jewish Apple Cakes in many local Maryland community cookbooks because there is a long-standing Jewish presence in Maryland, centered particularly around Baltimore and Montgomery Counties, but also in Cumberland, Frederick, Hagerstown, Annapolis, Frostburg, Brunswick, and Salisbury.[1]
While Jewish people did not make up a significant portion of the Maryland population until the middle of the 19th century, there certainly was a small but significant presence before that time period.  The earliest reference to a Jewish person in Baltimore  can be found in The Maryland Journal and Baltimore Advertiser of December 9, 1773, which carried a notice referring to  Benjamin Levy who ‘has just opened a store on Market Street, at the corner of Calvert Street, where he sells wholesale and retail, for ready money only, a large variety of articles, including liquors, spices, drugs, food stuffs and dry goods.’[2]
Other early notable Jewish residents of Maryland were Samuel Etting, elected in 1825 as the first Jewish President of the First Branch of the City Council and Jacob Cohen, a member of the City Council.[3]  Despite success as merchants and politicians, the Jewish population in Baltimore grew very slowly at that time, reaching only about 300 by 1835.  However, between 1830 and 1870, 10,000 Jewish people settled in Maryland primarily from Germany, Central Europe, and Eastern Europe[4].
As a result of this vast immigration in the 19th century, Jewish food traditions are prevalent throughout Maryland today.  Corned Beef sandwiches, Tulkoff’s Horseradish, Coddies (codfish cakes served with mustard on saltine crackers), kosher pickles, tongue, chicken soup, bagels, and many more tasty delights make up just some of the notable Maryland food traditions connected to the local Jewish culture.  Jewish Apple Cake fits in perfectly with these food traditions as it is of German origin, and, significantly, can be made in a kosher manner as vegetable oil can be used instead of the dairy-based fat, butter.  
Here is a recipe for a Jewish Apple Cake that I was told “tastes just like my Jewish grandmother’s recipe” (high praise indeed!). My recipe is based on one posted by the Jewish Museum of Maryland, but I have reduced the amount of cinnamon and sugar and altered the way some of the recipe directions are written.
The Recipe:

Jewish Apple Cake

2 1/3 c. sugar, divided
2 Tbsp cinnamon
5 medium apples
3 c. flour
3 Tbsp. baking powder
4 large eggs
1 c. Canola oil
½ c. orange juice
2 tsp. vanilla

3/4 c. chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Mix cinnamon with  1/3 cup sugar.

Peel the apples, cut them into small chunks, and toss them with about 1/3 of the cinnamon sugar mixture.  Set aside.

Stir together the remaining 2 cups of sugar, flour, and baking powder together in a large bowl. Add eggs and  oil, one at a time, beating on medium speed as you go. Beat in the orange juice and vanilla. The batter will be very thick and goopy.

Coat a 9” x 13” pan with cooking spray.

Layer half the batter in the pan and top with half of the apples.  Top with half the remaining cinnamon/sugar mixture and half of the nuts.  Repeat with  another layer of batter, apples, cinnamon/sugar, and nuts. Use all the syrupy liquid that the apples have released. 

Bake for about 1 hour, or until a toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean. Remove from oven and cool 15 minutes before cutting.  

1. http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org
2. Francis F. Beirne.  The Amiable Baltimoreans:  The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1951. p. 211.
3. Beirne, p. 211.
4. Beirne, p. 211.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

A Bold 12th Century Sauce for the Lords!

How to Prepare a Sauce for the Lords and How Long it Lasts

One takes cloves and nutmeg, cardamom, pepper, cinnamon—that is canel—and ginger, all in equal amounts, except that there should be as much canel as all the other spices; and add twice as much toasted bread as of everything else, and grind them all together, and blend with strong vinegar, and place it in a cask. This is a lordly sauce, and it is good for half a year.

(see below for a recipe transcription)

About the Recipe
This is another recipe (click here for another one for Chicken Pasty) from Libellus de arte coquinaria, An Early Northern Cookery Book, edited by Rudolph Grewe and Constance B. Hieatt (2001), a translation of the oldest known collections of European recipes written sometime during the Middle Ages.(1) The original text of the cookbook is believed to be lost, but there are four collections of recipes (codices) that appear to all come from it. They are written in the local vernacular languages of northern Europe: Danish, Icelandic and Low German. There are about 35 recipes contained in these four separate codices, and the oldest might date back as far as the 12th century.(2)

This recipe is particularly interesting to me because it reflects the dining style prevalent during the Medieval period whereby diners dipped small elegantly carved pieces of meats into small dishes of sauces.  The meat would have been placed on bread trenchers and then diners would use the fingers to pick up the meat and then dip it into one of the sauces offered.(3)  This Sauce for the Lords would have been one such sauce.

This recipe is also of particular interest because it contains a profusion of imported spices that to today's palate only belong on the dessert table, such as Ceylon cinnamon (canel), nutmeg, ginger, and cloves.  This profusion of sweet spices, combined with pepper and cardamom, would have been typical flavorings for courtly Medieval savory foods because they reflected status--it cost a lot of money to buy cinnamon from Ceylon, cloves and nutmeg from the Spice Islands of Indonesia, and ginger , cardamom, and pepper from India.  Significantly, as a taste for spices changed over time and as spices became less expensive by the 17th century, their status dropped and the "sweet spices" such as cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and ginger were used far less often in savory dishes or not at all. For example, the primary flavoring of savory dishes in Robert May's, The Accomplisht Cook (1685) consists of aromatics such as anchovies, capers, olives, pine nuts, lemon and orange instead of heavy sweet spices.(4) The sweet spices moved primarily to where we now find them to flavor dishes of the dessert course in recipes for cakes, pastries, creams, puddings, pies, and ice creams.  

If you want to try this bold taste sensation of a sauce, here is a modern recipe for it:

Transcription for How to Prepare a Sauce for the Lords and How Long it Lasts 

1 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp ground cardamom
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp ground ginger
5 tsp ground Ceylon Cinnamon (sold as Canela enter in Hispanic grocery stores)
3 Tbsp + 1 tsp plain bread crumbs
3/4 cup white wine vinegar

Mix together all of the dry ingredients.  The bread crumbs will absorb the vinegar so start with 3/4 cup and then add as much vinegar as you like to make a sauce that will be thick enough to stick to the meat dipped into it.  


(1) Ken Albala, ed. The Food History Reader. London: Bloomsbury, 2014 and Grewe, Rudolph and Constance B. Hieatt, eds. Libellus de arte coquinaria, An Early Northern Cookery Book: Arizona, 2001.
(2) Grewe, Rudolph and Constance B. Hieatt, eds. Libellus de arte coquinaria, An Early Northern Cookery Book: Arizona, 2001.

(3) Ken Albala.  Daily Life Through History, Cooking in Europe, 1250-1650:  Greenwood Press, 2006.
(4) Ken Albala.  The Banquet, Dining in the Great Courts of Renaissance Europe: University of Illinois, 2007.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Eliza Leslie's Chocolate Cake, c. 1847

Cake Made with Grated Chocolate

Cake Made with Cocoa Powder

This is one of the earliest recipes for a cake flavored with chocolate; in this case, either pure chocolate or cocoa powder (which was relatively new to the market in 1847, made available in 1828 by van Houten of Holland).

I have made this recipe with both cocoa powder and finely grated chocolate.

Recipe Source:  Chocolate Cake by Eliza Leslie, The Lady’s Receipt Book, 1847:

Scrape down three ounces of the best and purest chocolate, or prepared cocoa. Cut up, into a deep pan, three-quarters of a pound of fresh butter; add to it a pound of powdered loaf-sugar; and stir the butter and sugar together till very light and white. Have ready fourteen ounces (two ounces less than a pound) of sifted flour; a powdered nutmeg; and a tea-spoonful of powdered cinnamon--mixed together. Beat the whites of ten eggs till they stand alone; then the yolk still they are very thick and smooth. Then mix the yolks and whites gradually together, beating very hard when they are all mixed. Add the eggs, by degrees, to the beaten butter and sugar, in turn with the flour and the scraped chocolate,--a little at a time of each; also the spice. Stir the whole very hard. Put the mixture into a buttered tin pan with straight sides, and bake it at least four hours. If nothing is to be baked afterwards, let it remain in till the oven becomes cool. When cold, ice it.

14 ounces flour (about 3 cups)
½ tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp ground cinnamon
3 ounces cocoa powder (about 1/2 cup) or equivalent weight of finely grated chocolate
3 sticks salted butter, softened
1 pound powdered sugar
10 eggs, separated

Preheat oven to 375° F.

1.  Grease a tube pan with butter or spray oil.
2.  In a medium-size bowl, mix together the flour, spices, and cocoa powder. Set aside.
3.  In a separate bowl, beat the egg yolks.  In another bowl, beat the egg whites until they become very foamy but not stiff.  Mix the egg yolks into the egg whites and set aside. 
4.  In a large bowl, cream together the butter and powdered sugar.  Then, add the beaten eggs alternately with the flour mixture.
5.  Pour the cake batter into the prepared baking pan.
6.  Bake for 45-60 minutes or until a knife inserted into the cake comes out clean.  Cool and ice with  your favorite chocolate icing, frosting, or glaze. 

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Fig Preserves: Historic Food Fortnightly, Challenge 8

Fig Preserves

Challenge 8. In a Jam (Or Jelly or Preserve) September 7 - September 20

It’s harvest time in the northern hemisphere, and springtime in the southern hemisphere. Make something either to preserve that produce that you’re harvesting, or replenish your supply after the winter! Fruit and vegetable jams, jellies, and preserves are the focus!

The Recipe
To Preserve Figs
Source:  The Carolina Housewife by Sarah Rutledge.  A facsimile of the 1847 edition, edited by  Anna Wells Rutledge.  University of South Carolina Press, 1979.

Pick your figs when a little more than half ripe; peel them very thin, and to a pound of fruit put three-quarters of a pound of sugar; make a syrup, and put the figs into it, with a good deal of stick cinnamon; let them boil till clear, stirring frequently.

Recipe Transcription


  • 1 Pound of Under-Ripe Figs
  • 1 1/3 Cups Water
  • 1 1/3 Cups Sugar
  • 3-4 Sticks of Cinnamon


  1. Peel the outer tough skin off your unripe figs.  If the skin is soft in spots, leave it on.  Cut the figs in quarters or leave whole.
  2. Make a simple syrup by heating the water and the sugar.  When it boils, drop in the figs and the cinnamon sticks.

Figs Cooking with Cinnamon

Cook on a medium heat, stirring continuously, until the figs glisten and the sugar syrup foams.  Remove from heat (do not overcook or you will wind up with fig candy-which actually is not a bad thing!).  You can remove the cinnamon sticks or keep them in for added flavor.

Cool and place in an airtight container.  Refrigerate until ready to use.  This recipe works well to serve with cheese, over ice cream or as a topping for a pound cake with a dollop of whipped cream.

Date/Year and Region
South Carolina/1847

How Did You Make It?
I followed the recipe exactly as it was written.  Of course, I used a modern electric oven.

Time to Complete
This was quick, less than 30 minutes from start to finish.

Total Cost
About $4 for store-bought figs (you can always rely on a store - even Whole Foods- to have underripe fruit!).

How Successful Was It?
The flavor really good, but a little too sweet for me.  I followed Rutledge’s ratio of sugar to figs, but I think it’s too much sugar. I still prefer fresh, ripe figs to any other preparation.  I confess that I over-cooked them a bit and they started to turn to candy.  Part of the reason for this is that I made a very small batch (1/4 pound of figs) so they cooked more quickly than I expected.

How Accurate is It? 
As usual, apart from modern cooking equipment, pretty accurate.  I wish I had my own fig tree!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Medieval Chicken Pasty

Ditch the Traditional Baking Pan and Make the Most Succulent Chicken You've Ever Tasted Cooked in Bread Dough! 

The recipe transcription below comes from Libellus de arte coquinaria, An Early Northern Cookery Book, edited by Rudolph Grewe and Constance B. Hieatt (2001), a translation of the oldest known collections of European recipes written sometime during the Middle Ages.(1)  The original text of the cookbook is believed to be lost, but there are four collections of recipes (codices) that appear to all come from it.  They are written in the local vernacular languages of northern Europe: Danish, Icelandic and Low German.  There are about 35 recipes contained in these four separate codices, and the oldest might date back as far as the 12th century.(2)

Here is one recipe for Chicken in a Pasty as interpreted by each of the four codices:

1.  Recipe XXX [K24]
One should cut a young chicken in two and cover it with whole leaves of sage, and add diced bacon and salt.  And wrap this chicken with dough and bake it in an oven like bread.  In the same way one can make all kinds of pasties: of fish, of fowl, and of other meats.

2.  Recipe XXX [Q26]
One should cut a raw chicken in two lengthwise, and take dough made of wheat and make it into a flat sheet, and cut small pieces of pork meat onto it, and place whole leaves of sage and ground pepper and salt; and wrap the hen in the dough so that it is all covered outside, and let it bake as much as you would bread.

3.  Recipe XXX [D21]
One should cut a young hen in two, and wrap whole leaves of sage around it, and put in cut bacon and salt according to taste.  Afterwards enclose it in dough and bake it like bread in an oven.

4.  Recipe XXX [W66]
Next, one should cut another hen in two.  Make two sheets of dough out of flour and water.  Put chopped bacon on them [the chicken pieces] and add whole sage leaves, and pepper and salt to taste.  Wrap it in the pastry sheets and bake it as a roast.  These are hen pasties.

My Transcription of this 12th c. Chicken Pasty Recipe:

(Please read through the recipe completely first before starting)

Hot Water Pastry (see below)
1 small chicken, about 3 pounds
4 rashers (strips) of bacon or any pork you have on hand, cut into small pieces
Fresh sage leaves, a very large handful
Salt and pepper to taste

Prepare the Chicken: 
  • Remove the back bone of the chicken and cut the chicken into two halves
  • Roll Out  and Season the Dough:
  • Roll out the hot water pastry into two equal sheets, large enough to encase each half of the chicken.  Do this on parchment paper.
  • On each sheet of pastry, spread the bacon and sage.  
  • Sprinkle salt and pepper to taste over the pastry.
  • Place each half of the chicken onto each pastry sheet.
  • Salt and pepper the chicken.
Roll out two sheets of dough

Dot each sheet with bacon (pork), sage, salt & pepper

Place Chicken on Dough

Fold Dough Over Chicken

Put it all Together and Bake: 
  • Fold the dough up and over each chicken half and seal each end, just like wrapping a parcel.  Use the parchment paper to help manipulate the dough.
  • Lift each pastry parcel using the parchment paper it is on into a roasting pan.  
  • Prick the tops of each parcel; you can insert a meat thermometer through the pastry and into the chicken, if you like.
  • Bake at 375º F for 60 minutes or until the meat thermometer reads 165º F.

All bundled up and ready for the oven

Time to Eat the Pasties:
  • Remove from oven and let cool for just a few minutes.
  • Place parcels on a platter with a lip to catch juices (though most will be absorbed in the pastry).
  • Break open each pasty parcel and remove the chicken, sage leaves, and pork.
  • Discard the pastry bundle (these were meant to be used as cooking vessels only; although they could have been fed to the poor and/or to animals).  Meats and sauces were served on bread trenchers (rectangular slabs of dense bread—used trenchers may also have been given to the poor and/or animals to eat).

Baked and ready to eat
Cut off top and remove chicken

Hot Water Pastry 
Source:  Based on Pastry Cases For 8-inch Tarts and Flans by Peter Brears(3)

24oz all-purpose white flour, plus a lot of extra flour for the board
3 cups boiling water

Place the flour in a bowl and pour the water into it.  Mix together until a firm dough comes together.  Knead on a floured board until smooth and pliable.


(1) Ken Albala, ed. The Food History Reader. London: Bloomsbury, 2014 and Grewe, Rudolph and Constance B. Hieatt, eds. Libellus de arte coquinaria, An Early Northern Cookery Book:  Arizona, 2001.
(2) Grewe, Rudolph and Constance B. Hieatt, eds. Libellus de arte coquinaria, An Early Northern Cookery Book:  Arizona, 2001.
(3 Brears, Peter.  Cooking and Dining in Medieval England. Great Britain: Prospect Books, 2012.