Thursday, July 28, 2016

Ginger Wafers

Ginger Wafers
Rolled and Filled with Cream (top) and Flat (Bottom)

The following recipe comes from a collection of recipes found in a manuscript journal located in the H. Furlong Baldwin Library at the Maryland Historical Society in Baltimore. The manuscript is attributed to Ann Maria Morris and the date of 1824 is written on the inside cover. The recipe below is one of many from the manuscript that will be included in a book I am writing. The book will contain biographical information about Mrs. Morris, an annotated transcript of the entire manuscript as it was written, and a section of modern recipe adaptations (including this one!).

Wafer Cakes
1 lb. of flour, ¼ lb. sugar, ¼ lb. butter, 4 eggs & a little spice. Make it into a dough, roll it in pieces and bake in Irons, when baked crisply, roll them with a fork as you take them from the Irons.

About Wafers
A wafer is another form of a waffle in that both are baked on hot irons. Wafer batter is sandwiched between two very hot plates incised with a design and when pressed together the batter spreads and becomes a thin disc. When taken off the wafer iron, the wafer disc can be rolled into a cone shape and filled with cream. Note: Morris's recipe had to be altered a bit ( two additional eggs were added) to make them "rollable" - her recipe as written makes a wafer that is too brittle to roll without breaking.

Wafer Irons for the Hearth
source: wikimedia commons
Modern Electric Wafer Iron

Wafers can be traced back in British history to the 13th century when they were introduced to England by the Normans. At that time, it was not unusual to place a slice of cheese inside the wafer to make a Medieval version of a grilled cheese sandwich. Additionally, there is a wafer recipe from the 15th century that contains soft cheese and the ground stomach of a pike fish!

In 15th century Britain, wafers were a very important part of royal households and often even boasted of having a "royal wafery" where only these delectable treats were prepared. Importantly, understand that these simple crispy confections were actually only served on feast days to the King/Queen, dukes, earls, the chief officers of the household, and important visitors. Therefore, at that time this food was not democratized to the general population. By the time of the Elizabethan era (1558-1603), wafers were a bit more democratized and were actually sold in the streets.

Of course, wafers rolled into cones eventually evolved into the basis for a very popular snack food today, the ice cream cone!  The earliest evidence for this goes back to 1807 and can be found in an engraving of Frascati Paris, a cafe of sorts specializing in ices that opened in 1792 on the Rue Richelin, across from "The Gardens of Frascati".   

Wafer Cakes: Modern Recipe Adaptation 
Yield: About 18 4-Inch Wafers

Note: You will need a wafer/pizelle maker to make this recipe

  • 3 Cups All Purpose Flour
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Ground Ginger
  • 1/2 Cup Sugar
  • 4 Ounces (1 Stick) Butter, Melted
  • 6 Large Eggs

1.  In a medium sized mixing bowl, whisk together the flour and ginger.
2.  In a large mixing bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat after each addition.  Add the flour last. Beat until well mixed.
3.  Measure out about 2 tablespoons of batter for each wafer and cook based on the manufacturer's recommendation for your device.
5.  You can keep the wafers flat or roll them into cones and fill them with whipped cream or ice cream.

Use a Fork or a Special Utensil Like This to Roll the Wafers into Cones

  • Peter Brears, Cooking & Dining in Medieval England, Prospect Books, Great Britain, 2008.
  • Alan Davidson, The Penguin Companion to Food, New York, 2002
  • Robin Weir, "An 1807 Ice Cream Cone: Discovery and Evidence," Food History News, #62, Vol. XVI, No. II.

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