Saturday, February 2, 2008

Creme Bastard and Malmens Bastard - ROTW 5

Parts of this were originally posted to the Dragon's Mist Cooks List on September 3, 2007.

My student showed interest in foods that had names offensive to modern sensitivities. I, of course, immediately though of creme bastard. The word bastard seems to have evolved into the modern custard when used in a culinary sense, but where's the fun in that? And while prowling around for electronically-locatable recipes, I came up with a bonus: Malmens bastard.

Creme Bastarde
From Two Fifteenth Century Cookery Books (I used the Google Books version)
Also found on the Medieval Cookery site (wish I'd known that before I cold-typed it in)
Take þe whyte of Eyroun a grete hepe, & putte it on a panne ful of Mylke, & let yt boyle; þen sesyn it so with Salt an hony a lytel, þen lat hit kele, & draw it þorw a straynoure, an take fayre Cowe mylke an draw yt with-all, & seson it with Sugre, & loke þat it be poynant & doucet: & serue it forth for a potage, or for a gode Bakyn mete, wheder þat þou wolt.
For those who do not read Middle English well:
Take the white of eggs a great heap, and put it on a pan full of milk, and let it boil; then season it with salt and honey a little, then let it cool, and draw it through a strainer, and take fair cow milk and draw it withall, and season it with sugar, and look that it be poignant and sweet; and serve it forth for a pottage, or for a good baken mete, whether that thou would.

Relying on the Middle English Dictionary, as always, I find that a 'baken mete' is a baked food. Custard...err, bastard tarts, anyone?

This recipe can be found in Pleyn Delit as well, but their version comes out sort of odd. An SCA feast cook experimented and found that you have to beat the eggs more than the PD version says, and that using a mixture of milk and cream was better. I thank Mistress Constance de la Rose, OL, Barony of Loch Salann, Kingdom of Artemisia, for her insight which I used in creating my version of this fine dish. Unwilling to make 'a grete hepe' I went with four 6-oz. servings (this recipe makes just about 26 ounces, actually). This is one of the dreaded 'stirring continuously' recipes, the sort that make me shudder to read, but I'm actually a bit lazy in the kitchen and find out that you can wander off for 20 seconds or so and nothing terrible happens, but only before and after it's boiled. When it's close to boiling, stay on it or you'll definitely regret it because it'll boil over in that three seconds of inattention for sure.

4 egg whites, well beaten
2 cups half and half (American oddity of half whole milk and half heavy cream)
1/4 cup honey
1/2 cup whole milk or half and half
pinch salt
2 tsp sugar

Beat the egg whites until just frothy. Mix into half and half and bring to a boil slowly, stirring continuously. Cut the heat to low and simmer for about five more minutes, still stirring continuously. Add the honey and, yes, stir it in, then add the salt (for me this meant making one pass with the shaker). Remove from heat and let it cool a bit then pour through a strainer. My wire strainer worked fine, you're just getting little bits of milk scum and albumin out. Add the rest of the milk and the sugar and then beat it for a couple of minutes by hand or a minute on your mixer's lowest setting. Remember, it's cooked so if you want to test for sweetness (all the other recipes I've seen call for even more sugar than I used), it's safe.
Now, you can pour it into a serving dish or dishes and chill or into a glass dish and bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes. Now, modern custards are put into a pan of hot water in the oven. I'm sure you can do that, but I forgot to. The result was browned edges and a skin, but the flavor and overall consistency didn't suffer at all (probably moreso from my frantic opening the oven and checking if it was done every three minutes than a lack of humidity).

Malmens Bastard
From A Fifteenth Century Cookery Book compiled by John L. Anderson
Also found on the Medieval Cookery site
Take a potell of clarefied hony, and a pounde of pynes, and I. pounde of Reysons of coraunce, Saundres, pouder canell, And .ij. galons of wyne or ale, and pouder peper, and cast al in a potte, And skeme hit clene; And þen take iij. li. pounde Almondes, and stepe to-gidre, And drawe hem þorgh a streynour; And whan the potte boyleth, cast þe licour to, & aley hit vp al stonding; And þen take pouder ginger, salt, saffron, and ceson hit vppe, and serue hit forth in a dissh al hote, and salt; And cast pouder ginger thereon in þe dissh, and serue it forth.
Modern English:
Take a potell of clarified honey, and a pound of pine nuts, and 1 pound of raisins of Corinth, saunders, powder canell, and 2 gallons of wine or ale, and powder pepper, and cast all in a pot, and skim it clean; And then take 3 pounds almonds, and steep together, and draw it through a strainer; And when the pot boils, cast the liquor in, and allay it up all standing; And then take powder ginger, salt, saffron, and season it up, and serve it forth in a dish all hot, and salt; And cast powder ginger thereon in the dish, and serve it forth.
The Medieval English Dictionary says a potell is a vessel of half the capacity of the associated gallon, so that's half a gallon of honey. Raisins of Corinth are currants. Saunders is sandalwood, a fragrant red wood used as a coloring and seasoning agent (you can buy it somewhere, but I don't know where - I got mine from Mestra Rafaella d'Allemtejo who is my 'connection' for spices and such things. Canell is cinnamon, and in fact the stuff we usually buy in the grocery stores is canell rather than true cinnamon, which is sweeter and more expensive. It makes sense that the almonds used would be crushed, as they're strained out and so should be there to give their flavor without texture. To 'allay it all up standing' means to cook, stirring, until thickened.

I haven't done this, for some pretty obvious reasons, the number one being quantity. There are two of us, me and my husband. This recipe would feed a crowd. Half a gallon of honey's also kind of expensive. I'll make this for friends sometime. We're very lucky in that most of the quantities are given. I can't actually see much more trouble reconstructing this than figuring out quantities of spices and how long to cook it, and the latter isn't too difficult if you've had enough time in the kitchen to figure out when stuff's thickened enough.

I do plan on figuring out how to make perhaps a quart or two of this stuff. It looks....yummy. Sweet and spiced and piquant with ginger and pepper (I think I'll use white just for the color value). I might need to substitute red food coloring for the saunders in tests, but have a bit I might use in the finished produce if there's enough. And if not, I'm sure Rafaella can hook me up.

1 comment:

Duncan MacDuff said...

Long time, no post.