This week (on Wednesday) I am off to England for a holiday, and to participate in the Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery. How lucky am I ?
My plan is to pre-post a story for every weekday while I am away, so, barring attack by the cyber-gremlins of the blogosphere, they will appear at the same time as usual. Those of you who like the stories delivered to your email box will get them too, although at fairly erratic hours, as I get opportunity to send them.
As is usual when a trip is imminent, I am firmly in the grip of the inevitable last-minute clearing of the decks, but before I go there is time to give you some ideas and kitchen wisdom from old cookery books.
If you have ever lost sleep wondering what you would do until the repair man came if your oven thermostat broke down, the advice below, from the era long before oven thermometers should give you an interim strategy. It is from the section on ‘Pastry’ from Culture and Cooking: or, Art in the Kitchen, (New York, 1881) by Catherine Owen.
The condition of the oven is a very important matter, and I cannot do better than transcribe the rules
given by Gouffe, by which you may test its fitness for any purpose :
Put half a sheet of writing paper in the oven; if it catches fire it is too hot; open the dampers and wait
ten minutes, when put in another piece of paper ; if it blackens it is still too hot. Ten minutes later put in a third piece; if it gets dark brown the oven is right for all small pastry. Called "dark brown paper heat." Light brown paper heat is suitable for vol-au-vents or fruit pies. Dark yellow paper heat for large pieces of pastry or meat pies, pound cake, bread, etc. Light yellow paper heat for sponge cake, meringues, etc.
To obtain these various degrees of heat, you try paper every ten minutes till the heat required for your purpose is attained. But remember that "light yellow" means the paper only tinged; "dark yellow," the paper the color of ordinary pine wood; "light brown" is only a shade darker, about the color of nice pie-crust, and dark brown a shade darker, by no means coffee color.
As the recipe for the day, from the same book, here is a good idea for your leftover pastry trimmings.
Cut strips of paste three inches and a half long, and an inch and a half wide, and as thick as a twenty -five cent piece; lay on half of them a thin filmy layer of jam or marmalade, not jelly; then on each lay a strip without jam, and bake in a quick oven. When the paste is well risen and brown, take them out, glaze them with white of egg, and sugar, and sprinkle chopped almonds over them; return to the oven till the glazing is set and the almonds just colored; serve them hot or cold on a napkin piled log- cabin fashion.
Quotation of the Day.
Life is so brief that we should not glance either too far backwards or forwards…therefore study how to fix our happiness in our glass and in our plate.
Grimod de la Reynière.