Tuesday, June 12, 2012

A Nice Batch of Tronchines.

I came across a rather delicious-sounding recipe for a little meringue-like cake recently, and was intrigued by the name. The recipe appeared in The Times of India January 13, 1908, and here it is:

Ingredients: 3 ozs of castor sugar, the rind of two limes (or one lemon) grated, 1½ oz of flour, four whites of eggs (Indian.)
Method: Beat the whites of the eggs to a firm froth, stir into it the sugar and lemon-rind, lastly add the flour, and spread the mixture on a greased tin very thinly, about as thick as the back of a knife. Bake in a quick oven and cut into small pieces, or cut in long pieces, and roll up while warm.

The name ‘tronchines’ set me hunting. I found only a very few references to them in the usual sources, but was delighted that one of the first that did turn up was in a newspaper from my home town of Brisbane. The recipe, as you will see below, is essentially the same as the example in The Times of India. It was in a feature headed ‘Swiss Cakes.’

These are small thin cakes, available to serve with ices or stewed fruit.
Take 3 oz. of castor sugar, 1½ oz. flour, and the grated rind of a lemon, together with the whites only of three eggs. Whisk the latter to a stiff froth, stir in the sugar, and lemon rind, lastly the flour. Spread on tins, which have been rubbed with white wax, to the thickness of the back of a knife, and bake. Cut in squares before they are quite cold, and leave to stiffen.
The Brisbane Courier, February 15, 1911

I would love to find out more about these cakes. Are they Swiss? And what is the origin of the name – who or what is a ‘tronchine’? if you know them or cook them, please let us know.

Quotation for the Day.

When I walk into my kitchen today, I am not alone. Whether we know it or not, none of us is. We bring fathers and mothers and kitchen tables, and every meal we have ever eaten. Food is never just food. It's also a way of getting at something else: who we are, who we have been, and who we want to be.
Molly Wizenberg, A Homemade Life.


Piet said...

"Tranche" means "slice" in French. I would guess that tronchines is a re-spelling of tranchines, meaning little slices? They sound delicious!

Jane Levi said...

They really do sound delicious. There was a mid C18th dress called the tronchine, worn when taking outdoor exercise. It was named after a Dr Tronchin, who was Voltaire's doctor whilst in Vienna, and was famous for inoculating the French king's family against smallpox. I'm not sure that helps - through perhaps it establishes a loose link with Switzerland - and maybe there is something to do with the shape of the cake that is like the skirt, or the spots of the rind that are reminiscent of the pox?!

The Old Foodie said...

Thanks Jane for clue number 1. Maybe someone named a special lemony version of this cake in honour of Dr Tronchin?
I also heard that 'tronche' means 'face' - although I dont see how that can be relevant.

The Old Foodie said...

Are they named after the bonnets which were named after Dr Tronchin?

I found this in the Berkeley Daily Gazette of December 23, 1935

Fashion Innovations for women have sprung from some odd sources,it is pointed out by Arnold H. Rowbotham, assistant professor of French at the University of California, in a booklet on the propaganda surrounding the introduction of smallpox inoculation in France. This inoculation,
he found, was the inspiration for one departure in the design of Parisian gowns and hats early in the 18th century.
"Women began to wear 'bonnets a l’inoculatlon,' the ribbons of which were decorated with dots to represent pock marks, and the latest style in
gowns was called 'tronchine'," the l a t t e r in honor of Dr. Theodore Tronchin, who aided in introducing inoculation into the French capital, the
booklet says.