I want to talk today about firsts or nearly firsts, in the way of recipes. It is impossible, of course, to give a real first, because no recipes are completely new, but are built on previous recipes. Sometimes the discussion is about when a dish is given a particular name, such as in the case of the pavlova. After all, meringues were made for centuries before someone, somewhere, someday decided to name one particular version after a Russian ballerina.
Another problem is that a recipe is often cooked for a long time before it is written down, so often the best we can do is give the first known written or published recipe – then wait until another cook or historian finds an earlier version.
I was moved to ponder on this when I found myself reminiscing about my trip to the UI.K last year, and the few days I had in the Peak District. It is a truly beautiful part of England, and the home of a great specialty – the Bakewell Pudding. This is often referred to as a Bakewell Tart, but a tart, of course, has a pastry shell. There are several shops in the town claiming to sell the original pudding, but this original pudding has a pastry shell. Another item with an almond-y filling and a cherry on top is sold at the same venues under the name of Bakewell Tart. It also has a pastry shell.
It seems that the original version was a genuine pudding (whatever that is), in that it does not have a pastry shell. The first known published recipe appears in Eliza Acton’s Modern Cookery for Private Families, (London, 1845,) and here it is:
This pudding is famous not only in Derbyshire, but in several of our northern counties, where it is usually served on all holiday occasions. Line a shallow tart-dish with quite an inchdeep layer of several kinds of good preserve mixed together, and intermingle with them from two to three ounces of candied citron or orange-rind. Beat well the yolks of ten eggs, and add to them gradually half a pound of sifted sugar; when they are well mixed, pour in by degrees half a pound of good clarified butter, and a little ratifia or any other flavour that may be preferred; fill the dish two thirds full with this mixture, and bake the pudding for nearly an hour in a moderate oven. Half the quantity will be sufficient for a small dish.
Mixed preserves, 1 ½ to 2 lbs.; yolks of eggs, 10; sugar, ½ lb.; butter, ½ lb.; ratifia, lemon-brandy, or other flavouring to the taste: baked, moderate oven, ¾ to 1 hour.
Obs.—This is a rich and expensive, but not a very refined pudding. A variation of it, known in the south as an Alderman's Pudding is, we think, superior to it. It is made without the candied peel, and with a layer of apricot-jam only, six ounces of butter, six of sugar, the yolks of six, and the whites of two eggs.