Being the pie-history enthusiast that I am, I know I have mentioned coffins to you in previous posts – “coffins” that is, which were the moulded pastry pie-shells which functioned as baking dishes for hundreds of years. I am just as sure however that I have not given you any specific instructions for forming these coffins, so today I am going to do just that. “Specific” of course is relative – the following recipes are very vague on quantities of ingredients and on the minutiae of method. This was the norm in past times, when cookery books essentially functioned as memory aides for experienced cooks, and therefore assumed much basic knowledge.
The following instructions are from The Good Huswifews Handmaide for the Kitchin (1594.) A Lenten recipe is included, for those of you particularly interested.
To make Paste, and to raise Coffins.
Take fine flower, and lay it on a boord, and take a certaine of yolkes of Egges as your quantitie of flower is, then take a certaine of Butter and water, and boil them together, but ye must take heed ye put not too many yolks of Eggs, for if you doe, it will make it drie and not pleasant in eating: and yee must take heed ye put not in too much Butter for if you doe, it will make is so fine and so soft that you cannot raise, And this paste is good to raise all manner of Coffins: Likewise if ye bake Venison, bake it in the past above named.
To make fine Past a nother way.
Take Butter and Ale,and seeth them together: Then take your flower, and put thereinto three Egs, Sugar, Saffron, and salt.
To make short paste in Lent.
Take thick Almond milke seething hot, and so wet your flower with it: and Sallet oyl fryed, and Saffron, and so mingle your past altogether, and that will make good paste.