Monday, November 21, 2011

English Dumplings

Steamed or baked fruit dumplings filled with sugared and spiced apples make a nice holiday dessert for modern times. They also made nice desserts in the early 1900's. The Royal Baker and Pastry Cook from 1911 had many dumplings listed. This one uses suet and the dumplings are tied with a cloth before being steamed.
English Dumplings
1 pint flour, 1 cup finely chopped suet, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon...baking powder. Mix and sift flour, salt, and baking powder. Add suet; mix to firm dough with ice-water. Knead for 2 minutes; roll out 1/2 inch thick. Put a floured cloth over a bowl; on it spread the crust. Fill with sliced apples mixed with sugar and a little powdered cinnamon. Draw up crust and cloth, allowing a little room to swell. Drop in kettle of rapidly boiling water, with trivet at bottom to prevent scorching. Keep at a rapid boil for 2 hours. If water stops boiling the dumpling will be heavy. Or place in steamer and steam 3 hours. /serve hot with cream and sugar or a liquid sauce.
Desserts, from 1912, calls for paring tart apples and seasoning with cinnamon.
Steamed Apple Dumplings
Pare and core tart cooking apples. Envelop each in a layer of biscuit dough rolled as thin as possible. Place the dumplings in a baking pan, and sprinkle them plentifully with cinnamon and bits of butter. Half cover them with water and sugar to make a syrup. Steam for thirty minutes. Serve with hard sauce and plain cream.
Richard Pauls' Pastry Book, from 1907, has a whole apple dumpling recipe. This dumpling is baked rather than being steamed or boiled.
Baked Apple Dumpling
Take [dumpling paste], roll out thin and cut in squares large enough to fold one apple in. Wash the squares with water; put one apple, peeled and cored, on each square. Fill the core with sugar flavored cinnamon, put on a small pat of butter, fold the paste over the apple, egg wash, and bake in a good heat. Serve with any suitable sauce.
Image of baked apple dumpling above courtesy Wikimedia Commons User: Tracy Ducasse through a creative commons license.
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Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Moonshine Dessert

Moonshine - you know, that clear, strong, distilled spirit with a high alcohol content generally made from backyard stills. Just reading the word conjures up images from prohibition times, backwoods stills, and cases of unlabeled bottles being carted around in beds of pick up trucks. It doesn't bring to mind a dainty dessert made from egg whites. The image at left is of John Bowman and his garage moonshine still, from the Library of Congress. It is from the American Memory series Tending the Commons: Folklife and Landscape in Southern West Virginia. While he no longer makes moonshine, the image is what an actual moonshine still looks like.

The recipe 'Moonshine' from a cookbook published in 1890 and written by Frances Willey caught my attention with the first sentence - "This dessert combines a pretty appearance with palatable flavor, and is a convenient substitute for ice cream." If I were to recreate it, I'd use a cooked meringue rather than just whipped egg whites, for food safety reasons, use fresh mashed and sweetened peaches, and while the dessert doesn't contain alcohol, I'd drizzle the dessert with a favorite liqueur or my own ratafia.
This dessert combines a pretty appearance with palatable flavor, and is a convenient substitute for ice cream. Beat the whites of six eggs in a broad plate to a very stiff froth; then add, gradually, six tablespoons of powdered sugar, beaten for not less than thirty minutes, and then beat in, after being cut into tiny pieces; one-half cup of preserved peaches; or you can use one cup of jelly. In serving, pour into each saucer some rich cream, sweetened and flavored with vanilla, and on the cream, place a liberal portion of moonshine. This quantity is sufficient amount for eight or ten persons.
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