Pilgrim Seasonings

Plymouth Colony Foodways: Notes and Recipes from a 17th Century Kitchen

french Biskets

October 12th, 2013 by KM Wall

To continue with biskets…..no less an authority then the late Alan Davidson in The Oxford Companion to Food states that biscuit  means  different things to  different people, in the past as well as the present,  from the UK/USA what means biscuit now (the one to dunk in your tea, the other to put under your gravy) and then the whole sea bisket/ship’s biscuit/hardtack sidebar…..and of course, there’s MORE

The Oxford Companion to Food - the update paperback version is called the Penguin Companion to Food - if you're serious about food history, you need one of these nearby.

The Oxford Companion to Food – the updated paperback version is called the Penguin Companion to Food – if you’re serious about food history, you need one of these nearby.And there are beets on this cover….you know how much beets mean to me….

Back to England, back to some 17th century recipes……

I’ve found only one bisket recipe that’s named English bisket. More common are French bisket recipes , and also those for bisket bread, bisket bread which is sometimes also called French bisket. But not always.

But of course.

French Bakers banner

Probably loaves of bread on these peels, but it’s the right shape so it could be French biscuit.

 

To make French Biskets.

Take two pounds of fine flower, being baked in an Ouen, take eight ounces of Suger baten and cersed, Coliander-seed, sweet Fennell-seede, and Caraway-seede, of these, each an ounce, worke all these up into a lythe paste with eight new layd egges and a little Rose-water, then roule it vp in a faire cloath like a pudding, as big as your Legge, and put it vp close and tye it fast at both ends, that no water get in, then put it into a Kettle of boyling water, letting it boyle two houres stirring it now and then that it burne not too, then take it vp and cut it in thicknesse of an ordinary trencher in round pieces, then lay it vpon a wyar lattice and sette it in a warme Ouen, and when it is drye that you may beat to a powder, then take a pound of double refined Sugar, and boyle it to a Candie height with as much Rose-water as will desolve it, then take your foresaid dry bisket and dip it in your hot Sugar, & lay it vpon your wyars againe, and set it in a warme ouen three or foure houres after the bread is drawn out, and within an houre turn it and when it is dry it will bee like candied all over, so box it and it will keepe all the yeare.

- 1621.John Murrell. A Delightful daily exercise for Ladies and Gentlewoman. Falconwood Press: 1990. p. 4.  

All that seedy goodness makes this seem an awful lot like English bisket, as well the insistence for new layd eggs and beaten  – I mean – baten  – and cersed sugar. Cersed is sifted.

The other Elizabeth Sieve Portrait - I'm assuming this isn't to show us her domestic side....but these are the sorts of sieves that you'd sift the beaten sugar through, the finest sieves being made of silk cloth, the courser one of horsehair.

The Elizabeth Sieve Portrait – I’m assuming this isn’t to show us her domestic side….but these are the sorts of sieves that you’d sift the beaten sugar through, the finest sieves being made of silk cloth, the courser ones of horsehair. This is most definitely NOT horsehair.

The tying up the batter in a cloth and boiling it in a kettle – shaped like a leg, which make me think of roly poly puddings, or at least the one in The Thornbirds, which is boiled in mother’s cotton stocking….

Novel and min-series...great food....

Novel and min-series…great food….

But I digress….

The two step boiled and then baked technique puts this French bisket in the same catagory as  some of the jumbles, simmels  and cracknels.  Pretzels also fall into this catagory.

An ordinary trencher....

An ordinary trencher….cut the pieces about this thick

The George Gower Elizabeth Sieve portrait

The George Gower Elizabeth Sieve portrait

 

 

 

 

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2 Responses to “french Biskets”

  1. Penny says:

    How about bagels? Certainly once boiled.

    • KM Wall says:

      Bagels are definitely in this class of foodstuff. they’re just not English – or Dutch, although there do seem to be references in the early 17th century. In Poland. Hmmm, Gobert Gobertson, the 3rd husband of Sarah Allerton, who comes to Plymouth Colony in 1623 is from Oustland, generally assumed to be Poland….good question, Penny!

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