Pilgrim Seasonings

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

A little more french bisket

October 13th, 2013 by KM Wall

Are these more biskets or are these more french?

La Varrene

La Varrene – The (original) French Chef!

La Varenne  brought his cookbook out in 1651. By 1653 it had been ‘Englished”  and was for sale in London.

He also has a recipe for bisket. Two, in fact. If it’s in a French cookbook does that make it a French biscuit even if they don’t call it that?

How to make bisket.

Take eight eggs, one pound of sugar into powder, with three quarters of a pound of flowre. Mix all together and thus it will be neither too soft nor too hard.

- 1653. Francois Pierre La Varenne. Englished by L.D.G The French Cook.  intro by Philip and Mary Hyman. Southover Press: 2001. p.240.

These are more like the just plain bisket – or English bisket – then the french bisket. Notice how they don’t get boiled first. Note also that although La Varenne is considered THE man to talk about when talking about modernized (as opposed to medieval), codified French cuisine, there are still lovely vaguenesses as “thus it will be neither too soft nor too hard”. Maybe that’s just the translator talking.

The very last recipe in the book is another bisket.

How to make bisket of Savoy.

Take six yolks and eight whites [of] eggs, with one pound of sugar in powder, three quarters of a pound of good flower made of good wheat, and some aniseed, beaten all well together; and boile it. Make a paste neither too soft nor too hard, if it is too soft, you may mix with it some flowre of sugar for to harden it. When it is well proportioned , put it into moules of white tinne made for the purpose and then bake them half in the oven. When they are half baked, take them out, and moisten them at the top with the yolks of eggs ; after that, put them in the oven again for to make an end of baking. When they are so baked that they are not too much burned, nor too soft, take them out, and set them in a place which is neither too cool nor too dry.

1653. Francois Pierre La Varenne. Englished by L.D.G The French Cook.  intro by Philip and Mary Hyman. Southover Press: 2001. p. 246.

The little tin molds fascinate me, in part because it’s about 100 years earlier then I thought I’d ever see them. I should have been paying more attention to sweetmeats! The end-note of a place “neither too cool nor too dry”……is almost as good as “not too much burned, nor too soft”.

Savoy can be one of several things.

Savoy palace - drawing of 1650

Savoy palace – drawing of 1650

Savoy Record Company NOT the savoy of the 17th century bisket!

Savoy Record Company NOT the savoy of the 17th century bisket!

 

 

Arnotts Biscuit  - they carry a Savoy biscuit in the 20th century

Arnotts Biscuit – they carry a Savoy biscuit in the 20th century

The modern day Savoy biscuit is a cracker sold in parts of Australia. It’s by the same company that makes Tim-Tams. Among others.

Tim-Tams....mmmm

Tim-Tams….mmmm

There’s still Prince bisket and Italian bisket, and a more careful look at bisket bread ahead in the bisket trail.

Why did we change the spelling of bisket? Why don’t we change it back?

 

 

 

 

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2 Responses to “A little more french bisket”

  1. carolina says:

    Have never heard of “tim-tams.” Or, I have, but they were called something else? I did similar experiments awhile back with assorted bisket receipts, and they, too, seemed to be all over the map. Some were cracker-like, some more cookie-ish, others were somewhat doughy, and so on. OH! And don’t forget Naples Biskets. They’re Really Big in the 18th century. But wait, maybe not before? I wonder, are there any receipts for them in 17th century (or earlier) cookbooks? Hmmm, will have to look!

  2. KMWall says:

    There are Naples bisket as well as Italian bisket in the early 17th century.And Almond bisket is pretty popular, too. And then there’s bisket cream….I thought this would be a nice little tidy sidebar – HA!

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