Monday, September 22, 2014

The First Post: Stuart Era Dinner Rolls

My first post I will dedicate to food because, after all, food connects us.  It is a shared love that we all have and have had throughout the ages and around the world.  My love of history is often translated into food and I share my adventures with my two little boys and my husband, who for the most is a good sport (the kids not so much).  Depending on how you look at it, the unfortunate or fortunate aspect of cooking from historical recipes (especially the REALLY old ones) is that we don't typically have the same cooking techniques or even food sources.  After all, I don't have a spit boy roasting pigeon, pheasant, turkey or chicken over an open fire and I don't often have access to freshly killed venison or peacock! I don't have an open hearth in my kitchen (in fact the fireplace in the living room is gas and isn't currently operating) and I don't have the time (or energy!) to cook over an open flame for every meal.  So, it is with my trusty oven and stove top, KitchenAid mixer and blender, food processor and George Foreman grill, propane grill and other convenient modern tools that I find myself cooking with the adaptions of modern appliances. But, that doesn't mean the connection is lost.  Baking a pie that contains meat and fruit or using the same spices as they did in the medieval times brings us to a very small understanding of our early ancestors, or at the very least can elicit a dialogue about how they ate, why they ate what they did, and exactly what did they eat! I find that when I cook using a historical recipe I am in some way honoring my ancestors or my ancestors country of origin.  And by using my modern appliances, I am cooking in such a way that my children can help and history really can be brought to life for them and for myself.

Now on with the first adapted recipe...

Principe Bread Loaves

Recipe Adapted from The English HusWife by Gervase Markham

Published in 1615 (Isn't the name Gervase marvelous?!) 

  • 6 Cups all purpose flour (or more)
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 packet instant rise yeast
  • 2 1/2 cups water, warm, (AKA microwave 1 minute)
  • 1 Tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1-2 teaspoons oil
Using a KitchenAid mixer and the dough blade: combine 5 cups flour, salt, & yeast. Mix slowly, gradually adding the water.  The dough will be super sticky and wet.  Stop mixer and scrap down sides.  Continue mixing, adding just enough flour in order to remove the sticky dough.  Place dough on a well-floured surface and add remaining flour. Knead in the flour until dough is able to be worked and not overly sticky.  (I found that I had to add a little more than a cup of flour.  I added enough to be able to successfully pick up the dough and place it in a bowl).  Place dough in a well oiled large bowl.  Place plastic wrap over bowl.  Let sit for 3 hours.  
After 3 hours, place dough onto floured work surface. Divide dough (adding flour to dough if needed) into 12 - 16 small pieces. Place cornstarch evenly onto a large baking sheet. Knead and form each little loaf into a round ball and place onto the pan (the cornstarch helps the rolls not to stick to the pan). Let the small loaves rest for about an hour (they will get a little larger).  
After an hour, preheat oven to 500 degrees. Once preheated, in a small glass or ceramic baking dish add 1 - 2 cups of water and place inside the oven on the lowest rack.  On the middle rack, place the rolls. Bake 10 minutes and then turn the pan around and bake another 10 - 12 minutes or until golden brown.  Once done, remove from oven and cool for about 5 minutes before digging in (to make these really delicious I added a little melted butter to each roll on top).

The rolls were very tasty but a little time consuming.  Luckily, they yielded many little rolls and we can eat these for a few more dinners.  All in all I think I'd make these again; the ingredients were simple and if I have a day were I can devote to popping in and out of the kitchen from time to time it is worth the effort.  The crust was really crispy and I love a good crispy crust with a soft chewy center!

(A little history note: The commonly known Stuart Era refers to a period in British History between 1603 and 1714.  The House of Stuart ruled the land and this period was ripe with turmoil and conflict, including a civil war! William Shakespeare was a playwright partially in this era having been born around 1564 and died in 1616. I love all things Shakespeare and am even proud to say that Joan Shakespeare is my 12th Great Grand Aunt by marriage... it might be a small tenuous connection to all things Shakespeare but I'm holding onto it for dear life!) 


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