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Before we say “Farewell” to December and 2014, I thought
I’d share a few photos taken at The Israel Crane House
recently, during the annual Essex County (NJ) Historic
House Holiday Tours.

I thoroughly enjoy this event every year, and I always
look forward to it. It offers a marvelous opportunity
to share food and in-depth discussions with visitors.
This year, the crowds were non-stop on Saturday,

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when it poured rain, and they tended to ebb ‘n flow
on Sunday, when we had sun with clear blue skies.
Go figure!

As in the past, quite a spread of goodies was available
for visitors to enjoy. It consisted of the usual suspects,
ranging from a baked ham to shelled walnuts and roasted
chestnuts to hot spiced cider. Several items that’d been
prepared in advance were offered, as well. Of course,
all were done in accordance with receipts from several
of my favorite historic cookbooks. They included…

Hannah Glasse’s “Ginger-Bread Cakes” from her book
The Art of Cookery, Made Plain and Easy (1747). And
as I’ve mentioned here previously, these are unique
in that treacle is specified, rather than molasses:

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“Shrewsbury Cakes,” from American Cookery (1796) by Amelia Simmons:

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Open any cookbook written prior to 1830 or so, and you’re
bound to find a receipt for these small cakes. Sadly, they’ve
since fallen out of favor.

“Pounded Cheese” per Dr. William Kitchiner’s The Cook’s Oracle (1817):

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And “Naples Biscuits,” from the 18th century receipt book
of the James Logan Family of Germantown, PA. These were
generally made in advance for use in other dishes. Numerous
historic receipts specify that grated Naples Biscuits be added
to other ingredients. However, they were often served just
as they are, along with tea or another beverage:

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I usually make a dish or two during each year’s event, as well.
This year, I put together a Potato Pudding. Time was sorely
limited, so I mixed all the ingredients on the first day and
baked it on the second. I followed the same receipt that I’d
used previously for a Culinary Historians of New York (CHNY)
program. It’s from an early 19th century manuscript cookbook,
which is part of a new online collection of such sources. The type
of potatoes to be used are not specified, so I chose sweet:

into the bake kettle…

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it’s a-baking:

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between the visitors and staff, it didn’t last long!

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All in all, it was a highly successful AND enjoyable event.
I can hardly wait ’til next year’s!

In the meantime, Happy New Year to all! I hope your 2015
is as good, no, better, than your 2014. I’m looking forward
to everything it has to offer. HUZZAH!

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As always, I had a grand ol’ time this past weekend during
the annual Essex County (NJ) Holiday Historic House Tours.
I was busy both days chatting with visitors in the kitchen
of The Israel Crane House. I enjoy this event every year,
and once again, it was great fun. HUZZAH!

However, before I continue, I need to step back a few weeks
and report on the most recent hearth cooking class at Crane’s.
Held in mid-November when our national Thanksgiving holiday
was just around the corner, this particular session was designed
to offer participants opportunities to “Cook Like a Pilgrim.” And

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so, we replicated several dishes that might’ve been prepared,
cooked, and eaten by those early Plymouth settlers and their
neighbors, the Wampanoags, in the autumn of 1621.

Now, I won’t delve too deeply here into the details of that
so-called “first thanksgiving feast.” I’ve written several times
about the myths behind the annual holiday, including this post.
In addition, you can check out the website for Plimoth Plantation,
as well as the various blogs associated with it. Suffice it to say
that it was far different from the modern incantation. The very
foundations of the holiday have been misconstrued, as it was
not a day of thanksgiving, particularly in a religious sense,
for if it had been, the settlers would’ve not only spent the day
listening to sermons in the meeting house (church), but they
also would’ve been fasting, not feasting. However, it was
indeed a harvest celebration, just like all the others that’d
been traditionally held in the colonist’s native England. It
wasn’t necessarily an annual event, either, in the homeland
or the new colony (there was none in 1622), even after
a spectacularly bountiful harvest.

But never mind all that. This was a hearth cooking class! What
about the food? What was offered at the long-ago colonial feast?
What was available? What did the colonists and the Native Peoples
eat? What specific dishes were most likely cooked and shared?
Heck, more importantly, what did WE cook during our recent
“Cook Like a Pilgrim” class?!

To create a viable menu for our meal, I began by studying
various sources, including books, websites, and the like.
I also relied on my knowledge of basic food history. All
of this enabled me to select period-appropriate foods and
dishes. Fortunately, there’s also an eye-witness account.
It’s a letter that Mayflower passenger and Plymouth colonist
Edward Winslow wrote to a friend back in England shortly
after the event, wherein he described the proceedings:

Our harvest being gotten in, our governor
sent four men on fowling, that so we might
after a special manner rejoice together after
we had gathered the fruit of our labors. They
four in one day killed as much fowl as, with
a little help beside, served the company
almost a week. At which time, amongst
other recreations, we exercised our arms,
many of the Indians coming amongst us,
and among the rest their greatest king
Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom
for three days we entertained and feasted,
and they went out and killed five deer,
which they brought to the plantation and
bestowed on our governor, and upon the
captain and others. And although it be
not always so plentiful as it was at this
time with us, yet by the goodness of God,
we are so far from want that we often wish
you partakers of our plenty.

So we know fowl (most likely ducks, geese, and other types
of waterfowl), and a good supply of venison were on the table.
Additional research revealed what else might’ve been offered
during the harvest meal. It also allowed me to safely say what
was probably NOT eaten. Thus, there were no mashed potatoes or
pumpkin pie nor any cranberries or 30-pound turkeys.

Thus, our “Cook Like a Pilgrim” menu was set. It would consist
of venison, duck, mussels, hasty pudding, a salad, and “pompion.”
I soon found receipts (recipes) for all these dishes in either my

our venison roasting in the tin reflector oven

our venison roasting in the tin reflector oven

own facsimiles of 17th century cookbooks or in others online.
I must say that, at first, it was a daunting prospect, this
searching in an unfamiliar century, but soon I was happily
discovering a host of different options. And so, with a bit
of tweaking,* we followed the instructions of the following:

Gervase Markham’s To roast venison, from his The English
Hus-wife
(1615)
Finding a specialty meat store that sells venison, effortless;
dealing with the resulting sticker shock, priceless!

To Stew a Mallard, from The Good Housewife’s Jewel, by
Thomas Dawson (1596)
A receipt Dawson stole, er, “borrowed” from The good Huswifes
Handmaide for the Kitchin
, which was published in 1594. Yep,
plagiarism was rampant even back then! And we used a duck,
as mallards are WAY too expensive. Heck, even our Miss Duck
wasn’t cheap! Which was surprising. I imagine it’s because
few people eat it nowadays. Most stores had a limited supply,
and the birds were always frozen. Boy, I tell ya, at one point
when I was in the midst of the meat section of one Brooklyn
Big Name Store, I was suddenly struck by the fact that I was
surrounded by vast quantities of different versions of chicken
(fresh, frozen, whole, legs only, wings only, boneless, skinless,
tenders, fryers, bites, etc.) and smaller sections of beef and
pork varieties, but there were only three $35 frozen ducks
in one little cubicle of a freezer case. Clearly, we Americans
have a VERY limited meat palate. Sad. But I digress…

John Murrell’s To frye Mussels, Perywinckels, or Oysters,
to serue [serve] with a Ducke, or single by themselves
,
from his A New Booke of Cookerie: London Cookerie (1615)
I wanted to include seafood of some kind on our menu, as
it would’ve most definitely been readily available. It was
too late in the season for some fish, but not for mussels,
so I choose them. I also figured they’d have been greatly
appreciated by the Native Peoples at the 1621 feast. After
all, you’ve heard the advice to “serve what your guests
will like,” yes?! The best part of this particular receipt
is that it states “to serue [serve] with a Ducke.” Perfect!
I just loved how everything fit together so well! HUZZAH!

Another way to make a hasty Pudding, courtesy
of The Queen-like Closet (1672), by Hannah Wolley
This is the quintessential British dish. It would’ve been easy
to make and would’ve fed a boat-load of people. Although it
was typically made with flour, Indian (aka corn) meal would’ve
been used in 1621. Flour would’ve been in limited supply, if
it was available at all. Plus, early wheat crops in the colony
did poorly, so corn meal was a handy, and logical, substitution.
And thanks to the Wampanoag’s assistance, it WAS readily
available. HUZZAH, again!

Markham’s To make an excellent compound boild Sallat
(from the same book as mentioned above)
The best part of this dish is…YES! They ate sallats (salads)!

And finally, we made use of several receipts for “pompion.”
Which to an early settler meant any type of squash, including
pumpkins and ‘vine apples (aka acorn squash). Among others,

"pompions" aka pumpkins & acorn squashes

“pompions” aka pumpkins & acorn squashes

we used one from Robert May’s The Accomplisht Cook (1685)
and another from New-Englands Rarities Discovered, by John
Josselyn (1672). It was quite fascinating to see the number
of pumpkin/squash receipts increase exponentially in cookbooks
from the early to the mid-1600s.

Overall, I think it was a successful class. It provided everyone
with opportunities to enjoy a meal composed of assorted and
non-traditional Thanksgiving (so-called) dishes. Of course,
I’d like to offer this class and its menu every fall. That
remains to be seen, I guess, but…well, here’s hoping!

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=============================================

NOTE: I sincerely apologize for the appalling lack of photos.
There just wasn’t time or opportunities to take any. I’m even
disappointed! **sigh**
Ahh, well…so it goes…dagnabit

*By “tweaking,” I mean taking into account what the early
settlers had access to, whether it grew in their own fields
and/or gardens and what they likely brought with them
on the initial voyage. I also wanted to be reasonable,
but not punitive, all while staying true to my concerns,
goals, and overall drive for historical accuracy. So, for
instance, one receipt calls for dates. Yeah, no to that.
No way. But many, in fact most, of them make use
of various spices. I said, “Yes” to those, and I did so
for a couple of reasons: one, they were a normal part
of the cooking process during this time period (the early
1600s); and two, they were easily stored, whether while
being transported or when in a home.

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Absolutely!

Elections come and go, but there will always be cake! And what
better way to celebrate your participation in this year’s (or any
year’s, for that matter) electoral process, then by voting and
afterwards enjoying some “Election Cake.” So whether your
candidate wins or loses, at least you’ll have a tasty treat!

In our nation’s early years, there were two receipts for this
dish. One could be found in Mrs. Child’s The American Frugal
Housewife
(originally published 1832):

ELECTION CAKE.
Old-fashioned election cake is made
of four pounds of flour; three quarters
of a pound of butter; four eggs; one
pound of sugar; one pound of currants,
or raisins if you choose; half a pint of
good yeast; wet it with milk as soft as
it can be and be moulded on a board.
Set to rise over night in winter; in warm
weather, three hours is usually enough
for it to rise. A loaf, the size of common
flour bread, should bake three quarters
of an hour.

I find it interesting (and a bit humorous!) that Mrs. Child refers
to this Cake as “old-fashioned,” despite the fact that, at the time,
such cakes had been around less than 50 years! Yep, Election
Cakes are strictly an American “invention,” just as is our whole

electoral process. And thus, you’ll not find a single receipt for it
in earlier cookbooks. In fact, there’s only one other, prior to the
publication of American Frugal, and it’s in American Cookery (1796),
by Amelia Simmons. As you’ll see below, Simmons’ receipt is similar
and yet different. Of course, most notable is the vast quantities
of each ingredient, even though they’re basically the same (at
least in part). But what I found intriguing was the inclusion of
not only a few spices, but also wine AND brandy. Hmmmm, eat
several slices of Simmons’ Cake and perhaps be easily persuaded
to change your vote?!

At the same time, an Election Cake really isn’t all that different
from many other cakes, particularly those that include raisins
and/or currants. It’s probably because, when someone (who
was most likely a woman) had the brilliant idea to bake a cake
for an upcoming election, she didn’t make up an entirely new
receipt; she merely selected an already-familiar one. In a way,
it’s similar to what the early settlers in this country did; they
took an unknown New World ingredient (such as corn), mixed
it with an Old World receipt, and thus created a “new” dish.
In this case, an oft-used receipt (possibly one for a good
ol’ British plumb cake) was selected, re-named, and given
a new function and new status.

Back to Amelia Simmons’ receipt:

Election Cake.
Thirty quarts flour, 10 pound butter,
14 pound sugar, 12 pound raisins,
3 doz eggs, one pint wine, one quart
brandy, 4 ounces cinnamon, 4 ounces
fine colander seed, 3 ounces ground
allspice; wet the flour with milk to
the consistence of bread over night,
adding one quart yeast; the next
morning work the butter and sugar
together for half an hour, which will
render the cake much lighter and
whiter; when it has rise light work
in every other ingredient except
the plumbs, which work in when
going into the oven.

Interestingly, the above receipt is only in the second edition
of Simmons’ work. Although it was published in the same year
as the first (1796), it was done so in a different city.

When I made this at The Israel Crane House for the Big Election
two years ago, I used Child’s receipt, as it was a bit simpler, at
least ingredient-wise. And I made it even easier by quartering
the proportions (starting with just one pound of flour and so on).
Working with yeast was challenging at the time, as most cakes
I’d made before then (using historical receipts) hadn’t called
for it. It can be tricky knowing how much to use and how long
to let the mixture rise. Nevertheless, it turned out fine back
then, and it proved to be a delicious success.

So, it’s another year, another round of elections, and yes, that
means…cake. “Election Cake,” that is! HUZZAH!

__________________________________

[NOTE: this is an edited and partially re-written version of a post from 2012]

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Earlier this month, I presented another ‘straight-talk’ version
of my “Cook Like a Soldier” program to a group of lovely
ladies who make up the Fortnightly Club in Summit, NJ.

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The Club is a women’s social and philanthropic organization
dedicated to community service and outreach, which also
sponsors social activities for members and their families.
It meets regularly at the historic Twin Maples Mansion,
a spacious landmarked early 20th century former home.
Which, incidentally, was designed by an architect who
resided at the time in Israel Crane territory, otherwise
known as Montclair, NJ.

Now, as you may know, particularly if you’ve ever perused my
Portable Historic Programs page, this talk deals with soldier’s
fare during the American War for Independence. I discuss what
foods the troops ate, how they were prepared and cooked, who
did the cooking, how the rations were delivered, and so on. And
in an effort to not only tell the audience what specific food items
a soldier received on a daily and weekly (hopefully!) basis, but
to also show people what what they were, I have bags of each
on display. So, for instance, I set out a whole pound of flour,

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a pound of hard bisket, and three pints of peas. But what I’ve
struggled with is, how do I exhibit the flesh-y side of things?
As in the meat? The beef and the pork? Or the fish? Sure, I can
bring samples of each, and I have done that (taken a slab of salt
pork and made my own salt cod), but it’s a bit tricky, especially
if it’s a hot or warm day. It can get rather messy…and smelly!
And then, what do I do with them afterwards? Eat ‘em? Well,
after it’s been dragged many miles and then man-handled by
various people, even I don’t care to do that!

Finally, I decided I would set out pictures of each ration meat.
Or rather, the source of it. Of course, I had to find some images,
and they had to be ones that’re period-appropriate for the Rev
War years. Then it hit me: use copies of 18th century woodcuts!
One for each animal! So I got out my copy of “Catchpenny Prints,”
and I found fantastic ones for the beef (a cow), the pork (a pig),

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and the fish (a, er, a fish!). I enlarged each one, then cut it out
and glued it to card stock. So now, each meat ration is represented
nicely on my table of soldier’s fare. I have it all, from the beef and
fish to the bread and peas to all the others. I think it looks pretty
good, yes?! HUZZAH!

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During a Revolutionary War encampment a few months ago,
I began assisting a fellow hearth cook with demonstrations
of the use of spices in the 18th century. Now at this point,
I’m not exactly sure how, when, or why I became involved,
other than the fact that, like my friend, I’d been searching
for an alternative to doing, or even just helping with, any
cooking at these events. Well, one thing led to another,
and soon I was not only plying my skills with my trusty
mortar & pestle, but I had also suggested we make good
use of all that grating, grinding, and pounding by producing
a centuries-old spice combination known as Kitchen Pepper.

Each time we demonstrate the creation of this spice mixture,
we follow the instructions that are found in The Receipt Book
of Harriott Pinckney Horry
,* of Charleston, S.C., which dates
from 1770:

Kitchen Pepper.
One ounce of Ginger—pepper cinnamon cloves
and Nutmeg half an ounce of each—6 ounces
of salt Mix it well keep it dry. its excellent in all
brown Sauces.

In addition to “all brown Sauces,” Kitchen Pepper would’ve also
added flavoring to meats, soups, pottages, and other dishes. It’s
been around since at least Medieval times, and it was eventually
often sold, pre-mixed, at mercantiles. Of course, the spicy combo
could also be concocted in any era by a cook at home.

Interestingly, Horry’s receipt has been the only one from the 18th
century that I’ve found, thusfar (I’ll keep looking!). There are two
others, but both, however, are from the 19th century. One is in
A New System of Domestic Cookery, by A Lady (aka Maria Eliza
Ketelby Rundell), which was first published in London, England,
in 1806. And the other is in Mrs. Lettice Bryan’s The Kentucky
Housewife
, published in 1839, in Cincinatti, Ohio. As is often
the case, all three are somewhat alike and yet, they’re a bit
different. All of them contain ginger, black pepper, cinnamon,
cloves, and nutmeg. Two contain salt, one does not. And finally,
one alone calls for Jamaica pepper, while the one that has no
salt, instead includes white pepper, red pepper, and mace.

_________________________

Making our Kitchen Pepper during the encampment out on Long Island
at Old Bethpage Village:

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And here’s our Kitchen Pepper operation at Raynham Hall, in Oyster Bay:

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_________________________

*The Receipt Book of Harriott Pinckney Horry was a personal cookbook
that was written in Charleston, S.C., in 1770. It was eventually published
in 1984 as
A Colonial Plantation Cookbook, edited by Richard J. Hooker,
in Columbia, S.C.

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I’ve had several requests for the receipts that were used to create
the chocolate dishes presented in my previous posting. All of them
were compiled by Deb Peterson, the workshop’s instructor, and they
came from an assortment of 18th century cookbooks.

Let’s start with the most-awesome Chocolate Tart.

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We used the following receipt from John Nott’s The Cooks and
Confectioners Dictionary
, which was first published in 1723:

132. To make a Chocolate Tart.
Mix a little Milk, the Yolks of ten Eggs,
with two Spoonfuls of Rice-flour, and
a little Salt; then add a Quart of Cream,
and Sugar to your Palate; make it boil,
but take care it do not curdle; then grate
Chocolate into a Plate; dry it at the Fire;
and having taken off your Cream, mix
your Chocolate with it, stirring it well in,
and set it by to cool. Then sheet a Tart-pan,
put in your Mixture, bake it. When it comes
out of the Oven, glaze it with powder’d Sugar
and a red hot Shovel.

Note there’s no mention of the crust with which to “sheet your
tart-pan.” I imagine any would do, but Deb choose to have us
make the one below, which is found in the cookbook Bradshaw’s
Valuable Family Jewel
(1751), by Mrs. Penelope Bradshaw:

To make proper Paste for Tarts.
Take three Quarters of a Pound of Butter
mixed well with a Pound of Flour. Or thus:
Take equal Quantities of Flour, Butter, and
Sugar mixed well; beat it with a rolling Pin,
and roll it thin.

Interestingly, the above tart receipt is also in The Court and
Country Confectioner
(1770), by a Mr. Borella. His version,
however, is ever so slightly re-worded, and the quantities
of all the ingredients have been cut in half. I suppose that’s
one way to avoid claims of plagiarism, ay, Mr. B.?!

Ahh, well…

In addition, I found a fun video the other day wherein a similar
tart is prepared. It was filmed as part of the 2012 long-awaited
opening of the newly-renovated Royal Kitchens of London’s Kew
Palace
. Unfortunately, no clue is given as to what receipt the cook
was using, and it’s been modernized/adapted, but it sounds very
similar to the one above. Even his process matches (somewhat)
what we did during our workshop. And, dagnabit, I think his
comment dealing with the “is chocolate a food or a beverage?”
debate is still a bit off, albeit he’s closer than some others.
I’m beginning to think that, in some ways, it’s all in how it’s
stated. But even if by 1789, a Chocolate Tart receipt had been
floating around since at least 1723 (nearly 70 years! almost
a century!), surely somebody had to’ve been whipping it up
now and then, so just how “unusual” was it?! Particularly for
the “better sort”! Ahh, well…so it goes.

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Back in April of this year, I attended an annual “foodie” conference
here in NYC at the Roger Smith Hotel. In the past it was dubbed
“The Cookbook Conference,” but it was re-named the Food-Tech
Conference
for its fourth go-round in 2014. Every year, there are
sessions on multifarious topics, the speakers and panelists (well,
most of them!) present informative talks, and the opportunities
to network with “fellow foodies” are abundant.

Now, one of the sessions I attended was entitled “Mechanizing
Cacao.” It featured a panel of three speakers, plus a moderator.
Each panelist spoke on some aspect of cacao, whether its history
or the modern chocolate-making process. However, one of these
supposed “experts” was sadly mis-informed! And oddly enough,
he just happened to be a representative of Mars, Inc., who’re
the makers of American Heritage Historic Chocolate,** and was
also one of the sponsors of this year’s Conference. Oh, dear…!

Anyway, according to Mr. Mars/American Heritage, chocolate
was consumed ONLY as a beverage during the 18th century
and NOT as a food. HA! That statement is NOT true! I know
this, definitively, because I’ve made “eat-able” dishes that
contained chocolate (remember my “Nut Bomboons”?). But
coincidentally, I’d also just participated in an historic hearth
cooking workshop the previous weekend, wherein we made
several 18th century chocolate dishes that were meant to be
eaten. Thus, I am sorry Sir, but you are incorrect! And yes,
I had intended to raise my little hand during the session-ending
Q & A, in order to share the above information about replicating
18th century chocolate as something to be eaten, but, alas, it
wasn’t meant to be. You see, after all the panelists had done
their spiels, the session rather abruptly ended, as time had run
out! Everyone then quickly disappeared, both the speakers and
the audience! I must say, it was rather bizarre. I found myself
wondering, “What just happened? Where’d everyone go? It’s
over?!?” And so, there was no Q & A, no sharing of anything.
It was officially The End.

Ahh, well…so it goes.

In any case, below are the dishes we prepared during the hearth
cooking workshop. The receipts utilized for each one were taken
from assorted 18th century cookbooks. As you’ll see, chocolate
was consumed not only as a beverage, but also as a food. Indeed,
it was enjoyed in various forms, whether in a cup or on a plate.

____________________

First up was a Chocolate Tart. We began by working on the paste
(or crust), which was beaten:

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The paste was cooked first. Beans were placed on it to keep it flat:

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Time to work on the cream filling:

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The chocolate was grated:

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Then it was added to the cream mixture and cooked:

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Ready to go:

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Into the bake oven it went, where any and all baking was done:

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Soon the Tart was done and it was then time to caramelize the top
with a heated salamander:

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TA-DA! Our mighty fine tart was completed:

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Next, we worked on Chocolate Drops:

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Then we made Chocolate Almonds, which, incidentally, do not
contain almonds, but are shaped like them:

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All the chocolate mixtures were cooked on a brazier:

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And finally, we made Chocolate Biscuits:

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Our intrepid workshop leader, Deb:

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It was a fantastic workshop. Lots of wonderful chocolate dishes
were made AND eaten. I’m looking forward to making them
in my own hearth cooking classes. HUZZAH!

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____________________________________________

* Names withheld to protect the innocent…and the guilty! LOL
** American Heritage Chocolate is (allegedly) a reproduction of 18th century chocolate, which has been manufactured using an “Authentic 18th Century Product Recipe and Ingredients” (to quote the copy on the box). However, well…maybe not! *sigh* More on that later.
*** The chocolate hearth cooking workshop was conducted by the talented Deborah Peterson (formerly of Deborah’s Pantry) as part of the Mid-Atlantic region of the Association for Living History, Farm and Agricultural Museum’s (ALHFAM) annual conference. The workshop took place in the historic kitchen
of the Peter Wentz Farmstead, of Montgomery County, PA.

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