I’ve been asked for ideas for a few simple medieval-era desserts, suitable for folks new to the idea of historic cooking. Here are a couple of my favorites!
(Catalan, 14th Century)
The weeks preceding Lent are a good time to use up the rich cheeses in the household. This delightful Angel’s Food is a wonderful spread on toast or cake, or a dip for fruits or wafers. Unadorned white food symbolized purity, so no garnish would be used to mar the white surface of the food. The original manuscript (translated) reads:
“If you want to eat the fresh curds, put the curds in the mortar and pound with some good white sugar. And when pounded together, blend in some rosewater or orange-flower water, and put it in bowls or dishes or whatever you like; and serve it at table. And if you don’t wish to use sugar, add some good honey. And you can do the same with fresh cheese, which is better, and it is called angel’s food.” – Libra de Sent sovi, 1324
Angel’s Food Ingredients:
- Mascarpone cheese
- Ricotta cheese
- Orange Flower Water or Rosewater
The amounts will vary (this is a hallmark of historical cooking, very few recipes include times or amounts). Start with equal parts Ricotta and mascarpone. Add enough sugar for it to be sweet enough but not too sweet, depending on your taste. Orange Flower Water and Rosewater vary greatly in concentration, so the amount you use will depend not only on your taste, but on how strong the dilution is in your particular bottle. Start with a few drops (err on the side of caution to begin with) and add until the floral essences give a nice aromatic finish without being cloying or overly ‘perfumey’. The original calls for using one or the other, but combining them can also be wonderful. Other floral essences like lavender or even almond can also be used.
Appulmoy – Curye On Inglysch, 1342
“Take apples and seeth hem in water; drawe hem thurgh a straynour. Take almaunde mylke & hony and flour of rys, safroun and powdour fort and salt, and seeth it stondyng.”
Applemoy (Apple Mouse) (Rendered Recipe)
- almond milk
- rice flour
- powdour fort spice blend
- Clean, quarter, and core apples. Boil them in water until soft. Drain.
- Mash apples through a strainer. If you have left the peels on, make sure they are removed at this step.
- Heat almond milk and honey in a pan, add enough rice flour to thicken slightly.
- Add apples and seasonings, cook until flour is absorbed and desired consistency is reached. Serve hot or cold.
You’ll notice that I have not included amounts in this rendering. The desired consistency is not specified in the original recipe, so it can be as thin as a shake, or as thick as a pudding, depending on how many apples you start with, how much rice flour you use, and how long you cook it. The sweetness will vary with the apples and with the amount of honey you use, and the spicing is at your discretion.
I hope you enjoy experimenting with these simple medieval desserts, and that they leave you wanting to try many more!