Monthly Archives: September 2011

Confections: River Wars

I am looking at recipes for River Wars cooking competition. If I do not end up judging, I want to enter things in the sweets category. I figure one should not just be all sculpture all the time. Candy making is actually kinda cool and tricky. And that, makes it interesting.

Recipe #1: Nougat
Recipe for Mu’aqqad (Nougat) of Sugar*
Dissolve a ratl of sugar in two ratls of aromatic rosewater on a moderate fire, and when it is dissolved, strain it through a woolen cloth. Then return it to the fire and stir it gently until it is well cooked. Then remove it from the fire so that it cools slightly. Beat the whites of a dozen eggs in a dish until they give up their foam, and throw them on the melted sugar. Return it to the fire and beat it with the confectionery cane until it whitens and takes the consistency of ‘asîda and remove it from the fire and put in half a ratl of pistachios, if possible, and half a ratl of peeled almonds, and serve it forth, God willing.

The title of the recipe was translated into Nougat. Modern nougat is something akin to taffy. It is cooked to a very high temperature (300-330F), in a single cooked method. Divinity is probably closer in nature, lower temperature 250-260, and a double cooked method than nougat.

The first thing the recipe describes is a ratio. 1:2:1.5:1 sugar/water/egg/nut ratio. 1.5 of egg white where egg=24oz based upon large eggs. The ratio allows us to scale the recipe up or down, without needing to know what a ratl actually is (1 ratl = ~1lb). This recipe is also written in weights. This means the water and the egg whites should be measured by weight not volume.

The second thing that the recipe describes is a twice cooked candy. The first cooking dissolves the sugar and starts the chemical process of changing sugar water into cooked candy. It appears that the first cooking also helps to concentrate the sugar/water mixture. The second cooking, creates the actual finished candy product. ‘asîda= A mush of flour with a little boiling water, butter and honey. Based upon that description, this candy should probably be cooked somewhere between a modern firm and hard ball stage (~245-260).

It looks like the egg whites should be whipped as the sugar is cooling. Given the description of what the egg whites look like, they should be beaten until the form stiff peaks (egg whites will stand straight up when the whisk is held upside down). This process can take up to 10 minutes if whisking by hand.

Adding the nuts while the candy is still warm will make it easier to stir them in. It is possible that this candy is meant to be served still warm.

*Translated/published by David D. Friedman
An Anonymous Andalusian Cookbook (Andalusia, 13th c.)

Recipe #2: White Gingerbread
To make white Ginger bread.
Take Gumma Dragantis half an once, and steep it in rosewater two daies, then put thereto a pound of sugar beaten and finely serced, and beat them well together, so that it may be wrought like paste, then role it thin into two Cakes, then take a fewe Jordain almonds and blaunch them in colde water, then dry them with a faire Cloth, and stampe them in a mortar very finelye, adding thereto a little rosewater, beat finely also the whitest Sugar you can get and searce it. Then take Ginger, pare it and beat it very small and serce it, them put in sugar to the almonds and beat them together very well, then take it out and work it at your pleasure, then lay it even upon one of your cakes, and cover it with an other and when you put it in the molde, strewe fine ginger both above and beneathe, if you have not great store of Sugar, then take Rice and beat it small and serce it, and put it into the Morter and beat them altogether.

Alrighty then… This is not your typical gingerbread. It’s not even bread. This appears to be a gum paste variation, with a marzipan variation in the middle.

A standard gum paste recipe has egg white, lemon juice in addition to the sugar and the gum. So this recipe will probably be a little less pliable and possibly a lot more difficult to work with. Interestingly, they mention rice flour at the end of the recipe. It looks like this is a way to stretch the sugar while creating the paste part of the recipe.

Marzipan is a 2:1 ratio of nuts/sugar with rose water to moisten. This recipe calls for ginger to be added to the marzipan. At first I thought they were talking about fresh ginger. But by the time fresh ginger would have a chance to get from the Orient to England, it wouldn’t be fresh any more. Since they mention paring it and beating it, they are not talking about pre-powered ginger. It is probable then, that the ginger in question is actually dried, whole ginger.

The recipe also calls for ginger to be strewn above and below the gum paste layer before pressing it into the mold. I think caution will have to be exercised when creating this recipe. Too much ginger will create an heated effect on the palette. Not enough ginger and the sweetness of all the sugar will produce a cloying stickiness on the palette. There are so few ingredients in this treat that a delicate balance will be very important.

It will need to be eaten on or around the same day it is made. The gum paste, if left to the elements will dry out. And at that point, it will become dangerous to dental work.

Leave a comment

Posted by on September 29, 2011 in Recipes, Sugar


Tags: ,

Water horse- paper mache, continued

The armature has been covered in paper mache.  The next step once the paper is completely dry is to apply the sizing.  I will be using glare for this step.

View 1: side

View 2: back

Leave a comment

Posted by on September 28, 2011 in Sugar


Tags: , ,

Water horse- paper mache

It is still to humid to work sugar.

I have started the task of covering the armature in paper mache/paste board.  And I really hate working with this material.  It is clumpy, doesn’t like sticking to the armature and takes days to dry.  I resorted to putting it into the oven to dry. I have a gas stove, which creates a nice warm, dry environment which is ideal for drying paper.

The wet paper is very heavy on the fragile metal mesh.  However, it dried to a nice lightweight. This technique for armature covering/reinforcement is also an  exercise of hurry up and  wait.  I am very glad to have started so far in advance. I think the next time I work on a piece this small, I will just attach the sugar to the mesh and see where it gets me.


Leave a comment

Posted by on September 26, 2011 in Sugar


Tags: , ,

Water horse- armature

I started the armature for the water horse.  It may be too wet to actually do any real sugar work, but I can get the frame work started.  This is probably the smallest piece I have worked on. This is a combination of craft wire and silk floss. It will be covered in pasteboard/paper mache and sugar.   This layer isnt about details, it is about a rough shape.  Everything will build up as I go along.

Leave a comment

Posted by on September 21, 2011 in Sugar


Tags: ,

Project updates

Swabian dress– We are moving full steam ahead.  The wool for the dress arrived. The linen for the lining has arrived. All that is left is to purchase the beads for the beading.  We received the pattern for Princess Kiena at Pennsic.  We will need to do some modification to it as it is a Gothic fitted gown pattern.  The pattern for the trim that will go on the head wear has been selected and will be rendered in a lovely blue and silver.

Sugar: Water horse–  I am waiting until we have a break in the humidity.  All of this rain makes for a really bad environment for working with sugar paste and poured sugar.

Flemish gown– The dress has been completed.  Though I am not happy with the lacing rings.  I think I need a bigger size because the ones I have do not allow me to get a good, tight lace.  Though that may also be due to the cord I was using rather than the rings.  I will have to try a different cord to see if that helps.  I will post pictures soon.  I just need one where the chain link fence shadows are not overlaid on the dress.

Leave a comment

Posted by on September 12, 2011 in Uncategorized


Dress diary- kitchen wear

In my never ending quest for the perfect kitchen wear, I think I am going to go with this gown.  I like that the dress sleeves are short and the over-sleeves are pinned on.  This has great potential.  I have become of late, enamored of peasent/working class wear.  I guess that makes sense given how much I spend my time working and not actually being a pretty, pretty princess.  I have also become quite enthralled by undergarments.

Given what I know about this region and style of dress (almost nothing), I am going to have to do a little guessing as to what is going on.  It looks like she is wearing a laced over dress of parti-colored blues, over the top of a different color blue under dress. Neckline looks more square-ish then round. A nice rounded collared shift, a simple cap and plain white apron.

This dress is part of the painting called the “Festival of the Archers”.  And… its an allegory. The problem with allegories, is there is usually some grain of truth to them. Which makes figuring out why and what fore challenging. Lots of theories and possibilities.  This may be why they are interesting to me. It’s a puzzle. A mind game. Finding the right plausible reasons, makes it less like work.  And when you are looking for other paintings of the “master of Frankfurt” and run into yet more allegories you have to wonder what was this guy doing.  At the very least, he does very lovely work.

Much conversation has taken place and I have been left to ponder different bits of this and that.

  • It is a dress on a servant girl.  Most of the costumes in the picture are showing the late 1400’s styled upper class gowns.    She appears to
  • be one of the only servants in the portrait. It possible that it is a hand me down.  She is also one of the only gowns with this “lace” up front.
  • If you look at the neckline, I really think this is 2 layers. The blue from the placard goes up all the way to the shoulder.
  • If the dress is a hand me down from an earlier time, it might also  explain why there is a gap.  Possible that the gown had to be “let out”/altered.  Also the posibility that this may betwo different dresses.
  • There is also the posibility that it could be livery.
  • And there is always the idea that the painter could be remembering things he has seen and just gone with it.

So I am going to guess, based upon a hypothosis and say, it’s 2 different colors, with a dress underneath. I am also willing to say, it’s an allagory and be ok with that. At the very least, it is just fabric and it can be repurposed.

Leave a comment

Posted by on September 12, 2011 in 15th century, Sewing