Confections: River Wars

29 Sep

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.

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Posted by on September 29, 2011 in Recipes, Sugar


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