From the May 2010 Renaissance Magazine by Alice the Cook
Over the past year, I have presented readers with various period appropriate entree and side dish recipes ranging from stews, roasts, soups, and pasties. I have used most meats and through in some vegetarian options as well. These recipes encourage you, the reader, to create the recipes in your own home and to share them with family and friends. Fans have approached me and asked about desserts. They want to go to a dinner or a potluck and want to bring something unexpected and yet tasty.
My assistant, Nicholas, and I thought long and hard about what to make. Many of the desserts during the Renaissance required a lot more work as many of the ingredients are not readily available in modern markets or even culinary specialty shops. Items like almond milk (milk boiled with hand-ground almonds) and rosewater were used to either sweeten or enhance the flavors of the dish being made. Liqueurs were added as well, but we wanted to keep this recipe somewhat simple, yet different, and that won’t scare your friends too much. I’ve included a brief overview of the history of desserts along with a recipe that Nicholas and I have enjoyed for years.
During the dark ages, people discovered desserts. They were not the desserts that we know today such as cookies and cake, but more fruit based. It began with fresh fruit, then baked fruit, and eventually people began sweetening their dish with wine or liqueur and/or honey. Desserts, for the most part, were reserved for the rich and only for special occasions.
As time went on, people began to conduct trade with other cultures. Spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cardamom, and mace were brought along with rice. This added to the exclusivity of desserts, after all only the rich could afford these exotic spices while the lesser classes continued to satisfy their sweet tooth with honey or fresh fruit. During the Renaissance, other trades began to develop. Villages and towns began producing town favorites such as tarts and pastries that were often presented to visiting nobles as a gift or token of goodwill.
Puddings also have a long history and have evolved. Traditionally, puddings consisted of savory items that were combined by using various grains mixed with other, mostly meat, ingredients. Nowadays, these puddings resembled a meat cake. Toward the end of the Renaissance, people began experimenting with sweeter versions of pudding. These sweeter versions usually consisted of a bread base, eggs, sugar, and fruit. Today, pudding is a smooth concoction of sugar, cornstarch, gelatin, eggs or tapioca.
Lemon Bread Pudding
2 large lemons, juice and rind
1 cup of white bread cubes
2 cups of milk
½ cup of sugar
3 tablespoons of butter
4 eggs, separated
½ teaspoon of salt
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a one and a half quart baking dish with butter and grate the lemon rind over the bread cubes in a large mixing bowl.
Bring the milk and sugar to a boil, add butter and pour over the bread cubes and let cool. Beat egg yolks and ad with the lemon juice to the bread mixture.
Beat the egg whites and slat until they stand in stiff peaks (like a meringue), then fold into the bread mixture. Pour the prepared dish into the baking dish and sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar and some leftover lemon zest (rind). Place the baking dish in a pan of hot water and bake at 350 degrees for one hour. Serves 8.