The Pie of Destiny

In a world of mass-produced pastry trash, one woman would rise up and fight on behalf of all pie-kind. She alone would have the strength to wield THE PIE OF DESTINY!

At WCCS, I participated in a lamb “breaking” class — cutting a lamb into primals. It was incredibly interesting. I’ve broken a pig before, but not a sheep; the anatomy is basically the same, but I always want more practice. During the same class, we also slaughtered two roosters. The lamb had been slaughtered the night before. I helped pluck the roosters and watched the gutting process. It was all incredibly interesting!

I took one of the roosters and some of the lamb meat. Later in the day, I had a coffin from the class I taught, and I decided, of course, to fill that coffin with meat. But that wasn’t quite twee enough for me, so I gathered wild herbs and greens from the site. I ended up making a pie with meat from animals slaughtered on site and plants found on site and a crust made on site — it felt like the official unofficial symposium pie.

pieofdestiny1
Photo by Wulfric. The pie is topless by this point, which is an accurate metaphor for the evening.

Directions for the pastry can be found in my pie crust class handout, linked in the previous post.

Here’s how I did the filling: First, I chopped some fatty lamb meat very small, and mixed it with salt and some very finely minced mint. Then I blanched a mix of nettles, redwood sorrel, fiddleheads, and lemon balm, chopped them finely, and mixed them with the lamb. I packed this into the bottom of the pastry. Then, I removed the breast meat from the rooster and put that on top of the seasoned lamb. Finally, I jointed the rooster and put its legs and wings above the rest of the meat and then put the coffin lid on top.

I baked this pie a looooonnnnng time — probably 4-5 hours, all told! — at 325°F. This meant that the meat got wonderfully tender, with the coffin acting just like a baking dish. To serve, I removed the top crust and let people dig in. The top crust was actually pretty tasty, even though I made the pastry thick. I would have been interested to taste the side/bottom crust, as a lot of fat and juice from the lamb had soaked into it; however, I was trying to keep things relatively tidy, and it seemed easier to just scoop out filling. I personally thought the lamb and rooster were delicious; I liked the flavor profile, and the meat was just so tender and flavorful. The rooster was what chicken wants to taste like.

I felt like this was a “bucket list” pie — making food from animals killed less than 24 hours before hand and plants I gathered. This pie made me really happy.

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Photo by Wulfric, whimsy by Eulalia

 

Class Handouts from WCCS 2016 are up

If you are here after taking one of my classes yesterday, hi! I hope you had fun and learned a lot! I had a particularly inspiring culinary symposium this year, and can’t wait to dive back into food fun. I’ve posted my class handouts under the files section, or you can click here to read about Grains and Flours of Medieval England or here to read two recipes for standing-crust pies.

All Carnevale Recipes

Food for Dragon’s Mist’s Carnevale AS L

By Mistress Eulalia Piebakere

The Vision

A melding of cuisines from Venice and Constantinople from roughly the time of the Fourth Crusade (the very beginning of the 13th century). Both of these places had independent well-developed food cultures, and each also tended to have an early sort of “fusion” cuisine as each city was quite cosmopolitan and a hub for commerce and trade. Also, in my vision we ignore the fact that crusades were nasty, awful things and that the sacking of Constantinople was objectively terrible.

Continue reading “All Carnevale Recipes”

Simple gluten free pie crust

…using only historical ingredients! 

  
I made some tiny peach tarts using a recipe from Good Housewife’s Jewell, and made half of them gluten free. This crust was very easy and handled incredibly well, for both the small (in a ramekin) and mini (in a mini muffin tin) versions. 

Recipe:

  • 5 oz brown rice flour
  • 2 oz chestnut flour
  • Pinch salt
  • Optional: double pinch sugar, for sweet pies only
  • 1 oz butter (or lard — Elizabethan pastry recipes tend to call for butter and this was otherwise vegetarian)
  • 3/8 cup boiling water
  • 1 egg
  1. Mix together dry ingredients.
  2. Combine the butter and boiling water (I used a kettle to heat it — you can also use more water and heat the butter and water together) until the butter is fully melted. A glass measuring cup is ideal. 
  3. Add butter-water mixture to dry ingredients and mix vigorously. 
  4. When cool enough to handle, add the egg and knead until it forms a smooth dough. 
  5. Roll out and use as desired. Makes enough for a single standard crust. (Double recipe for a top crust.)

If you can’t find chestnut flour locally, I order mine from nuts.com. 

How to make a proper medieval pie crust

After several years of experimentation, I have developed a method for making hot water pastry that works very well both for rolled crusts and for self-supporting crusts for a wide variety of medieval pies and tarts.

Finishing a medieval pie crustI use imported flour from Lammas Fayre for my pastry and have been extraordinarily happy with it. I recommend their Elizabethan Manchet Blend for this recipe as that most closely matches the evidence I found for what type of flour was used by high medieval English bakers. If you are unable to obtain this flour, you can substitute a mixture of 2 parts whole wheat pastry flour and 1 part unbleached all purpose white flour, although this does not have the same qualities as the heirloom wheat varieties or sieving to yield “white” flour.

This recipe uses lard for fat, so it is only suitable for meat day pies. That said, lard crusts needn’t be exclusive to meat-filled pies — I’ve never had a problem with the taste of lard pastry for sweet pies. For the record, I use leaf lard from heirloom Tamworth hogs, but you can substitute any home-rendered or pure rendered lard. Do NOT substitute shelf stable lard from the grocery store, it is substantially different from natural, real lard.

If you are cooking for a meat day but cannot use lard due to dietary restrictions, rendered beef suet is a fine substitute but has a somewhat stronger flavor. For fish or fast day pies, the evidence I have found suggests that their pastry was made with thick almond milk, but I am not currently satisfied with the pie crusts I have made using this method and plan to do more experimentation before “officially” publishing a recipe.

The historical pie dish I have is much smaller than a modern pie dish. The amount of pastry that I need to line and top that dish is also a good amount to make for a self-supporting pie that isn’t too large. With some experimentation, I found that doubling the quantities I used made enough pastry for a two-crust pie made in a standard modern pie dish. Since I suspect this is more useful to more people, those are the quantities I give here.

Recipe for Hot Water Pastry: (sufficient for one two crust pie in a standard dish)

  • 14 oz flour
  • 2 oz lard
  • 1 cup (8 oz) water — I know it seems excessive, but much of it will boil off
  1. Place the flour in a heat-safe bowl, making a well in it.
  2. Heat the water and lard together until the lard is fully melted and the water has barely begun to bubble.
  3. Pour the heated water and lard into the well in the flour and stir vigorously.
  4. Knead the dough until smooth and elastic.
  5. Separate the dough into two pieces, one roughly twice the size of the other. Roll out both portions of pastry on a lightly floured surface to between ⅛ and ¼ inch thick.
  6. Use the larger piece of pastry as a bottom crust, lining the pie dish (trap); set aside the smaller piece for a top crust.

Note: This recipe works better when the dough is kept warm.

Happy baking!

How to Make Crustardes of Flessh (finally!)

At long last, here is a complete description of how I made Crustardes of Flessh for KASC back in March, including recipes and quantities. Enjoy!

This is the finished pie that I served my judges on Saturday. The one I had for Sunday looked even better, but I didn't get pictures of it.
This is the finished pie that I served my judges on Saturday. The one I had for Sunday looked even better, but I didn’t get pictures of it.

Continue reading “How to Make Crustardes of Flessh (finally!)”

Medieval Cooking is Complex: A Complete Recipe Annotation

During the process of creating my pie for KASC, I had to not only do a lot of test cooking, but I also had to do a ton of close reading. Reading a medieval recipe is a complex and nuanced endeavor. Here is an example of my process of interpreting a recipe.

Continue reading “Medieval Cooking is Complex: A Complete Recipe Annotation”