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Hannah Glasse and Seed Cake or Nun’s Cake

On page 164 of the 1805 edition of The Art of Cookery by Hannah Glasse, I discover this simple(?) recipe for Seed Cake.

Nun's Cake

Nun’s Cake in a 1920’s version, once baking powder had been invented.

To make a rich Seed Cake called the Nun’s Cake

You must take four pounds of the finest flour, and three pounds of double refined sugar beaten and sifted; mix them together, and dry them by the fire till you prepare the other materials.

Take four pounds of butter, beat it with your hand till it is soft like cream; then beat thirty-five eggs, leave out sixteen whites, strain off your eggs from the threads, and beat them and the butter together till all appears like butter.  Put in four or five spoonfuls of rose or orange flower water, and beat again; then take your flour and sugar with six ounces of caraway seeds, and strew them in by degres, beating it up all the time for two hours together.  You may put in as much tincture of cinnamon or ambergrease as you please; butter your hopp, and let it stand three hours in a moderate oven.

You must observe always in beating of butter, to do it with a cool hand, and beat always one way in a deep earthen dish.

My Notes

Why so many eggs?  Because that is the only leavening available, except for cakes that called for using the yeast from making ale.

Four pounds of the finest flour: 4 1/2 cups of cake flour.

Beat the butter with your hand:  Obviously since electric mixers had not been invented, this is not the same as our instructions today to “beat by hand”, meaning use a spoon.  Would somebody tell me if this really means just using your bare hands?? I have to believe that is what it means, since she warns that you must have cool hands.

“Strain off the threads” of eggs: I learned something here.  If you Google Strained eggs, you will learn that after beating eggs, if you strain them, you will get airier omelets and smoother puddings!

Ambergris/ambergreese/ambergrease:  I linked an article above that gives a short information. For more than you might possibly want to know, go here.

Unfortunately, Hannah does not tell us how large a hoop to use for the seed cake, but it should not be more than 3/4 full, so use that as a guide.

And after beating the butter, then beating the 35 eggs, then beating everything for two hours, you may skip your visited to the gym today.

Try a Smaller Seed Cake

If you are intimidated by the size of this recipe, consider cutting it down to size as I have done with my Emily Dickinson Black Cake Recipe. I have not had time to try this recipe for Seed Cake yet, but I might try a 1/4 size recipe which would call for

  • One pound flour
  • 1 1/3 pounds sugar
  • 1 pound of butter
  • 5 whole eggs plus 4 egg yolks
  • one spooful of rose or orange flower water (or orange zest, orange flavoring or orange liqueur)
  • 1 1/2 oz caraway seeds
  • Cinnamon to taste

Combine these ingredients with an electric mixer, bake at 350 for an hour and a half–or until a toothpick/broomstraw inserted in the center comes out clean. Adjusting the ingredients makes the whole things sounds doable and delicious.

Let me know if you try it before I do.  (Or try the Williamsburg version of seed cake, here.)

Chocolate Swirl Bars–A Slice of my Life

Most kids love to cook. Once when I was a Cub Scout den mother, I asked the boys whether they would rather do a science experiment or cook something–cooking won by a landslide.  This recipe for Chocolate Swirl Bars meets the kid-friendly test.  The measurements allow you to work a bit on math if you want.  Relatively few ingredients means it is easy to mix up.  And best of all, they LOVE the action of swirling the chocolate into the peanut butter dough.

chocolate swirl bar

Bar cookies with peanut butter and chocolate chips.

Note: If you’re making chocolate swirl bars with grandchildren or a group of kids, be sure to check for peanut allergies before you start. Unfortunately, one of my grandsons and one of my great-grandsons would be unable to eat these.

I know they are popular with kids, because my youngest son started making them when he was in eighth grade.  He liked making the chocolate swirl bars, and turned it into a business.  We discussed the cost of the ingredients, which he had to figure out and then return to me from his earnings.

The inspiration for starting a business could have come from Junior Achievement–a school program that helped kids in high school start their own business.  His older son had quite a company going, supervising a group of kids who made macrame’ plant hangers back when macrame’ was all the rage.

At the time, my husband also acted as an advisor for a J.A. group at another high school.  I still have a spatter guard for a skillet and a hamburger press, both made by teens, as reminders of those projects.

But COOKIES! A much better business, in my humble opinion.

My son baked a batch and took small samples of the cookies door to door in our neighborhood, fed them to the neighbors and took orders for a dozen cookies.  I don’t know how long before his interest flagged, but it may very well have been the beginning of a lasting talent in salesmanship.

Whether you cook them yourself, or find some kids to do the baking, you’ll find that the only problem with these chocolate swirl bars is waiting until they are cool enough to come out of the pan. The smell is heavenly. The taste likewise. Can you eat just one?

Other kid-friendly cookie recipes:

Peanut butter cookies

Pumpkin Cookies

Rhema’s Raisin Bars

Peanut Butter-Chocolate Chip Swirl Cookies

Serves 24
Prep time 20 minutes
Cook time 40 minutes
Total time 1 hour
Allergy Egg, Peanuts, Wheat
Meal type Dessert
Easy to make Peanut Butter- Chocolate Chip Swirl Bars look great and taste as good as they look.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup Peanut butter
  • 1/3 cup butter (softened)
  • 3/4 cups brown sugar (tightly packed)
  • 3/4 cups white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 10-12 oz chocolate chips

Directions

1. Beat well the first four ingredients.
2. Beat in eggs and vanilla.
3. Combine flour, baking powder and salt in separate bowl, then beat into the peanut butter mixture.
4. Spread into greased 9" x 13" pan. Sprinkle chocolate chips on top, as evenly as possible.
5. Bake 5 minutes at 350 degrees. Remove from oven, and draw knife through batter to make marbled effect with chocolate.
6. Return to oven and bake for 30-40 minutes in preheated 350 degree oven, until brown on edges, and almost solid in center. (Will continue to firm up out of oven.)
7. Cool on wire rack for ten minutes, then cut in squares. Put cookies on a cooling rack until completely cool. Freeze or store in airtight container.
8.

Note

You can use either semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips and either smooth or crunchy peanut butter in these delicious cookies.  Kids love to make them and get creative with the marbleing.

Picalilli from Grandma’s Garden

Way back at the end of 2015, I made some picalilli.  Somehow in the rush of Thanksgiving and Christmas that year, I did not share the recipe with you.  I apologize.  Of all the things that Grandma Vera Anderson preserved, I most yearn to have the recipe for picalilli. Alas, she probably just threw together whatever vegetables, in whatever amount she harvested, and no recipe remains.

And what is picalilli? It’s origin seems to be India via England. The inclusion of turmeric provides a big clue to Indian origina, as turmeric is a must in Indian cooking.  I have included some links to more information down below, including the puzzle of  the difference between picalilli and chow-chow.

Although I do not have Grandma’s recipe for picalilli, I think I came up with a pretty fair approximation, after scouring old cookbooks and the Internet. Just keep in mind, this is a pickle made at the end of the growing season, so she might well have included other “leftovers” from her garden.

Picallili vegetables

Chopped vegetables for picallili. Cabbage, bell peppers, green tomatoes.

Cabbage,green tomatoes, red bell peppers, green bell peppers ( which Grandma called “mangoes” in a 1943 letter), sugar and spices. Recipes call for onions, which I can’t eat. I thought the picalilli was fine without them, but feel free to add them if that is important to you.

This recipe comes from the Ball canning site.  I highly recommend this site if you are a novice at preserving and canning, as I am.  The Ball people have been providing the jars and lids and advice for generations, so you can find answers to your questions about what to do if you don’t have a canning kettle, how long you can keep things preserved for refrigerator rather than canned under pressure, and how to prepare your jars and lids.

A note on Ball canning jars.  Mason jars, invented in 1858 by John Mason, are the style of jar that Ball manufactured in Buffalo, New York, starting in 1884. Do you own some old Ball jars? Learn all about dating Ball jars at this website.

I deviated from the recipe by leaving out the onions, substituting ground giner for grated ginger root, and and I did not boil the filled cans for long shelf storage.  Instead, I sterilized the jars and kept the product in the refrigerator for not over two months.

If you do not have half pint glass canning jars, you will need six or seven of them.  Do not reuse the two-part canning lids.  You can find the lids and jars in most grocery stores, and in Walmart.

Another thing you may not have on hand is cheesecloth–needed to make a spice bag. That also should be available at your grocery store.

Picallili spice bag

Picallili spice bag

Pickling spices are available in the spice section of your grocery store. (That’s the pickling spices in the blue-lidded container.  The other round beads are the mustard seed. If you’re lucky, you’ll have access to a store that sells spices and herbs from bins, so you can get the small amount you need–only 1/4 cup.

Picallili spices

Dried spices for picallili

Everything else in the recipe should be easy to find.

Picallilli seasonings

Picallilli seasonings

Everyone who tried the picalilli on my Thanksgiving table–even the picky eaters–loved it.

By the way, Grandma also made something she called chow-chow, and I have no idea what was in it or how it was different.  I vaguely relate it to pickled corn, but I am not sure about that. Anyhow, here is more information about the varous pickles and chow-chow. Notice how close the Philadelphia Pickle is to my recollection of Grandma’s Picalilli. And a second article from the same site, has several Chow Chow recipes that sound suspiciously like Picalilli.

Picallili

Prep time 13 hours
Cook time 1 hour, 25 minutes
Total time 14 hours, 25 minutes
Dietary Gluten Free, Vegan, Vegetarian
Misc Pre-preparable, Serve Cold
Website Ball Preserving
The origins of picalilli are mysterious, but Grandma Vera Anderson made it from the last of the vegetables in her garden.

Ingredients

  • 5 cups cabbage (finely chopped (About 1 1/2 medium heads))
  • 4 cups green tomatoes (unpeeled, cored and chopped (about 8 medium))
  • 1 1/2 cup onion (chopped (about 2 medium))
  • 1 cup red bell pepper (stem and seeds removed (1 large))
  • 1 cup green bell pepper (stem and seeds removed (1 large))
  • 3 tablespoons salt
  • 1/4 cup pickling spice
  • 4 tablespoons ginger root (coarsely chopped (or 1/2 tsp. ground ginger))
  • 2 tablespoons mustard seeds
  • 3 cups white vinegar
  • 1 3/4 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons turmeric

Directions

1. Combine cabbage, green tomatoes, onions (opt.), red and green peppers and salt in large glass or stainless steel bowl. Cover (a towel is fine) and let stand in a cool place for twelve hours or overnight.
2. When the mixture has sat for twelve hours, transfer to a colander in the sink and drain. Rinse with cool water and drain thoroughly. Using your hands, squeeze out excess liquid. Set aside.
3. Heat jars in simmering water (not boiling), or in 250 degree oven until ready for use. Wash lids in warm sopay water and set lids and bands aside. (Or run through dishwasher with heated dry cycle.)
4. Prepare a spice bag by putting pickling spices, mustard seed and ginger in a square of cheesecloth. Tie two opposite corners tightly, then gather up and tie the other two opposite corners ro make the spice bag.
5. In a large stainless steel pot, combine the vegetable mixture with the vinegar, water, sugar, turmeric and the spice bag. Cover and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Uncover and boil for 5 minutes, stirring frquently. Reduce heat and boil gently, stirring frequently for one hour, until thickened to the consistency of a thin commercial relish--about 20 minutes.
6. Discard spice bag.
7. Ladle hot relish into hot jars leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace, if necessary, by adding hot relish. Wipe rim. Center lid on jar. Apply band until fit is "fingertip tight." (In other words as tight as you can fasten with just your fingers).
8. If you are preserving the picallili for long-term shelf storage, process jars in boiling water to cover for ten minutes. Remove jars and cool. Check lids for seal after 24 hours. Lid should not flex up and down when center is pressed.
9. If you are storing in the refrigerator rather than processing for shelf storage, let the jars cool for one hour, then store in refrigerator.

Note

Onions are optional. In fact all the vegetables are interchangeable in picalilli.  Tumeric gives the pickle a distinctive yellow hue, and a hint at its Indian origins.

Have you eaten or made picalilli or chow-chow?  What were the ingredients? I’d love to know if they differ in various parts of the country.