Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Syllabub, Overdone

It is hot outside.  Not a situation conducive to cooking or really to do much of anything requiring motion or energy.  This means my post for today is simple, cool, and easy!

I recently acquired Everlasting Syllabub and the Art of Carving by Hannah Glasse.  It is an extraction of Mrs. Glasse's The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy, which I already own but I wanted to compare the copies to see if anything had changed between them.  Besides, it was on sale and I was buying other books, too. (wink!)

ISBN 978-0-241-95789-9
Anyway, The Art of Cookery was originally published in 1747 in England.  I love the very beginning (page 1) where she addresses the reader:
I believe I have attempted a branch of Cookery, which nobody has yet thought worth their while to write upon:  but as I have both seen, and found by experience, that the generality of servants are greatly wanting in that point, therefore I have taken upon me to instruct them in the best manner I am capable; and, I dare say, that every servant who can but read, will be capable of making a tolerable good cook, and those who have the least notion of Cookery cannot miss of being very good ones.
If I have not wrote in the high polite style, I hope I shall be forgiven; for my intention is to instruct the lower sort, and therefore must treat them in their own way. ... So in many other things in Cookery, the great cooks have such a high way of expressing themselves, that the poor girls are at a loss to know what they mean:  in all Receipt Books yet printed, there are such an odd jumble of things as would quite spoil a good dish; and indeed some things so extravagant, that it would be almost a shame to make use of them, when a dish can be made full as good, or better, without them.
I like her attitude!  Write the recipes so that most anyone can understand and follow them and don't go crazy with the ingredients or quantities.  My kind of cooking.

What I selected to try was the recipe in the title:  Everlasting Syllabub.  A dessert!

A short scamper through the Internet tells me that syllabub has been popular since at least the 1570s (this I knew) but that the standard method of beating cream with an acid to thicken it was replaced in the 18th century when gelatins were more common.  The word "syllabub" is based on "syllable" because the mixture separates into layers (syllables) upon standing.  The gelatin (in this recipe, calf's-foot jelly) stabilized it, making it "everlasting."  I see the advantage here in that you could make this dessert in advance, which is good considering Mrs. Glasse says you need to beat the mixture by hand for one half hour.

To Make Everlasting Syllabub  (page 39)

Take five half pints of thick cream, half a pint of Rhenish wine, half a pint of sack, and the juice of two large Seville oranges grate in just the yellow rind of three lemons, and a pound of double-refined sugar well beat and sifted; mix all together with a spoonful of orange-flower water; beat it well together with a whisk half an hour, then with a spoon take it off, and lay it on a sieve to drain, then fill your glasses:  these will keep above a week, and are better made the day before.

She goes on to give some advice on the "best way to whip syllabub":  "have a fine large chocolate-mill, which you must keep on purpose, and a large deep bowl to mill them in:  it is both quicker done, and the froth stronger."  What she probably means is what we call a molinillo:


Hot chocolate as a beverage was new and popular in Mrs. Glasse's time and so having a chocolate-mill was the "in thing."  But using a whisk is fine, too.

Did you notice there is no mention of calf's-foot jelly?  That is for the second part of the recipe, which I will get to later.

My Redacted Version

I didn't want to make such a large quantity so I reduced the cream to one pint and adjusted the other ingredients accordingly.  My orange was not the bitter Seville variety, and my sack was cream sherry, which is a bit sweet, so when I converted the sugar quantity I rounded down.

1 pint heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup Gewurztraminer
1/2 cup sherry
1 large orange, juice only
1 lemon, zest only
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon orange flower water (or to taste)

Mix all ingredients in the bowl of the electric mixer and beat with the whisk attachment until thick and creamy.  Follow the directions above regarding removing, draining, and serving.

My Notes

I started off with the mixer on "stir" to give the sugar a chance to dissolve.  Once the liquid seemed thicker, I bumped up the power level to the next notch.
Just starting
I watched the progress of the liquid as it got thicker and creamier but I wasn't sure when to stop the mixer.  And then, suddenly, the creamy mixture became grainy and very yellow.

Too far!  You can see the lemon zest in the butter base.
Oh no!  I had beaten it too far and turned it to butter.  It tasted pretty good but looked weird and I knew I had not achieved the desired result.  So I put most of it in a covered bowl to refrigerate but set up a quick, light dessert with the rest.

I took some Old-Fashion glasses and alternated layers of fresh, hulled-and-quartered strawberries with a few spoonfuls of the syllabub.  Then I sprinkled on a crumbly top, which was the left over crust mix from the versatile cheese tart I wrote about earlier.  It looked good!

Layers and separation and crumbles all displayed.
The Verdict

I count this as a failure because of my mistake in beating the mix.  I achieved some success because of adlibbing a dessert from it anyway.

The overdone syllabub was tasty although I didn't like the grainy butter texture.  The flavors of the wine and sherry were dominant and a good complement to the strawberries.  The citrus flavors were a pleasant understatement and the overall sweetness was low (just right). 

I was glad I put on the crumbly top -- the crunch was a good counterpoint to the cream and strawberries -- and I wished I had put some between the layers, too.

There was some separation which meant the strawberries at the bottom of the glass had "marinated" a bit in the liquid.  This was not a problem!  My guest taster and I both liked that. 

I wish I had chilled it a while before serving.  I would like to try this dessert again when the syllabub is cold.

So what about the whole "everlasting" part and the calf's-foot jelly?  If I had done the first part right, I would have gotten to that.  Of course this means I have to try the recipe again (yippeeeeee!).  Stay tuned for attempt number two!

Next day:  I tasted the chilled syllabub and, although I still didn't like the grainy texture, I liked the flavor and that it was cold.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Another Gadget Post -- A Pasta Cutter

I have this fun looking gadget in my kitchen that looks like this:

Note the orientation
How strange!  I thought about it and its parts to get a clue on what it does and decided it cuts pasta dough into strips.  My daughter searched the internet and confirmed my suspicions:  you can find it for sale listed as a vintage rotary pasta cutter or vintage noodle cutter.

The wheel width is not adjustable like some brands but if you aren't demanding a variety of noodle widths, you might be happy with this.  I wasn't quite sure how to use it but we decided to give it a try.  Of course that means we needed pasta dough!

I turned to my faithful The Great Food Processor Cookbook by Yvonne Young Tarr.

ISBN 0-394-73284-7
On page 365 you will find a simple recipe labeled

Pasta Dough

Yields enough to serve 4 to 6

3 cups flour
1 1/3 teaspoons salt
2 eggs
1/3 cup water

And water.
Combine flour and salt and sift together into container; turn machine quickly on and off twice.

Turn on machine and add eggs, 1 at a time, until both are well incorporated, then start the machine again and add enough water in a thin, steady stream to make a soft, well-formed, but not sticky dough.  Cover dough and set aside for 30 minutes.

Knead dough according to directions for your machine until it is smooth and elastic, then turn out onto a lightly floured pastry board.

Divide dough into 4 equal-size pieces; roll out, one piece at a time, into very thin, even sheets of pasta.  Sprinkle each sheet lightly with flour and cut into desired pasta shape.

No pastry board but a floured counter top worked great.
My Notes

I used my mixer with a dough hook to do most of the kneading and found I had to add a little more water to make the dough soft instead of stiff and hard.  Once I got the right amount, the kneading looked "right" in that the dough was being manipulated by the hook instead of just bouncing around the bowl.

To use the pasta cutter, I tried holding it and dragging it across the dough in a variety of ways.
This is wrong!  : )
This picture shows me using the cutter upside down.  Not intentionally but I realized that the metal "V" acted as a shield to keep the cut noodles from staying between the wheels as it rolled.

There were several other issues I had to deal with.  One was that the wheels didn't really roll well; this was fixed by a bit of cooking oil dribbled down the shaft and the wheels rotated by hand until they turned smoothly.  The other is that the shield kept rubbing against the wheels; that was just a matter of wiggling it back and forth until it fit over the wheels and snapped into place without touching the wheels at all.

To get it to work well, I had to push it hard against the dough and it still didn't always cut the dough through.  I suspect the wheels need some sharpening, which I didn't do, but I found the noodles separated easily with a gentle pull from my fingers.

After the noodles were cut, I hung them on a wire rack to air dry for at least 30 minutes (as recommended by the cook book instructions for cutting fettuccine).
For the second batch, we put the rack horizontally and let the noodles hang below.
The cook book recommended that we fix the noodles by cooking them "for 5 minutes in a large amount of salted water", which we did.  After they were drained, we dressed them with browned butter and minced Seer Torshi (see this previous post and the next one!).

The Verdict

I liked how it cut noodles into a sensible width and made many at one time.  It worked much better after I oiled the axle and properly aligned the shield over the wheels.  Oh yes, and it worked much better when I held it in the correct position!

The noodles themselves were tasty:  tender not chewy (I cooked them al dente) and with a mild flavor that showed off the sauce well.

Success!  I would use this gadget again, just making sure it is oiled and properly aligned.  The finished noodles are a good width for my needs and I think they would be excellent in a soup as well as with other sauces.