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.

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