I am making a lot of desserts this month. And I believe I am making my last batches of stock today for the rest of this year! Wow!
I. The Hidden Mountain Redux Redux
Hey, who climbed to the top of the Hidden Mountain? WHY, it’s me. Another bizarre dessert that I can find no mention of before Beeton, which I love, and another that is faithfully reproduced (read:stolen and republished) for 50+ years after the BOHM‘s publication in 1861. But did anyone actually TRY this? She hooks me with those funny names. I am powerless.
You tell me how to flip a whipped pancake/omelet that is highly whipped and contains no flour, and I will be amazed, I tell you. The fix, in the end, was simple. I just moved the skillet to the oven and did not flip it at all, until it was time to turn it out.
The Hidden Mountain [1438.]
This recipe was meant to be flipped like a pancake. This is, theoretically, possible in a modern non-stick pan, but I have a hard time believing flipping something so delicate was easily achieved in cast iron. Baking the dish achieves an almost indistinguishable effect without the disappointment of a tear. This dish may be passed at a fancy dinner when flashy appearances and a large variety of food is desired, or it may serve as a modest dessert.
Beeton’s Note: A very pretty supper dish.
6 eggs, separated
1 tbsp. candied citron
2 tbsp. sugar
1/2 cup cream
1/4 c. any kind of jam (a red berry works well)
Mode.—Set oven to 325F. Warm a cast iron skillet in the oven in preparation and melt a tablespoon of butter in the skillet. Beat the egg whites until stiff and set aside. Whip cream and sugar until fluffy, but not stiff. Beat yolks until smooth. Gently fold the cream into the whites, and fold the yolks into the whipped mixture. Turn the mixture into the skillet, which is warm and has been tilted so that every inside surface is covered with butter. Smooth the top and cook for 20 minutes. When it is removed from the oven, allow to cool slightly so it will begin shrinking from the sides of the pan a bit. This can be assisted with a spatula. Be sure to very carefully ease the “cake” from the sides and bottom of the pan using your spatula, before flipping it onto a plate. Allow the “cake” to chill for at least two hours. Before serving, spread with a thin layer of jam and sprinkle with minced candied peel, and the hidden mountain may be cut like a pie for serving.
As instructed by Beeton, I let my mincemeat sit in the fridge for two weeks. I took it out and stirred and sniffed and looked very carefully for any signs of trouble (mold or other lifeforms). I think the citrus plus sugar plus booze kept decay at bay, and it was all beautifully candied and macerated. I was going to make handpies, but decided to strike out with a big ‘un on my first go.
My pie crusts are graceful like a donkey wearing a tutu. I have no real love of baking, I cannot lie. That was one of my major fears this year, was the baking recipes. Lucky for me I have an in-house baker and a lot of motivation just to strike out and take a crack at things this year. Fortunately, the short crust I adapted from the BOHM is very forgiving and delicious.
I love mincemeat. The lamb tasted candied. When I cut it, I was hit by the wave of VICTORIAN SMELL. Suet and sugar! I was afraid that it was going to be too sweet (sugar, raisins, candied peel) or too suety, but this recipe is really well-balanced! Whew.
III. Geneva Wafers
Geneva wafers are very similar to modern tuile cookies. There are a few wafer recipes floating around in 19th-century cookbooks, but I am unsure where Beeton got this one from, or what the significance of “Geneva” is. She did this a lot. Pick up a recipe, tweak the wording slightly, and bang on a fancy word. Done! I am curious about her “Sunderland” gingerbread nuts (kind of like a gingerbread cookie, but not a snap) as well, which seem to be a copy of Kitchiner’s gingerbread nuts but with a mention that some people like cayenne added. Through my researches, I can see no apparent connection to Sunderland. I get it, though. I like Beeton’s tendency to fancify things.
And Beeton was so popular her recipes were picked up and passed on, so again the only reference I find to Geneva wafers starts in Beeton and carries on to other cookbooks for 50+ years. Her exact recipe is even reproduced (without credit) in a book called Presidential Cookies as a historic 19th- century recipe.
I am here to tell you that they are delicious, but some will fail. And some of the funky-looking ones end up making interesting little cones.
Astute readers who follow me elsewhere may notice that these colors are rather Halloweeny. Yes, my smallest scullery maid had a brainstorm there. I think the Victorians would have appreciated goth Geneva wafers.
The ones with minced citron were wonderful. I used lingonberries, which were sometimes referred to as the “whortleberry” by Beeton’s contemporaries. Neither term appears in the BOHM, and most references I find in English refer to the lingonberry growing in North America at this time. I’ve been using lingonberry preserves a lot this year, because the tartness offsets the extreme sweetness of many of the recipes. I alternated filling the cones with homemade Italian prune preserves, picked locally last summer.
Beeton says Geneva wafers are “easily-made” but I found them fussy and prone to breakage at first. After two or three goes and finding the right temperature, it went well.
Geneva Wafers [1431.]
These wafers are similar to modern tuiles, which are so sugary they can be coerced into various shapes and frozen that way. There are mentions of “wafer” cookies in other nineteenth-century cookbooks, but Beeton seems to be the first to call them “Geneva.”
3 oz. butter, room temperature
3 oz. sugar
3 oz. flour
About a 1/3 cup of preserves, a variety of them if liked
Sweetened whipped cream (half-cup unwhipped should be sufficient)
Mode.—Heat oven to 350F. Cream the butter and sugar. Add in one egg at a time, blending well. Add the flour gradually, and then mix all well together. Butter a baking-sheet, and drop on it a large teaspoonful of the mixture at a time, leaving a space between each. The cookies may be most easily handled if a minimal number is baked at one time, no more than 6, and if an attempt is made to round the dough on the sheet before putting it in the oven (ideally resulting in a round cookie). Bake for ten minutes; the edges should be brown and the cookies not gooey or moist in appearance. If possible, leave the oven door open and pull out one cookie at a time to curl into cone shapes. A funnel or baster tip works well for this. Allow cookies to cool on a rack, seam-side down so they do not reopen. Before serving, put a spoonful of preserve in the widest end, and fill up with whipped cream. This is a very pretty and ornamental dish for the supper-table, and is very nice and very easily made. The cream can be sprinkled with colored sanding sugar, nutmeg, minced candied peel, or chopped nuts, whatever suits the preserves.
Produces 10-15 Geneva wafers, depending on the skill and patience of the cook. Allow for breakage!
I’ve got a nice dinner coming up on Saturday night with some guests I am looking forward to who are friendly, funny, and interested in culinary history. This will be my penultimate feast before my Dickensian Christmas I have coming up. I am splashing out on partridge and going to take another shot at aspic, which I will not tint pink this time.