Crawfish pastries from the Kuchenmaistrey

Crawfish pie, here served with white garlic sauce (later in the same manuscript)

They are not quite the same recipe, but close enough to complement each other.

1.xii Item you make pastries of crawfish thus, in a strong dough that is laid into a coffin (teighafen, lit. dough pot) inside a cooking vessel (hafenscherben). Make a lid above it and lay it down next to it. Boil the crawfish without salt, shell them nicely, and lay them (out?) together. Chop parsley very small take fresh eggs, beat them very well and pour them into the coffin. Cut good pears into long slices (i.e. lengthwise) and stick them into the filling. Take figs and raisins and put them in, and thrust the crawfish claws, bellies and tails into it lengthwise. Then take good wine and season it with spices and salt. Taste it to see what it lacks and pour it into the coffin over the filling. Close the lid over the coffin and close it up well. Beat an egg or two and brush the edges with that so they do not soften. Put fat between the coffin and the cooking vessel and set it in an oven. (or?) Let it boil or roast. Look at it and if it smokes, it is burning. Avert that by pouring on butter, thus it turns out well.

1. xiii Item to make a tart of crawfish. Make a tart dough laid out in a pan that is greased (schmaltzig). Make a filling of eggs and grated cheese or grated gingerbread, whichever you wish of the two, and temper it well and not too thinly. Pour it into the coffin (teigpfan). If it is too thick, mix it with good cream (until it is) just right. Season it with spices, salt, saffron and parsley. You may (also) take sage (and? or?) pennyroyal well choped, that is all good, or other spices. Temper the filling with that and thrust the crawfish into it.

If you wish to add pears, figs, or sweet apples sliced lengthwise with the crawfish, that is good. Make a cover over the coffin and pour fat on it. Set it over small embers (klein kolen glüt). And stacks hot embers around it more and more, or turn the pan around and around and wait for the smoke, and mitigate it with fat. And when the lid turns brown, it has had enough.

Set the whole coffin in a wide serving bowl and serve it, and then make pieces of it and serve it to the guests courteously. That is fitting for crawfish.

This is an interesting and quite tasty dish that I have made on several occasions, though using American crawfish from aquaculture. The preparation instructions are very interesting, too. A pastry coffin is cooked inside a cooking vessel here, and I suspect it is what later writers call a Tortenpfanne, something much like a Dutch Oven. These pans could be used inside ovens, but most commonly would be stood in the embers and have coals stacked on top to bake the content. The reference to ‘boil or roast’ in the first recipe remains puzzling, though. Heating a Tortenpfanne over the fire is a viable approach, but immersing it in hot water would be impractical and fail to produce the required heat.

My current project are recipes from the Nuremberg Kuchenmaistrey produced around 1490. This was the earliest printed cookbook in German (and only missed being the earliest printed cookbook in any language by a few years). The Kuchenmaistrey (mastery of the kitchen) gave rise to a vibrant culture of amended and expanded manuscript copies as well as reprints spanning almost a century. The recipes seem designed to appeal to a wealthy, literate and cosmopolitan clientele.

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