Almond Wafer Cookies

We continue with the Kuenstlichs und Fuertrefflichs Kochbuch:

46 Marcepan Cookies (Küchlein)

Take half a vierdung of almonds and a vierdung of sugar. Blanch the almonds and pound them as small as possible, pour rosewater on them, and when they are pounded very finely, add sugar, thus they will become finer still. When it is well mingled together like a thick dough, you must spread it out (ausstreichen). Watch out that you do not add too much rosewater. You can always make it thinner with rosewater. Take it out of a mortar into a bowl, add a little mace and rub it between your hands. Then take a wafer (blat, read oblat) and cut it like the lozenges of windowpanes. You may make it large or small. Then take of the same wafer thus cut and spread the almond on it as thinly as possible, the thinner the nicer. Then take the white of an egg, two or three spoonfuls, add some fragrant rosewater and beat it well with a spoon until it develops a foam. Take the beaten (egg white) and spread it on the almond-covered wafers. Detach them (schneyd es ab), place it on the oven, heat it well and bake it gently. They often attach to each other, but they are supposed to stay white. When they bend upwards where you spread the rosewater, they become nicely hard and prettily white. Thus they should be baked.

Another recipe for küchlein, but this one is not deep-fried. This is a reminder that a lot of the cooking vocabulary on Early Modern German is counterintuitive to us. Küchlein does not refer to a mode of preparation, but to a shape and size, and a culinary role. These are interesting, rich, and very delicate, and they do not quite fit into any one slot of traditional preparations. Baked marzipan is spread on wafers, covered with egg white glaze, and baked, and clearly these are related. The filling, though, is not proper marzipan. Marzipan recipes tend to involve more almonds than sugar, at best 50-50, whereas here, we have twice as much sugar as almonds. Also, the shape is off. Lozenge-shaped wafers are typically used with fritters where a filling is placed between two wafers and the whole is battered. I wonder whether this is an incidence of deliberately playing with expectations.

The short Kuenstlichs und Fuertrefflichs Kochbuch was first printed in Augsburg in 1559 and reprinted in Nuremberg in 1560 and subsequently. Despite its brevity, it is interesting especially as it contains many recipes for küchlein, baked or deep-fried confections, that apparently played a significant role in displaying status. We do not know who the famous cook referenced in the title may have been or if he ever existed.

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