An Edible Hat

Today, a friend of mine in the medieval club I run with received a major award in well-deserved recognition of his skill and service. In honour of this, I am taking a break from the Innsbruck MS to give you a potentially delicious recipe from Anna Wecker’s cookbook:

Felt hat most likely dating to the fifteenth century from Sweden – something like this could make a relatively unchallenging model. For more detail onm the hat, see here.

A very hearty/deliucious baked dish

Take four or six egg yolks, beat (reiß?) them well, add a Loth or two of rosewater and fat the size of a (wal-)nut. Take three Loth of good cinnamon, two Loth of ginger, half a Loth of long pepper, half a Loth of nutmeg, grind it cleanly. Keep half the cinnamon and grind it coarsely so that it is long. Put all the rest into the eggs together with ten or twelve Loth of pure, bolted fine sugar and a little salt, and work it into a dough as though for snowballs (Schneeballen) and other such baked dishes with fine, clear white flour.

Then, have a nice, glazed mould in the shape of a hat as you like it that should be hollow inside and have three feet on the inside along the brim. Pull the dough over that and make it shaped like a hat, mould a string around it, place it by the fire, but not too close, and put proper embers underneath, and turn it around regularly until it is baked enough.

Then take a Loth or three or four of sugar, boil it with good rosewater to a strong syrup (starcken Julep) and anoint the hat everywhere well with a small brush. Then strew the coarsely ground cinnamon all over it, and when it has hardened a bit, take it off the mould and it will look like a grey felt hat.

This is also a dish for the morning for old and weak people, with a drink of Malvasier (malmsey – Monemvasia wine from Greece). And in many places, servants have this custom when they sit in stores or where they must do their business in the winter, when they have to be in the cold much. It should be about the thickness of two knifes.

This should be worth trying out if only for the effect it could have as the centrepiece of a banquet, or any hastily made vow to ‘eat your hat”, and despite the copious quantity of spices used, I think it will be quite tasty.

The fact that we have relatively exact quantities on many ingredients is also unusual. The dough is obviously very luxurious, possibly almost more of a sugarpaste than a flour dough depending on how much flour you use. The Loth given here is most likely the Nuremberg measure which comes to around 16 grammes.

The challenge of procuring a glazed pottery mould in the shape of a hat has deterred me so far, but the more I look at it, the more I become convinced some kind of substitute could be found. Treating the hot surface with a heavy syrup to attach coarsely ground cinnamon bark fibres will take figuring out – I am sure there is a trick to it. But on the whole this sounds like a wintertime project worth wasting some time on.

In 1598, Anna Wecker, the widow of a respected physician, published her Köstlich New Kochbuch. It mostly deals with invalid cookery, but also includes many recipes found in other cookbooks of the time. Its particular strength lies in the detailed description of cooking techniques it occasionally gives. The first such work known to be authored by a woman, it would become a bestseller and remain in print for a century

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